Category Archives: handlebars

How many bikes?

Sometimes, the wife asks me a silly question.  “How many bikes do you have now?”  This is not a question of curiosity.  It’s a mixture of mild contempt and disbelief.  If you’re married and you have bikes, or cameras, or some other obsession hobby that encourages collecting stuff, you’ve seen the look which accompanies this question.  There is an underlying desire for me to part with at least some of the gigantic pile of crap taking up space in the basement.  And on the porch.  In the foyer.

There are several ways to answer this question.  Some of them are even honest.  Fewer are answers given to wives.

  • N+1.  This means that the proper number of bikes is always one more than the number on hand.
  • N-1.  This means that a divorce is imminent or the rent is two months behind.
  • 7, or 9.  This is from Rivendell Reader #42, page 6.  “Seven is good.  A beater, a bomber, a single-speed, a touring bike, a lightish road bike, a do-all racked and bagged bike, a mixte, a loaner, and a work in progress.  Seven?  Make it nine.”
  • 6.  Beloved Cycles has 6 different frames, each intended for a different purpose.  A road bike, a porteur, a commuter, a touring bike, a randonneur, and a mixte.
  • Maybe you’re a roadie and you need a different racing bike for different conditions.  Racing, training, raining, cold raining, warm raining, might start raining.  At least one each of crabon, aluminium, and steel.  Maybe titanium.
  • That frame without wheels isn’t a bike.  It’s a bike part.  Don’t count it.

There are a zillion ways to answer the question, but I think I may have it figured out.  The true answer and other secrets of the universe are revealed below.  Keep reading!

One of the ways I’ve looked at bikes is to classify them based on use.  In other words, they need to do certain things and I have to figure out which bikes can do what, and which needs are currently unmet.  These are the things I commonly do on a bike.

  • Just riding around.
  • Grocery shopping.
  • Towing the girls to school, dance class, etc.
  • Bicycle club rides.
  • Camping.  Going, not just riding around once I get there.
  • Dropping books off at the library.
  • Rail trail riding.
  • That one time I rode a metric century.
  • In the future I’d like to commute to work (if/when I find a job), maybe go on an extended tour, and possibly ride a brevet series.

Grant Petersen’s 7 or 9 is a good place to start for this type of justification.  At one time I had a bike with a porteur rack, a touring bike, a mountain bike, fixed gear, city, and probably a couple others.  Right now I have the lightish road bike, a beater, a bomber, a do-all, tourer, and a couple works in progress.  2 or 3 are ride-able at any given time.

I had considered paring it down to the Beloved 6, but couldn’t figure out how to slot my existing frame sets into their classifications.  Plus, I have more than 6 bikes.

This is dumb.  (You were thinking that all along.  Admit it.)  I can do most of what I want to do on a bike on any bike.  Maybe I shouldn’t pull a trailer full of kids on the lightish road bike, or ride a metric century on the Collegiate, but there’s a hell of a lot of overlap.  I can certainly take any of them on an S24O or on the slow club rides I sometimes lead.

I think it comes down to handlebars, and I think you/I/we need 3 bikes.  Three.  One, two, three (3).  Thuh-ree.

Circling back around to Grant Petersen and Rivendell, those guys have sold 3 types of handlebars ever since 1994.  Some sort of drop bar, an upright, swept back bar, and the infamous mustache bar.  I’ve read a lot of GP’s writings, and I don’t recall him ever saying “you need one bike with each of our handlebars”, but I think he meant to.  Or maybe he knows it, but doesn’t want to just come right out and say it.  I don’t know.  Doesn’t matter.  But in a round about way, I think he’s on to something.

Get a drop bar you like.  I like the Nitto B115, the Nitto Randonneur, and the Salsa Cowbell.  Pick something you like and set it up in a way that’s comfy.  Higher for an off-road-ish bike, lower for lightish, fastish.

Get some city bars.  Wald 8095, there’s something called a Promenade, maybe Albatross bars.  Pair them up with a leather saddle or a sprung saddle.  Maybe both.

Get another bar.  Mustache, Mary, those weird trekking bars.  And that’s it.  That’s all you need.

Put the porteur rack on your bike with city bars.  Now it’s your shopper, S24O’er, townie.  Or follow Jan Heine’s lead and put it on your drop bar rando bike with fat tires.  Now it’s an “urban bike”.

