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  1. #1
    Yen
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    Bullhorns in lieu of drop bars

    While riding the Roubaix I've found that I love everything about drop bars -- except the drops. I've already explained my wrist issue but just for the sake of explaining that this is not about personal preferences..... I have a small silicon implant in my left wrist, surgically inserted 30+ years ago. It is held in place by the adjacent carpal bones and the surrounding tissue. It's a pretty good wrist, all things considered, except for a very few things that are painfully difficult. One of those is reaching for the brake levers while riding in the drops. And since it is too painful to do so, I don't ride in the drops. This is not a fit issue or an adjustment issue. There are some everyday things I can't do with the wrist, and this is simply one of them.

    Since I like everything about drop bars except the drops, I've been considering replacing them with bullhorns. After all, aren't bullhorns basically drop bars minus the drops? In addition, moving the brifters underneath the sides (where I ride most of the time) would be more ergonomically comfortable for my wrist than on the hoods.

    Has anyone done this with success? I believe it can be done and probably has, but I don't read about bullhorns used for this purpose. Just tonight someone mentioned in another thread that he doesn't like riding in drops anymore so it's moustache bars or bullhorns for him on road bikes. So, apparently I am not the only one.

    My Roubaix is in the shop getting new tires so I asked them to set it up with bullhorns as I described above. I'll let you know how I like it.
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    I have been riding a bike with bullhorn bars for over a year. Putting aside that the bike is a fixed gear, it has Shimano aero brake levers on them that are very similar in profile to the the Ultegra brifters on one of my other bikes.

    I like the bullhorns very much. So much so, that I have another pair waiting to go on either my old touring bike, or a new one, and it will be equipped with 8-speed Ultegra bar-end shifters rather than brifters (but with aero brake levers).

    I have considered the issue of attaching the brifters to the bullhorns, and cannot really see any practical difficulties with it. At least you don't have to ditch the brifters and spend even more money on another shifting system.

    I am interested in your outcomes. I can only see them being positive, especially if you had few intentions of using the drops on the original bars.

    By the way, you did check to get the right width -- just on the outside of shoulder-to-shoulder?
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  3. #3
    Ride Daddy Ride Jet Travis's Avatar
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    Well, it may just be me, but riding on the hoods or the tops of the bars of a drop handlebar is still much more comfortable than any bullhorn position I can find, so I'm sticking with drop bars. I have a bike with mustache bars, and it's fine, but I actually find it only has one really comfy hand position.
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  4. #4
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    How about a pic when you get it back.

    I've done bullhorns with other brake levers and bar ends and found them to be very comfortable because the brake levers aligned with my hands more like MTB levers. I've never tried STI levers and would like to see what the lever/bar spacing looks like.

  5. #5
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    I am sticking with drops, which provide a greater variety of hand positions than any other type of bar. On a long ride, that can be very important. I hated my mountain bike until I added perpendicular extensions to the ends of the bar, to provide me with additional grip positions. I really like neutral-rotation (handshake) orientation of the forearm, and conventional drops provide 4 such positions (above the brake hoods, on the brake hoods, below the brake hoods, and all the way down).
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  6. #6
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    There's no doubt that bullhorns will convert your brake pull into a simple squeeze action compared to the reachdown and pull back action needed when riding on the hoods with a road bike. If you need to keep your hands more in line with your forearms when doing this then bullhorns are THE way to go and I think you'll do well with them.

    I recently got my own first bullhorn bike and I'm loving it. Various hand options along with really easy to use brake applications. I'm running Cane Creek bar end tri levers in my case. I'm thinking I may also add inline cyclocross brake levers to the inner cross bar area as well so I have access to braking when I'm riding on the straight section to sit up more for casual moments.

    I'm curious about using brifters or aero levers on the bar ends given how the housings run into the tops of the levers. I take it you end up with flying housings instead of under the bar tape? Or do you just live with an extreme bend in the housing?
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  7. #7
    Yen
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    Quote Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
    There's no doubt that bullhorns will convert your brake pull into a simple squeeze action compared to the reachdown and pull back action needed when riding on the hoods with a road bike. If you need to keep your hands more in line with your forearms when doing this then bullhorns are THE way to go and I think you'll do well with them....
    Great! It just seems like it would work. I may be a trailblazer with a great idea, or crazy....... I'll know by the end of the week and will report my findings. I've been thinking about doing this for months and when I saw the bars in the shop, and the bike is there anyway for service, I thought I'd ask.

    Rowan: The fitter was in the shop that day and measured my shoulders for the width of the bars.

    Thanks for the positive encouragement.... I feel better about this now. It makes sense to me and I'm anxious to try it!
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    Attached is a picture of my set-up. The cables run back under the handlebar tape on the inside of the bars without much of a kink at the exit point from the levers.

    The only thing I would say to Yen is that you might have to consider having the bartape wrapped a couple of times as you adjust the cable underneath to the most comfortable position. But really, it's no different to having the cables run under the bartape from brifters on normal drop bars, provided the clamp is on the riser part at the front of the bars.
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  9. #9
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    What's the story on the frame pump mounted on the side of the downtube? Won't it fit under the top tube?
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    I prefer my pumps to be mounted on clips in the water bottle cages. Long story short, the HPX is new and I haven't got it mounted the way it should be. It's too short for the frame, anyway.

    I lift my bikes often by the top tube and the seat tube, so either place is not suitable for mounting pumps.

    This picture of my Fuji Touring shows a pump in the "proper" position:
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  11. #11
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Not sure if I would call it "proper", whatever that means and as if it mattered. But there is certainly nothing wrong with outfitting your bike the way you want for whatever functional or aesthetic reasons you choose. At least you didn't do something really "out there" like putting bumper stickers on your frame.
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  12. #12
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    A touring and randonnee and shopping bike with bumper stickers... I think not (and I am talking about the fixed-gear).
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  13. #13
    just going for a ride... lbear's Avatar
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    I am sorry I just do not get it. The OP said "Since I like everything about drop bars except the drops,"
    Whats wrong with just not using the drops??
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    It's one of those intangibles that cannot be explained unless you try it and like it, like riding FG, or a single-track on an MTB, or riding a recumbent, or tricking on a BMX, or a being comforted by a Brooks, or thanking heaven for a granny, or being saved by a helmet, or boasting the qualities of Ti/CF/Fe frames, or...

    And in the mob, bullhorn bars will set you apart... they add a bit of panache, if you like.
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  15. #15
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    As I have mentioned in other posts, drop bars - due primarily to their non-intuitive design - are completely misunderstood and misused.

    The normal position in which you use a drop bar is on the tops. I would say that for most recreational riding, 90-95% should be on the tops (hands on top of brake levers or resting on the top portion of the bars). All out-of-saddle climbing should be on top of the brake hoods (much better leverage because you want your weight as far forward as you can get it). All descending should be on top of the brake hoods (better air braking and visibility). The only times you should ever be in the drops would be:

    - sprinting (not too bloody likely for most people, unless they are being chased by vicious dogs)
    - pounding into a headwind (especially if there is a pace line behind you)
    - maybe some high-speed cornering, where you want more weight on the front wheel but you don't want to be feathering the brakes to shift weight to the front while turning (Google "traction circle")

    Therefore, the handlebar should be set so that you are comfortable while on the TOPS. A common mistake (propagated by the Rivendell Catalog) is to set the handlebar so that you are comfortable in the drops. This makes you too vertical while on the tops, and it messes up the weight distribution of a fine road bike and it exacerbates any saddle pain you may have because too much of your weight is now on the saddle. It also leads to the purchase of really dumb comfort saddles with too much padding and stupid holes, and could also lead to the purchase of a recumbent. The fact is, you're supposed to be uncomfortable in the drops! This is a temporary position for optimizing aerodynamics and ulilizing other leg muscles. You're NOT supposed to spend all day in the drops!

