Bar-O-Phelia

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.

Related Posts

100 Replies to “Bar-O-Phelia”

  1. I have seen pros from Skill, Rabobank, Astana, Caisse d’Epargne and Katusha riding with flat carbon bars. Different riders in the same team use different bars and different ways of taping. Also compact bars seam to be more popular. It is just personal preference nowadays.

    By the way: taping the flat area is not cool.

  2. I learned early on that traditional-bend bars make my hands numb while in the drops. It’s they way your (my) palm has to bridge that gap in the curve. Besides the numbness, I never found them comfortable to begin with. I’ve always stuck with anatomic type bends since.

    But that’s not to say they don’t look good. I have always appreciated the aesthetics of traditional bend bars. And I have seen a few anatomic bars take the concept too far, looking like something akin to a Mektronic lever.

  3. For me, it took one moment of a paw placed on the Ora wing bars with the finger indents to say, “This is the greatest bar ever.” But, I still taped the flat. Sorry Paco. It’s just that people who don’t, seem like they are trying too hard. “Oh, I’ve got carbon bars. Look at me.” And I ride the tops which feel good, with tape to cushion and absorb like tape is meant to do. There should be a rule against trying to show off at the expence of function.

  4. The carbon bar I use for a year now, absorb shocks so much better than the metal bars I had before. I don’t miss the bar tape on the flat area on bad roads without gloves. I also use thinner tape than I did previously with the metal bars. When you don’t need it, it will save you some weight. I still have to go 163 gram to meet the 6800.

    A rule to show of in expence of function? Are you one of the three riders in the peloton that doesn’t turn his head to that large window just before the corner, to get saver through the corner? A little bit of showing of is our nature.

  5. Yep! Whatever. What matters is which bar/tape combo fits your hands/arm/torso length/need for attenuation of road vibration…to let you dish out the most V. Anything else is posing. Don’t like the feel of your shifts because of the cable routing? Di2.

  6. @Paco

    I have seen pros from Skill, Rabobank, Astana, Caisse d’Epargne and Katusha riding with flat carbon bars.

    Absolutely; and lots ride anatomic bars as well. I’ve not seen any riders using the K-Wing in particular, though, since Gibo Simoni stopped riding them back in…well…whenever that was.

    The taping preference is interesting; your point about taping the tops caused me lots of consternation; I hated covering up all that beautiful carbon, but in the end, found the tape to be much more comfortable than the plain carbon.

    @Gillis
    It’s funny you mention Mektronic; I rode that at some point as well. It sucked. Completely. I also at some point rode Scott Drop-Ins complete with the Lemond-style half pipes taped into the drops to give an anatomic section.

    The anatomics have gone a bit far, I’m afraid, which is part of my reaction to go back to the basics. They have the look about them that we’ll be able to identify their time period in a decade or so and say, “Oh, right. that period.

    In fact, this marks the first time in my memory that I’ll have riding round drops, so I’m very curious to see how they go.

    @nvvelominati
    It’s interesting you mention the Ora; I think you’re the first person I’ve come across who likes those bars. Another example in my mind of what a crazy design looks like. But shit, if you like ’em, awesome. My Velomihottie rides 3T More’s on one bike and FSA K-Wing compacts on another, and while both of those are much more subtle in design, she swears by them.

    There should be a rule against trying to show off at the expence of function.

    Hm…

    @Paco

    A rule to show of in expence of function? Are you one of the three riders in the peloton that doesn’t turn his head to that large window just before the corner, to get saver through the corner? A little bit of showing of is our nature.

    Double hm…well played. The Rules are (almost) all about aesthetics in one way or another. But showing off is unsophisticated and garish, like Cavendouche. Vanity is entirely different.

    Self-absorbed admiration of one’s own vanity, now there’s a concept I can get behind. I would not be able to offer a strong counter-argument if someone accused me of choosing my routes specifically to maximize my exposure to big shop windows so I can get some good looks.

