Obsession finds it's way into your mind almost completely unnoticed.

It starts with a casual observation. You hardly even noticed when it happened, but something shifted in your mind. A bit later the same observation is made again, this time in a slightly different context. It happens again and again and the observations layer atop one another like sheets of tracing paper that, when flattened together, form a complete picture.

And so, having gone almost completely unnoticed, an obsession is born.

My obsession over classic-bend bars has been developing slowly over the last two years or so, fueled by three principle factors (mimicking the pros, form, and function), and buffered by another (investment).  The fuel for the fire included the observation that many of my favorite pros ride classic-bend bars, the FSA K-Wing bars I was riding didn’t allow for a very smooth routing of the cables from my Ergo shifters, and I was not satisfied with the quality if my shifting. On the other hand, I liked the scalloped area that the K-Wings offer, and I was reluctant to move away from a bar that I spent quite a bit of money on, especially for a bar that would also represent an investment and which I wasn’t sure I would like any better. However, those same scallops caused sharp bends in the cables which adversely effected shifting performance. Not to mention, I haven’t seen a pro riding K-Wings since, well, ever.

The classic-bend bars have been weighing heavier and heavier on my mind recently; my shifting has never been as good as I think it should be, and I have become increasingly convinced that the problem was the cable routing and that classic-band bars would likely resolve the issue. Also, both Brett’s and Marko’s latest build projects involved classic-band bars, and I love the look they offer. Add to that to the fact that I’ve recently grown especially tired of the angular look of the K-Wings, particularly in marriage with my 17-degree stem, and you’re asking for trouble.

Yesterday, a flurry of text message exchanges with Marko over bars sent my obsession over the precipice. That, combined with a particularly frustrating day at the office turned obsession into action; the Hand of Merckx guided me into a chance meeting wherein I ended up with a like-new 3T Rotundo Pro bar for less than half the retail value.  No shipping, no waiting, just good-old-fashioned instant gratification. Impulse buy satisfied and bar experimentation available at a palatable cost, I disappeared into the basement to labor on my machine for a few hours to install the new bars.  And, although rainy weather today will keep me from riding Bike Number One, shifting performance on the work stand showed a considerable improvement in the crispness and speed of the shifts, and sitting on the bike in the workshop seems to validate that the classic bend is indeed very comfortable. Both of those test seem pretty conclusive, obviously.  And, most importantly, it looks Pro.

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100 Replies to “Bar-O-Phelia”

  1. frank :Handlebar dingleberry. Into the Lexicon with that one, my friend.

    Was chatting at my local coffeeshop the other day with the owner about the same issue, and I referred to them as Hasidic handlebars.

    frank :@Geof, @Steampunk
    Geoff is right, that’s the best gear to store your bike in, assuming you leave it unridden for more than a few hours at a time, which, of course, we don’t.
    That said, the argument that there is something inherently hardman about what gear your bike is in when you’re not riding it is a load of gerbil bullocks. I used to be a 53×11 storer as well, but the chain stretches the rear mech into an unsightly position. The gear photographed here also allows the cassette to shine maximally, showing off how clean it is, and let’s all 53 teeth of the big ring gleam like a wolf baring it’s teeth to it’s prey.
    A Lion doesn’t walk around with a gazelle in it’s mouth just to prove it has fangs. A Roman kept his sword sheathed until it was necessary to disembowel a Germanian. Cowboys took pride in keeping their Ruger holstered until the last possible second to prove how fast they were.
    Hardmen keep their bikes in a low gear until it’s time to lay down The V. Any questions?

    Well played. Very well played. Of course, lots of cowboys got shot that way. And how’d that turn out for the Romans? I should also stress that I advocated resting the bike in the lower gears, only photographing in the higher. But you make a good case. Again: well played.

  2. Twice in the last month, bike mechanics have asked me “Do you use the drops?”

    Both times, I’ve had no idea how to answer that question, or why it would even need to be asked. OF COURSE I use the drops! Doesn’t everybody?

    I mean, how do you stomp into a nice long flat section or even a downhill if you stay on the hoods the whole time? I guess classic or anatomic doesn’t make much of a difference if you never use the drops.

    My new bike came with 3T Ergonova bars, which I’m finding to be quite comfortable. Old (rain) bike has classic bend, but going anatomic would involve switching out the threaded quill stem, at which point I should probably replace the frame that’s too big for me, but if I’m doing that, I may as well go for a whole new rain bike altogether. Spouse approved, so Rule #12 it is.

