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Vintage Style Handlebar Angle

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Vintage Style Handlebar Angle

Old 01-03-16, 10:12 AM
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Salamandrine 
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Vintage Style Handlebar Angle

I see a lot of vintage bikes with what appears to my eyes to be really wonky set up of the handlebar angle and brake lever position. Of course adjustment is an individual thing and you should do what works for you. However, for the record and for purposes of public information, there was what was considered correct position in the 70's and 80's:

Race bikes: drops almost parallel to the ground. Maybe 2 or 3 degrees tilt. Brake levers are set by putting a straight edge along the bottom of the drops. The bottom of the levers should just clear the straight edge, by ~1/8 to 1/4" or so.

Touring bikes: Brake levers the same, but the ramps of the bars are set parallel to the ground, not the drops.

Showing up at a club ride with your race bike bars tilted back like a tourist would have got you teased.

At some point handlebar angle fashion changed. (Was it Lance?) Perhaps the new position is more sensible aerodynamically. The old school set up did have an advantage: essentially there were 3 levels of drop. Riding on the hoods was sort of an intermediate position, with about 1.5" more drop than riding on the tops or ramps.
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Old 01-03-16, 10:16 AM
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I always liked the tops of my bars pretty much flat, with the drop end of the bars pointed, roughly, at the rear brake, or rear hub.
This setup gives more comfort while riding on the hoods, where I spent 80% of my time.
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Old 01-03-16, 10:22 AM
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Just get rid of the drop bars & stems altogether & replace with this : )
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Old 01-03-16, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by rootboy View Post
I always liked the tops of my bars pretty much flat, with the drop end of the bars pointed, roughly, at the rear brake, or rear hub.
This setup gives more comfort while riding on the hoods, where I spent 80% of my time.
I agree with this. Being on the hoods the vast majority of the time, I set up my bars to make this the most comfortable position, without too much stress on my wrists & hands.

My hypothesis about some of the odd racing bike setups I've seen is they're designed to be uncomfortable, to remind you what you're doing out there - racing.
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Old 01-03-16, 10:45 AM
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When I was younger I'd have to agree with the OP. However, in old age the bars get a bit more tilt and the levers come up 1/2-3/4 inch or so to make riding on the hoods more comfortable, reduce the reach a bit. And seat to handlebar drop gets less extreme.
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Old 01-03-16, 11:05 AM
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During the mid-1970s we used to love receiving Sekine shipments. Unlike most other brands, the bars came with the levers mounted and handlebar tape applied. This saved a lot of time but more importantly there was a consistency of set-up. I imagine there was some king of jig involved because when the bicycles were all lined up on the display floor there was no discernible difference. Subconsciously, things like this impressed the customer. They didn't realize what it was, but they knew it just looked right. Most importantly though, the factory set lever locations ensured optimum performance from the safety levers on the entry level models. This is the kind of thing the Japanese started doing that quickly made a convert of me.
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Old 01-03-16, 11:50 AM
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I like having the ramps slightly upturned- and that necessitates moving the brake levers forward.

I've seen some that don't move the levers forward and I wonder how anyone can apply the brakes.
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Old 01-03-16, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Race bikes: drops almost parallel to the ground. Maybe 2 or 3 degrees tilt.
I really thought I read that Schwinn wanted it's bar ends to point to the rear hub.

I don't doubt your guideline, but there were a lot of different style drops thru the 70s and 80s and what. You posted wouldn't apply. Full C bend are great for me since both the ramps and drops are level. That's just one of the designs.
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Old 01-03-16, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by ramzilla View Post
Just get rid of the drop bars & stems altogether & replace with this : )
~
I can't ride "flat" bars anything over say 8-10 miles. My hands and arms are killing me and begging for another hand position.
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Old 01-03-16, 12:28 PM
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You know, there are rules for this.

Bottom line, if you race you set up your bike for speed. Slam your stem, back parallel to the ground when you're riding on the rivet. It ain't about comfort, on the contrary, bicycle racing is about suffering.

35 lbs ago I used to slam my 14cm stem, bars parallel to the ground, lever tips even with the bottom of the bars. 35 lbs later I use tall, 10cm stems, drops pointed at the rear dropouts, more or less, levers set higher for comfort. I'm rarely in the drops anymore.

I don't think there's a "vintage style" for handlebar angle. I think it's same as it ever was.
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Old 01-03-16, 12:48 PM
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Honestly, I was thinking the exact same thing yesterday when browsing the Japanese Bikes thread. I've never seen so many wonky bar angles and brake lever placements in my life! Almost all had their bars rotated back and the levers pointing like 45degrees back instead of straight vertical.
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Old 01-03-16, 02:08 PM
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Hmm. I've always put my ramps horizontal, i.e. parallel to the stem. It puts the brakes in a good place for riding and braking. (I ride the hoods a lot.) But I also like the appearance. To my eyes a bike with drops parallel to the ground looks, shall we say, droopy-nosed. I hate that look.

There is another benefit from angled drops, at least for me. When I don't ride them very often but when I do my arms and hands are perpendicular to what I am holding. With horizontal drops my hands would be leaning forward into the things I'm trying to hold. So my hands would tend to slide forward more easily, requiring me to grip them more tightly.

All that being said, I installed a Cinelli Giro on my new Grandis build, a bar shape I've never used before. After mounting the brakes with the straight-edge technique and setting the ramps horizontal I decided the brakes were too high for comfortable riding. Rather than unwrap the bars partway and move the brakes, I just angled the bar forward slightly. Haven't ridden it enough to make a final judgment yet. I've also noticed that some of my bars have migrated forward slightly after a thousand miles or so. I don't mind the current positions.
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Old 01-03-16, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by ridelikeaturtle View Post
My hypothesis about some of the odd racing bike setups I've seen is they're designed to be uncomfortable, to remind you what you're doing out there - racing.
Yeah, there's some truth to that. But think of it this way: if you are out on a club training ride (or race) and in a paceline in which everyone is going fast and just barely holding on, no way do you want to sit up in some sort of 'comfortable' position, as this will make you work harder and increase your pain, or more likely get you dropped. The old hood position gave you another place to put your hands while basically staying as aero as possible. This was important if you were pounding the flats at near maximum effort for 20 or 30 miles, or longer. Shifting around a little helped reduce numbness and fatigue.

So in a way it reduces suffering.

Anyhow it seems pretty obvious that most people prefer the tourist position today. And back in the day this would have been correct for nearly all sport cyclists. Fine, as I said, you should do what works for you.

My point is that race bikes back in the day were not set up this way, at least not in California. I've been cycling since the late 70s and worked in a number of different higher end oriented bike shops from 1980 to the mid 90s, btw, and every one of them set up bars as I've already described.
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Old 01-03-16, 03:37 PM
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The close to parallel to the ground bar angle and brake lever tips in line with the bottom portion of the bar positions were what was described as proper for race bikes back in the 80's in publications on bicycle back then........
That and many of us seeing all the photos of almost all pros using the same handlebar configuration, pretty much convinced many of us to do the same to our bikes back then., to the point that anything else just didn't look or feel (when we got used to such) right......
I did remember seeing a few illustrations here and there that shows the proper bar position to be having the handlebar bottoms roughly point towards the rear axle of the bike, but I think they were mostly seen in general maintenance brochures that came with our bikes from the factory, which admittedly, mostly ignored by most of us after we got our bikes home from the dealerships.
I guess I'm lucky cause it still doesn't bother my back, hands or arms one bit, even after miles of riding.....

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Old 01-03-16, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by ridelikeaturtle View Post
My hypothesis about some of the odd racing bike setups I've seen is they're designed to be uncomfortable, to remind you what you're doing out there - racing.
I forget where I read it, I think Peter White, setup on a race bike should be such that it is only comfortable when ridden at the intended intensity level. Track and BMX bikes are impossible to relax on, road racers will hatchet into your butt if you aren't pedaling hard. Beach cruisers have wide, low saddles for parking it.

There have been changes in racing position over the years. The tops of the bars have moved down with a more compact bar so the drops are just as hammered as ever, but the JRA position is lower.
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Old 01-03-16, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
Bike fit should be determined by the needs of the user. I tend to stay on the drops and like to avoid bending my wrist;
Hmm...it seems more to me that those unattractive bar and lever angles, as seen in your photos, are compensating for an otherwise poor fit. If the frame size, stem length, bar size, etc. are proper, one should be perfectly comfortable and have the best ergonomic angles of back, shoulders, arms and wrists when his bars/levers are positioned and angled close to the typical "pro" fashion. If you need to change those angles, then the frame or stem is probably the wrong size.
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Old 01-03-16, 06:53 PM
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whether a flip or not, i setup bars with drops parallel to the top tube for my own comfort.

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Old 01-03-16, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
You got all that from a single picture of a small portion of a bike, without knowing the the bike geometry or the anatomy of the rider. That an idiot.
My point was that regardless of the anatomy of the rider, there are certain constants that have been arrived at by those that live and breathe cycling, over thousands upon thousands of kilometers of riding, over dozens of years. Those that have ridden the most and the fastest have decided these positions are the most advantageous

Instead of making up for too large a frame or stem by rotating the bars, you should start with a proper bar and lever configuration and then place it into space from your body by adjusting the size of the frame, stem, or even the bars themselves. Partly because that's what works better, and partly because it looks better: neither concern is to be discarded!

