Tandem Cycling - Can We Discuss Stoker Handlebars?
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05-24-11, 10:41 AM
I'm thinking of a ergonomic-shaped or 'wing' stoker handlebar as my next investment of easing numbness of my stoker's hands and wrists. She's 5'-5", and our Trek tandem came with a 46cm cyclocross handlebar. (Bontrager CX Race or something like that.) I was reading the thread on padded tape kits like Specialized Bar Phat, and saw some people really like the wing bars like E3 Composites.
I can't find any info no E3. Apparently they were made by Performance bike, but not any more. A Forte carbon bar is at Performance that looks pretty good, but only goes up to 44cm.
1. Is a wide stoker bar like 46cm generally more comfortable for the hands and elbows?
2. Anyone know what happened to E3 Composites? Is it under a new name now or simply gone?
3. Many ergonomic drop bars I recently checked don't seem to have as much shaping at the bend for comfort in the hoods as the old photos of E3 I've found. Anyone know of an available bar similar to the E3? Or a bar that is more comfortable than a round bar in all the typical hand positions... tops, bend, hoods, and drops? Pic here: http://www.buzzillions.com/reviews/e3-curve-carbon-os-handlebar-reviews
4. Do the female stokers out there have good reviews of bars with short, compact drops? Or, is that mostly to reach levers with smaller hands, and so a standard drop size bar is just as good for a stoker, if not better since it's a bigger change in position?
Thanks in advance. This help with width, ergonomic contour, and dimensions of the drop will help me narrow down the shopping list.
05-24-11, 12:28 PM
This won't be of much help... mostly FWIW.
We have a pair of the E3 Composite "Curve" bars on our Calfee; very nice and purchased from Performance back in the fall of 2008.
1. Stoker bar width should be proportional to the stoker's shoulder width, just as it would be on most bikes. Bull horn bars seem to spec'd wider since the bull horns can intrude on the captain's loins; yet another subtle issue with bull horns. For example, Debbie rides on 42cm wide drop bars; single and tandem. She tried the 47cm wide bull horns and they were OK, but she missed her drops and wasn't as comfortable on the 'horns' because of their width. Again, handlebar width should be proportional.
2. E3 was one of Performance Bike's proprietary / house-brands similar to Scattante, Tirreno, Forte, Spin Doctor and Ascent. I think they simply dropped E3 and settled on Forte to reduce cost and confusion.
3. The E3 Curve really is a very Ergo bar. There are others that have similar features, but not too many that pull back slightly the way the E3 Curves do, which is a shame: great feature. Santana has a nice carbon bar, but still not as ergo as the E3. Haven't tried any others as I haven't been in the market. With our bars approach 12k miles / 3 years of use, it may be time to start looking. Let us know what you finally decide upon.
4. Likewise interested in hearing what others have to offer.
05-24-11, 12:30 PM
I have learned to spare no effort for stoker comfort, but before you focus only on handlebars consider her general bike position. Hand and wrist numbness is often caused by a saddle that is just a little too far forward. I suggest moving the saddle back just a little say 1/8" to start and see if that helps. Moving the seat back cantilevers more weight off of the hands and can help regardless of the bar or tape used. If that helps then experiment in small increments. Remember that if you move the seat back a lot that you are also effectively raising it further above the pedals and may need to lower it at the same time by roughly a third as much.
Even if that works some of the flat top bars do look good and may be worth a try also.
05-24-11, 04:25 PM
Thanks TandemGeek, that is interesting. Bars keep getting wider for mtb, so I wondered if roadies were gravitating to the same. Especially since Trek put this bar on their tandem bike. (I haven't yet jumped on the wide-bar bandwagon myself for mtb.) There are definitely a lot more choices at 44cm or 42cm.
Thanks waynesulak- I agree on your thoughts on stoker comfort. I've tried a lot of positioning, and she's finally happy with the saddle position, so I hate to mess with that much. The bar tape on the bike is quite thin now, and needs to be replaced. I figure it's a good time to think about changing the bars too before I re-wrap these thin round ones.
05-24-11, 05:36 PM
Bars keep getting wider for mtb, so I wondered if roadies were gravitating to the same.
MTB bar width is a different animal where you're now trading off steering leverage / control (think freeride and downhill) against a more narrow bar that is better suited for running wooded single track at slower speeds where quicker steering can be a benefit.
Again, shoulder width remains the best rough indicator of how wide road bars should be, remembering that the wider the bar, the closer the bar will need to be to the saddle nose adjust for reach where you could end up encroaching on knee clearance to the bars for out-of-the-saddle riding.
05-24-11, 08:20 PM
I put 46cm IRD B2 CF bars on our tandem for the captain and really like these. Might be very interesting for some stokers, albeit expensive. The wide, flat tops offer a very comfortable option. I can't really use this position as captain since the bars are a bit close, but I'm considering a longer stem. Maybe it's my imagination, but I'm getting less road buzz through the bars. Also, the cable routing is sweet.