  3. @Cyclops



    I may have mentioned this in Il Gruppo Progetto but I’ll do it again, the ebayer I snagged the Cinelli bars and stem from for the latest project has rolls and rolls of Benotto tape for sale, cheap. Incredible all the awesome old bling that seller has.

    Cyclops, I beg to differ on your opinion of FSA. I ride FSA cranks, bars, stem, seat post all on Bike #1 and am very happy with it. Although, as frank alluded to in this article, I will be swapping out the K-wing bars for some Rotundos as well. After riding the Cinellis on the new rain bike and feeling the magic of the classic bend, I too am ditching the k-wings. The K-wings will find a home on the cross bike, replacing, you’ll be happy to know, some shitty bontrager bars that came on it.

    Other than that, this thread is hilarious. Being computerless all weekend, my phone just didn’t do it justice.

  4. @frank

    An entry attributed to me in the lexicon? Sweet!

    Yeah, that Fizik tape has a nice retro look. I dig the white, too. I’ve been tempted to switch to that, but dirty bar tape looks horrid, and I don’t want to have to rewrap more often than needed so I stick with the black tape myself.

  5. @mcsqueak
    Dude, the microtex is magical. I rode an entire year on one wrap with no cleaning. It stays white, despite riding in Rule #9 conditions. For white tape, it’s microtex (or Benotto) or nothing.

  6. Sorry pacrat, not Nevada, I’m North Vancouver, BC. Every ride is a hill ride. My ride options are to ride up any of the local mountains. In the rain. Like Frank in Seattle. No spinning either since we also don’t get snow until the mountain top elevation, so year round riding it is.

  7. @Geoffrey Grosenbach
    This whole thing about people and drops is making me crazy. Used to be drops were deep; and bars had three distinct positions – high (tops), low and aero (drops), and in between (hoods).

    Among other things, this gave you a chance to work some other muscle groups, stretch your back, get up high to breathe nice and easy. Now, with compacts, it seems the goal is to make all three positions as identical as possible.


  8. Wow, look what I missed this weekend. You all had me in stiches.

    @frank I’m looking forward to the ride report as I’ve been eying the Rotundos myself for a while.

  9. @Marko

    I’m sure FSA is very serviceable stuff but the name as well as having no soul turns me off. It’s kinda like Amelia Earhart luggage. Who in their right mind buys luggage with the moniker of someone lost, never to be seen again.

  10. frank :@Geoffrey Grosenbach
    This whole thing about people and drops is making me crazy. Used to be drops were deep; and bars had three distinct positions – high (tops), low and aero (drops), and in between (hoods).
    Among other things, this gave you a chance to work some other muscle groups, stretch your back, get up high to breathe nice and easy. Now, with compacts, it seems the goal is to make all three positions as identical as possible.

    Compacts exist so us fatties can at least pretend we’re getting low and aero…

  11. Call me Lame-O, but I rarely use the drops. I seem to get my back just as flat ridng the hoods, plus I’m comfy. With Ultegra brakes, two fingers is also enough to lock the wheels – can do that from the hoods.

    My back has never been flexible enough to use the drops for long. Either that, or the position I’ve used for 25+ years now isn’t perfect. Or I’m just getting old.

    My ‘bar tape always looks lame – can tell I don’t use the drops – no dirt or wear.

    During my sport motorcycles days, a similar embarrassment – “chicken strips” – where the tires are not worn to the edges, meaning you’re not fully leaning it over.

    Pedal or fossil powered two wheels – I be lame…

  12. @Dan O
    What bars are you riding man? I ask because the bars I just stuck on Il Gruppo Progetto are much more comfy in the drops than the k-wings I have on #1. I’ve never been a fan of the k-wings in the drops for longer periods than hammering flats or downhills. This is why I’m going to try rotundos on bike 1 and ditch the k-wings to the c-x bike (not much drop riding there). Of course it could be more complicated than just bar design but I wonder how much that has to do with it.

    As for the “chicken strip” comment, that’s funny and takes me back. It’s been 20+ years but I was never able to scrape a knee on the Interceptor I had in H.S. Of course that doesn’t mean I didn’t have heaps of fun on the thing.