    Bullhorn bars (cowhorns for females, I guess...) are basically drop bars with the drops moved up to the tops. You lose the aero position (which you can regain by installing tri-bars, but then you lose the middle positions of the bullhorns), and the new "drop" position is pretty much the same as the "top" position. You maintain the same hand positions, but you lose the aero advantage in the drop position. Nothing wrong with them and overall bar utilization is increased significantly, but I would tend to agree with the poster who suggested that you just keep the drop bars and not use the drop position. However, it is handy those few times you do need it.

    L.
    Last edited by lhbernhardt; 10-01-08 at 05:12 PM.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by lbear View Post
    I am sorry I just do not get it. The OP said "Since I like everything about drop bars except the drops,"
    Whats wrong with just not using the drops??
    if one looks at how the brake levers are mounted the diff. is there.
    I often hear from people, with smallish hand/finger reach, that trying to apply strong braking while on the hoods is not a secure feeling. It becomes more obvious on long or steep downhills where many people ride the brakes (of necessity or just comfortable speed).
    The bullhorn mount places the levers directly under the hand and the braking movement is 'up' to the bar, as opposed to approx. 90 deg to the bar (in the std dropbar mount).
    This means you get the most leverage on the levers, especially with someone already stretching with fingertips to wrap the brake lever. also means less discomfort on a long ride.
    Yen, I think its a great idea, worth a try. Bars is cheap, in the scheme of bike pricing, and a small change can make a huge difference all the way around. And with the horns you still get the ability to have a comfortable and relaxed arm/elbow/shoulder position, which is huge.
    lookin for your feedback when you get it on the road.

    Edit: As a suggestion, since you'll be spendin more time in just those 2 positions - I added the self-adhesive gel strips to the tops of my bars and they greatly improve comfort over a squishy gel glove. I prefer thin gloves. The Gel Strips, when wrapped over by bartape are quite firm - no squish - but make a big diff when I'm on the bartops and top bends. I don't have it down to where the hands are when on the hoods or anywhere on the lower drop or bends.
    For a bullhornm, they might be worth putting on the top of the horn, starting just back from the most forward bend. I think at $10 they're worth a try for really increasing comfort in that position...
    IMO
    Last edited by cyclezen; 10-01-08 at 05:26 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    After carefully reviewing Tom Bombadil's lengthy thread of flat-bar options a few weeks ago, I ordered the infamous Nashbar Trekking Bars ($17.95) and put them on the old steel MTB I am converting into a beater. Rode it to work for the first time today.

    Hmmm. Not quite loving them yet; the brake position is super-easy to use, but that has never been a problem for me (I have big hands). But instead of having many hand positions (as on drops) it seems that trekking bars really only give you (at most) 3...and I probably need a shorter stem to take advantage of all 3.

    In any case, I do think the Trekking bars are a good option for many folks...one real benefit is the bar size is compatible with MTB controls so you can pop them on a MTB without having to change out your shifters/brakes/etc. (I would put a drop bar on this bike if I could do it without having to change all that $tuff.)

  18. #18
    just going for a ride... lbear's Avatar
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    I have been trying to sale my wife on the trekking bar option. She just can not find a good position on her FCR flat handle bike.
    As far as brake handle reach, there are spacers to shorten the reach.
    I may be mistaken but the OP was not complaining about the reach.
    He said.."like everything about drop bars except the drops,"
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  19. #19
    Yen
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    Thanks everyone. This has been an interesting discussion and I appreciate everyone's comments.

    The question "why just not use the drops" is a good one. I would wonder the same thing if I were not myself.

