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Forum: Components

Derailleurs, hubs, gears, brakes etc

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#1: handlebar width (thread)
By Mike Ayling on Fri 28 Sep 2012 16:48 (US/Pacific) Edit Delete   Reply (10)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I am considering the purchase of a Thorn tandem and Thorn suggest in their literature that their tandems are not really designed for drop handle bars and give a spiel of how riders spend 90% of the time in one position on the hoods anyway and if you use bar ends you have two positions for flat bars etc,etc (eyes start to glaze over at this point).

My question however is:
Drop bars are usually 400mm to 420mm wide, (40cm to 42cm)
Thorn offer a range of flat bars from 640mm down to 515mm (which they don't recommend as they claim it would make the tandem difficult to control)

So, why are flat bars wider than drop bars given that there are hundreds of drop bar tandems around that the front riders manage to control using 420mm wide drop bars?

My entry level tandem has flat bars and I can accept flat bars on the Thorn if I go ahead.

Thanks

Mike

      
#2: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Michael Musto on Fri 28 Sep 2012 17:10 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I think that touring cyclists do not spend 90% of the time on the hoods. How would Thorn know that? I don't know either but every touring cyclist I have ridden with, changed hand positions often and usually held the drop bars on the horizontal part near the stem. Maybe roadies do the 90% thing.

To answer your question, I am clueless. I have a Roady book that says wider handle bars gives your chest more room to expand for breathing. For me, I might be changing my drop bars to get more width (and real-estate) because I don't like the feeling of my pinky fingers touching the curves when holding the horizontal part. The bar is triple wrapped for comfort.

(Apologies, did some editing after the notification went out to you).

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Click here for a larger version of the picture

Image on journal page: July 2 Mazzo di Valtellina to Valdisotto in journal Buonarroti. A Return to Italy. by Michael Musto (Unfinished, not updated for 248 days)

      
#3: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By John Meiners on Fri 28 Sep 2012 18:22 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Wider handlebars offer more control. On smooth roads, control is not as important as comfort. I do spend 90% of my time on the hoods, and the drops are invaluable into a stiff headwind. I cannot imaging touring with flat bars, although I've certainly seen people doing it.

      
#4: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Dave & Jo Whitney on Sat 29 Sep 2012 03:16 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Mike,

We have a Thorn tandem with the Thorn specific MK2 comfort bars, 620mm wide, with bar ends. We also have a much lighter framed Cannondale tandem with drop bars, 420mm wide. The difference is for unloaded riding drop bars are just fine on a tandem, same really as our other normal drop bar bikes. However, for loaded touring and specifically with front panniers on wider bars come into their own for better handling and steering. I spend 80-90% of my time on the bar ends and if there is a headwind then I just bend lower!

I could not imagine using drop bars on a fully loaded tandem. Thorn don't recommend things without good reason. Hope that helps.

Dave

      
#5: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Rachel Ruhlen on Sat 29 Sep 2012 04:41 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I wonder if they make that claim based on studies of professional racers. Even if normal cyclists spend 90% of their time in one position, that 10% could be important for comfort and preventing wrist and shoulder injury. I find a bar that forces my hand position to be wider than my shoulders is pretty uncomfortable. Drop bars aren't the only alternative to flat bars. I really like my trekking bar, and I've had my eye on albatross or mary bar (that would sit me more upright, taking the pressure of those wrists).

      
#6: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Pete Staehling on Sat 29 Sep 2012 05:54 Edit Delete in reply to #2     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
>"I think that touring cyclists do not spend 90% of the time on the hoods."

Most of the touring riders I have ridden with seem to.

      
#7: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Kenneth Fant on Sat 29 Sep 2012 06:58 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
We also have a Thorn tandem with flat bars and bar ends and I agree with every word written by Dave Whitney. Before we had drop bars on our old tandem with c-c 460mm handlebars.
Our Thorn tandem fully loaded with front panniers and broad flat bars gives me as a captain better control and steering. I would never go back to drop bars on our Thorn.
I fully recommend it.
Kenneth

      
#8: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Durrin Hynes on Sat 29 Sep 2012 11:47 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
this is something I find odd, the categorical insistence that people (almost) only ride with their hands on the hoods. I've also heard the claim that people with drop bars mostly ride on the tops (the flat part close to the stem) of drop bars.