Got an old mountain bike?  Albatross bars and racks and baskets and now you can tour, camp, grocery shop and commute on it.  Mustache bars and pretend it’s an XO-1.  You’ve always wanted one of those.

Get three different bars and put them on three different frames and go from there.  You’ll figure out which bike does what.

You need three bikes.

Maybe a fourth, just in case one of them is in the shop…


Core dump

This is one of those multi-topic, Spring cleaning posts.  It’s a bunch of random clutter I need to sweep out.  You’re the dust pan.

April was #30daysofbiking.  I finished the month with at least one ride daily and 206 miles.  The bulk of that was getting the kiddos to school.  I didn’t lose a single pound.

Speaking of weight, I tend to get hungry when I exercise.  That means I eat.  So instead of burning fat, I’m burning the stuff I just ate.  When I don’t exercise, I eat then, too.  I like starchy things.  They go right to my tummy and stay there.  For the last two days I’ve been not eating within an hour of riding, before or after.  And I haven’t been eating bread or sugar.  Guess what?  I’m losing weight already.

Grant Petersen wrote a book.  It’s called “Just Ride“.  You can get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or better bike shops.  The evil LBS doesn’t have it.

  • He and I disagree about underwear.  In my experience, seams in the wrong place hurt.  They bunch up into my nooks and crannies and rub me the wrong way.  Seamless undies and shorts without rear pockets work well for me.
  • Part 7 was a snoozer, which surprised me.  I can talk bike parts and geometry and tire suppleness all day long until you’re bored to death.  Apparently, I like talking parts more than I like listening to someone else talk parts.  I’ll talk less parts next time.
  • Other than that, GP is spot on.  You should get a copy and read it.  It’s worth more than the 14 worthless Americanos.  I’ve already started using the wobbly bike method when cars approach.  I think it might just work.  Will report back later.

The rSogn continues to be a work in progress.  It’s currently sporting Gary II bars, which I just put on two days ago.  Haven’t ridden it yet.  Will report back later.  I also measured the 38mm Col de la Vie tires with a digital caliper.  36.2-ish at 3 bar on Velo-Orange Diagonale rims.  That’s less than a 10% margin of error.  I can live with that.  It also got some Eggbeater pedals and I put cleats on my shoes.  This experiment is probably coming to an end soonly.

The Pacer is back in rotation, but not as the Bio-Pacer.  105 double rings, drop bars, plastic sneaker pedals.  I really like the pedals and am considering trying out some of those RMX sneaker pedals or Grip Kings/Lambdas.  They allow me to ride in canvas Chuckie T sneakers, which I can’t do on rat traps like the MKS touring.  The Pacer is a fun bike.  It climbs better than anything else I own and the side pull brakes stop better than anything else I own.

There are two new Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch Me Baby Just Like That Turbo Rocket Ship Super Duper Special Edition phones on the way.  We’re also ditching T-Stationary in the process.  Android’s been good to us for the last two years.  I’m looking forward to it being even better starting tomorrow.

I finally got around to ordering that part for the refrigerator.

Ride bike!

Sometimes I’m Dr. Jekyll…

…and sometimes I’m Mr. Hyde.

All hail the Bio-Pacer.

Dirt Drop Dead Pricey

I drive finish nails with a sledge hammer.  How so?  I’ll explain.

Not too terribly long ago I stumbled across a 58cm Bridgestone MB-2 from way back in 1987.  1987 was when the Internet consisted mainly of real content, unlike this blog.  Ahem.  Anyway, I’ll detail the build-up of my MB-2 in a future post.  To keep the 60 cycle hum to a minimum, let’s just say Charlie Cunningham has been a bit of an influence.  From the time I laid eyes on that bike I knew it was getting dirt drop handlebars.

For the unwashed masses, dirt drops are slightly modified drop bars where the hooks are flared out at the bottom, and the rear most part of the drop is flared out away from the frame.  This creates a wide grip area which, in turn, provides for some nice leverage amongst the baby heads.  (Not my term.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  I don’t want to ride my bike over your baby’s head.)  Here’s a picture, blatantly stolen (it really has a Creative Commons license), showing two different dirt drops.  The black one is an On-One Midge (still available) and the silver one is a 3ttt WB1 (no clue where you might get one of these).