  13. @Marko
    I’m running stock Ibis branded bars on the carbon Ibis, ancient Scott bars on my ’97 Ibis Hakkalugi ‘cross bike and ’91 Brigestone RB-1. They all have a normal bend to ’em.

    When it comes down it, it’s not the bars themselves, more about where positioned relative to saddle height. Like many riders, I’d probably do better with the bars a few centimeters higher.

    The only time I ever burned off my “chicken strips” was during a track class – never on the street. I was always a cautious rider and slowly built up to speed, a slow speed mind you, but still cool to see the tires actually worn. The track is a different universe from the street, and world’s safer.

    The last motorcycle I owned was a 2001 Aprilia Falco SL1000, sold off a few years ago. Before that a 1997 Triumph Speed Triple and a 1990 Honda CB-1 400F. Years earlier, a 1975 Yamaha RD350. Two of ’em actually, one stock, one modifed with rear sets, expansion chambers, etc. Mix in a pile of dirt bikes as well. I rode in the dirt quite a bit as a kid, including some motocross and hare scambles (cross-country) racing. Fast I was not, but cool experiences and memories.

  14. @Dan O
    I figured you’d weigh inventually. When you say “I never ride in the drops” it sounds less cool than “I only ride Belgian style.”

    Its not in The Rules but I do have a personal rule I live by, and that’s absolutely no descending at speed on the hoods – only the drops. It’s like hooking your thumbs under the bars to keep from Supermanning off your MTB. Not onÅ‚y are you not able to brake as well, but your hands can fall off them very easily if you hit something unseen. I am convinced that if JENS! Was riding in the drops in ’09 on the Saint Bernard he would not have crashed, or at least not so painfully. It’s one of the little things that can help keeps the many risks of riding at a minimum.

  15. @Frank
    Oh yeah, “I only ride Belgian style” sounds way better then “I never ride in the drops.” I’ll remember that next time someone snickers at the virgin tape on my ‘bars.

    Wacky enough I descend using the hoods as well, so I guess I also descend “Belgian style.” I have a good grip on the hoods however, so never worried about it. I even ride my ‘cross bike on the hoods most of the time and can still brake fine, even with with muddy cantilevers.

    I’ve always been envious of riders who can stay in the drops for long periods of time.

  16. In group rides I’ll do the hoods and the drops, depending on how strong I feel that day (I like riding the top of the bars too but tend to only do that when on solo rides). Some days everything is just clicking perfectly, and riding in the drops is a dream, not to mention I feel like I get more power out of the quads in that position. Riding on the hoods hurts my hands after awhile, I think I may need to play with the position of the brakes a smidge. I wind up having to switch hand positions often.

    As far as descending goes, if you’re going fast I’m not sure how you can do it without being in the drops and still feel in control. One of my favorite things is to hit the corners and push on the bars to help corner, and it’s super easy to do that in the drops.

  17. @nvvelominati
    I’ve got to come clean here, i do the exact same thing.
    I will purposefully go out of my way just so i can ride past some shops displaying a nice set of bars in their window.

  18. @Gianni

    God damn it…do I have to be the first to say that bike gives me considerable Carbone?! Sweet jesus it looks perfect, the new bars are a improvement, gaagaa googoo. Daddy want. Frank, you have a calling and it’s not whatever you do from 8-5, you could be a bike stylist to the stars maybe work with Joe out of his place in Hollywood. Nice, nice bike.

    ++1 to that.
    That is a truly beautiful thing.
    I love the fact that your saddle to stem drop is like twelve feet, and you have a reverse angle stem.
    Agree about anatomics. They look wrong to me and they seemed to offer an odd hand placement when i was reaching for the levers whilst in the drops.
    I was a bit of a Cinelli slut in my past.
    My favorite bars were my Cinelli Criteriums. They looked beautiful from they front as they had a wonderful downward curve similar to what you might find on a sprinters track bike.
    On reflection though i believe that they had too much drop as i found it hard to spend any great time down there.
    New bike will be coming in the next few weeks. Will be interesting to see what the compacts will feel like.

  19. I’m glad Mouse brought this thread back up to the top, as I just noticed something the other day and was waiting for an appropriate thread to post it in.

    Observe, figure 1 – Kraftwerk’s Tour de France album cover art:

    I never noticed this until the other week, but the bikes have what appear to be track bars, yet you can see a real derailleur/jockey wheels on each bike. The have brake levers as well.

