The Bar Shape Paradox
I almost look forward to riding in bad weather because it means I have a perfect excuse to climb aboard my old Bianchi XL EV2, which currently serves as my rain bike (see Rule #12 for more information on bike requirements). Some bikes just seem to fit, and you feel it with every turn of the pedals. Sure, the frame’s about as soft as George Hincapie at the sight of a cobble stone, but I love the way that bike feels – and I always have. That’s something I really love about hand-built bikes – they all have their unique personality; both my Bianchis are hand-built according to (fundamentally) the same geometry, but somehow the EV2 just fits me like a glove.
One of the things that struck me the last few weeks riding the EV2 is that I really like the feel of round bars. Several years ago, I made the switch to FSA K-Wings for my main bike, believing I would never look at round bars again. Not only did I love the comfort of the wide, flat platform at the tops of the bars, but I loved the scalloped perch they make for the hands when riding on the hoods. Imagine my surprise, then, as it recently began to dawn on me that the round bars on EV2 felt bit better in my hands, especially when climbing – both on the tops and the hoods.
It got me wondering about the peculiar choices that Pros seem to make with regards to their handlebar choice. It’s no secret that many Pros are notoriously finicky about their gear and in some cases refuse to upgrade from trusted pieces equipment to a newer model, especially when it comes to the touch points on their bikes. Lance Armstrong famously refused to ride Shimano’s SPD-R line of pedals after pulling out of a pair during the finale of a World Championship Road Race and, to this day, rides an old model of saddle, the Rule-Breaking Concor Lite (which also happens to be the second-ugliest saddle ever made, with the Selle SMP taking the win on that one). Similarly, Damiano Cunego Tom Boonen both refused to upgrade to the Time RSX line of pedals from their Time Impacts because they preferred the feeling of the metal pedal body on the old Impacts (I have a pair of these and they do, oddly enough, feel quite different from the RSX.)
When it comes to handlebar choice, it seems the majority of riders prefer round bars, and many also prefer a classic drop – not to mention aluminum (*shudder*). You have to search pretty hard for a Pro who rides a K-Wing or Cinelli Ram, and it also seems a minority even use an anatomic bend; most claim that the classic drop provides more hand positions. I am not sure I understand this argument; it seems to me that the classic drop would really only offer more places to build up sore spots on your hands when riding in the drops. Are the round drops better for concealing amphetamines? What am I missing?
That aside, I love the look of the classic bar bend, and as I contemplate switching from my K-Wing to a round bar, I find my mind drifting slowly towards a classic bend as well. After all, if it’s good enough for the Brothers Grimpeur, isn’t it good enough for me?