This post compares the advantages and disadvantages of bullhorn and pursuit bars in relation to one another.
Bullhorns – narrow-width handlebars with curved sides resembling the horns of a charging bull.
Pursuit bars – Pursuit bars are very similar to bullhorn bars but have a slightly different architecture. Their distinctive feature is the presence of a descending curvature allowing the rider to get lower and assume a more aerodynamic stance.
Pursuit bars are used in a cycling discipline known as pursuit racing in which competitors are chasing each other or a lead competitor.
Pursuit bicycles have a very aggressive geometry with a massive saddle to handlebars drop.
Number of Hand Positions
Both bullhorns and pursuit bars offer three main hand positions:
There are also two secondary positions – the curves near the horns as well those at the end of the tops.
The tops on bullhorn bars are flat and thus a bit more comfortable than the tops of pursuit bars which “descend” because the architecture of the handlebars requires it.
Conclusion: Bullhorns and pursuit bars have the same number of main and secondary hand positions.
Pursuit handlebars are designed for fast, aggressive riding and thus have a descending curvature which forms built-in drops allowing the rider to get low and “hide” from the wind.
Regular bullhorns do not have that feature and are therefore not as aerodynamic as pursuit bars.
Nonetheless, it’s questionable whether this difference matters to recreational cyclists who aren’t breaking records.
It’s also worth mentioning that regular bullhorns allow you to get aero too by bending the elbows at 90-degrees.
Conclusion: Pursuit handlebars offer a more aerodynamic position thanks to the built-in drops.
Pursuit handlebars put the rider in a more aerodynamic stance which places extra stress on the back, the neck, and even the hamstrings due to the extra forward lean.
Conversely, standard bullhorn handlebars allow the cyclist to maintain a more upright posture that doesn’t stress the back and neck as much.
It’s also worth mentioning that the curved tops of pursuit bars and the flat tops of bullhorns stress the wrists from a different angle. Some cyclists may have a preference for one of the options.
Conclusion: The more aerodynamic position of pursuit handlebars comes at a price – more stress on the back and neck.
Visibility In Traffic
When riding in the drops of pursuit handlebars, the back is more horizontal and thus the cyclist is less visible in traffic.
This negative can be diminished by avoiding riding in the drops during rush hour.
However, there’s a downside to this practice – the drops give quicker access to the brakes when the levers are installed at their default place – the horns.
That said, if there are brake levers on the tops, the rider will still have quick access to the brakes.
Conclusion: Pursuit handlebars result in worse visibility when riding in the drops.
The table below compares the weight of popular bullhorns and pursuit handlebars:
|Cinelli Lola Bullhorn Handlebar||285g||Nitto RB-021||270g|
|PureFix Bullhorns||317g||Rodeo Pursuit Handlebar||255g|
|WABI Bullhorns||260g||Origin 8 Pursuit Bars||320g|
|BLB Bullhorns||220g||Cinelli Mash||290|
|BLB Pursuit Oversize||230g|
|Modolo Q-Krono tIme trial||200g|
Conclusion: As expected, bullhorns and pursuit handlebars have a very similar weight. Whether one will be lighter than another depends on the model rather than the type.
Bullhorns and pursuit handlebars offer the same positions for installing brakes. The default option are the horns. (This position requires the use of reverse-pull brake levers.) The tops are the secondary location.
Therefore, in this regard, there’s no functional difference between the two types of handlebars.
Neither bullhorns nor pursuit handlebars are designed to be used with road bike shifters known as brake-shifters because the levers will bottom out.
Thus, one has the following options for both types:
- Bar-ends shifters mounted on the horns (a common choice)
- Downtube shifters (popular on old-school road bikes)
- Shifters on the tops
Conclusion: When it comes to installing shifters and brake levers, both types offer the same options.
Summary: What You Need To Know
Bullhorns and pursuits handlebars are similar. The main difference is that pursuit bars offer a lower and thus more aerodynamic position.
Consequently, pursuit handlebars are better for people trying to be as aero as possible while still using bullhorn-style bars.
However, the extra speed comes at a price – more stress on the back and neck.
Additional Tip: If you have regular bullhorns and wonder whether pursuit handlebars will make a difference to your ride, you can slam your stem to lower your current bars and get a feel for the lower riding position.