    I also use thinner tape than I did previously with the metal bars. When you don’t need it, it will save you some weight. I still have to go 163 gram to meet the 6800.

    If you are interested in shaving weight, drop the flat bars; even the alu bars are noticeably lighter than the K-Wings.

    But here’s a question that’s been on my mind – I am riding a full carbon bike, carbon fork, carbon steerer…how much vibration is left around to be absorbed? I’ve noticed enough Pros riding alu bars that I’ve become quite curious as to the reason. I’ll be interested to feel the change in ride quality.

  7. @Durishin

    What matters is which bar/tape combo fits your hands/arm/torso length/need for attenuation of road vibration…to let you dish out the most V.

    Indeed.

    Don’t like the feel of your shifts because of the cable routing? Di2.

    Touche, although I have to say that I’m unconvinced, mostly because I haven’t dished out the $3k or whatever it is to try it out. If you have a set to donate, I’ll happily give it a try and let you know what I think.

    It does seem to take a bit of the art out of riding, though, doesn’t it? I savor the satisfaction of executing the perfect shift…I enjoy the process of tuning my bike. I take pleasure in having everything adjust just right.

  8. Self-absorbed admiration of one’s own vanity, now there’s a concept I can get behind. I would not be able to offer a strong counter-argument if someone accused me of choosing my routes specifically to maximize my exposure to big shop windows so I can get some good looks.

    Love the big windows.

  9. Nicely done! I wish I could claim as productive a Friday (I called a student intellectually homeless, but it hurt his feelings””for the record, I was right).

  10. frank :Self-absorbed admiration of one’s own vanity, now there’s a concept I can get behind. I would not be able to offer a strong counter-argument if someone accused me of choosing my routes specifically to maximize my exposure to big shop windows so I can get some good looks.

    It’s this kind of talk that brings out the Cognoscentus in me: if you’re gawking at reflections in shop windows, you clearly need to HTFU. I ride out in the country. No windows. Lots of isolation. Lots of pain.

  11. @Steampunk

    It’s this kind of talk that brings out the Cognoscentus in me: if you’re gawking at reflections in shop windows, you clearly need to HTFU. I ride out in the country. No windows. Lots of isolation. Lots of pain.

    Yeah, and if you rode near big shop windows, you would most certainly take a careful look at yourself in that sweet V-Kit.

  12. @frank

    It does seem to take a bit of the art out of riding, though, doesn’t it? I savor the satisfaction of executing the perfect shift…I enjoy the process of tuning my bike. I take pleasure in having everything adjust just right.

    Agreed! Di2 is Ok. The satisfying perfection of shifting finely adjusted Campy it is not! But my racer friends who have switched, swear by it. I can’t get over the lack of feel or the visual element of the “attachment” hanging below the bottle cage.

  13. For the record, I ride K-Wings – taped half way. That’s how they came when I bought the bike. Replacing the tape, I have learned that you can’t tape the ones I have the whole way up. If you do, you strain with the cable routing and it reduces the accuracy of the shifting. ;-}

  14. @frank @Steampunk “Self absorbed admiration of one’s own vanity”. “Intellectually homeless”. Well played both of you. Marvellous efforts which I look forward to employing (and taking full credit for) in a range of different situations. Perhaps we need a sub-lexicon for useful phrases of potentially broader application.

  15. BTW, love the Shakespear shout-out in the title of this post. I assume it is meant to suggest you are drowning in bars, rather than a mad tart with poor swimming technique.

  16. @frank
    Yes: I suppose, on some level, I’m avoiding the temptation (because that is a very fine kit and I’m a much awesomer rider in it), and I won’t deny I do like taking the occasional gander at the guns in the shadow on the ground, but this whole vanity thing is not something that works in cycling for me. See Joshua’s recent post on The Man with the Crystal Globes.

  17. 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.

  18. Steampunk :

    frank :Self-absorbed admiration of one’s own vanity, now there’s a concept I can get behind. I would not be able to offer a strong counter-argument if someone accused me of choosing my routes specifically to maximize my exposure to big shop windows so I can get some good looks.

    It’s this kind of talk that brings out the Cognoscentus in me: if you’re gawking at reflections in shop windows, you clearly need to HTFU. I ride out in the country. No windows. Lots of isolation. Lots of pain.

    Spot on Steampunk! You have time to look at the reflections you sure as hell have more left to dish out.

  19. @Marko

    Holy crap that was funny. The wife doesn’t think so, but she is a Huevo fan anyhow, so what that F does she know?

  20. @pakrat, @Steampunk

    It’s this kind of talk that brings out the Cognoscentus in me: if you’re gawking at reflections in shop windows, you clearly need to HTFU. I ride out in the country. No windows. Lots of isolation. Lots of pain.

    Yeah, whatever. Staring at the shadows your guns make is the gateway drug, mate. If you country boys stare at your leg shadows, then let me tell you a little sumpin’ that will happen when you roll into the big city, with shiny windows all around.

    You can talk all you want about pain in the country, but you give me ring next time you’re in Seattle. I’ll take you on a little “vanity ride”. I’ll even let you choose: 1.5 in 40 km, 2.5 in 60km, or 4 in 100km.

    Believe me, the windows talk awful sweet during those rides.

  21. Frank,
    I recently made the switch back to classics two months ago with the same 3T bar. God damn, I love it! I suffered with terrible hand pain and numbness when I used anatomics. The 3T Rotundos are so much more comfortable and stiffer than my anatomics. I roll them slighty up, Belgie style. Classics are classics for a reason.

  22. Frank says, “Staring at the shadows your guns make is the gateway drug, mate.” Ya, to spin classes so they can stare at themselves in the mirror! See rule V.

  23. Rode anatomic Newtons for some years then gave Rotundos a go. I like the Rotundos below the levers – the kink in the Newtons forced my hand to sit kind of not quite where I wanted it when in the drops, either at the tail end of the drops or jammed up under the levers. (There’s certainly a case to be made that a true ‘Natus should be unconcerned about anything other than the drops, ’cause riding anywhere other than the drops is arguably a violation of the Rules.) But I was less enamoured of the transition from the flats onto the hoods on the Rotundos vs the Newtons. On a trad bend bar you end up with a “drop” onto the hoods, which – while kinda retro – I don’t like the feel of it so much, preferring a nearly flat transition from tops to hoods. Currently on Zeros, which seem a bit of a mix – you can get a flat transition to the hoods but they are round below the levers (although not sure they are as nice in the hand in the drops as the Rotundos). I hate the look of those Ritchey (and others) anatomics that have the real pistol grip kink in the drops. Dunno what they feel like in the hand but they look like they would be a little restricting if they didn’t fit you perfectly.

  24. pakrat :@Marko
    Holy crap that was funny. The wife doesn’t think so, but she is a Huevo fan anyhow, so what that F does she know?

    Everything. Trust me. It’s the only way to preserve the marriage. When I toast us sandwiches for lunch, hers is always the one on the right.

  25. your bike has a hell lot of a long seatpost, saddle seatback and stem lenght. Are you sure you are fitted right on it ?

  26. @nvvelominati

    Spin classes….the horror!

    Out of curiosity, where in NV are you? If you are up north (Carson/Reno), we are probably “spinning” some of the same asphalt.

  27. @Salsa_Lover

    your bike has a hell lot of a long seatpost, saddle seatback and stem lenght. Are you sure you are fitted right on it?

    That question gets asked every time I post a pic of my bike. I actually believe the bike industry has no idea what to do with tall riders. You don’t just take what works for normal people and scale the lot up (I’m looking at you, Leonard Zinn) but you have to take into consideration physics involved and how best to overcome those challenges. There’s an article I wrote on this some time back for anyone who gives a shit.

    http://www.velominati.com/racing/theory-of-bike-fitting-tall-riders-walk-their-own-path/

  28. @Steampunk

    I toast us sandwiches for lunch, hers is always the one on the right.

