Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Bars on First Frame

Well, I gave the "trekking" or "butterfly" bars a few rides to see how I liked them, and they just didn't work for me on this bike. The main reason is that it just felt like I was sitting too upright, and my hands felt too close in for comfort on long rides. As I thought about it, it made sense... I had designed the bike around the dimensions of my 1986 Miyata 1000, which has a short top tube by today's standards. That worked fine for me with the Miyata with drop handlebars. I'm long of leg and short of torso, so older road bikes with shorter top tubes fit me well... but the trekking bars have a much shorter effective "reach" than drops. If you look at them, you'll see the closest "in" position places your hands quite a bit closer than the top part of a drop bar, and the furthest "out" position really doesn't get you much farther than the "ramp" behind the brake levers on a drop bar. I've put up photos of both bar setups for comparison below.

The new bars are a Nitto B135 Randonneur bar, a drop bar designed for touring. You can see from the photos that the bar has a gentle sweep upward from the stem, and the drop portions flare out as well. It's fairly similar to the old Nitto Dirt Drop bars that I have on my Bridgestone XO-2, and lots of folks like the Randonneur bars for touring, so I thought I'd give them a try. So far, I like them! Very comfortable, and a graceful look to them that seems to suit this bike. And the position is MUCH better for me... I feel like I'm reaching just the right distance in all positions, and the bike's handling feels better as well, with more of my weight forward now.

I've also decided to try a different brake lever for a change. In modern road brake levers, I've generally stuck with the Shimano "aero" style levers, and I like them a lot. Beautifully made and a very comfortable shape, I'm very happy with them on my other bikes. But I had been wanting to try one of the other levers out there, and settled on the Tektro R200A levers. The lever body is wider and chunkier than the Shimano levers, and some people have a strong preference for one over the other. Maybe I'm not picky enough, but I find after several rides I'm just fine with either. One feature the Tektro levers have that the Shimano lack is a quick release built into the lever. For this bike it's not really a big deal, since cantilever brakes can be easily released for wheel removal, but I can see where it might be handy on other bikes.

In the "tried and true" realm, you'll see I've also installed "interruptor" or "cross" levers on the tops of the handlebars as well. This gives a second braking position, similar to that created by the old "safety" levers, but in this case, they actuall WORK, unlike the old style, which gave feeble braking at best.

Finally, you'll notice that I've once again gone with the Shimano bar end shift levers, in place of the Deore XT thumbshifters I used on the trekking bars. Thumbies don't fit road bars, and I really wasn't that fond of them anyway.

One last change I am contemplating before wrapping the handlebars... the black Salsa stem, while a very nice stem, looks kind of out of place on this bike, and I'm leaning toward a more traditional silver Nitto stem. The only downside to that is that they don't have the two bolt open face design that allows easy bar swaps. On the other hand, if I make sure I like the Randonneur bars before I wrap them, I really shouldn't have to worry about the open face stem any time soon. What do you folks think? Is it worth it to swap out for a silver stem, or should I just leave well enough alone? Hmmmmmm... anyone...anyone?


Tyler said...

Go silver and wrap those bars up!

I've got that same setup on my Surly (my levers are branded Cane Creek, but look identical). I love the bars... very comfortable on all positions, especially in the nicely flared drops.

I'm not as thrilled with those levers, since braking from the hoods isn't very comfortable. The top part of the levers (by the pivot) is flat, so there's not much to grab. Compare that to Shimano STI levers, which have two curves and feel better in my hand. I do find the quick release quite handy, as often there's not enough slack in the cables to release my cantis w/o it.

Tim said...

Tyler -

Yep, I've decided on the silver stem. It just seems right, so a Nitto Technomic is on the way to me now.

On the brake levers, it's funny how personal an issue it can be. I don't really care for the shape of STI levers... but some of that may simply be that I haven't used them enough to get used to them. As for the Cane Creek/Tektro levers, while I probably prefer the shape of the standard Shimano levers, it's by a small enough margin that I'm keeping these levers on this bike. Actually, in some ways I'm liking the chunkier feel to the Tektros so far.

And good point on the q/r... it can still prove handy with some canti setups.

beth h said...

Bike fit and comfort are more important than aesthetics. If the bike feels good you'll ride it more. (Of course, I'm saying this to a guy with a dozen bikes...)

The stem does not detract so much as to be glaring. Run what works best and happy riding on your VERY cool new bike!

Mike said...


This is Mike (of the Drop bar Dahon. Thanks for the great work!). Just discovered your blog. I really like the Nitto Randonneur. So much I'm thinking about getting a set for my Pocket Rocket. as Tyler said, Randos feel great in any position.

I know what you mean about the Trekking bars. My touring bike is a converted Mtn Bike w/ trekking bars, paul’s thumbies. Took me a long time to get used to the handlebar, but it’s growing on me and starting to really like it.

I enjoy reading your Blog.

Keep up the good work!


The Art of Alejandra Gomez said...

Hi there, on the off chance you are still reading comments, what kind of cross bar brake levers did you go with? I'm updating a green 49cm Bridgestone xo2 and really need some for safety reasons.

Tim said...

Wow, glad someone is still reading my blog. I've sadly neglected it the last few years!

The levers I went with were Tektro RL720 Cross levers which you can see on the Velo Orange page here: