Author Topic: Considering New Handlebar Setup  (Read 24248 times)

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Online John Nettles

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Considering New Handlebar Setup
« on: February 26, 2008, 01:54:52 pm »
If you have ever changed from traditional drop bars to something else (any style considered), what are the pros and cons of the change?  What about brake and shifter setup?  I currently have and love bar-ends.

Please answer only if you have actually changed in the past.  I would like only first hand experience; no "I have heard it said" type of comments please.

As I get older :(, my hands, neck, etc. are not as happy as they used to be and want to try something else.

I have tried several recumbents but have not found any I like so they are ruled out (sorry).

Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!


Offline staehpj1

Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2008, 02:21:10 pm »
I have used a few different types of bars, but have only toured with drops.  The next best for me was trekking bars, but as I have said I have not toured on them.  I definitely found straight bars less comfortable even with bar ends.

For me drops are the most comfortable by a long shot, but if I was going to try something else it would be trekking bars, shifters and brake levers may be an issue though.  The bike I used them on was a mountain bike and the shifters (thumb) and brake levers worked fine.

Nashbar is one place that has the trekking bars fairly cheaply, but you will probably need to also get MTB levers and maybe different sfifters.

The trekking bars had lots of hand positions some of them farther back if that is a plus for you (if not you may want a longer reach stem).

Personally I found that more time on the bike and other general fitness exercises along with some daily stretching were the answer for me for neck and hand pain (after being sure you have good bike fit).

Offline roadrunner

Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2008, 02:12:16 pm »
After years of touring with drop bars, I purchased a Novara Safari, which has a trekking bar, two years ago.  I've done a lot of riding and one long tour with the Safari and love the trekking bar.  The bar provides wide range of position -- upright, semi-extended, to essentially-aero (which I use only with headwinds).  The most comfortable position I've found on any handlebar is with my hands on the horizonal curves of the trekking bar.

I had to use a stem riser to get the bar high enough to "fit" me, and added padded tape over the provided foam bar covering for more cushioning.

The trekking bar positions the shifters and brakes as on a a flat bar.  The Safari came with Grip Shifts, but Rapid-Fire type shifters would fit just as well.

My Cannondale handlebar bag fits on the trekking bar.

I can't think of any "cons" to the trekking bar.  It's a bit wider than drop bars, gets some "what the heck is that" looks, and would be a challenge to fit a mirror on (I use a helmet mirror).

You could get a trekking bar from Nashbar for $18 and give it a try.  

Offline Nitram

Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2008, 10:55:04 pm »
My expirience is with week long, self supported, 600 mile tours. While they are still drops, I switched to carbon fiber bars and found them to be much more comfortable.  Straight bars don't have enough hand positions.  10 years ago on a shorter week long sagged tour I used straight bars and my hands kept falling assleep.  Steel drops with STI "Brifters" - my shoulders hurt.  Nothing with the carbon fiber bars.  My CF bars have bar end shifters.  Maybe by forcing myself to change hand positions to shift I was somehow more comfortable.

Offline wildandcrazy

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2009, 04:08:28 pm »
My wife and I are older tourers - in our 60s.  I know that drop bars are considered the way to go for touring, but we had trouble adapting from our experience with mountain bikes.  We just couldn't get used to the drop bars on our new Trek 520s.  I swapped them for mountain style riser bars.  The brakes are stock linear pull v-brakes, so we needed some new mountain type brake levers.  There is a device, "Thumbies", from Paul Component Engineering that will convert Shiamano bar end shifters into thumb shifters.  We wanted to do this but couldn't buy them anywhere.  The suppliers were out of stock and Paul Components didn't return messages.  We ended up exchanging the bar end shifters for Sram grip shifters.  Not what we wanted, but they let us leave on the tour.  We were also able to trade out our stems to take the mountain bars.  We have a set of trekking bars from Nashbar that I want to try out, but haven't gotten the wrenches out yet.  So the short answer is:  Yes, you can make all sorts of changes.  There is no guarantee, but you don't need to settle for whatever the manufacturer decides.  It is your bike after all.  The worst that can happen is that you may need to convert back again.   
« Last Edit: March 10, 2009, 04:56:34 pm by wildandcrazy »

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2009, 04:56:01 pm »
I have a friend who put a mustache bar on his wife's bike.  Bar end shifters were used at the end of the bars.  When I don't have the agility to use the rams horn drops on my touring bike, I am going to try the mustache bar.

Offline whittierider

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2009, 11:06:03 pm »
If you have ever changed from traditional drop bars to something else (any style considered), what are the pros and cons of the change?  What about brake and shifter setup?  I currently have and love bar-ends.

Are you looking for experience on doing the conversion, or experience in riding with something different?  Doing the conversion is always kind of a pain since you have to deal with the cables, the cycle computer, and bar tape, then take a lot of miles to determine the best bar angle, height, and so on.

Since I usually ride the aerobars and not the drops, last year I decided I might as well get rid of the drops and put bull horns on.  They're not quite as nice for out-of-the-saddle climbing because the shape of the bar doesn't hold relaxed hands in in one place as well , but the position is virtually identical.  My shifters were on the ends of the aerobars even before the conversion, so that part didn't change.  A nice surprise I got out of it was the feel of the Cane Creek brake levers for the ends of the bull horn bars.

