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  1. #1
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    Switch to MTB Handlebar Setup?

    First of all let me say I'm just thinking this through right now. Buying another bike is not an option either.

    Currently I'm using my "04 Bianchi Axis (here are the specs) mainly for training for and racing in the odd triathlon. I have clamp-on tri bars and I spend 80% of my time in them. The other 20% I'm on the hoods for shifting, braking or drinking. I'm not competitive, the triathlons are really something fun to do to keep me fit over the summer break in the soccer season.

    Here are some reasons why I started thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to switch my drop handlebars out for a flat MTB handlebar with MTB shifters/brakes:
    * When I'm just commuting around there is not much space on the top of the drop bars for my hands mainly due to the tri bars. They are a pain to set up and I definitely don't want to have to remove them.
    * I don't have any braking capability when on the top of the drop bars (and I don't have room to add those extra brake levers - again due to the tri bars) which is a bummer when goofing around and I really don't like the idea of going down a steep trail in the drop position.
    * I would like to take this bike on the odd MTB trail so would like a more comfortable, safe, upright riding position for downhills.
    * I never seem to ride in the drop position in the triathlons anyway.
    * Although the wider position on a MTB handlebar is less aerodynamic than on the hoods, I'm not in it that position too long usually and also it's when I'm going slower so aerodynamics aren't a big concern.
    * MTB handlebars being wider would allow more space around the tri bars.
    * I don't currently or plan to go for long road rides.
    * All I would have to do to switch from tri setup to off-road/trail is switch tires and lower the seat.

    Possible downsides/questions:
    * Is going on a MTB trail with tri bars attached potential suicide?
    * Should I be using the drop position more or do you think I would really miss it?
    * Would there be a potential conflict with the type of brake levers/shifters on a MTB handlebar setup vs my current setup?

    I'm not looking for the perfect setup obviously but I'm wondering if this is an okay or a terrible idea. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Jonno.

  2. #2
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    Hmm, I think I see another major flaw in my theory. The tri bars are made to clamp on 26 or 31.8mm handlebars. It seems that MTB bars are 25.4mm and it doesn't look like they have a wide enough clamp area either.

  3. #3
    Team Beer Cynikal's Avatar
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    31.8 is also a new MTB bar standard.
    I'm not one for fawning over bicycles, but I do believe that our bikes communicate with us, and what this bike is saying is, "You're an idiot." BikeSnobNYC

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    Hmm, maybe I need to do a bit more research on flared drop bars. I found this article which is interesting. I'm new to and have never raced Cx but I have noticed some of the pics on here with what look like flared bars. Can anyone point me to some more information about these?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnojohnson View Post
    Hmm, maybe I need to do a bit more research on flared drop bars. I found this article which is interesting. I'm new to and have never raced Cx but I have noticed some of the pics on here with what look like flared bars. Can anyone point me to some more information about these?

    I have two sets of Origin 8 Gary bars. They are the cheapest version of that bar you can get. I have them on my mountain bike and cross bike and love them. Most people look at my mountain bike and blow it off, saying there's no way it could be ridden on trails with that setup, but it works for me. I still don't understand why mountain bikes come with such uncomfortable bars.
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    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
    May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. -Edward Abbey

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    Senior Member c_m_shooter's Avatar
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    The dirt drops are a lot wider than the drops you have now and are very particular about how the bar is angled and where the brake hoods are positioned. Expect to experiment for a little while until you get it dialed in, but start with the drops pointed at your rear axle. If you only tape the section below the hoods to begin with (use used tape) it will make figuring them out much easier.
    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
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    MTB Bar Set Up

    Due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, I went from drop bars w/Scott clipon and downtube shifters to a MTB Bar w/Schwin Brakes/Indexed Shifters w/the Clip-on. I had all the same questions you did, but I've come to the point in life where enjoyment is not about speed. I love the new set up. Its the best of both worlds and my carpal tunnel doesn't bother me riding anymore (I was on lowers 50% of time). I'm down on the clipons when in a hurry & cruise comfortably with the straight bars when not. I cannabalized a Schwin Mountain bike purchased at a low price and everything fit first time.
    DF

  8. #8
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    Ok so I've done a bit more reading and found 3 possibilities of "dirt drops". Gary Origin 8, Midge and WTB (new version). I like the idea compared to the MTB bar (less messing around with new brakes and shifters) but I'm concerned about mounting my aero bars on any of these.
    The Midges & Origin 8's have clamp diameter of 25.4mm so my aero bars and stem wouldn't fit.
    The new WTB's have a 31.8mm clamp diameter but the clamp space looks very narrow and to be honest it doesn't look much different to a road bar.
    Any other options out there?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnojohnson View Post
    Hmm, I think I see another major flaw in my theory. The tri bars are made to clamp on 26 or 31.8mm handlebars. It seems that MTB bars are 25.4mm and it doesn't look like they have a wide enough clamp area either.
    Nothing some shims won't fix. The mismatch could be fixed with a piece of extra inner tube (bike shops will have garbage ones for free) or you could cut up a soda can if you're just trying to match 26 to 25.4.
    old steel Specialized Hardrock

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    Found the Soma Junebug which is 31.8mm and looks like it has less drop and perhaps a bit more flare than the new WTB but this review mentions that the clamp area isn't very wide (it doesn't seem like this is specified normally) which would be a problem for the aero bars.

