Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bar Time: Flat Bar Purgatory

In the last post I made reference as to what my initial problems were regarding the flat bar and that I got stuck in a pattern of flat bar usage for a number of years. Here's how that pattern developed and I'll touch on some discoveries along the way.

After my first mountain bike was declared D.O.A. by the local bike shop owner, I had to find a replacement. Besides my handlebar woes, my other pet peeve was the traditional headset. You know, the kind that was threaded........with a jam nut that held it's adjustment? ( allegedly!) Well, I was determined to stop that problem from slowing me down again. This led me to Klien mountain bikes, which at that time, ('92) had a cartridge bearing headset that never needed adjustment. That and the fact that Klien had arguably the coolest paint jobs, next to Mountain Goat, on the planet and I was sold! Besides those two things, I should mention that Klien also used a pressed in, cartridge bearing bottom bracket, which again, needed no adjustments. So, even though I again was stuck with a flat, narrowish handlebar, ( which, by the way, was welded to the stem!) I felt that the other issues I had were all addressed with the Klien. One other developement at that time also contributed to the continued usage of flat bars for me. Namely, barends.

Barends were supposedly there to enable you to weight the front tire of your mountain bike during steep climbs. But, come on!..........did anyone ever really use barends for that? Maybe once in awhile, but for the vast majority of us, myself included, we used them for alternative hand posistions. One just needs to take a look at how long and how many different shapes were produced to see that this was the case. For added examples, look to what barends have become today. Simple stubs for climbing leverage, right? Well, back in the day, they served more purpose than that! Then you could throw in what Zoom, Scott and Profile Designs were doing with handlebars, and you could see that there was some searching going on for a better handle bar for mountain bikes. Some of these products were just plain goofy, or were troublesome to use in concert with other products. This was a time of experimentation for the manufacturers, and alot of money was lost in the process.

At any rate, I was okay with using a flat bar with bar ends. It seemed logical at the time, and quite frankly, was the fashion of the day. Yes, sadly I was caught up in it back then! That was another major reason that the flat bar lasted so long with my mountain bikes.

In the next installment, I'll discuss what effects of obtaining my first road bike, my first vintage mountain bike, and discovring Charlie Cunningham had on my thoughts and choices for handlebars. Until then...............

No comments: