He laments in this piece he wrote recently that too many folks are not getting it with regards to how to "properly set up drop bars". While many commenters are taking him to task for a homeless person comment, (which I honestly don't even remember reading), this comment that he highlighted really struck me:
"With a road bike it is akin to buying a Formula 1 race car then trying to convert it to a family minivan. In the end you achieve niether comfort or performance."Wow! Did he ever nail my experiences as a bicycle mechanic working on "road bikes" or what? So many times it is all about the tipping up of the bars and slanting the aero bars up at a ridiculous angle so folks can get their "bar lean" on as they pedal the bike.
While commenters are going back and forth on what constitutes a good bar set up, I think a few things that bear mentioning are being left out of the conversation.
First off, people want to be "faster". The thing is, they put their confidence in equipment first. "Will these tires make me faster?", or "Will this gearing make me faster?" are comments I've heard so many times I cringe when they are spoken in the shop. I mean, I get the thrill of going faster. It's what the fun of cycling is mostly about- speed. The thing is, equipment can't buy you "love".
Secondly, and obviously tied to the first thing, you'll need to become more fit to get more enjoyment, (if speed is a big part of what attracts you to cycling), out of cycling, on whatever bicycle you want. This is particularly tied to "road" cycling, it seems. Really. Who cares where your drop bars are at if you are out of shape and unwilling to "invest" in the "motor"? We "died in the wool" cyclists know this, but the guys and gals that see cycling as recreation don't a lot of the time. (I speak from experience in the shop from where I work. Your mileage may vary)
Finally, and more to the point of the quote I pulled from Mr. Moulton's blog, drop bar bikes that are bred from racing are not what most recreational cyclists should be riding over the road. It is why I see a lot of "Formula 1 race cars" trans-mutated into "mini-vans".
Now, let me temper this by saying I do not say anything about my philosophy at the shop where I work. I keep my mouth shut, unless my opinion is earnestly sought out, which is rarely. Why?
Well, for one thing, folks that want "road" bikes have their minds set, most of the time, as to what will be making them faster. They want to ride a bicycle, and my boss wants to sell bikes. Manufacturers make "Formula 1" type road bikes because folks get all starry-eyed about going fast, and these bikes are "fast", right? So, they buy the bike, then they try to bend it to their will, and many times end up with a "mini-van" with 23mm tires. The drop bar set up comes with the territory.
Hey! "At least they are riding bicycles", right?
Well, on one hand we can all shake our heads in agreement, and find solace in the fact that one more person is pedaling while we ride home on that "all rounder" we've been working on that is 100 times more comfortable and practical than the carbon-wonderbike-of-the-day that just went out the door with a seat post rack, slanted upward aero bars, and that wireless, 90 function computer. But the bike that I ride isn't anything like what would actually sell, right?
I don't know, but something seems wonky about that to my mind.
And this was supposed to be about drop bars! Okay, let's get back to that for a minute. Looking at what goes for road drops these days, I'd guess most folks rarely, if ever, use the drop section. (Based upon wear patterns I notice on bar tape and hoods/tops on the bikes I work on) If I am right, I am thinking most folks could (A) use a different bike with a flat bar, or (B) use shallower, flared drops like we weirdos on off road drop bar bikes are using. I know that when I test ride a regular road bike with "normal drops", my arms get all tight, and my wrists twist in an uncomfortable way. In fact, I can honestly say I'll never use a "standard drop bar" again. Ever.
I bet a lot of road riders would really dig flared drop bars too. Easier to reach the drop section, so the "more hand positions" would actually be something usable, instead of a pipe-dream. The flare of the drops puts the upper body in a more relaxed, less tense position too, so comfort is actually increased. Yes- it is less aero, but c'mon! We're not talking about criterium racers going out for a racy group ride here. We're talking about regular "Joes" and "Jills" that want a drop bar road going rig.
Raleigh actually puts a flared drop bar on their touring rig called the Sojourn, so maybe I'm not so off my rocker as you might think. So, as odd as that might seem to Mr. Moulton, I would suggest that the off road drop bar is a great way to start the "de-programming" of the recreational road cyclist. That and the "fresh air" that some companies are bringing to the marketplace with some smartly set up "all-rounders" like Raleigh, Salsa Cycles, and others. (And yes- Rivendell has always been hammering on a similar drum).
So, at any rate, my hope is we can start steering away from the weird way road bikes are marketed now into a more practical, more comfortable, and more sustainable road bike that will foster a life-long pursuit of road biking. You could be fast, but be somewhat more practical and comfortable too. I dunno. Maybe I am just an odd-ball mechanic that should stick to gravel and off road! I mean, who'd want to do that kind of riding anyway?