Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Luxy Bar: Why It Is The Bar Many Want But Few Can Get

Pardon my craptastic finishing tape job!
In the super-niche of off road drop bars, maybe there is no other drop bar that has engendered such curiosity and desire as the Ragley Luxy Bar. Why is that? In this post, I'll take a stab at answering this question and telling the back story on this peculiar handle bar.

The Start:

As I recall, there was a thread on mtbr.com on the 29"er forum that was going on about off road drop bar set ups and what bar would be best. Of course, at this time in history you had two choices: Find an out of production WTB Dirt Drop, or similar bar, or use an On One Midge Bar, which was based off the original WTB offering, but tweaked in several important and good ways. (Note- There was  also a revival of the WTB Dirt Drop that was never really embraced by the public, due to it's super-deep drop and weird anatomic drop shape, so I have left that out of this discussion.) I was in the On One Midge camp, but I had nits to pick with that design. I stated something to the effect that I had a "perfect" off road drop bar design in mind which I would have loved to have seen made. Not long after I posted this, I received an e-mail from Brant Richards.

Mr. Richards was a designer at On One, but had recently left to do bicycle and component design on his own, dubbing the company "Shed Fire". He was doing several designs for Chain Reaction Cycles UK brands and mostly for a brand Mr. Richards developed dubbed "Ragley". In his e-mail to me he asked, in his typically abbreviated style, to send along a copy of my design for his consideration.

The Luxy featured a much wider, more flared, and longer drop bar sectioned design.
So I did and Brant seemed truly interested in coming up with something. Months went by, and Brant consulted with others on the design, most notably Sam Alison of Singular Cycles. After this period of time passed, I received images of the rough prototype which no longer bore any resemblance to my crude drawings, but I found fascinating nonetheless. Not that anything I contributed was worth keeping, but I'd like to think that I influenced the design in some small way. I guess I may never know that.... Anyway.....

The design process completed, the bar went through the various stages of prototyping and manufacturing, which Mr. Richards was kind enough to keep me abreast of. It was a fascinating look "behind the scenes", and I learned a lot along the way. Finally, one day a box arrived that had two Luxy Bars inside of it. One in polished ano and the other in black ano. A "thank you" for my thoughts and whatever help I lent along the way, I suppose, and also to get the word out, which I figure was part of the plan on Brant's part.

With its extremely shallow drop and super short reach, the Luxy Bar had no peer.
The Hey-Day:

The Luxy Bar hit the scene and was embraced by a few, but from where I sat I thought that it was a a product most misunderstood at the time it was released. As far as I was concerned, it wasn't anything like I had envisioned, but it was really quite nice, actually. It had a unique 31.8mm diameter top section, and with its "wheelbarrow" handle feel, climbing torque was awesome, so the Luxy Bar and single speed seemed a natural marriage to me. However; some found geared set ups to be quite nice as well.

Still my fave!
The End:

I didn't really keep up with how the Luxy was selling, and not too long after it came out, Brant went back to On One. Whether or not that had anything at all to do with the Luxy's demise is anyone's guess, but it seemed to coincide with the disappearance of this product from stock. I am told it only had two production runs before Chain Reaction UK shut the availability of it off.

The Legend Begins:

I shrugged it off as "one of those things", and since the demand seemed soft for it, I figured that this would be the end of the story. However; maybe a year or two ago now a sudden interest in the Luxy Bar appeared and I was getting asked about the availability of the bar and whether or not I could find any for people. I actually tracked two down and sold one of them to a good friend in Des Moines. Others were being sold for about twice what they originally sold for. I am aware of at least three people that have gone to the length of e-mailing Chain Reaction UK to find out if there was some way to get them to either make more, or release the design to another company to be manufactured. 

There is a lot of behind the scenes scuttlebutt on a "Luxy-like" design drop bar being potentially developed. As of now, that's all it is- scuttlebutt. I really do not foresee the Luxy Bar, or anything very close to it, ever being made again. I think that is sad, since I really like the design, and I know many others do as well. Maybe just as many more would like to try one just because they have heard about the scarcity of these. It's an odd thing that I have dubbed "thing wanted- cannot get". In other words, it seems to me that when you could actually get a Luxy Bar, no one seemed interested, but now that it cannot be had, the "demand" for one seems to have rekindled.

The future will possibly bring other drop bars for off road to light, but maybe none will have such a legendary story as the Luxy Bar has had.

4 comments:

Dutch Skater said...

It's nice how Brant takes nput from riders. This is how the first generation of 29" On-Ones came to be. I thought I had ideas and was ask to put them in writing. Prototype made, bikes sold.

While I do have a decently set up Surly Karate Monkey with Midge bar, I never got to the point of liking for any type of riding.
When I take simple 40ยบ trekking bar with about 1" of rise, and mount it upside down, I get a mountainbike bar that takes MTN controls (which are cheaper and more more plentiful) and seems to work best for ALL kinds of riding.
Over distance touring, singletrack racing, commuting, I've done it all with a non-off-road certified trekking bar. Only in steep singlespeed climbing, at times I wished for a wider bar. Which makes the On-One Mary or any of the Jones H bars a better choice.

Now that a "normal" mountainbike is leaning towards having 100mm or more travel, and standing on 29+ wheels, mounting a drop bar should be getting ever easier. No more crazy riser stems needed. Especially if the frame is given a normalized head tube length.

I like the idea of having brake levers to be operated from multiple hand positions. But that is nothing a clever second lever can't fix, cable or hydraulic.

John said...

GT,

Interesting post. It brings to mind a few questions on the "State of Offroad Dropbars", as it were. Why do suppose that the Midge Bar is still alive and well despite the demise of the Luxy? Do you think there's enough demand for the Luxy for Brant or Chain Reaction or whomever owns the design to build it again? Or a reasonably close facsimile. Do you have the industry contacts to have your own design built in Taiwan or something? When the Salsa Woodchipper first came out, it was heralded as the ultimate offroad dropbar. How do you think it has aged? Is it still "all that"? Last question: The popularity of "gravel grinding" has resurrected interest in 40-45mm 700c tires, or 28ers, so to speak. Thus, old designs like Bruce Gordon's Rock n'Road tire finding new life. Do you something similar in store for offroad dropbars, which seem a perfect fit for gravel/"allroad" type riding? I know that's a lot to digest, but I also know you revel in such "inside baseball".

Zeno said...

Been on the lookout for one of these second hand for about a year now, but they're hard to find and I keep losing out to faster interneteers. It really would be ace if Brant, or someone else, managed to get this design back into production.

Guitar Ted said...

@John:

A laundry list of questions! Okay....

#1: That's easy- Because it is the only game in town for many off road riders that want drops. (I'll get to the Woodchipper in your question regarding it later)That and On One keeps making it. I know- Captain Obvious, but when you have the market cornered, why stop?

#2: On manufacturing the Luxy again- I have heard that Chain Reaction UK owns the design and tooling and is not willing to sell it or to do anything with it at this time. There has been talk, (again- scuttlebutt and nothing more), by some that would like to do a Luxy Knock-off, but the hurdles that would have to be jumped preclude the practical implementation of such desires.

#3: On the Woodchipper- This bar was fundamentally flawed from the onset by its radius of the drop section which makes the extensions point downward at an unusable angle. Many don't like the flare at the hoods either. It has its fans, for sure, but it isn't very practical for off road usage.

#4: many "old" drop bar designs still exist, (Nitto makes many of them), but I feel that for fast gravel road riders, the Salsa Cycles Cowbell really has a great shape and works very well as a drop bar for that sort of riding.