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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 04-03-08, 11:13 PM   #1
Sirrus Rider
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Handlebars and Saddles: What works for what for utility cycling?

I've chosen this forum for this question because I've always had the mind of a practical cyclist for moving myself and/or cargo from one place to another. When I was growing up in the late 70s early 80s there were four types of handlebars that I was aware of. BMX, drop/road, "North Road" type, and ape hangers ( after all this was the tail end of the 70s when Schwinn was King and you were nobody if you did have a stingray, Orange crate, etc.) and "C" (cruiser) bars

I understand the advantages of drop/road handlebars for providing hand positions over long distances; however, what advantages are there for the North Road? I observed with the "death" of the English three speeds during the late 70s early 80s that this type of bar disappeared and with the emergence of mountain bikes came the flat bar and the somewhat flattened version of the North Road called a high riser.

This brings me to heart of the issue seeing my primary commuter/utility bike is a hybridized " Generation 2" mountain bike with a flat bar which I found for rides greater than 5 miles to be rather uncomfortable and hand numbing with its palm down hand/arm position on wondering what would work better. Would this be the place where a North Road handlebar would be best? Should I go with a mustache handlebar.

Which brings me to the next part of the question. How would these different handlebars work with my current saddle which is a Brooks conquest? Would changing handlebars require a change in saddle as well?

How would these differing handlebar designs interact with mountain bike geometry compared to say the English three speed which the North Road was designed for use with? offer up an opinion and show me your own solutions to this scenario. (Besides, this is more fun when you get to see pictures! )

Last edited by Sirrus Rider; 04-04-08 at 12:44 AM.
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Old 04-04-08, 12:36 AM   #2
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To me, the relationship of the saddle and the handlebars is a close one. The conquest looks like a road bike/urban moutain bike saddle where it is more suited to the bent over riding position. By putting on riser bars, you'll be sitting more upright and the B-72 or B-66/67 are more suited to an upright position. That is juyst my opinion. I tried a B-17 on my utility bike, am Electra Townie. and hated it. I switched to a B-72 and have loved it. Conversly, I tried the B-72 on my touring and city bikes and the B-17 is much more comfortable on that bike. Personally, I like the upright seating position on a utility bike since I tend to use it around town.
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Old 04-04-08, 02:46 AM   #3
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With the way you appear to have that bike set up I would suggest a set of North Road style bars to get you a bit more upright. You may need a saddle adaptor to move the saddle back a bit too. IIRC it is available from either Bike Friday or Brompton. Donnamb here on the forums just had it done to her Breezer with favorable results.

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Old 04-04-08, 07:44 AM   #4
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Recently I put a set of North Road handlebars on my Dad's mountain bike, and he loves them. He was complaining about some hand pain and the North Roads give him a more natural hand position.
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Old 04-04-08, 09:53 AM   #5
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The North Road bars will bring your grip back and make you sit more upright due to the sweep and rise of the bars, but you have an adjustable stem so you're bound to find a correct position. If you decide to go with the moustache bars, you'll most likely be needing a new stem with a shorter reach--their forward sweep puts most hand positions too far forward compared to a flat-bar/riser setup if you don't swap out the stem at the same time. I'd also suggest the Soma Sparrow bars or the On-One Mary bars--where the North Road bars are more swept back, these maintain an angle at the grips that split the difference between the shallow sweep of riser bars, and the extreme sweep of the North Road bars.
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Old 04-04-08, 10:39 AM   #6
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The North Road bars will bring your grip back and make you sit more upright due to the sweep and rise of the bars, but you have an adjustable stem so you're bound to find a correct position. If you decide to go with the moustache bars, you'll most likely be needing a new stem with a shorter reach--their forward sweep puts most hand positions too far forward compared to a flat-bar/riser setup if you don't swap out the stem at the same time. I'd also suggest the Soma Sparrow bars or the On-One Mary bars--where the North Road bars are more swept back, these maintain an angle at the grips that split the difference between the shallow sweep of riser bars, and the extreme sweep of the North Road bars.
Yes, ALL of my bikes (5) have been changed over to North roads and a kalloy adjustable stem
to allow me to dial in supreme comfort on each bike.

NORTH ROADS BARS & KALLOY STEM ALL THE WAY.
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Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 04-05-08, 09:02 PM   #7
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I used a North Road type bar (actually... a Nitto Albatross...) on my commuter. I find it great for most trips you make on a utility-type bike.

However, for longer rides, I really like the drop bars on my Bianchi Volpe.

In the long run, for most shorter, utility trips, I think any type of handlebar would work. I do find MTB flatbars a little difficult on my wrists, but curved bar ends would solve the problem.
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Old 04-05-08, 09:10 PM   #8
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Put Nitto Albatross bars on my new Big Dummy...flipped of course.
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Old 04-05-08, 10:14 PM   #9
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Before a taller, shorter stem with North Roads:



With a taller, shorter stem with North Roads:

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Old 04-05-08, 10:19 PM   #10
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Riding before:



Riding after:

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Old 04-20-08, 02:54 PM   #11
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North road handlebars (see Rivendell Bicycle works for some nice bars) also offer multiple hand positions.By taping the bar you can put your hands anywhere you like also a utility bike should have in my opinion a saddle geared to comfort I.e a mattress saddle.
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Old 04-21-08, 10:35 AM   #12
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Riding before:



Riding after:

I must say that you do look MUCH more comfortable in the second photo with the Northroads
bars. All hunched over ,or all streched out, isn't my idea of comfort either.
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Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 04-21-08, 12:44 PM   #13
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And here are a few images I have of comparing an Albatross bar and a North road to the Mary.

A Nitto Albatross sitting on a Mary


A Nitto North Road on a Mary
Here is one compairing the rise difference between North Road and Albatross bars.


The Mary is sort of a cross between the North Road and the Albatross. It has a similar sweep to the North Road and a similar rise to the Albatross.

For saddles I like a sprung Brooks.
On my Xtracycle I'm running Albatross bars and a Brooks 135 saddle.
On my Bamboo bike--Albatross and a B67.
On my beach cruiser I have North Roads and a B33.
On my next bamboo it will be North Roads and a Brooks Champ Flyer.

I like an upright position on a utility bike and find that the sprung saddles are head and shoulders more comfortable than a non-sprung saddle.
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Old 04-21-08, 07:12 PM   #14
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Here is one compairing the rise difference between North Road and Albatross bars.


The Mary is sort of a cross between the North Road and the Albatross. It has a similar sweep to the North Road and a similar rise to the Albatross.
(snip)
I like an upright position on a utility bike and find that the sprung saddles are head and shoulders more comfortable than a non-sprung saddle.
The "pull back" on the Northroads is where all the upright comfort comes from. The Albatross
has a little "pull back" but is wider for more steering leverage needed on rough roads.

That said, add a kalloy adjustable stem and you can dial in SERIOUS comfort!!!!!!!!
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Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 04-22-08, 09:14 AM   #15
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KALLOY STEM:
I would love to use an adjustable stem, but my diameter is 1" and the stem I am using now is the Wald 511. The rise of the 511 is 7" and the quill is 3" by my measurement.
http://www.eatonbikes.com/detail.asp...11+12in+Chrome

I need this much rise, but the 3" quill defeats the Northroad sweep so that my hands are just behind the stem. If I could move m hands back three inches or so, that would be great. I tried flipping he stem around, but that made the bars too close to my knees.

Is there a stem, preferably adjustable, out there for me?
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Old 04-22-08, 10:22 AM   #16
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KALLOY STEM:
I would love to use an adjustable stem, but my diameter is 1" and the stem I am using now is the Wald 511. The rise of the 511 is 7" and the quill is 3" by my measurement.
http://www.eatonbikes.com/detail.asp...11+12in+Chrome

I need this much rise, but the 3" quill defeats the Northroad sweep so that my hands are just behind the stem. If I could move m hands back three inches or so, that would be great. I tried flipping he stem around, but that made the bars too close to my knees.

Is there a stem, preferably adjustable, out there for me?
Here are some "zoom" brand stems that will work.
http://www.bikemannetwork.com/catego...DJ&p=3&store=1

Kalloy stems.
http://www.gaerlan.com/bikeparts/parts/stem/stems.html

adjustable quill stem.
http://www.universalcycles.com/shopp...&category=2743

Google for more.........
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My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 04-22-08, 11:02 AM   #17
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Here are some "zoom" brand stems that will work.
http://www.bikemannetwork.com/catego...DJ&p=3&store=1

