Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Like a whole 'nother bike!

So, after several weeks of riding, I determined that the setup on my "new" 80s Miyata 210 commuter wasn't working for me. I had installed a set of Nitto Albatross handlebars, an upright style of bar that sweeps up and back toward the rider, like an exaggerated variation on the old English 3-speed bars, known as North Road bars. I first heard about them through Rivendell Bicycle Works (www.rivendellbicycles.com), a very cool company headed by former Bridgestone product manager Grant Peterson. Grant espouses a lot of ideas about bicycles and riding, many of which I agree with and some I don't. Regardless, I feel like I and many others have learned and benefited from his thoughts.

It may simply be the specific bike and bar combination, but whatever the reason, I found I just wasn't liking the Albatrosses. I felt like the position was so upright that the slightest headwind would slow me down significantly, and I also felt like I wasn't getting the kind of power to the pedals that I do with some other bars. I could have lived with that for shorter rides (my commute is only 6 miles each way), if I had found them wonderfully relaxing and comfortable to ride. On the contrary, I found myself never really being comfortable on the bike after about 10 minutes or so. I think part of it is that I'm so accustomed to the multiple hand positions of drop handlebars and such, that it's hard for me to live with only one position at the grips. Yes, you can tape up the whole Albatross and gain additional hand positions, and I tried those positions a little while riding, but it still never quite felt right.

The finaly straw was realizing that I just didn't feel as much in control, especially on snow and ice, with these bars. Due to the frame geometry, coupled with the extreme sweepback of the bars, the front end just felt really light and, well, squirrelly (no offense to squirrels!). So off came the Albatrosses, and on went a set of Nitto Moustache bars (another design I learned about from Grant Peterson). I'd used Moustaches on a couple of other bikes, and generally liked them, especially on older road bikes like the Miyata. At first glance, off the bike, they look similar to the Albartross, but they actually have a pronounced forward sweep near the middle, that puts you hands further forward and shifts more weight to the bars and front end, while also stretching out your back more. I don't have a photo of the bike in the new configuration yet, but will soon enough. I immediately felt more at home on the bike once I made this change, and felt I was getting more power, control and comfort all at the same time. Funny how some things work for some people and not for others. Of course, it could just be the particular bike that I tried the Albatrosses on... short of top tube, so even with a really long stem, it tended to keep me more upright than I like. But it's odd that it was actually less comfortable like this, including neck, arm, and wrist aches (minor, but there).

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