ON-ONE Midge vs. 3ttt WB1

So I did my research and decided that I really, really, really needed a silver bar with a 25.4mm clamp area, mostly because I have plenty of stems with a 25.4mm clamp and I hate black components.  No sweat.  The following bars met my needs and are currently available, at least somewhere.

  • Origin-8 Gary (also available in black and with a 31.8mm clamp area)
  • On-One Midge (I’d have to order the silver one from old blighty)
  • That’s about it, unless I want to take one for the team on eBay and get some NOS Nitto bars.

The Gary bar got the final nod, because nearly every online retailer in North America stocks it for about $25.  The Midge isn’t significantly more expensive, but the silvery kind would have to be shipped across the pond.  I held off ordering my Gary bar, thinking that since I needed to go to the LBS, I’d see if they had one in stock.  This was entirely wishful thinking.  If I was lucky they’d have a Bell Lap, black, 31.8.

While I waited for Jim to set my crown race I wandered over to the handlebars and nearly passed out.  There, in all it’s non-silvery glory was an Origin-8 Gary.  In black.  For only a couple bucks more than the bargainbikepartsdotcom price.  I could have walked away.  I could have ordered exactly what I wanted.  But I like my LBS.  The Pedal Pusher is, by a long shot, the best bike shop in the Harrisburg area and one of the best I’ve ever been to.  Anywhere.  So I pulled them off the wall, in all their ugly black non-silveryness, and settled up at the register.  $30.

Halfway home, at a red light, I lifted the bar from the passenger seat and noticed the 31.8 stamped on the cardboard packaging.  The very same packaging that had obscured the clamp area of the bar in the shop.  The very same packaging that I failed to read.  Damn you, Origin-8! And your honest product descriptions!  Gah.  The evil LBS was just around the corner, so I made a quick detour and bought a short, steep stem to fit the new bar.  I had a threaded to threadless adapter at home on the road bike.  I could just get a new stem for that one later.   Another $30.

I like my bars higher than most folks.  I wanted these at least at saddle height.  My threaded-to-threadless thingy was too short.  VO sells a longer one.  $16 plus shipping.

If there’s a moral to the story, other than “I’m an idiot”, I have no idea what it might be, but I spent $80 to accomplish what I could have with $25 had I just ordered what I wanted in the first place.  Finish nails with a sledge hammer.

Soma’s Lauterwasser

Soma announced their new Lauterwasser handlebar today.  It is apparently the revival of a handlebar popular quite a long time ago, like those on this Silver Record illustrated in Raleigh’s 1939 catalog.  A very nice Lauterwasser equipped Humber Sports can be seen frequently over at 3 Speed Touring in Japan.  In all, it’s very cool that Soma has made the initial investment in getting these bars back on the market after a very long absence.  Let’s hope they catch on.

Or not.

I’ll grant that Soma’s taking a bit of a risk and needs to recoup their initial investment.  There’s design work, contracts, lawyers (there are always lawyers), machine setup fees, probably a minimum order, shipping, marketing and so on.  The aluminium bars are currently priced at $74, whilst the steel will set you back a more modest $50.  Somebody’s smokin’ crack.

But, but, but Sloth, you said it yourself.  They had to shell out lotsa mon-ay just to get them made.

I did.  And I meant it.  But (there’s always a but) so does everyone else.  Take Velo-Orange for instance.  They just introduced their own brand of Maes and Rando drops.  I’ll assume that they had to shell out a bunch of the same expenses to have them made to their own specifications.  VO, however, didn’t use the stratospherical price gun when they applied the price tags.  Their bars are around $5 less, LESS, than the competition’s bars.

The fine folks at Wald crank out American made handlebars every damn day, which I can purchase for about $15.  They don’t have one-time setup fees and design expenses.  Those were consumed long, long ago.  But still, $15 for American steel.  But they don’t have a Lauterwasser.

So where does that leave us?  Premium pricing.

Soma is, ATMO, engaging in a premium pricing scheme because they’re the only game in town.  If these catch on, wait a year.  Then buy the Origin-8 copy for $20.

That’s my opinion, anyway.  Meh.