Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Salsa Cycles Cowbell II Handle Bar: Moar Cowbell!

In terms of drop bars that I write about, the recent post I did concerning the Salsa Cycles Cowbell II handle bar has garnered tons of traffic here. (Not due to anything I have done, but owing to lack of info out there on this bar.) Seeing as how there is a lot of interest in the Cowbell and Cowbell II, I am posting up this brief comparison with the Bell Lap bar, also a Salsa Cycles offering.

New graphics on the Cowbell II are tastefully subtle

Why the Bell lap? Because the Cowbell is so much like the Bell Lap, and it is purposed for similar usage. That seems to be mainly cyclo-cross, but I also see this bar as being a gravel grinder's friend, and for folks wanting a more comfortable road bar they can actually use the drops with and not be uncomfortable.

Let's take a closer look...

Cowbell II (Bottom), and Bell Lap (Top)
The basic shape from the front is very similar. The Bell Lap is a 25.4mm clamp model and the Cowbell bars will all be 31.8mm clamp diameter bars. The difference between the Cowbell I and II is in the alloy used and weight. (Cowbell II is 292 gms) Both bars have flare, and as far as I can tell, that flare is identical between the two bars. The Bell Lap features cable grooves, while the Cowbell has flattened areas instead of grooves. Obviously, the Bell lap has that funky ergonomic bend in the drop area. The Cowbell has a variable radius bend.

Cowbell II (Bottom) and Bell Lap (Top)
In the view from up top, you can see some of the bigger differences between the two bars. The Cowbell II, (bottom), has less reach. (Approx 70mm as I measure it) The transition into the ramp section is more abrupt on the Cowbell, making the tops incrementally wider than the Bell Lap's. You can see that the minimal sweep on both bars appears to be identical. The drop extensions reach back further on the Cowbell due to the minimal reach, which makes them appear much longer than the Bell Lap's. However; they are actually only a centimeter longer. Both bars here are 46cm width. (Measured at the point where the top of the brake hoods would likely mount for most folks. The ends are actually about 52cm center to center due to the sweep and flare. This is the same for both bars.)

Cowbell II (L) Bell Lap (R)
Here we can see the other major distinctions between these two bars. The older Bell Lap design features an overall deeper drop, and more slope to the ramp section. The Cowbell II has shallow drop, (measured at 140mm from the table top to the bar tops), and a flatter ramp section. (Note: The reach looks longer on the Cowbell II than it really is at this angle. Also, I had to tape down the bars to get this shot!)

The Cowbell's flare and graduated brake mount guides
The flare on both these bars is minimal. It is more than a Nitto Noodle and perhaps slightly less than a  Nitto Randonnuer bar. The biggest difference here is that the Cowbell has a minimal amount of outward sweep to the extensions, which the Nitto bars do not have. Obviously, the variable radius bend drops and shallow drop dimension is a major departure from the Nitto bars as well.

There is your brief tour and comparison with the Bell Lap bars of the Cowbell II. I think it will find a home with cyclo-crossers, long haul cyclists, gravel aficionados, and folks wanting comfy road bike bars. The Cowbell should set up well for tourists and racers alike.

Comments: The Cowbell Bar is really close to what I would have done with an off road "dirt drop". (I know- I said it was what I would have done, but it isn't quite on the mark, now that I have seen it.) That said, it isn't really a bar suited for rigorous off roading/mountain biking due to the minimalistic sweep in the drops. Could you mountain bike with a Cowbell II? Well, of course, you could. But there are better drop bar choices for that out there with better sweep to the extensions which would give you better control in the rough stuff.

I see this bar as a great alternative to road drop bars for gravel riding. It will have just enough flare and sweep to offer good control over the bike in loose, chunky stuff, and the shallow drop dimension will make being in the drops for miles of head winds more bearable. The minimal reach will help also with climbing from the drops. All of this translates over beautifully to cross racing, of course, and that is where this bar will become very popular. That said, a lot of recreational road riders should take a long, hard look at this bar. It will make the drops far more useable, and the short reach will make braking far easier for folks with smaller hands. The slight flare and sweep will surprise many road riders with a increased feeling of stability and comfort too.

I'll be mounting these to a bicycle soon and getting some ride impressions up shortly.

UPDATE: Salsa Cycles site has been updated with info on the Cowbell bars and more. Check it out!


GNAT said...

Thanks GT for the coverage. Our website got updated yesterday with lots of new product including the Cowbell bars. I think you might also want to take a gander at the Bend bars.

james said...

You state the bell lap is a 25.4 diameter bar. Isn't that predominantly a MTB bar size?

Guitar Ted said...

@james: Yes, it is a predominant mtb standard, (or was, 31.8mm is taking over that as well) Most Bell Lap bars out there are likely 26.0 or 31.8, but this one came on a Fargo with a Salsa CroMoto stem, so I am pretty sure I got it right, but it could be a 26.0mm. I double check that....

mw said...

ordered the cowbell 2 yesterday for my fancy new custom fat tire road bike...

i'm excited.

i wish i could always be planning a new custom bike, but i'd have to be bringing in more cash.

Slonie said...

Neat, I had no idea... Been staying away from the Bell Lap due to the funky ergo bend, but the shape of these Cowbell bars looks VERY NICE.

Drew- FTW POLO! said...

Thanks for all your awesome reviews.

I currenty have the FSA Omegas on my touring bike. I tried the Woodchippers and couldn't get them comfortable for both the drops and the hoods, but I did love the width.

I'm curious as to how the Cowbells compare to the Omegas (if you have experience with them). The drop and reach is about identical. The Omegas only have 4 degree of flair. I really like the Omegas ,but I liked the flair of the woodchippers. Would the Cowbells be worth it to buy? or are they similar enough to the omegas?