Getting closer.

20 03 2021

On returning to the Deeside Trail Loop, I had made some adjustments. The wing nut had to go. Traction on your lower back when you are aiming for 10+ hour days is no good. I had seen folk using running packs before and although the concept of running weight high on ones back might seem far from ideal, because the total weight is pretty small and the front pockets can counterbalance, whilst leaving the lower back to move freely, I felt it was worth a go.

Revelation! it is absolutely the way to carry a couple litres of water and some food and essentials when you are heading for longer rides and need some extra stowage of the bike!

I used a Black Diamond pack with a 2 litre Camelback bladder and this will be my go to set up from here on in. Inspiration was probably from Kait Boyle – an endurance racing badass. Recommend you try this!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/drj0n/50356087268/

The route I modified slightly. I descended the full Fungle Road and cut through the estate at Glen Tanar, riding the south side of the River, Dee, then cutting north, up to Daldownie from the Balmoral area. I love the riding in the area and was pleased to cover some trails I had not seen since I followed a few rivers, coast to coast.

The sun was setting and the warmth of the day beginning to fade as I moved further into the mountains. I had not been into Glen Gairn before, but I knew there was a fairly posh bothy as you entered the Glen proper. Corndavon Lodge was passed, deserted and then as sun dropped I took in the views.

I had to set up the Tarp swiftly using the age-old Scottish technique of work for 30 seconds, when the midge start to swarm, run for 30 meters wait, run back and repeat. It was going to be an interesting night: the ground was pretty boggy and as a result, the midge were thick. Still, beer a wee dram and listening to the stags bellowing and lights out.

Next morning, I awoke and packed up using a similar technique to the night before. If I take this route again, I think I will find somewhere different to sleep! Some wee guy was cleaning off the last morsels of my pork andeans meal – the glamour of bikepacking is always there!.

As I moved further into the mountains, the trail became less well travelled and I was off the bike several times, particularly as I headed under the watchful gaze of Creag an Dail Mhòr. Soon enough, I popped out on familiar trail near Beinn a’Bhuird where a decision needed to be taken.

The question was whether to drop down to Glen Quoich and it’s fantastic remnant forest, or to descend Gleann an t’Slugain – which is always excellent fun. The latter won out, but it was close. From here, I took the north side of the Dee back to my starting point in Banchory, closing the loop on a fine ride that will last in my memory for a long time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, how did the kit work out? I was riding very light indeed with a G funk holding a self-made DCF hybrid roll bag on the bars, a Rockgeist 4 L gondola (custom DCF hybrid model) and Rockgeist partial frame wedge in Liteskin. A second self made Strap Deck bag was attached under the downtube with Voile straps and the aforementioned Black Diamond pack. Self made long gas tank bag, secured with a DeWidget finished off the stowage. It all worked perfectly. I had plenty of room for the sleep system, extra puff, food and H20 and gadgetry. Questions? fire away.





Q factor.

28 02 2021

A lot of you will know Peter Verdone. Hs is rather infamous for his manner but he does generate and become involved in some fairly interesting discussions around the web to do with bike design. My friend Kris (https://www.44bikes.com) had posted a picture of the work necessary for clearing big tyres with a reasonably tight chain stay and normal drive chain, whilst mentioning that 157/83mm chainline standard is worth a look. See here. I heartily agree as I use this standard on several bikes, see my post: Super boost.

Peter dismissed this standard as not being useful and a fairly interesting discussion has ensued around why the accepted, perhaps road-orientated, <150mm Q drive chain is preferred but without clear justification.

The chainline is not necessarily controlled by the Q. Crank offset varies – by over 5mm if you move from Turbine aluminium cinch to Next SL for example, and the use of different offset rings on the 3 major direct mount standards (SRAM, cinch and hollowgram – I have not seen any ability to vary the new shimano set up) mean chainline can be moved enough to allow fairly large variations in Q on a single bb width (or axle width). A really cool set up is to consider a 157mm rear end, and a ‘flipped’ ring on a crank designed for 142mm or boost 148mm (in cinch this is 136.5mm and 143.5mm). The rings would be + ~5mm offset to the outside, or + ~3mm in the case of using the longer spindle. With SRAM this corresponds to using either 3 or 0mm offset rings. It aligns the chainring slightly more towards the larger cogs, which is better generally, and gives a good Q with a wide rear wheel for strength and stability, allowing lighter spoking and more tyre clearances.