    ++1. Mine always gets number 1 on the memory seats in our cars. Because she’s number one, obviously.

  29. I posted a comment on that thread, I’d be interested to see some photos/vid of you on your bike straight from the side.

  30. frank :@Steampunk

    I toast us sandwiches for lunch, hers is always the one on the right.

    ++1. Mine always gets number 1 on the memory seats in our cars. Because she’s number one, obviously.

    Well, crap! Thanks a heap. The missus, looking over my shoulder, asked 1). Is this what you waste your time with on here? This doesn’t even have to do with cycling; and 2). What the hell are memory seats? You see, I subscribe so fundamentally to Rule #25 that we still drive a Flintstones-era Volvo, and I maintain that automotive engineering hasn’t really advanced since then (when we bought this car secondhand in 1998, I was convinced that it would be the last gas-powered engine I’d buy””oops””although maybe that’s why I’m stubbornly holding onto it). Apart from the ceiling cover having come off, the dash coming unstuck, and the passenger-side rear window not responding to the driver-door controls, the car is a beaut and runs like a dream. But now, the very idea of memory seats has her revisiting a long contentious debate. “But I don’t need memory seats to assert you’re number one, honey” didn’t get me very far. Thanks a lot, Frank! Afternoon ride couldn’t come soon enough…

  31. @Marko

    Your chain is on the small ring, fucktard.

    Not just that, it’s in the lowest gear. That’s the gear that offers the most aesthetically pleasing angles between chainrings, cogs, chain, and derailleur. It’s not hardman to photograph your bike in a big gear; it’s hardman to ride it in a big gear. Uphill. In the rain. On cobblestones.

    @Nof Landrien
    Nice account on the bars you’ve ridden.

    On a trad bend bar you end up with a “drop” onto the hoods, which – while kinda retro – I don’t like the feel of it so much, preferring a nearly flat transition from tops to hoods.

    I think it depends greatly on the shifters. Seems my bars with similar bends (though with anatomic drops) that have Shimano shifters have that same problem. The Ergos with the 3Ts seem to have a nice, smooth perch. I suspect SRAM may have the same. Solid rain all this week, so this bike won’t see the streets as I’ll be on the Rain bike; but once I ride it, I’ll be curious to see how they fare.

  32. frank :@Marko

    Your chain is on the small ring, fucktard.

    Not just that, it’s in the lowest gear. That’s the gear that offers the most aesthetically pleasing angles between chainrings, cogs, chain, and derailleur. It’s not hardman to photograph your bike in a big gear; it’s hardman to ride it in a big gear. Uphill. In the rain. On cobblestones.

    I was giggling like a schoolgirl about this last night and almost pointed out the lowest gear. But there’s nothing aesthetic about this. 53×11 is aesthetically beautiful. On the cobbles, uphill, in the rain. But also against your designer grey stone wall. That said, I tend to “park” the bike in a fairly high gear in order to start light on cold legs, but lowest? Unless you live halfway up Mont Ventoux and can only go up from your home (and if you start by going down, you really are a fucktard), leaving the bike in the lowest gear is weak. Photographing it as such is even weaker.

  33. @Steampunk
    I always park it on the small cog and small chainring to minimize cable stretch. It’s what I read in an MTB magazine years ago. Never occurred to me that the same mightn’t apply to road bikes, given the different (i.e. existence of) aesthetic requirements. Got me thinking, now…

  34. And what about the fact that Franky boy is sporting a bike computer? I thought that the big fella didn’t roll with them?