05-25-11, 10:19 AM
Hi Rick. Wow, those bars do look cool. I'm not sure about that crook in the drop though... do you like that? Did you choose those bars for hand-numbness? Did they work?
I've seen in other posts that you guys do a lot of miles. Has your stoker had any difficulty finding good bars and what are they?
05-25-11, 12:35 PM
We probably don't ride any more than 350 miles/mo. unless we hit a month when we're doing two centuries. The crook in the drop works well if you have the bar height and reach such that your wrists are at a good angle when your riding on the angled portion. I chose the bars for a combination of cable routing and (hopefully) relieving hand-numbness. I do believe the bars have really dampened high-frequency vibration (we have a Wound-Up CF fork) and haven't experienced hand numbness on either of the two 100K we've ridden since moving to CF. Stoker has bull horns and seems satisfied; in fact we tried to configure her single with something equivalent to bull horns but gave up (she doesn't ride her single much anyway). I suspect if we were younger and riding singles more aggressively we might be looking at drops for the stoker, but at 5'7" tall stoker cockpit length might be an issue.
05-25-11, 04:57 PM
That makes sense about the crook having to be the right angle. Also, it sounds like your stoker is blessed with naturally being able to ride for several hours without hand pain. Yes, I'm a fan of CF, but I don't want the thread to go into that debate.
I hope I didn't diss waynesulak's comments on positioning... I've tried a lot of adjustments, but she's just not in tune with fine adjustments. One time when I was feeling flustered at finding the right seat angle for her, I put it at... I swear, a 30 degree angle nose-down and had her sit on it without her seeing the seat. After adjusting it nose-up, nose-down, and in between, I wanted to show her the feeling of a definite bad adjustment. She got on it and said "it seems okay". (!!!!!!) Anyway, now I think the bike is pretty good in the trade-off of sit-bone pain and hand pain, so I'm ready to throw technology at the problem. First was thinking of Fizik gel or bar phat but that thread led to an interest in ergo handlebars.
Any other high-milers have feedback on stoker's bars to resolve hand numbness?
05-25-11, 05:31 PM
wheelspeed - We are not real high milers but for what it's worth my stoker is very happy with the flat handlebar our builder put on our bike. It is a Nitto Jitensha Studio bar that has some shape to it to provide different hand postions and wrist angles. She is small enough that there is not much aerodynamic benefit for her to go to drops behind me, even when I am in the drops in front. The bar is set at her seat height or maybe a shade lower. If this link doesn't work you'll find it by gogling Nitto Jitensha Studio handle bar.
05-25-11, 08:46 PM
Any other high-milers have feedback on stoker's bars to resolve hand numbness?
My stoker is a big fan of the carbon bar with the flat tops like this http://skymoul.info/winwood-carbon-road-scholar-bar.php
I'm pretty sure we did not pay that much for them and they are actually the same design as the Sampson Stratics bars http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/tech.php?id=photos/2006/tech/newarrivals/03-28/Sampson_Stratics_bar_three-quarter_view
Although we have ridden a lot of road miles in the past, we currently spend a disproportionate amount of time on the mountainbike tandem (also carbon bars though).
05-25-11, 11:46 PM
If you're looking for a bar with extensive ergonomic shaping then try the Controltech Formidable:
It's aluminum, so no stupidly expensive like the carbon options, but still has a heavily shaped top section. 44cm is the widest size available.
05-26-11, 12:02 PM
No problems here. I have tried to fit riders with little body awareness and I know it can be frustrating. If you are balancing seat and hand pain then things could get better as the stokers legs gain strength and the bottom get tougher. We were in your predicament and as my stoker rode more her seat position slowly migrated back reducing the weight on her hands. Now no hand or wrist pain.
05-26-11, 06:04 PM
Thanks all. So, it is seeming that a lot of people like the ergo bars. Interesting that Chris found an aluminum set that works. I definitely like the price of Al better! (Especially since any of these bars are going to force me to buy a new stoker stem as well.)
Your right, Wayne. Our last ride was our longest, and she says her 'lady parts' didn't hurt at all, only her sit-bones towards the end. That made me come to the same conclusion as you... that I can now raise the nose a bit.
05-26-11, 06:33 PM
I put on these:
Stoker really likes them. They give a variety of hand positions and wrist angles. They also look kinda sexy on the bike. Bar width needs to be enough for stoker's fingers to just clear or almost clear captain's hips, so that makes bar width dependent on captain rather than stoker. If captain has longer legs than I do, then the bars can be completely below captain's butt and sized to suit stoker..
Stoker has had zero butt and etc. problems since we put on her Specialized Lithia saddle.
05-30-11, 04:35 PM
Our bike came with reversed track bars, and so far the stoker is happy, but I may put some drops on it in the future and see how she likes it.
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