Anyhoo, width of Q has other effects. Look at feet together squats. There is no way you can go as low in a squat with your feet together. The wide stance allow considerably further drop and stability. Look at your position when you ride steep terrain with the dropper engaged.

Peter also raised the question of walking ‘tread’. Essentially, when you walk, your feet tend to fall pretty centrally. This is often used to justify searching for a narrower Q, but walking is an entirely different exercise to cycling. You are not holding on to anything, or bent at the hips and the range in which you are using the leg muscles and joints is entirely different.

Push someone while they stand with their feet together, now do it with someone whose feet are apart. Stability is improved and resistance to external forces on the torso increased.

The other aspect is that in road bike/tri and track – absolute efficiency is king. This is where the studies on Q come from but there are not many and the evidence is not great. What there is, suggests that a narrower Q can produce slightly increased power output, but as Lance found out when he tried to emulate Jan Ullrich’s Walser bike set up with its narrow bb, it is harder to maintain power output in that position. Obree famously used a narrow Q by utilising a washing machine bearing and custom axle, but the gain was likely more from aerodynamics and he probably had reduced power output.

There is some work that shows 2% power output at 90 and 120mm Q when compared to 150 and 180 Q – but critically, there was no significant difference between the 150 and 180 Q – the 2 set ups discussed in Kris’ post. But the study is small, of dubious relevance (road bike not Mtb) and was only measured over 5 minutes.

I think there is a lot of bunkum on the question of Q and the likely reality is there is a range over which, for a recreational cyclist, your comfort will allow. But what is *best* ? I dont think there is a *best*, just options.





Subtractive.

17 01 2021

2020 wasn’t the best year for interesting routes on the bike. But, rather than dwell on the negative, I thought I might look back on some of the good things.

I have always loved the Cairngorm to Deeside area and if I have my druthers, that is where I aim for if I have time for an overnighter. The Deeside way trail is a great place to start and in July, I decided to try a pull at the whole route.

Over the last few years, I have invested a fair bit of time, effort and money on minimising the kit I take Bikepacking. I have also adjusted how I pack the bike, so the weight is distributed in such a way that it rides as ‘normally’ as possible. In addition, I have tried to carry as little weight on my back as possible. One of the key factors was reducing the amount of H2O I carry at any given time – in Scotland this is fairly easy most of the time as you are never far from water and as long as you have a way to purify, you can drop 1kg for every litre you *don’t* carry.

In July, the weather had been good and I was optimistic it would remain so for the 2 days I had earmarked. The Deeside Trail (as it is referred to when on the bike) has a high proportion of single track and fair amount of climbing. It parallels the River Dee, west into the heart of the Cairngorm, on the south side of the river, with a short and a long variation, before returning on the north side of the river. I would thoroughly recommend the route: there is no ‘filler’ trail here, it is all good stuff.

In July, I started around mid day after driving up in the morning. I did not have my usual ‘base’ of miles in the legs, but felt that as long as I didn’t push too hard I would get around just fine. My aim for the first day was to grab some food in the Hungry Highlander in Braemar before finding somewhere to bed down, perhaps around the Linn of Dee and returning the next day.

Unfortunately, the breeze I had hoped for (to keep the midge down) was entirely absent and the heat and humidity meant I was under attack as soon as the sun started dipping towards the horizon. I made the decision to try and sleep high, on the shoulder of Lochnagar, and although I did receive a fair few bites, it wasn’t too bad. I was sleeping in my FKT bivi and used my Monk DCF tarp as a sleep system and my new, minimal PHD sleeping bag along with a puff jacket, kept me cosy overnight.

The next day, the rain clouds started to gather and I made the decision to cut short the route, missing the initial loop at the north west corner that is the most exposed in terms of weather and one of the two parts of the loop I had not previously ridden. It as probably wise, as after a few hours the rain was so heavy I had to take shelter near an old farm building before just accepting I was going to be soaked and go for it.

I got back around and although I had some unfinished business, the route and kit decision had been informative and rewarding. I was using a G funk and Strap Deck bar roll system and it was so secure and light it never needed a second thought even while charging down the Fungle Road decent.

For this ride, the sleeping bag and spare socks were in my MYOG hybrid DCF bar roll, the puffy, bivi and sleep clothes in my Rockgeist hybrid DCF Gondola, and the cook system and thermarest were in a MYOG X pac bag held to the ever- ready Strap Deck under my downtube. Food and bivi pole and sundry camp items as well as spare tubes and tools were in the frame bag (a custom wedge in Litskin from Rockegeist) and trail food was stashed in the Mag Tank 2000 from Revelate. I also carried a bladder in a small- ish wing nut and really struggled with the traction on my lower back. It is so long since I used a rucksack of any sort riding and I wanted to address this for future adventures.

Next post, I will review my return to the Deeside area in September 2020.





Experi-mental.

8 12 2020

So. The blog hasn’t seen very much action over recent years. Platforms for dissemination of information change and there is no doubt the instant gratification of instagram and (shudder) Facebook are convenient. But long-form has benefits too and so I’m going to try and revive this blog.

I’ll admit I don’t aggressively try to gather readers – I use the blog as a reference for my own thoughts and also to ‘thinker’. I cannot remember where the cross between tinker and think came from but it is a very useful concept.

The thing that takes time in blogging is inserting pictures. I used to enjoy the creation of posts where the pictures would tell a good number of words, breaking the flow of text in an attractive and provocative way. Going forward, less pictures. That way, I might just be able to put down some more words.

We’ll see, anyway.

First up: As you will see from my last post, my bike was stolen. I am lucky to have more than one bike so although I’m massively upset by the loss of my favourite, I can keep on riding. Others are not so lucky, so for that I am grateful.

It has also caused me to take stock of where I am with bikes in general. I like hardtail and rigid bikes. Admittedly I haven’t spent much time on full suspension – but I dont feel the need to.

I like plus tyres and I like lots of clearance for mud.

I like ‘relaxed’ end-of-the-spectrum geometry – though over the last 24 months, the rule book has been well and truly thrown out of the window in terms of what is ‘normal’.

Certain aspects of component technology have really taken hold and have changed how bikes can be ridden and thus how they need to be designed.

Case in point: the dropper post. They are now reliable and once you become used to them, riding a bike without them is near impossible. Backwards compatibility can be an issue: I have used the external controlled Fox Transfer on several bikes as the post itself is solid and the mechanism is ok. Yes, it gets a bit sticky with mud being thrown its way, but it works and therefore it is on the bike.

In terms of backwards compatibility – or perhaps that is the wrong phrase, maybe reverse upgrading? – angle sets are another boon. Fitting them is a beast if you choose the non Cane Creek versions, though. A spherical washer system seems like it would be good, but reports of constant noise are troubling.

One frame I have – a 29er with 70.25° head angle and ~670mm f-c built for cross country riding, was being a little left out, so I decided to fit a Works Components 2° reduction headset. There are several impacts from doing so. When you kick out the fork, the height of the lower headset cup front he ground decreases a little, dropping the front end and steepening the head angle, so the nominal 2° reduction is going to be less. The bars – given everything else being the same – are going to be lower. The reach is reduced as the steerer is placed further back in the head tube, though as the frame rotates down around the rear axle as an axis, the reach increases, taking some back, and the seat angle steepens slightly. This can be futzed with, though.

Fitting the headset in phase with the frame seemed important, though many folk get good results just carefully knocking or even pressing the angled cups in, I ended up making 2° offset pressing plates out of delrin so that I could try and control the force applied. It worked well and the thrust bearings I used meant there was little rotational force to pull the cup out of alignment once I had measured everything as accurately as I could.

The bike in question was designed around a 45mm offset fork, but had lived the latter part of its life with a 52mm offset fork and a bigger front tyre than originally designed for – 2.3″>2.6″. For the build, I needed to go back to the 45mm offset fork as I had pulled the 52mm offset fork to use on a different bike.

