Ride Report: Bar-o-Phelia Operationalized

Maiden voyage of the Rotundas

As described in Bar-o-Phelia, my bar obsession festered and grew over a period of a few years, and then was spurred into action by a combination of me straight-lining it right past the zone psychologists refer to as “self-control”, and not having any adult supervisors present who would normally have sounded the “voice of reason”. (My Velomihottie was Do-Gooding in Africa for her Do-Good job which serves to, among other things, morally equalize my profession.)  In a untempered flurry, my expensive carbon anatomic bars were swapped for alloy, traditional bend bars.

Recent weather patterns have kept Bike Number One off the roads, but this day saw the heavens open up to reveal the Glorious Orb of Cancer-Inducing Radiation (the Sun). While the rest of Seattle was bewildered by this unexpected phenomenon and discussed in small groups as to what that “blinding light” was and whether it was “safe”, I took the opportunity by the Big Ring and jumped on the bike to give my new bars a go.

First impressions being what they are, I have to say my immediate reaction is that alloy bars give a surprisingly steel-like feel to the ride.  Not only are they stiffer and generally more comfortable, they also have great road feel and breathe some life into the ride.  Also, the round tops are magnificent; endless options for where to position your hands, and at what angle. Not only that, but I feel I can grip and pull on the bars much more effectively with the round bars than I can with the flat sections of the K-Wings.  The round tops also do a number for the phantom aero bar position, which is one of my favorites – both because it looks cool when the Pros do it and because it seems to be fast as fuck.  The round tops make this much easier; control is improved to the point where you can even ride this way over uneven road surfaces without riding in an unpredictable pattern that doesn’t work out well either for you nor any nearby traffic. (Side observation: this position gets unstable going over bumps – there’s a reason the Pros don’t use this position on the Pavé.  Keep that little jem in mind.)

The bend of the drops set the hoods angled back just a bit and the curve of the bar meets them in just the right way so I can comfortably ride anywhere from the very center of the bar (at the stem) all the way down to the far end of the hoods. Climbing and power-riding Belgian Style is simply awesome.  Tons of leverage, and great rouling positions.  This is a huge improvement over the K-Wings, in my esteemed opinion.

The story gets less peaches and creme in the drops.  You have much better access to the breaks from the drops, although I have to tweak my thumb up a bit more to pop the Go-Button on my Ergo levers.  In that most forward position in the drops, the classic bend is definitely less comfortable than an anatomic bend.  That said, the position just back from there, the in tail end of the drop just (25% on the drop, 75% on the straights) is simply awesome. That means long descents might prove a bit more uncomfortable (what long descent isn’t already uncomfortable) than an anatomic bend, but power riding in the drops is way mo’ bettah and you can’t put a price on looking like a Pro as you glide along in the drops, all Euro-style on your classic bends.

Assuming a 40km ride on moderate terrain provides conclusive results as to the performance of a bar, I’m convinced I’ll never switch back to an anatomic bend, at least not until the next bout of bar-o-phelia sets in. The question remains as to whether I might upgrade this bar to a carbon bar, but for the moment I’m really liking the lively feel of the alloy bar.  I’ll wait and see how that shakes out on the first long ride next season.


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54 Replies to “Ride Report: Bar-o-Phelia Operationalized”

  1. Frank, may I offer my services for proof-reading.  Your “spell-check” approach has flaws in it.

    On topic, I’m in the “shallow drop” camp.  I find it the curve more pleasing to the eye and I can raech both “breaks” and go-buttons easily.

  2. @Geoffrey Grosenbach Two things, if you go too low so that you have too acute an angle at your neck you’ll never solve that problem with flexibility – you’ll always give yourself a sore neck looking up enough to be able to see down the road.

    The other thing is that traditional drop bars are generally deeper than ergo bars, so you might need to raise the height of the bars to get the drops in a similar or the same place. I always, ALWAYS set up my bars so that I’m equally comfortable in the drops as on the hoods or the tops.

    A very experienced rider I know advised spending 10 minutes in the drops every ride. Seems really elementary but it’s something a lot of riders overlook, and when you spend more than a few minutes in the props that will provide you with a bit more info about your fit and flexibility, and how you’re happy to set up your bike.

  3. @minion

    Yes mate.I was using older 3T Rotundo bars and -6 or -8 angle stem was always enough for me to get low position I wanted in the drops.Then last year my friend who’s the bike shop owner came by and saw my classic bars and all he said is dude you need some new bars to try.Later on he left 6 different handlebars at my house-all ergos. At first I was like WTF but later agreed to try. Each time I used ergo or anatomic bend bars I had to use -17 stem to get low enough.It was a very nice experience to try a few handlebars and play around with different stems, especially that I didn’t have to pay for any of those demo models however none of these ergo models worked for me.I had PRO Vibe,3T Ergonova and Ergosum plus some Ritchey gear-all ergo.I stayed with classic bars and use the new 3T Rotundo and Deda Newton.When trying if the stem is right or deciding on amount of spacers you need or you want to get rid off handlebars reach and drop is often forgotten.

  4. @frank, so…sorry to introduce myself in a necro-post. But in case you see this, I have to say I agree completely. I’m pretty new to cycling and a big fan of the site. And I feel like I did my time on ergo bars. They were a cute experiment that I think was a monumental failure.

    I’m not to the point (budget-wise) of doing a frame-up build, but it’s to the point that classic(or shorter classic-ish) bars are factored into the price of a bike, just like pedals and tape if it’s not a replacement.

    I pick up my new (to me) SS cross bike in 3 days, and its Zipp bars are sitting next to new Fizik tape ready for it to come home. There’s no reason to even think about using whatever “ergo” monstrosities Bianchi was using in 2010.

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