Aerobars probably won't help your neck, but they're a big relief to my hands, elbows, shoulders, and even my back, even though I'm in a lower position, because it's so relaxed and my wrists aren't handling any pounding.  Put your seat farther forward if you try it though, and use aerobars like Syntace's that have the arm pads behind the main bar instead of over it.

My own interest in touring is for traveling very light, with just a large seat bag to hold a few clothes and things, and stay in hotels and eat in restaurants instead of camping; so my perspective may be a little different.  Obviously I wouldn't be able to take a handlebar bag.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2009, 11:08:59 pm by whittierider »

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2009, 02:54:31 am »
I  used the straight MB style handlebars on two long tours. On all the others I used the drrop bars. I definitely prefer the drop style handlebars, more hand positions. In fact, I would not use the straight handlebars ever again. I don't like them. The twist style shifting was cool, yes, but not the straight style handlebar.

Offline mucknort

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2009, 05:39:16 pm »
I have tried several recumbents but have not found any I like so they are ruled out (sorry).
Hi TulsaJohn,
As a happy recumbent rider I am curious which recumbents you tried?

Offline JimF

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2009, 11:04:20 am »
Hi, TulsaJohn:
I have three bikes, an MTB with straight bar, an old Peugeot racer with drops, and an Atlantis tourer with a mustache bar, my favorite. I'm a senior. I find the more upright, curved geometry of the mustache to be comfortable on longer rides (including a TransAm back a couple of years ago.) It also mates well with bar ends.

Online John Nettles

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Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2009, 02:28:59 am »
Sorry for late responses.  For some reason, I was not notified of them so I missed them.

Regarding Whittierider's question of my question.  Looking for someone with different experience.  I have been riding for over 30 years now and the 'ol body just doesn't like the same position it seems.  I have tried all the various tricks of saddle & stem adjustments but still get it occasionally.  Thanks for the thought though.

Regarding Mucknort (love the name!) question, I have just borrowed various club members recumbent for a ride or two so I can't remember the names very well.  Some were definitely entry level recumbents (EZ-Tour by Sun?) but some were mid-level.  No high end ones though.  I really wished I would like the feel of them as it seems that if you find one you like, you just love it....sort of like a Brooks leather seat.

I am currently trying the trekking bars on one bike and will basically have a different setup for each of my 4 (yes, I know that is a lot!) bikes so that may make the comparison easier.

Thanks for the updated responses!  I didn't remember I had asked this over a year ago.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2009, 10:42:56 pm »
The first thing to do is to go to a shop that specializes in fitting you to your bike. Many problems can be solved by a different stem or bar height or the position of the saddle. I go every few years (I'm now 57) and am amazed at how a minute adjustment can make a difference. It isn't cheap but if the person knows what they are doing it is  well worth it.

Online John Nettles

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Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2009, 10:53:29 pm »
Thanks driftless,

I understand and totally agree with what you are saying.  I have 30+ years of cycling but the ol body does not like the same position as much.  I have tried all the tricks earlier as you had suggested but that did not work as it was already pretty much dialed in.  Thanks for the thought though!

Offline nomadic1

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2009, 09:28:26 pm »
I used to be a confirmed drop bar rider, road, off road, racing touring. Then as I got older and the wrist problems that began with beating the crap out of them riding off road in the late '70s and early 80s before front suspension started to protest. Tried trekking bars and did not like them for a lack of really comfortable positions. Tried moustache bars. Too low and also lack of positions. Am now using nitto albatross bars and it's like the sky opened up and angels have carried me off to cycling heaven!!! I put neoprene grips on and wrapped them with cork tape, using barcons and mtb levers it is without a doubt the most comfortable setup I've experienced in over 40 years of riding. Aero position forward and loads of intermediate hand positions to change to, plus I have a very upright riding posture making full use of my Brooks B68 saddle, which is a wider seat that works perfectly with these bars.  Very stable for 50 mph descents and still climbs well. The best part is feeling like a kid again bombing around on my 3 speed. Some savy commuters have discovered these but very few tourist have, but IMO these are the best choice for loaded long distance touring out there. If you are young and your - neck, back, shoulders, wrists may be able to hold up to riding drops or any bar setup at 2 to 3" below your saddle line for a perceived aero advantage, but eventually we all age, and the nicer you are to you parts early on, the nicer they will be way on down the road. Trust me on this one.
The hard part was coming to terms with the dorky "non-cyclist" appearance of them. Form follows function and now I think they are beautiful.

Offline DaveB

Re: Considering New Handlebar Setup
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2009, 08:59:41 am »
Two rules:

1. You can convert any bike to any type of bars.
2.  You usually can't do it cheaply.

The change requires new shifters, brake levers, cables, housing, a new front derailleur, sometimes different brakes or travel adapters, bars, stem and grips and the shop labor to do all of the work.   

Often selling the unsuitable bike and buying one already built in the configuration you want is less expensive.

I've gone the opposite direction.  I converted a straight bar older MTB to drop bars and use it as a rain/errand bike. I rode it with straight bars enough to realize the limited hand positions were too much of a restriction. 

I was able to keep the cost very reasonable since I had most of the needed change parts already in my surplus boxes from upgrades on other bikes and, since the MTB had cantilever brakes, the road brifters worked properly with them. I also did all of the work myself.