I am going to use an even bigger front tyre (really 2.8″ as I am using a ‘narrower’ 3″ listed tyre on a 29mm internal rim) and that should pull back some of the drop that would be expected in front end with this system. It will however, highlight the reduced reach.

I have changed from using Jones bars, to much, much wider, less offset bars over the last 12+months, settling between 20 and 25 degrees and ~800mm wide, so generally I am using a 10mm shorter stem. For this build, I’ll use this to keep distance between the bar and saddle and suck up the ‘long’ 90mm stem aesthetics. The front-centre gains ~15mm and this is one of the aspects I wanted. If it works, I will in time try the 52mm offset fork again and get the trail figure back to where I generally like it.

Real world, what is noticeable? that is a question I am asking myself. I am still awaiting some parts to settle the build and it will be interesting to evaluate the effect of changing the head angle on a well-known frame.

Where did that other fork go? Well, when my rigid mullet bike was stolen I fitted it to the hardtail 27.5plus bike because in sloppy winter conditions, on my local trails, full rigid is perfect. The frame geometry is incredibly similar so the bike felt pretty familiar, though there are subtle differences. Sean designed one around an enve xc fork – 472mm length 52mm offset and the other around a 120mm travel fox boost 34 fork. This later changed to 130mm with a Vorsprung fractive tune and Luftekap hop-up that allowed me to run the increased travel with more sag, keeping everything the same otherwise. The wheel change from 27.5plus to 29plus on the front sucks up the difference in ride height.

Here is where things get into nerd zone though. Accepting that tyres deform when weighted, reducing active radius somewhat, if you compare the lengths of the forks and wheel radii, you get a range of potential options that ‘might’ work. The original idea was to have one frame and flip between mullet plus rigid and 27.5plus hardtail and over the course of a couple of years it morphed into two separate bikes and in so doing fork length became specific to each design. Now I have gone back to the original concept, fork length is again a point worth revisiting.

So, 29plus minion is ~766mm diameter/383 radius. Fox 34+ fork 51mm offset ride hight is ~495mm a-c (535mm – 40mm sag). Enve xc fork is 472mm a-c 52mm offset. 27.5plus front wheel with 3″ Highroller is 745mm diameter/372.5mm radius So the difference in radius is added to the fork length to see how similar they are. In this case.

472mm + 11.5 mm = 483.5mm

So, in theory a slightly longer rigid fork could work on the same frame without the geo getting too far away from where it was intended.

That fact got me thinking – because I have a 492mm fork with 52mm offset that I can fit to the bike as an option. but that is 9.5mm longer than the 483.5mm that is the ‘ideal’ right? yes. So, build a 29×2.6″ rear wheel to raise the rear by a few mm and then all I have to contend with is the bb being raised over the original design.

Well, that is what I am going to do. A 29×2.6 is roughly 750mm diameter/375mm radius. My current 27.5plus rear wheel is 725mm/362.5mm with a Rekon 2.8″ exo+ tyre so I’m going to get real close to ‘ideal’. Prediction, the f-c will be marginally longer, the bars will be marginally higher given all else being the same and the reach will decrease a smidgeon and the seat angle will relax ever so slightly.

Why do this? another innovation that seems to be gaining traction (ha!) are tyre inserts. The reason I like plus tyres so much is reduced psi – and the comfort and traction that affords. A 2.6″ 29er tyre is in no way a plus tyre, but with an insert (I am going with Rimpact) I might well be able to get down to the ~17psi that will make this work.

So – wheel parts on order – Industry nine boost 28 spoke front hub, Nextie 47mm internal rim and DT 177 rear 350 bigride 32 hole hub to Nextie 34mm internal rim with Sapim D light spokes, 2 cross all around.

BB height at present is 302mm (with tyre sag) and I expect this will rise potentially up to 18mm. But to be honest I am not completely sure where it will end up. However, bb height is less of an issue these days because of bigger wheels (more relative bb drop compared to smaller wheels) and dropper posts (keeping body weight low on the bike in corners and drops).

We’ll see. An interesting Winter experiment.





Stolen.

