Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Flat is where it’s at

The flat handlebar is one of the great victims of mountain biking’s fashion trends. All the swoopy riser bars with big sweep have pushed this venerable component so far to the margins that it’s hard to get one without placing a special order.


I was in Speedway a few months ago and mentioned to Greg that I needed a new bar and had three requirements: carbon fiber, 26 inches wide, and no more than 5 degrees of sweep. The poor guy had to dig deep just to find one in the parts catalog, but he came up with a sweet Salsa Pro Moto that was exactly what I wanted.

Then Chainlove.com had a cheap, aluminum flat bar on sale Monday and labeled it as being offered for “retro grouches and flat bar-tenders.” WTF?

I get grouchy when perfectly good gear gets relegated to “retro” without being replaced by something that’s truly better. But that’s OK. I yell at kids to stay off my lawn, and I remember when flat bars replaced riser bars along about 1989-90. My first mountain-biking partner—Cris—rode a Schwinn High Sierra with a bent bar and I thought it looked silly because my newer bike had a flat bar. I’ve used flats ever since, and have never seen any advantage to risers when I tried them on borrowed bikes.

Flat bars are light, functional, have clean lines, and make it easier to set up a lower riding position instead of sitting up and “air braking” all day. Want a slightly higher position for your hands? Put a couple of carbon spacer rings under your stem. That’ll get you to the same place, without all the bends that make it hard to mount lights, computers, etc.

The flat bar rocks. Long live the flat bar.

6 comments:

swiss said...

bbb fibertop os. lovely

cariqunyil said...

I spoke with Greg about sweep on my new MTB build, and we both agreed that the ergonomics of the Clarence bar allowed wrist and arm placement in a more natural position for long rides, but preserved sensitivity and control for high speeds and tough terrain.

Don't knock it til you try it. I'm a new convert from flat bars.

Notorious T said...

Uh, I have tried it. That's what I said in my post. And I wasn't so much "knocking" other bars as defending flat bars, which work best for me. That was the point.

sean said...

i've long been a fan of flat bars myself, though with more sweep than you prefer. regarding the article though, i'm perfectly ok with them calling it "for retro-grouches", because what they're saying is "for old people", but "retro-grouch" sounds better....

cariqunyil said...

I have several mountain bikes, and all are flat bars except for the new build with the ergonomic Soma Clarence bar. It takes a while to get used to, not something I initially liked just going for test rides on other bikes. It seems to be helping my triceps tendinitis though...

I didn't mean to insult you. Obviously everyone has their own prefs and just wanted to offer a different perspective as someone who once held the same views as you do.

Notorious T said...

No worries, cariqunyil. My responses tend to be abrupt when I read comments before 7 a.m.