Friday, September 01, 2006

Happy handle bars for a fixed gear

After 7 years and many (4?) attempts, I finally found comfortable handlebars for the Screamin' Salmon, my fixed gear.

It finally involved:

1) buying handlebars in Amsterdam
2) sawing off the end of those handlebars
and 3) buying a new extended high handlebar stem with minimum reach

The handlebars are right at seat height. Maybe an inch higher. This allows upright posture. As I wrote once before, unless you're sprinting, fixed gears mean you can't really rest your weight on your feet (because you can't rest your feet). As a result, there's a lot more weight on your ass and hands. On drop handlebars, weight is more evenly divided between feet, seat, and hands. Take feet out of that equation, and well, it just doesn't work. Hands aren't designed to take that weight.

And yet I see people with fixed gears all hunched over drop handlebars. I don't get it. Seems like torture to me. And I like drop handlebars.

The angle on my handbrake isn't quite right. I want the whole thing lower, but rotated that way, the brake handle shoots out a funny angle. I'll have to play with that a bit.

My earlier posts on handlebar heights and fixed gear bikes: handlebar-height-and-fixed-gear.html


Nick said...

I'd love to see some pictures. I have 38cm drops inverted and cut off into bullhorns, and they're pretty perfect, I think.

I think the best way to take some weight off of your hands is to take your hands off of the bars.

Fotaq said...

But I don't think you can take your hands off the handlebars if your riding a fixed-gear with low drops. At least not when you "coast." Not when your feet aren't taking a lot of weight. Leaning over, pressure on ass, that's just not a resting position for me... no, seriously.

I was thinking of doing the cut off inverted bullhorn thing as well... but well, I'm pretty happy now, I think.

Nick said...

Those look like upside-down moustache bars.

Why wouldn't you be able to take your hands off the bars with drops? I guess if you're trying to lean down that far, there's only so far you can lean with your hands off the bars, but I do it all the time on my fixed. If I need to lean into the wind, I link my thumbs behind my back and lean forward. It's pretty easy.

Fotaq said...

I had upside-down moustache bars on the bike (at least I think they were upside down... the handle bar-ends here higher than the clamp in the middle. I’m not sure which way is “right”-side up).

My complaint with those moustache bars was that they were too wide. I was worried about them hitting cars I was sneaking through. And had I cut the moustache bars to make them narrower, I would have lost the part that angles almost straight back, where I had my handlebar grips. To make them narrower, I would have changed the shape drastically and been forced to grip them more like they were mountain-bike bars.

These bars are standard old-fashioned city-bike shaped. Compared to moustache bars, they don’t go forward at all from the middle clamp and the don’t ever point close to straight back. They just angle out and back and to the side. I like these because the handlebars start angling back quickly, for a better wrist position after I cut them down.

But a big part of the improvement is the small reach (5cm, the smallest) on the handlebar stem. Of course I could have done that with the old bars as well.

Riding no-handed… weight on my feet I can lean over just fine because I’m using my leg muscles. Riding a fixed gear with more weight on my butt? I don’t like it.

Maybe it’s just that I’m not a big no-handed rider. I can do it. But I don’t for any period of time. I don’t feel comfortable having my hands far from the bars. But I don’t want to feel too comfortable riding no handed because I don’t want to get in the habit of riding that way. Pretty much I just take my hands off the bar to put on or take off a glove or stretch briefly on a long ride.

I know riding no-handed is safe most of the time. But that pothole or car shooting out… Man, I don’t want to have a bike memorial service for me. It’s dangerous out there. And it’s gotta be safer to have your hands on the bars.

Fotaq said...

You know, I remember a cook I used to work with in Boston. He used to ride like that, hands behind back. To keep his hands warm. Because he wouldn’t wear gloves. In January. Something like 20 degrees. We’d drink and smoke after work and hop on our bikes and there he’d go, hands behind back, blowing through intersections at 2am. I wonder what ever happened to that crazy motherfucker? John Arsenol was his name.

Nick said...

Yeah, the only time I ride for an extended period hands-off is on the bike path down the west side highway, and sometimes on my way home up to Astoria from the bridge.

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