25 March 2015

Between the Bars

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So, for some time… actually, since I’ve had this bicycle in riding order, I’ve had drop bars on it. Aren’t you supposed to? I mean, if you are riding on a road, you’re meant to have those handlebars that road racers have. It makes you more aerodynamic. You get down “in the drops”and you just fly ahead, the laws of physics left scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Actually, it wasn’t that. It was sticking with what I knew. My first “real” bikes were 80s ten-speeds, replete with cottered cranks and downtube shifters, and of course, drop bars. Were people using them as intended? I think that the existence of the interrupter, er, ‘suicide brakes’ establishes that they were not. I ended up following suit, riding predominately on the tops of the bars and either reaching down or using the interrupters when I needed to slow things down.


The late Sheldon Brown describes the phenomenon as a product of trendiness, which I can understand. After all, the look of a bike is driven heavily by what’s going on with the handlebars. A steel frame bike with drop bars is the quintessential bicycle in my mind. When I built the Soma up, I briefly was going for the path racer look, a la the Pashley Guv’nor, and had a pair of mustache bars for it. Those were soon replaced with some Nitto drops, because if this were to be used in any capacity as a road bike, I would need to use suitable components.

Fast forward four years, and I’ve yet to wear “kit”, yet to install or utilize “brifters”  or give half a damn as to what a Strava is. So where does that leave me? Using drop bars for no other reason than that’s what I’ve always done. So I decided that I would part ways with my Nitto drops for some Nitto mustaches. The model I have, to the best of my knowledge, is the Albatross, though I will frequently confuse/refer to them as ‘North Roads’. The mustache bars were back.

I cut the brake cables, resized the housing, and slapped on some grips. Took it for a spin. Yup- I like this a whole lot more.

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The benefit of drop bars is having multiple positions to put your hands. I get that, but it’s rarely my hands that ache after riding for hours. It’s my back, arched over like I’ve trying to make a Ferarri out of an F-150. With mustache bars I’m more upright, centered, and comfortable. The ultimate extension of this would be a Dutch bike like a Gazelle, where you’re sitting at an angle Marry Poppins would approve of, but I think this is a good compromise.

I’ve also noticed that I’m more aware of the immediate area as I’m riding. It’s not as taxing to look around; I’m already there. It carries through to my disposition, I’m sure.

If you’re curious, the bike I pulled these off of got a pair of BMX-style bars, which also seems to fit it better. My Panasonic is a single-speed pulled from the refuse of Japanese consumerism, and I like it, but it’s a very single-purpose vehicle. That purpose is typically getting from one drinking establishment to another.


So what’s the moral of this story? Don’t be afraid to embrace the particular flavor of cycling you find most enjoyable. Do you like those goofy touring bars that resemble pretzels? Go for it. Are you one of those people that ride a fixie with bars no longer than a breadstick? Well, you’re lifespan is probably much shorter than the rest of us, but good on you. The key to embracing cycling is finding what works for you and not caring what the trends might be. I like to ride with friends, I like to ride for long distances, but I don’t care what my cadence or average speed is, and that’s that. The bicycle is much more than bike racing, and people need to know that. As for me, I’ve got a pair of mustache bars I’m going to enjoy the hell out of.

- Bicyclist Abroad 


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  1. The only question I have is: "How did you get those drop bars out of the quill stem they must have been contained in without taking off the levers and bar tape?"

    FYI, I'm a medium retro-grouch but brifters are very nice.

    1. I use slight-of-hand and a little bit of magic :-)
      Those bars were attached to a regular old threadless stem. I think quills look much nicer, but the bike industry seems to disagree.

  2. So as you travel a lot, how do you stay in touch with your colleagues , how do you manage your business? I'm asking coz I also travel very often and at the moment I'm thinking of using vdr data room to have access to my documents from any part of the world. Have you ever tried this?