  35. @Geoff… I may be late to this debate, but WTF? I thought we were talking about bars, and you lot are off on one about gears. Jesus. For all of you brave enough to run carbon bars… Well done, and kudos: you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re toast (with carbon splinters in your face, quite close to your eyes, hmmmm)….. As for me, I’ll happily forego the extra money, extra weight and run alu bars… But I’m LOVING the old school drops in the photos… That’s what I aspire to run when I drop ten years, twenty pounds, and get a fuck-sight more flexibility… In the meantime… Sorry, deda 100s, with authentic pussy-whipped shallow drops. That’s me… Rule #9 is my salvation (I only ride when it’s raining)

  36. @Marcus

    And what about the fact that Franky boy is sporting a bike computer? I thought that the big fella didn’t roll with them?

    No, I said you should throw out your piece of shit HR monitor and ride on feel. Small, simple computers is what it’s all about. Rule #74.

  37. @Roadslave
    This post is up there with your Stetson post, “looks cool, looks cool, looks cool, ooooh, messy.” Nicely played.

    That’s me… Rule #9 is my salvation (I only ride when it’s raining)

    Good thing you live in the UK, then, right mate?

  38. Marko :

    Your chain is on the small ring, fucktard.

    FTW!!!

    And since it is bag on our fearless leader day – what the hell are (were) you doing running components from a company called “Full Speed Ahead”? Do you hoist yer main sail and batten down yer hatches too? Oh, and your bar tape looks like it belongs on some 60 year old lady’s golf clubs. I believe the only acceptable bar tape is Cinelli cork (or a reasonable facsimile) or Benotto Cello tape if being applied to a retro classic.

    Nice bike though, I’m very jealous.

  39. @frank
    I love this pic: your bike looks like a forlorn dog looking out the window and not allowed to go out. It may not be a rain bike, but it knows it’s on the wrong side of that window…

  40. @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?

  41. @Cyclops

    I believe the only acceptable bar tape is Cinelli cork (or a reasonable facsimile) or Benotto Cello tape if being applied to a retro classic

    Fizik microtex. You can’t beat it. Cork tape is for people who ride saddles filled with gel and have springs on them to make them nice and comfy. How can you mention cinelli cork tape and Benotto cello tape in the same sentence? If my LBS could stock that shit, it’s all I would ride.

    @Steampunk
    Isn’t that the truth? She and I argue over that all the time. She screams, “I’m carbon! I’m perfect for the rain! I promise! I’ll be good!”. And when I let her out in the rain, she proves it, too. But I tell her she’s got to let the other bikes play every now and again as well. She got to ride all summer while Bee and EV waitied in the basement, and now it’s winter and it’s their turn.

    She understands, but she doesn’t like it.

  42. I dunno, I like the bar tape choice myself. Nice job wrapping around the back behind the hoods too. One of my big pet peeves is seeing lazy hipster jerks with bad tape jobs, or worse yet, dangling (!) bar tape, like some sort of handlebar dingle-berry.

  43. Anyone ever drill into a Alu bar for “internal” routing from shift lever to roughly around the stem area? Safe? I’ve thought about this for a few seconds, once or twice over the years…

  44. @Cyclops
    Didn’t want to touch it, given the assertion that cork was somehow a viable option for bar tape. FSA categorically rules, obviously.

    @mcsqueak

    I dunno, I like the bar tape choice myself. Nice job wrapping around the back behind the hoods too. One of my big pet peeves is seeing lazy hipster jerks with bad tape jobs, or worse yet, dangling (!) bar tape, like some sort of handlebar dingle-berry.

    Thanks mate. It’s one of my better works. Made easy by the classic bend. Handlebar dingleberry. Into the Lexicon with that one, my friend.

  45. @wvcycling

    Anyone ever drill into a Alu bar for “internal” routing from shift lever to roughly around the stem area? Safe? I’ve thought about this for a few seconds, once or twice over the years…

    Yeah, sure did, in the nineties. That shit was all the rage, but bars/stems were burlier then. It made for a nice smooth tape job akin to pre-aero brakes. For me, I find the cables under the tape comfortable.

  46. @Cyclops,

    Microtex bar tape has very little cushion – far less than Cinelli cork. THAT makes you harder – especially with Alu bars. And it cleans up wonderfully!

    And, yes, really nice tape job, frank.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.