Personally I have many different hand positions on my drop-bar touring bike, and I use all of them, regardless of whether the bike is loaded or not. My bars are only 42cm.

braking positions:

  • drops
  • hoods
  • tops (I have cross-top levers as well as brifters on my tourer)

non-braking positions:

  • flats (the area of relative flatness formed by the junction of the brake hoods and the curve of the bar)
  • reverse curves (hands palm-up grabbing the curves from beneath, I don't use this one much)
  • I have a position I use for maximum aerodynamics (such as that is on my tourer) where I rest my forearms on the flats and grip the tops of my brifters. It's a bit like on a TT bike, but with my arms wider apart.

If one is riding in a group, one is on the hoods a lot because one needs to be able to brake very quickly if the riders in front of you do. Maybe that's where this 90% myth comes from.

      
#9: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Brian Huntley on Sat 29 Sep 2012 14:46 Edit Delete in reply to #8     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I don't know about that. While I rarely use the hoods around town, I found myself on them a lot this past week. Tops, hoods, drops, and outsides, too.

My favourite but rarest position: hands up under the brakes, forearms parallel to the ground, elbows in, knees up and in (feet both up, left forward) butt back, back flat - FLYING downhill in maximum (for me) tuck. :0)

BTW I have fairly wide 44cm bars.

      
#10: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Mike Ayling on Sat 29 Sep 2012 23:03 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Thanks to all especially Thorn owners Dave and Kenneth

WE already ride flat bars on our current entry level tandem using Tranz X bar ends (I tried to post a link without success as I am not that computer literate but if you google the item you will see that they have a part that goes backwards to support the heel of the palm and a bit that goes forward like traditional bar ends.) This configuration gives a position which is not dissimilar to the hoods on a drop bar bike and we like them a lot. Thorn have a similar item in their catalogue which may well be the same thing in their own packaging.

I posted the original query because I was considering the Thorn short bars which are only 515mm wide but having regard to the number of touring miles that have passed beneath his wheels I will definitely go for the wider bar as Dave advises.

The other 99% of riders who post here will be pleased to know that I have not
moved entirely to The Dark Side as I will continue to ride my drop bar Surly LHT.

I did an unloaded 40km ride on the Surly this morning in hilly country and I spent more than 90% on the hoods and the rest on the tops. I did not use the "bottoms"at all and I very seldom do so.

Next post will be about the Rohloff hub.

Mike

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#11: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Rich Haubert on Sun 30 Sep 2012 04:40 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I prefer drop bars for the multiple positions, and hate flat bars. If you want drops, order them. Don't 'accept' what you don't want. If you're worried about control, order 44's.

Rich

      
#12: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Dave & Jo Whitney on Sun 30 Sep 2012 04:47 Edit Delete in reply to #10     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Mike,

Just to a bit of a caveat to my previous post. The only reason I have those width bars is because that was what Thorn fitted at the time. I think space to fit the Rohloff grip shift and to leave enough space for my hands on the tops may have had some bearing on that. I certainly have had no issues whatsoever with that width and find it perfectly comfortable. If you don't have a Rohloff fitted (which probably leads onto your next post!) then you may be able to get away with less width without compromising control. Perhaps worth consulting Thorn on that.

Dave

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#13: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Lee Kenney on Sun 30 Sep 2012 07:21 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I had a Fisher MTB tandem , it had Scott AT4 pro bars , loved them.Great for bags,head winds.I put a set on my current LHT , still love them .The sad part is that they are no longer made so it is really is a search for IMHO the best bar in town. Go wide , and padded.A very good source of bar padding is fishing rod handles , deep sea fishing shops. Cheers

      
#14: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Mike Ayling on Sun 30 Sep 2012 14:53 Edit Delete in reply to #11     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Rich

I am perfectly happy with flat bars on the tandem.
I am trying to obtain opinions about a suitable width for the captain's bar.

Mike

      
#15: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Mike Ayling on Sun 30 Sep 2012 15:49 Edit Delete in reply to #14     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Pics of Tranz X bar ends. (A picture is worth 1,000 words!)