    This guy seems to think we'll see some new options in this space in the near future. I'm not in a massive rush so I'm looking forward to it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnojohnson View Post
    Found the Soma Junebug which is 31.8mm and looks like it has less drop and perhaps a bit more flare than the new WTB but this review mentions that the clamp area isn't very wide (it doesn't seem like this is specified normally) which would be a problem for the aero bars.
    Great link, thanks for sharing.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonnojohnson View Post
    This guy seems to think we'll see some new options in this space in the near future. I'm not in a massive rush so I'm looking forward to it.
    This one isn't working for me.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    You could consider Salsa Bell Laps. Very moderate flare, but easy to buy a wide 46cm size - that reaches about 50cm at the flared tips. These could you give you the room you need. Or you could get Nitto Noodle Bars in 48cm. No flares, but the 2cm extra room might help you.

    What are your current bars - 42cm, centre to centre? 44?

    And you might try a shorter, higher stem. The aero bars should still let stretch out, but the combination of the new stem with the Salsa's generally well liked position for braking in the drops offroad might suit you.

    Otherwise, fit a stem designed for oversize bars and get a flat bar and matching aeros, as I think has been suggested.

  13. #13
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    I've thought about the Salsa Bell Laps or a wide regular drop bar but if I were to do that I'd want to install those extra brake levers on top and my hands would still be kind of narrow for off-roading.

    I think a flat bar would actually give me a good riding position for both off-road (high and wide hands) and tri (aeros) but it seems like the most changes requiring a new stem, new brake levers and new shifters.

    Now that I've discovered the "dirt drop" category I really like the idea. I guess I'm okay with getting a new 31.8 stem since I probably would want to figure out a new ideal angle for the new bar anyway. If I go dirt drop I'd be looking for a shallow drop and more flare since I at least think I care more about the off-road drop position than the aerodynamic road drop position.
    The guy who I think designed the Midge's is working on a new bar in the next few months which I'm guessing will be 31.8. Also the link above suggests we'll see a new one from Salsa.
    My aero bars are really best mounted on 31.8 (shims for 26) so that's another reason I'd be happy with a new stem. I tried shimming them down to 25.4mm on an old bike but it really was a mess trying to get a good grip.

  14. #14
    Surf Bum
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnojohnson View Post
    I really don't like the idea of going down a steep trail in the drop position.
    One thing I've discovered riding my cross bike (also an Axis!) on mountain bike trails is that I have a lot more control from the "hoods" riding position than from the top of the bar. I installed extra brake levers there so I can ride on the top and brake when I need a change of hand position, but I much prefer to just ride on the hoods. Feels very stable to me. I have the bars rotated back a little (pointing at the rear axle) like c_m_shooter mentioned. This might be the key difference.

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    So here is my current setup. Obviously the long flat stem stretches me out for the tri position which I think fits me quite well. I do have another, much shorter stem with a steep rise but I think it would cramp me up too much in the tri position. I made some measurements and my current bars seem to actually be 43cm (c-c). I'm sure they're either 42 or 44 and I'm not measuring correctly. The drops seem quite deep.

    I guess rotating this bar would raise the hoods and bring them back a little making them a bit more comfortable but they'd still be quite low compared to a typical MTB position wouldn't they.

    You know I'm coming to the conclusion I need a unique bar which has the drop angles of something like a midge both so I can use my existing road levers/shifters and for the comfort reasons mentioned above, but where the clamp section is lowered and further forward (like an upright bar). I need a midge with negative reach! lol.

  16. #16
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    Just to contradict pacificaslim, when riding *my* cross bike on mtb trails, I use the tops almost exclusively. Except for...super steep descents, when I use the drops. You get more braking power from the drops, due to the longer levers. I don't enjoy using the hoods at all on dicey terrain - your weight is too far forward and you have the least braking power of the three positions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevage View Post
    Just to contradict pacificaslim, when riding *my* cross bike on mtb trails, I use the tops almost exclusively. Except for...super steep descents, when I use the drops. You get more braking power from the drops, due to the longer levers. I don't enjoy using the hoods at all on dicey terrain - your weight is too far forward and you have the least braking power of the three positions.
    Interesting. Although I tend to agree about the braking power (I never feel too confident in braking power and speed on the hoods) I would have thought that your weight would be just as far forward in the drops as on the hoods. I haven't ridden any trails since I was a kid and certainly nothing but road on this bike so all opinions are appreciated.
    My problem with using the tops is there is not enough space due to the aero bars and I don't think a wider bar would do too much to help that.

  18. #18
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    I don't feel that riding on the hoods puts too much weight forward on my bike, but perhaps that's because I bought it a little on the small side. I'm 6'0" and riding a 55 top tube with 120 stem (that goes up a bit which brings bars back towards me). So I can still keep plenty of weight back and reach the hoods position. The reason I prefer the hoods to the tops on downhill is that my hands are just too close together on the tops. I suppose I could get wider bars but...

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