PEZ Gets To Grips With Handlebars!
A hands-on feature
Tech Rant: What’s next for the humble handlebar? Who knows, but Ed Hood has been examining the most recent developments of the ‘cow horns’ at the front of the bike. Aero is the thing of the moment and the ‘bars need to cut through the air like a knife, time for a handlebar rant.
As is my habit, I was wondering around looking at the bikes here at the Rotterdam Six Days, checking out the handlebars. . .
Handlebars – they used to be simple, if you liked ‘square’ bars then it was Cinelli 64 or the deeper 66, the ‘Merckx’ bend – if you didn’t like ‘square’ bars and preferred a ‘flared’ design then you went for the 63. There were other bars available, like the very light TTT bends and Ambrosio made bars too with the Giro di Sicilia a popular shape; but Eddy and Roger rode Cinelli so that was that for many of us for a long time.
And some of the older, more traditional riders do still ride conventional bars, Niki Terpstra for example. And it’s true there were some innovations back in the 80’s like the ‘ergonomic’ bars which had a ‘flat’ on the drops and were very comfortable – but the real changes started with that Lemond dude.
‘Tri’ bars burst onto the stage when they were largely responsible for Greg winning the ’89 Tour by eight seconds from a devastated Laurent Fignon.
But then things got way crazy with Scott producing ever-more outlandish configurations of ‘bars which we purists could hardly steel ourselves to look at. Things got even worse with companies trying to outdo each other on the, ‘aero thing’ with riders like Toni Rominger, Thierry Marie and Gianni Bugno appearing on ever more convoluted bends which would a give a plumber’s pipe bending machine a run for it’s money.
Tri-bars now are much sleeker and aero having evolved to where you can pay £2,000 Sterling for the AeroCoach Vantaggio as used by Pippo Ganna to break the world hour record.They’re hand made in the UK and made to suit the individual characteristics of the rider who orders them. 3D printing has entered the tri-bar frae now but not always with happy results – remember what happened to the Aussie team pursuit squad in Tokyo?
One of the super-light 3D printed tri-bars snapped causing Alex Porter to crash into the boards, face first at 65 kph.
But the shape of six day riders’ bends remained pretty consistent – until Australia’s Cameron Meyer, who was one of the first to adopt the current ‘riding on the tops’ style of riding on the track, came up with his, ‘Sphinx’ bar in collaboration with the Italian TTT company.
Recently retired ‘King of Gent,’ Iljo Keisse was a devotee and Danish six day man, Marc Hester who rides here, still uses them on his English, Dolan frame – the same marque as favoured by Messrs, Keisse and Mørkøv in their six day hey days. To an old school purist like me they don’t rest easy on the eye but then I’m not riding 60 kph chases.
But the advent of the Sphinx was the catalyst for a whole new generation of ‘bars. Former World Madison Champion, Germany’s Theo Reinhardt rides these weird and wonderful ‘bars complete with rubber pads and non-slip abrasive grips on his German Federation FES machine. The ‘visible weave’ on the FES is not unattractive but I rather hanker for the old days when black was NOT the colour of most frames.
The man Theo won his world madison titles with, big Roger Kluge is also one for radical bars, like Theo’s they have abrasive ‘gripper’ areas instead of handlebar tape; he’s also astride an FES.
World Point Champion, Yoeri Havik is another to go down the ‘rad’ bars route on his Dutch, Koga machine.
Whilst European and World Elimination Champion, Elia Viviani rides Pinarello’s MOST ‘bars complete with integrated extension. Very cool and light but a rider must have his position 100% dialled before going down the integrated bars and stem road with four figure prices not unusual you don’t want to make a mistake.
The recent search for ‘ultimate aero’ has led to ‘longer’ more stretched positions on the bike and some of the extension lengths on show here would never have been seen even a few years ago, this on one of the Dutch Koga machines.
Our Czech sprinter, Thomas Babek rides an 18 cm. extension on his Argon, he is one of those whose position has ‘stretched’ in search of ‘more aero.’
Meanwhile the likes of the Malaysian sprinters – and GB riders have been going for ever narrower bars to improve their CdA. But it’s got so out of hand that the UCi is introducing new rules from January 2023 which limits the minimum width of ‘bars.
And whilst the likes of Elia are very much into attention to detail not everyone has got, ‘the look’ right – some aren’t easy on the eye, would be more at home as a scaffold clamp and can’t possibly be slippery through the air.
One of the most radical ‘bars are the ASHAA 3D printed titanium bends which can be found on our own Wojciech’s Argon machine, these come from TooT Engineering in Montichiari in Italy. Elia Viviani had a hand in their design and they are perhaps the most ‘different’ of all the bars on show here but give the riders four different hand positions.