Ride Report: Bar-o-Phelia Operationalized
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.