Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Tumbleweed Bicycle Co. Big Dipper Handle Bar: Conclusions

 Note: Tumbleweed Bicycle Co. sent a Big Dipper handle bar to Guitar Ted Productions at no charge for review. I was not paid, nor bribed for this review, and I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. The first part of this review can be seen HERE.

In the last update I mentioned that I had a very specific course in mind before I wrote up my final verdict on these handlebars and now that I have ridden that course, I am ready to end the review. I also wanted to compare and contrast the wider drop bar choices against the current fad of the use of a narrow drop bar with flared drops in road.  I'm sure it will show up in gravel events this year as well.

The Tumbleweed Big Dipper Handlebar mounted to a Dingular Gryphon Mk3

So, first let's look at my findings with all the riding I have been doing with this handlebar. I've done single track, urban, bike path, deteriorated gravel, gravel, and grassy tracks using the Big Dipper both in loaded and unloaded configurations. I have also done a small amount of snow riding as well. 

Short rides and rides lasting up to four hours have also been done on this handlebar. So, by this time I feel as though I have  a pretty good handle (no pun intended) on what the Big Dipper is like and what it has to offer. 

On the positive side of the ledger the Big Dipper bar will give a bit over rougher terrain due to its width and tubing profile. Whether this was designed purposefully or whether it is just a "happy accident", the bar does a good job of taking the edge off some sharper hits.  By no means is it as good as a suspension stem like the Redshift ShockStop stem, or like any suspension fork, but it does lend a smoother ride to the rider. 

The Big Dipper Drop Bar looks handsome and is reasonably priced at $115.00USD. So, that width won't break the bank and you get a well designed bar in return. I appreciate that about the bar also. (But again, I'll remind you that Tumbleweed sent this one out at no charge) 

About That Width: I was very skeptical that I would be able to get along with a handlebar that was 8cm wider than what I normally ride. However; I was pleasantly surprised that it felt kind of "normal" and when I got back on my other gravel drop bar rigs, those handlebars suddenly felt narrower and twitchy. 

So, yes, stability is enhanced a bit by the wider bar as well. Additionally, this stability and slowed-up handling was a boon in sketchy, loose terrain or on snow and ice. 

The width also played into having more leverage while loaded to keep side-to-side bike stability high and of course, cranking the bike up a climb was also enhanced by that width. 

So, was there anything negative to say about that wide of a handlebar? I think one has to be careful that you don't get carried away with width. I happen to have pretty wide shoulders and longer arms. This allowed me to adapt quickly to this width bar. But if your build is smaller of stature, narrow at the shoulders, or both, you could get too wide easily. I felt a bit different muscle soreness after longer rides on the Big Dipper bar and I attributed that to the wider stance of my hands. 

As far as hands go, I think one thing has to be mentioned here that not many folks who review handlebars think about, or at least, they do not mention this. People ride on the hoods while using drop bars a lot these days. In fact, many barely ever use any other hand position. So, what exactly about any handlebar makes brake hood levers feel like a good place to ride? Nothing about a handlebar affects that position. (Unless the bars are really flared, that is) That's all in the design of the lever itself. So, I won't tell you about that position on the Big Dipper bar. 

One of my nits about the Big Dipper Bar is that the extensions are too short.

Riding in the drops is where I like to be into a wind, running down a steep bit of trail, or for longer, grindy climbs. The Big Dipper is serviceable in these situations but a half an inch more length in the extensions would go a long ways toward making things happier down there. 

The best thing about the Big Dipper, as far as hand positions go, is that wide section of the tops between the levers where you can sit up a bit, relax your back, and cruise without having your hands too close together. Those bars with narrower tops sections can be hard to ride when grasping the center section due to the shorter lever you have over the steer tube. 

Now would you be better served with a more aero, narrower bar for gravel? Maybe one of those crazy, super-narrow flared drop bars? I think of it this way- If you need "aero" get aero bars and use them on gravel. Don't sacrifice the stability, comfort, and control of a wider bar for the "aero" of these weird, niche, racing-only handle bars. Well, unless you are a racer and aero bars are banned. But you do you. 

Conclusions: I really like the Tumbleweed Big Dipper Handlebar, and maybe, if I could sway them into this, I would persuade Tumbleweed to add a bit of length in the extensions. If they were to do that, the Big Dipper would be nearly a perfect drop bar for unpaved and gravel use. 

I think the design, which is much more closely related to traditional road drop bar designs, would work for many people in long-distance, ultra-gravel events, bikepacking, or just for your general purpose gravel rides. There is a ton of space up front for a handlebar bag or a longer roll for sleeping gear or some tents. The stability lent to the rider via the width is a good thing on long days where you may get fatigued by a narrower bar and have trouble with handling. 

Personally, I think the bar this Big Dipper replaced on my Singular is still one of my favorites. The Luxy Bar has a narrower distance between the brake levers, but it has a wider drop extension section which is "swept" outwards and aligns my arms and shoulders much like a Jones Bar might, for reference. Trouble is that bar has been long out of production and no one makes anything quite like it in 2024. 

The Big Dipper comes in a close second to that old handlebar I have. It's really good. Give the Big Dipper bar a try if your are looking for a handsome wide drop bar that will serve you well. It does the wide drop bar thing very nicely and would be my choice now for such a handlebar for my bikepacking rig. 

See the BigDipper Bar at Tumbleweed Bikes HERE.

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