    Here's the story about my left hand:
    • The wrist has a 30-year-old silicon spacer implant due to avascular necrosis of the lunate bone.
    • Reaching for the levers while in the drops stresses the wrist.
    • Therefore, it's a very bad idea.
    • This is not simply a matter of learning to like riding in the drops; I've adjusted to the road nolr position, and I like it. My wrist will never like the drops the way my back and neck like the tops.
    • If I can't even reach for the levers (let alone squeeze them) while in the drops, then I don't want to ride there at all. PERIOD.
    • I don't care about aerodynamics except in a major head wind. In that case, I'll lean forward. I don't compete.
    • Bullhorns will NOT limit my positions on the bars -- I will use the same positions I used on the drop bars, since I didn't use the drops.
    • As cyclezen said, better leverage with the brake levers since they will be in line with the bars rather than at an angle. In addition, a MUCH MORE ERGONOMICALLY COMFORTABLE AND NATURAL location for my wrist. (Using the levers from the hoods isn't a problem.... not ideal for me, but not a problem.)
    • YMMV


    So.....
    • I don't lose a position.
    • I gain more comfort.
    • Who knows, others may follow.


    I'll let you know how it turns out. The LBS is doing it for me while the bike is there anyway for the first tune-up and to replace the tires (a big bulge was detected during last Saturday's ride).
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yen View Post
    * Who knows, others may follow.
    No, no, no! Don't make it a fashion! We all know that fashion is for people who don't have a style of their own. Let's just keep this as an exclusive little club, ok?
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  21. #21
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    No, no, no! Don't make it a fashion! We all know that fashion is for people who don't have a style of their own. Let's just keep this as an exclusive little club, ok?
    I've done it for a couple of years because I just like the brake lever position. It is more natural for me to change from the MTB's to the bullhorn because the brake levers feel the same. I posted some pictures here a couple of years ago for YEN showing Bar end shifters in the bar ends (surprise) and 24mm cyclocross levers clamped on just behind the shifters. I suspect that Yen will have better luck with the STI levers than I would because in this application, the upshift button is in a bad location on Sora.

    Lots more folks would like this solution if it didn't fly in the face of tradition.....

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    I am almost decided that my next touring bike will be similarly bullhorn equipped with 8sp Ultegra bar-end shifters. Simplicity and ease of access to all controls that drop bars with bar-ends cannot provide.

    One thing I also forgot to mention for Yen is that she may need to adjust the tilt of the bars to find the most comfortable position. It took a couple of rides for me to dial in mine.

    Another advantage she might find if she stands to pedal up hills, is that the bullhorns allow you to wrap your fingers right around the bar to pull up, rather than sort of halfway with half the fingers as on the hoods of drop bars. I find this particularly useful on an FG when climbing.
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  23. #23
    Yen
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    I am almost decided that my next touring bike will be similarly bullhorn equipped with 8sp Ultegra bar-end shifters. Simplicity and ease of access to all controls that drop bars with bar-ends cannot provide.
    That's one of my considerations for the LHT, but I'll ride it a while and see where my thoughts go with it. I think it's down to that or trekking bars.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    One thing I also forgot to mention for Yen is that she may need to adjust the tilt of the bars to find the most comfortable position. It took a couple of rides for me to dial in mine.
    I've already considered that as well.... I may angle them up a little in front. I'll figure that out after a few rides. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Another advantage she might find if she stands to pedal up hills, is that the bullhorns allow you to wrap your fingers right around the bar to pull up, rather than sort of halfway with half the fingers as on the hoods of drop bars. I find this particularly useful on an FG when climbing.
    That's another advantage I'm looking forward to.

    My bike came home from the shop today with the new bars, new tires, and freshly tuned up. I didn't have a chance to ride it this evening after work, but we'll be joining the group tomorrow for a fun ride to Balboa Island. I can't wait to try out these bars..... I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve who just knows there'll be a new trike under the tree in the morning. I'll take the camera and will post pics tomorrow. Wait'll you see it!
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