    The album art was based on this Hungarian stamp:

    As you can see, the stamp features bikes without a rear derailleur.

    At any rate, I thought it was interesting that they chose to add a little detail like gearing to the TdF album art, yet left the handle bars the same, despite it being what I would consider an unconventional setup, unless at one point in tour history riders were using bikes with track bars?

  20. If you look at the bikes on the stamp they have brakes too. And it wasn’t until the late 30s that the more square handlebars we are used to came into vogue, after they were popularised by Belgian Tour winner in 1935 and ’39, Sylvère Maes.

  21. @Oli
    The Oli time machine strikes again, you’ve probably forgotten more about cycling than I’ve ever known.

  22. I learned that from Richard’s Bicycle Book in about 1977…I still can’t remember my wedding anniversary though.

  23. I sometimes lie to SWMBO that I am actually looking at porn on the web rather than looking up how to get a freehub off with cutlery because I don’t have the right blinking tool

  24. @minion
    Just laughed too loud at that. SWMBO enquired as to the cause of the mirth. I read it out. Apparently it’s not actually that funny after all. Just thought you should know.

  25. About to recable my #1 and quite the conundrum – I have perforated Deda Traforata tape & Fizik Microtex glossy in my hands. Do I go patent leather shininess and deal with the likely slipperiness all 100*F summer long? Or, do I stick to the cork, which still is sharp as with the perforations?

  26. @Ron
    I’ve gone through two rolls of fizik split tape (half of it being the patent leather stuff) as it came with two of my saddles. I ultimately had to take it off. Not because of the slippery factor, I just think it’s ugly. The regular microtex is the shiznet though. I’d go with the Deda if I were you, purely for asstitics.

  27. Hey Marko, thanks for the feedback. I’m actually thinking of the perforated Deda on one bike, the glossy Fizik on another. I’ve used the microtex and love the look and feel, but it’s a bit thin for my liking.

    I was hoping the looks of the glossy would make it acceptable in my mind. Your asstitics opinion is noted. Undecided at this point, but good to know.

  28. Ha. I just picked up some new fizik glossy black tape to match my saddle. Maybe I’ll have to rethink that one.

  29. @RedRanger

    Ha. I just picked up some new fizik glossy black tape to match my saddle. Maybe I’ll have to rethink that one.

    I’m with @Marko on this one; the only option for black Fizik tape is the microtex as the others all show the white trim of the padding when the bars are wrapped. Very unsightly.

    For white bars, I use not the gloss, but not the microtex, but the in-between one that I can’t name but I can recognize. It never gets dirty, is perfectly grippy, and has a great clean look.

  30. so a black saddle and white tape is acceptable? I cant just buy a new saddle but I can exchange the black tape for white tape.

  31. @RedRanger

    Your tires are black, yes? I think it should be fine.

    That is how I’m rolling right now (black tires, black saddle, white bars) and while I’m a known rule-breaker, I think it looks good – but my frame is painted black and white as well.

    I do sort of wish that my saddle had some white in it, but it’s usually under my ass and it feels way better than my old saddle, and I don’t care too much at this current time.

  32. @RedRanger

    so a black saddle and white tape is acceptable? I cant just buy a new saddle but I can exchange the black tape for white tape.

    Leaders ride white tape. So long as there is white on your frame somewhere, you should be all set.

  33. @frank


    I’m a known rule-breaker

    Time for confessional with Father Flavin, it appears.

    I’m just trying to keep it honest, like any good fallen catholic.

    Do hill repeats count as the equivalent of reciting the rosary and a few hail mary’s?

  34. @mcsqueak



    I’m a known rule-breaker

    Time for confessional with Father Flavin, it appears.

    I’m just trying to keep it honest, like any good fallen catholic.
    Do hill repeats count as the equivalent of reciting the rosary and a few hail mary’s?

    Or is that Hill Mary’s? a new lexicon entry?

  35. @mcsqueak

    Should be the standard penance for rule infractions such as posting photos of bikes with reflectors, dust caps etc. Repentant sinners could the post their penance on Strava.

  36. @mcsqueak

    Hah, yes! Doing repeats and praying to Mary that your legs don’t give out and/or you don’t puke.

    While it’s obvious that not puking is pro, is the scale: 1. not puking 2. puking off to the side (at the back of course) while still hammering 3. stopping and puking (then calling the VMH to come scrape your sorry ass up off the road)?

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