Friday, October 31, 2008

Drop Bar For Mountain Biking: Part V

<===The conversion back to drop bars is complete!

It has taken me awhile to get back to finishing this up, but here is the final post in the Drop Bar For Mountain Biking series.

This picture shows that a standard mountain bike frame can be turned into a successful drop bar rig. Yes, the stem will be a goofy, high rise affair, but it works and that is the point here. To be able to gain the benefits of using drop bars, ( better hand,wrist, forearm alignment, better breathing, better control in rough trail, less fatigue), regardless of looks. But if you ask me, I really like the looks! (Check out the previous post for my custom off road drop bar rig for comparison)

Rant Mode: On- However; not all is well with drop bars today. I happen to know one of the principal designers/influencers of the Midge bar design, (and so by default, the Gary Bar, since it is a Midge clone), and he specified short drop extensions which I feel was a mistake. This affords you one, to maybe one and a half decent hand positions, depending upon your hands size. If yer paws are huge, you are stuck with one place to ride off road. So the Midge/Gary is a bit lacking, in my mind, due to that choice in design. The Wilderness Trail Bike's drop is great in that regard, but the drop is way too deep. This means you have to run a riser stem even on a bike designed for drops.

What I would like to see is something that takes the best of both designs and melds them into one. Then add in a choice of widths. So we could have a drop bar designed for off roading with a shallow drop, (90mm or less), that had a classically designed drop extension that afforded two hand positions,(no "ergo" bend, and room to go "into the drop" or set out at the ends), and a bit more flare to the drop section than either the Midge or Gary provide. (Maybe 5 degrees) My take is that a shallow drop would help with stem choices, a longer drop section gives you more grip options, or you could cut it back to get your "Midge" type length if desired. A little more flare I think would match up with our natural wrist/hand alignment better. Oh! And it has to be bar end shifter compatible too!

Then we have stems. The bane of an off road drop bar fanatics existence. Make us some riser stems already! I mean more than 40 degree rise, like maybe a 50-55 degree rise with reaches from 30mm to 100mm. Make them out of steel, or at least forged aluminum with a removable face plate, (of course) and in 25.4mm and 31.8mm clamp sizes. This will allow folks the chance to check out a drop bar on their current mtb rig. No changing frame sizes, no "shorter top tube". Just use the rig you already have.

Finally, we need an off road drop bar hydraulic brake lever! This one component would blow the doors wide open for drop bar use off road. Make it with a split clamp perch, a carbon fiber blade that is easily replaceable with aluminum ones or with shorter reach blades for smaller hands. Obviously, it would help in crash repairs as well. Then make it so it can have a bar end shifter mounted inside of the lever, sort of like SRAM's new time trial levers. (Those levers are designed so that they always return to the same position whether you shift up or down) Okay, now we'd be talkin' off road drop bars!

Rant Mode: Off- So, that's my take on off road drop bars for you. I hope you enjoyed that series and I apologize for putting off this final installment until now. Here is where you can find Parts one through IV: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Thanks for reading!

Get out and ride those bikes folks! This will likely be your last decent weather weekend in a long while! Go for it!


Anonymous said...

So, as 2011 approaches, and the 2011 Fargo Ti frame is a possibility in my near future (after I sell a kidney). Would you recommend the stock bar from Salsa, or something else? Thanks in advance—I'm trying to catch up to all this drop bar offroad stuff!

Guitar Ted said...

@Dylster: The Woodchipper bar is really hard to beat, and Salsa made it to go with the Fargo. I would highly recommend it, especially if you will be using road brake/shift levers on the build.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. No idea about shifters at this point, although I'd love to move my old trusty Shimano bar-end set to this bike. But if that's not realistic, then I'm open to suggestions.

What I'd REALLY prefer is to go with what I know and just use my Jones Loop bar on a Fargo. But I'm trying to listen to you and others who are saying drops are the way to go...