7 07 2020

A week ago my bike was stolen. I’m still waiting to go through an in depth account of what happened with the police, so I am not going to go into any detail. Suffice to say I was away from it for seconds and now its in the wind.

The bike was made for me by my good friend Sean at Vertigo Cycles. He pours a lot of thought, time and effort into his work and it shows. The frame is beautiful and functional. Many features of the frame and components make it optimal for my needs. Optimal for my needs doesn’t marry up with usual. Indeed, there are a lot of incompatibilities with typical bikes that will make this almost impossible to part out or sell on without the end user being in a position where they will have to be aware the bike is stolen. Either that, or when the realisation hits, it will end up in a ditch. It makes me sad.

The bike has substantial financial value, but its real value is much, much more. It was a freedom machine. It translated what was in my mind and soul and applied it to the environment where I feel most happy. It was not the bare minimum, pared back to the point where you just get by – I’ve been through the stages of rigid single speeding and fixed off road riding. It was everything that was needed and nothing more. It was fast, agile, sure footed and reassuring. It never let me down on any trail I asked it to guide me down safely. It was always ready and always able.

I’ve been going through a fairly solid grief reaction this week. This is a surprise to me. I deal with grieving people all the time at work and so I can recognise it but the focus is an inanimate object. Ostensibly replaceable. Why, then, this grief?

I think the last couple of years have at times shown me how far human kind have to go to improve. How pathetic, self centred and destructive we are. The most recent events have truly shown the horror in the detail whilst also showing that there is hope. There are individuals and groups who continue to seek to take us forward. My faith in humans as a race has been somewhat low in recent years and this personal problem has only added to that.

I have to come round to acceptance, moving on and ideally to believe that things and people as a *whole* can get better.

But I admit, I’m struggling with that.





How to fit a G-funk handlebar strap deck system.

16 04 2020

I made a video to explain how to mount a G-funk bar clamp set up on your bike.

 

Hopefully, it is all pretty straightforward. There are a couple of important points

  • Make sure the bolt threads into the cross dowel nut easily. If it doesn’t, adjust the cross dowel until it does.
  • The nylon washers are spacers, you don’t have to use them all. If you mount the Strap Deck facing down (the ideal set up) then you may need them to clear your stems face plate bolts.
  • The nylon washers need treated with care – they are very light and work really well for the intended purpose, but don’t treat them rough!
  • The whole system needs very little torque to set. Less than 2nM – best advice is to snug the bolts up just until you feel them bite a little, then check for rotation. If it moves, snug it a wee bit more and repeat as neccessary.
  • The bolts are button heads so the head does not rub on whatever you mount on the Deck. That means the hex key engagement  is shallow – use a good quality 3mm hex key and make sure it is fully engaged.
  • Consider using purple (222) or blue (243) Loctite on the bolts where they meet the cross dowel.
  • The intended use of the G-funk set up is ‘ultralight’ bikepacking and for extended rides. As such, the weight limit is 1.7kg. Ideally, I would suggest less: *any* weight on the bars is detrimental to steering. If you need to haul winter-ready gear or heavyweight items such as Alpacka rafts, this is not the right bit of kit.
  • I recommend using Voile Straps, as the rubbery material adds to the traction on the bag. The stretch is excellent at absorbing shock, too. The slots of Strap Decks are sized for normal Voile Straps,. but nano also work. You can use webbing straps or even velcro of course.
  • Bottle cage spacing is nominally 64mm and the Strap Deck has oval holes to allow some fudge factor. That means you could use the G-funk clamps to mount a bottle cage under your bars as long as your stem is no wider than ~52mm.

Questions? add as a comment and I will get back to you!





The 3D printer has been fired up.

4 02 2020

Another run of parts getting checked over and packaged up. It’s pretty cool thinking about all the adventures these things will go on…





Being constructive…

18 01 2020

January is not really a month for big, long rides on the West coast of Scotland….it is wet, very windy and dark for longer than it is light. So, I’m trying to keep busy, making things.

1. The lathe. I’m trying to improve rigidity and motion of the various slides. I also wanted to move the milling attachment in relation to the chuck to give me a better range and position of the machine vice. So far so good. I put a bearing in the compound slide, a new brass gib as well and small bearings held by cup ended grub screws for the adjustment on the cross slide. I also altered the way the guides are held onto the carriage – by using longer grubs, held in with loctite and then nyloc, flanged nuts so it will hold its adjustment better. A steel plate was drilled to attach the milling attachment with M8 bolts and altogether I have a considerable improvement.

2. One of the purposes of improving the lathe was so I could make the Strap Deck ‘decaleur’ plate a little more easily. In order to make it slightly quicker to find the centres for the various holes it needs, I also invested in some transfer punches and transfer screws. The former are simply punches of various diameters so I can transfer from a drilled hole to a similar part and find the centres without having to accurately measure. The transfer screws are ace! little screws that fit different metric threaded holes and have a small centre punch that again can transfer to another part without having to measure. So good! unfortunately, my milling attachment still does not have the range for me to do all 4 holes with it mounted only once. I’m going to have to dwell on that as moving the part is time consuming and annoying.

3. I also spent some time hacking away at rhododendron and after many hours and sore limbs I have a new trail that forms a figure of 8 and keeps things interesting. Rhododendron is the Devil’s own plant though, it entangles everything and is irritant to skin and eyes. The leaves also seem to make the soil extremely slippery so I’m glad to be rid of at least a few hundred cubic feet of the crap.

4. A tool for removing the lock ring on 9point8 dropper posts. Read around servicing these posts (rarely needed and easy to do) and the one step folk complain about is removing the lock ring to get at the seal to grease it. I have used the work stand clamp to grip the part (it has no flats or other means to undo) but my Efficient Velo Tools Right Hand clamp is lined with leather and it doesn’t do it any favours. So, I made a tool to do it instead. First I shaped a delrin sheet, then drilled a hole and bored out a circle *just* smaller than the diameter of the lock ring. I then made a simple threaded handle part that compresses the delrin onto the lock ring and makes it easy peasy to remove. Next, I will counter sink the handles, and screw the delrin parts to them. I’ll also round the handles off and coat them in some sort of rubbery stuff so if (when?) I drop them it won’t take a chunk out of my frame.





Decaleur.

15 12 2019

I’ve been messing around with different concepts of how to mount a bar harness in the most rigid way possible lately. It’s easy of you use a Jones Loop bar of course, you have rock solid mounting with the bar and the forward ‘loop’. I emulated this using a Bar Yak Ultra on another bike I use with a less swept/wider bar lately.

But the idea kept turning around in my brain. Research on the randonneur style decaleur bag ‘offset’ got me thinking. Could I use the stem faceplate to make something similar? Of course, Rick Hunter made a Mac daddy version using a Paul stem and They are sweet as.

Then I remembered the Syntace TwinFix stem parts. This allows lights, computers or even your phone to be mounted using alternative stem faceplates, with an M5 threaded part, perpendicular to the face plate bolts. They say the phone mounting plate could in theory take 25kg, so I figured a roll bag with a sleeping bag and bivi sack at around 1kg would be no issue. All I needed was an adaptor, perhaps to use a Strap Deck.

 

Today, I got busy and made the part. It took a few hours of cutting, milling, tapping and finishing, but it works well. It needs evaluated in the field, but I reckon it’s a goer. Total added weight is around 80g including the Strap Deck, but not the Voile Straps or bag. But that is LIGHT and its rock solid.

If it works out, it will be for sale soon.





On bar angle, width and hand position.

12 11 2019

Recently I have been messing around with different handlebars. For years I have used Jones Loop bars exclusively.

From the first time I put them on a bike, swapping out my custom bent Seven 11° ti flat bars, I knew that they were awesome. I have no doubt I will always have Jones bars in use, particularly in the carbon version – light, forgiving and strong. They also have more grip positions for those long rides and the forward loop is excellent for additional bar mounted objects or handlebar harnesses.

The other strange thing about Jones bars, with the 45° sweep, is they seem wider than they actually are – a boon for tight, woodsy riding.

Over the years, however, I have used many different handlebar set ups in an effort to learn what I can in terms of comfort, effect on hand position and control in technical riding situations.