Kalloy stems.
http://www.gaerlan.com/bikeparts/parts/stem/stems.html

adjustable quill stem.
http://www.universalcycles.com/shopp...&category=2743

Google for more.........
Maybe you don't understand. Or maybe I don't. The one I am using now has a rise of 177mm, not counting what stays stuck in the tube. I'm not certain how these are measured in the catalog, but the longest I saw mentioned is 110mm. I suppose I could order an extra long adjustable quill to make up the difference in height, but I would wonder about it's strength and ability to stay put. The torque would take it's toll, I think.
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Old 04-22-08, 11:29 AM   #18
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Maybe you don't understand. Or maybe I don't. The one I am using now has a rise of 177mm, not counting what stays stuck in the tube. I'm not certain how these are measured in the catalog, but the longest I saw mentioned is 110mm. I suppose I could order an extra long adjustable quill to make up the difference in height, but I would wonder about it's strength and ability to stay put. The torque would take it's toll, I think.
There are LOTS of adjustble stems to buy both with quill and without. Just google for what
you need. As far as 'torque'.......what torque? Are ya gonna do handstands while riding?
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I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 04-23-08, 03:00 PM   #19
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The classic "what works for you" is best... but for me I ended up with a Brooks B17 and "English 3 speed style" Nitto handlebars on my utility bike. (my definition of utility is commutes 5 miles or under, run as many errand as I can, throw leg over bike with whatever clothes I have on, carry a reasonable amount of groceries, but not carfree).

I had a flat bar with ergo bar ends, that worked ok, but the flat bar hurt my hands, so I was always on the barends, which wan't efficient for braking.

I switched to this setup for hand postion and to a degree "style", I have found the more upright postion is really relaxing for my utility riding.

here it is

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Old 04-23-08, 03:52 PM   #20
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I have a brooks B68 and some chopped-off straight mtn bike bars on my old 80s univega frame. works Ok for me, although sometimes I would like more height on the bars. longer stem would fix that I guess,
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Old 04-23-08, 10:08 PM   #21
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The classic "what works for you" is best... but for me I ended up with a Brooks B17 and "English 3 speed style" Nitto handlebars on my utility bike. (my definition of utility is commutes 5 miles or under, run as many errand as I can, throw leg over bike with whatever clothes I have on, carry a reasonable amount of groceries, but not carfree).

I had a flat bar with ergo bar ends, that worked ok, but the flat bar hurt my hands, so I was always on the barends, which wan't efficient for braking.

I switched to this setup for hand postion and to a degree "style", I have found the more upright postion is really relaxing for my utility riding.

here it is

Which Nittos are those?? The B-602 Promenade Handlebar?? http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...tab%3DWatching

I also saw these on E-bay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...tab%3DWatching

Which they call them North Roads, but they have no rise and seem to be more of a Flat "U"
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Old 04-24-08, 10:34 AM   #22
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The classic "what works for you" is best... but for me I ended up with a Brooks B17 and "English 3 speed style" Nitto handlebars on my utility bike. (my definition of utility is commutes 5 miles or under, run as many errand as I can, throw leg over bike with whatever clothes I have on, carry a reasonable amount of groceries, but not carfree).

I had a flat bar with ergo bar ends, that worked ok, but the flat bar hurt my hands, so I was always on the barends, which wan't efficient for braking.

I switched to this setup for hand postion and to a degree "style", I have found the more upright postion is really relaxing for my utility riding.

here it is

JUST BEAUTIFUL IT IS!! WOW!!

(where's the chain guard?)

This whole thread is my kinda cycling.
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My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 04-24-08, 02:35 PM   #23
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Sirrus rider: Which Nittos are those?? The B-602 Promenade Handlebar?? http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...tab%3DWatching

I am pretty sure this is the same bar.....can't put barcon shifters on them...but the cheapy falcon do just fine (though eventually I might go for nice old suntour bar shifters)




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JUST BEAUTIFUL IT IS!! WOW!!

(where's the chain guard?)
Tightwad...thanks.

I am conflicted about a chain guard. Original intent was to put the chain ring on the inside and use the outside as a mini guard.....even cut down a ring to do so....but too much rubbing. So for now I just use a rubber band or a refelctive velcro band on the pants leg. I have toyed with the idea of making a wooden one, but I really like the clean looks

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Old 04-27-08, 09:19 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
The classic "what works for you" is best... but for me I ended up with a Brooks B17 and "English 3 speed style" Nitto handlebars on my utility bike. (my definition of utility is commutes 5 miles or under, run as many errand as I can, throw leg over bike with whatever clothes I have on, carry a reasonable amount of groceries, but not carfree).

I had a flat bar with ergo bar ends, that worked ok, but the flat bar hurt my hands, so I was always on the barends, which wan't efficient for braking.

I switched to this setup for hand postion and to a degree "style", I have found the more upright postion is really relaxing for my utility riding.

here it is

That is the prettiest bike I've seen in a long time. That frame puts new bikes utterly to shame, and the Brooks saddle and those handle bars, whatever they are (Nitto?), match perfectly. It looks comfortable, and it's beautiful. Well done.
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Old 04-30-08, 01:45 PM   #25
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bragi...thanks....

the frame is a Nishiki I bought new in '82. the paint is duplicolor engine enamel in "grabber green"
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