Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bar Swap: Salsa Cycles Cowbell

Stock FSA bars on the Tamland Two
The noble handle bar experiment is over. I gave them an honest shot with a few rides, but I could tell, it wasn't meant to be. So a Salsa Cycles Cowbell 2 was ordered up and now resides on the Tamland Two. No fault of the FSA bars, they are good, but they do not meet my rigid standards for what a drop bar should be. That is- "a handle bar with a downward turned "hook" that lends itself to being used in several positions for the hands to control and steer a bicycle. They also should not impinge upon the operation of shifting, (if said bicycle is geared), nor in the operation of braking, from any hand position on the hook/hood section. They also shall be wide to accommodate my jumbo jet sized torso." That's my technical definition for ya.

The FSA bars failed in two ways for me. One- they were definitely not wide enough for me. At 44cm, they felt like a juniors bar to me when riding. Worse- the lack of width was a serious hindrance to leverage. In much the same way a wider bar on a mountain bike gives better stability and control, so does a wider road bar. And of course, I looked silly and pinched in riding these narrow bars. Again- it's just me, I am sure!

However; secondly and more importantly, the brake lever was not reachable from the drop without letting loose of the drop section a bit. Not cool. Shifting from the drops was nigh unto impossible as well. Why are drop bars like this? That's easy- because you aren't supposed to use the drops anymore, silly! The drop section on road bars is a silly, unnecessary appendage only displayed so others can be sure of your "roadie-ness". I mean, otherwise you might be mistaken for a hipster with pursuit bars, right?

So anyway, something really had to be done since this wonky design was impeding the operation of the bicycle. The Cowbell 2 is a proven design, as I use it on the Black Mountain Cycles rig and have used various shifters with great results. So a 46cm bar showed up yesterday, which improved the width factor, and I got right to installing them.

Cowbell. I need more Cowbell!
The Cowbell is also slightly flared and very slightly "swept" outward in the drop section. The drop section is also longer by a bit, which I appreciate greatly. More places to put my hands is always a good thing on drop bars!

There is a Cowbell 1, and the difference is only in the material used to make the bars. The "1" is a 6000 series aluminum and slightly heavier. It costs about $30.00 bucks less than a "2" which is made from 7000 series aluminum and weighs a bit less. Both are 31.8mm clamp diameter bars only and only come in black ano. MSRP is about $75.00 for the "2". I payed for mine and am glad I have them!

Reached! FTW
The Cowbell has an entirely different shape to it and less reach and drop by a long shot versus the FSA bar it replaced. But most importantly, I can easily shift and brake from the drop position now. This will not only make quick shifting a breeze, but it will definitely be safer!

There is a hidden benefit in all of this as well, which I did not realize until I got out to ride yesterday. That is now I have another contact point which is familiar and the same as the BMC bike. Making a comparison to the BMC will now be easier, since handling and "feel" in the bars will not be colored by the inferior design of the FSA bar. (My words on the FSA bar, some may love those things.)

It was great riding the Tamland yesterday with the new bars. Much more comfortable, and obviously, easier to ride since I didn't have to contort my arms to operate basic functions. Braking was made so much better! Speaking of which, a lot of folks have been wondering about the TRP Spyre brakes on this Tamland.

The Spyre brakes have two moving pistons instead of one, like most mech brakes have, (including Avid BB-7's), so in that respect they are unique. This brake has a much better feel at the lever, especially with STI Shimano levers, which I've used with other mech disc brakes before and they were not easy to set up and didn't feel that great. Typically the Avid BB7's tend to feel too "mushy" and lack power with the STI levers, which tend to use up a lot of their travel to develop the kind of stopping power you may need. Not so with the Spyres, and this is the main difference. You get a great modulation feel, but you also do not have to pull the lever too far to get that. Power is great. Plenty of that on tap. The bonus here is that the Spyre brakes have been incredibly quiet as far. We'll see how long that goes on for.

Okay, so I have my Cowbell handle bars on the Tamland now and I think I'll be set for awhile. Bring on the training miles and the Gent's Race!


Doug G said...

Probably because I have been using luxy bars for a few years now on my fargo but my salsa casseroll that came with cowbell bars felt really awkward and constrained. I switched to soma junebug and the difference was night and day for the better.

Looking forward to trying those spyre brakes. Bikerumor showed a new model was nearing production that looked pretty nice.

matt said...

Thanks for the continuing information/review on the Tamland. It is very interesting and I really enjoy keeping up with your thoughts and what you're doing with it.

Please continue!


the technIAn said...

To address the lever reach issue (obviously doesn't fix the width issue):

There is a reach adjustment feature on the 9000/6800 levers to bring the reach to the lever into a reasonable range. Once the hood/lever is positioned on the bar, simply adjust the lever stroke inwards to bring the lever into a natural reach range for the end user's hands (when the hand is positioned in the drops). The screw is directly under the "horn" of the lever hood.

Guitar Ted said...

@the technIAn: Yes, that is true, but vit effectively shortens the amount of travel of the lever somewhat, which is not ideal with mech disc brakes, thus the Cowbell is a much better "fix".

Barturtle said...

Not to be counter, but doesn't the lever being closer on the Cowbell to start also mean it can travel less before it bottoms out on the bar?

I guess, if someone cared enough to take the time to measure, one could measure total cable pull from where the lever is adjusted for maximum reach to when it bottoms out on the bar to find out, but it's really a moot point if the bar isn't really comfortable to begin with.

Guitar Ted said...

@Barturtle- It isn't optimal with mech disc brakes to run the pads right up to the rotor. It begins to lose modulation and gets more "on-off" feeling with little in between. If that makes any sense. With less cable pull, (lever travel, if you will), you either have to compromise on pad set up, or have less brake. Lever adjustment on caliper style brakes, (both for road and flat bar), is typically a crude, lever travel limiter, and not merely a lever placement adjustment, as it is typically thought of. At best, it is a band aid approach to making one lever fit all hands.

Doug M. said...

Another Cowbell lover here. Though for my slight frame, 42cm is 'wide' enough (a bike fitter would have me on 38cm bars; hogwash!). I've found I like the shape of the Ritchey Curve bars on my paved road bike; similar drop & reach to the Cowbell but no flare.

One Eyed z said...

I wanna get a set of Cowbells on the Macho Man before the Gents. I put a set on my Nature Boy this winter. Only ridden them a couple times but I know I want a 2nd set. Comfy bars for sure!

David K said...

I have above average sized hands and yet have difficulty using the drops on almost every bike I have ridden since the invention of STI shifters. Can you describe or quantify why the Cowbells are so much better than the FSA bars? I want exactly what the Cowbells offer except the flare. BTW, I read the above post and will look into the Ritchey Curve bars. Thank you.

Guitar Ted said...

@David K: In the post I described why the Cowbell is better (for me) and why the FSA bar wasn't a good fit. I didn't list off everything that I feel makes the Cowbell a better bar, and this space is not the format to really do that justice.

Besides, I have absolutely no idea at all how you are sat on your bike. A bike fit by someone that can actually see what is going on with your particular needs may be a better option than having me try to describe things here. Just a thought.....

You then say you are going to try the Ritchey Curve bars, which is a bar I would detest. See? Different strokes for different folks. I don't think I really have anything to offer to help answer your questions here, but I do appreciate your comments and reading the blog.