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Click here for a larger version of the picture

600mm wide bar with TranzX bar ends

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Close up of Tranz X bar ends

Mike

      
#16: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Max Carter on Mon 1 Oct 2012 16:28 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
If a tandem is difficult to control when loaded then the manufacturer has not done their job and built a design error into the steering geometry. A bike that handles correctly should be able to be ridden with a narrow drop bar, and if there is a problem then it is likely that they don't sufficiently understand the effect of trail on the bike's steering.

Perhaps you should investigate other manufacturers?

Jan Heine has some opinions on handlebar width too:
http://janheine.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/handlebar-width/

      
#17: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Mike Ayling on Tue 2 Oct 2012 00:37 Edit Delete in reply to #16     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Max wrote:
"If a tandem is difficult to control when loaded then the manufacturer has not done their job and built a design error into the steering geometry. A bike that handles correctly should be able to be ridden with a narrow drop bar, and if there is a problem then it is likely that they don't sufficiently understand the effect of trail on the bike's steering".

Max, one of the great things about these forums is the dichotomies that are posted. There would be hundreds if not thousands of happy Thorn owners who disagree with your opinion.

"Perhaps you should investigate other manufacturers?"

Thorn are in a niche market for touring bikes and I have not been able to find another manufacturer offering a similar robust product.

I did email the Australian importer for Santana about a MTB style tandem on their site about two months ago but I am still awaiting a reply.

Mike

      
#18: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Max Carter on Tue 2 Oct 2012 01:04 Edit Delete in reply to #17     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Mike I understand your frustration. I'm in Australia too and found it difficult to even buy a decent tandem here let alone be able to make an informed decision by test riding etc. In the end I bought a cannondale as that was the only decent spec bike that I could order through a local shop.

As for Thorn, they have successfully exploited a niche market where there is very little competition. But popularity doesn't guarantee that the product is optimised. I mean, Justin Bieber is popular but you could argue that his customers just don't have very good taste. With expensive bicycles it's even harder to gauge the product accurately based on other owner's feedback as people are embarrassed to admit that they've made a mistake and bought a bike that is heavy, overbuilt and doesn't handle very well. I've never ridden a Thorn so can't comment on their product based on experience, but I have read through their marketing material on the website, and in my opinion they are to some extent full of it. The drivel you quoted about drop bars is an example. They have misrepresented something to justify their position.

      
#19: Re: handlebar width (thread)
By Mike Ayling on Tue 2 Oct 2012 23:40 Edit Delete in reply to #18     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Max wrote:

"Mike I understand your frustration. I'm in Australia too and found it difficult to even buy a decent tandem here let alone be able to make an informed decision by test riding etc. In the end I bought a cannondale as that was the only decent spec bike that I could order through a local shop.

As for Thorn, they have successfully exploited a niche market where there is very little competition. But popularity doesn't guarantee that the product is optimised. I mean, Justin Bieber is popular but you could argue that his customers just don't have very good taste. With expensive bicycles it's even harder to gauge the product accurately based on other owner's feedback as people are embarrassed to admit that they've made a mistake and bought a bike that is heavy, overbuilt and doesn't handle very well. I've never ridden a Thorn so can't comment on their product based on experience, but I have read through their marketing material on the website, and in my opinion they are to some extent full of it. The drivel you quoted about drop bars is an example. They have misrepresented something to justify their position".

Some would consider my half bike, a Surly Long Haul Trucker to be heavy and overbuilt but it suits my requirements.

Mary and I have a combined age of 134 and we plan to do over night rides and short tours of up to a week in our home State Victoria and if that is successful we might get more ambitious. There a a lot of Rail Trails here with surfaces of varying condition which is why I want wider tyres and reasonably wide bars to handle the tandem in loose gravel.

The Thorn is coming out at a bit more than I envisaged paying in the first instance so it is down to Spending the Kids Inheritance or you can't take it with you scenario.

There are some quite nice road tandems around Melbourne but most have disk brakes which I do not like (not really sure why but I just don't like them) and run narrow tyres at high pressures which I find uncomfortable.

Re Thorn being "full of it" I don't disagree with you but so are many sales people who sell a variety of products!

If you have not already done so I urge you to read some of Dave and Jo's journals.They have done many k's in most continents.

Mike


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