The most difficult, for me, has been drop bars. No matter how much I tired, I could not get in a good position on trad drops or even a rare set of WTB off road drops I owned briefly.

Early on, I knew that ti bars offered excellent flex to take some of the buzz out of the terrain – useful when you like rigid bikes and long rides. As mentioned, one of my favourite handlebars aesthetically and in terms of ‘softness’ was a Seven cycles ti in 11° around 660mm wide iirc. Crazy how we managed with bars like that. Of course, that was pre Jones bars and the added sweep definitely changed things for me. But I never stopped experimenting.

Later came a steel Groovy Luv Handle – great shape, but the steel was less forgiving – and soon after another custom Seven bar with 21° bend in ~710mm ish width if memory serves. The pure rearward sweep of that bar was difficult as stem length would have needed to be increased to make it fit correctly.

I found that a little strange – if you have tried several different bar sweeps, and overlaid them, or even use the fantastic ‘What Bars‘ site, you would be forgiven for thinking if you get the middle of the grip section in roughly the same airspace, you will be in the ball park for fit. Well, it doest seem to work like that. The orientation off the hand changes how you align your elbows and shoulders and the change in x, y and z in space is also extremely noticeable. Jones bars for example are best from flat to around 15° down slope towards the rear axle, but other bars may be best flat to swept upwards. Trial and error is important here.

So a Watson Cycles Parkarino was the next bar – a wide (720mm!) 31° sweep bar and if this had more grip space, I think it would have led me in a different direction. I had become used to the 160+mm grip lengths on Jones bars and even longer as they stretched to 710mm width. The Parkarino just had too little grip area for comfort. I am not sure Watson cycles is still trading…

For years, I then again used Jones bars exclusively, but a project that is on the go got me thinking again about different bars.

These days it is impossible to ignore the bigger fork, slack head angle, longer front centre, short stem, wider bar set ups. Key for control in these situations is how all the pieces come together – the leverage over the front wheel at speed is important but also the body position in resisting hard impacts. Wide, flat-ish bars and short stems put weight far behind the front axle and the width – a longer lever – offsets the shorter stem and greater trail.

I have never felt any issue using Jones bars, in technical riding and the rearward sweep keeps your weight well back when needed. However, it bears a closer look.

So, that being said, I bought a Salsa cycles Bend Deluxe – 750mm 17° and gave them a try on a couple of bikes. The 17° felt very ‘elbows out’ to me and the harshness of the aluminium was – well, harsh. But it got me thinking. Despite the negatives and ‘position shock’ I wanted to know more. Strangely, the thing I thought would be most noticeable (the width) was not. The Jones 40mm less width was indiscernible. Hmmm…

Next up with the help of some Control Tech Terminator I extended the Parkarino’s to 760mm wide, critically in the grip length, and put them on the bike. The ti flex was back and the width and bend was pretty good!

That led to a call to Rody at Groovy and a set of 765mm Luv Handles in ti were purchased – such amazing workmanship! 275g of comfort and control.

Then soon after I contacted James at Black Sheep to enquire after a set of 787mm, 25° custom ‘Flatter’ bars. My most ridden bikes now have considerably wider bars with 21-25° of sweep and I admit I like them a lot.

I have shortened the stem on one of the bikes – from 80mm to 70mm – and I am not sure I like that move. As noted above, the rise, or x,y,z position is not easily predictable in terms of what will feel right and another grouch is the stem length options. Stems are almost universally shorter than they used to be (35-80mm as opposed to the 100-150mm tillers we used to use). That means a 10mm change is a much bigger percentage of difference when compared to a 10mm change in a much longer stem. My view is that stems should be available in at least 5mm increments.

Syntace do offer a 75mm stem option suitable for 800mm bars and I have one waiting to fit.

The latest bar I have my hands on is a Meriwether double bend Sweeper bar (with shimzilla) with ~21° bend and 800mm width. I’ll report back once I have some time on them.

My conclusion is that if you do like more sweep in your handlebar, but don’t want to give up on width, there are a lot of options these days with excellent  buzz control that allow a wide option for the ‘new school’ geometry that is becoming more popular.

As to how this all goes together with stem length, that is another post…