Or you can just go on believing that you are smarter than those who have created the conventions, some sort of genius that know better than the rest of the world.

edit: I see you've deleted your previous post and the photos of bar set up. So now no one has any idea of what im talking about, ha!
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Old 01-03-16, 11:37 PM
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The problem that I have with many modern setups is the reduced difference in height between the tops and the drops.

The hoods will always give the most forward reach for the steepest out-of-saddle efforts, but these shallow-drop bars, when set to allow fast riding in the drops on relatively flat ground, don't give the rider much relief when the pace slows and/or when the rider is able to recover from a hard pull at the front.

If the drop is deeper, then the tops of the bar can be higher in other words.

Having a taller rest position for one's hands better prepares the rider for their next hard effort at the front.

I insist on a comfortable reach to the drops for extended periods, so my saddle comes forward to make this so, and I only use about 3" of drop from the saddle down to the bars. I try to standardize the forward reach dimension from the bb to the handlebar, and always end up with about the same fit for the varied riding that I do these days.
This one shows my fit preference well, bar angle and all:




I have to admit that I like Anatomic handlebars best, for the flattened section of the drops (set for just the right wrist angle) that let my hands better tolerate road shock at higher speeds on rough roads.
I set those with the handlebar ends horizontal, or perhaps a couple of degrees up. The steeply-sloping top ramps don't bother me because I don't ride with my hands on the ramps, just the tops, the drops and the hoods (for climbing and accelerating). The previous owner set this one up, and it feels perfect:


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Old 01-03-16, 11:54 PM
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I set my bikes up to what's comfortable to me. Someone doesn't like it, they're welcome to their opinion. Then again, they're also welcome to shut up and keep on riding...................
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Old 01-04-16, 02:41 AM
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Originally Posted by nesteel View Post
I set my bikes up to what's comfortable to me. Someone doesn't like it, they're welcome to their opinion. Then again, they're also welcome to shut up and keep on riding...................
You're right of course, as long as we stay within say about three or four degrees of the "catalog" look.

Taller-headtube frames with relatively short toptube length are becoming popular with us aging cyclists, so a longer, level stem with properly-oriented handlebars can give a comfortable fit, but I guess that setup-compromises sometimes have to be made with the variously-sized vintage bikes that we find.
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Old 01-04-16, 04:30 AM
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Originally Posted by nesteel View Post
I set my bikes up to what's comfortable to me. Someone doesn't like it, they're welcome to their opinion. Then again, they're also welcome to shut up and keep on riding...................

++++ 1

You're supposed to wear size 42 shoes and they have to be narrow to be a REAL cyclist! I don't care if your feet are 10 1/2 EEE!

Look at the great ballet maestro Balanchine and how he tortured little girls by forcing them into unnatural positions like dancing on the points of their toes...

I ride with my bars pointed downward at 5° to 10° with the levers near the tops of the bends. The angle depends on the frame size.

I like my wrists to be comfortably parallel to the tops of my forearms so I adjust the angle to where the bar is comfortable FOR ME!



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Old 01-04-16, 05:56 AM
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Originally Posted by dddd View Post
Taller-headtube frames with relatively short toptube length are becoming popular with us aging cyclists, so a longer, level stem with properly-oriented handlebars can give a comfortable fit...
You could call me an "aging cyclist" but it would bother me regardless of my age. I can ride my younger self under the table (an invalid metaphor if I ever saw one). I was never especially comfortable riding the drops when I was younger and had little reason to do so. I am more comfortable riding them now even though I still don't very much.

I also have a greater saddle to bar drop on some of my bikes than I ever used before. But that's because "back then" I rode what I could afford from what was available, i.e. long TT, low or mid-price bikes of the largest frame size I could handle. Now I have the luxury of riding higher-end, short-frame designs in sometimes smaller sizes. That puts my shoulders more over the bar than they used to be so the bar can be lowered and the hoods moved further away. All my bikes are different but they all work, which is to say if I'm comfortable on bike X then it ain't broke even if it is different from bike Y.
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Old 01-04-16, 06:10 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
To my eyes a bike with drops parallel to the ground looks, shall we say, droopy-nosed. I hate that look.
Me, on the contrary, I like the drops to be parallel to the ground/top tube. Any other way and a new angle appears, that clutters the simplicity and elegance of a classic frame.

To me, personally, this also makes for a comfortable position. I have lower back problems due to sitting too much at the computer. Stretching my back more to reach the handlebars pulls my vertebrae apart and reliefs the pressure on the disc. I have no medical confirmation of this, but it really makes my back feel good after a spin.

After a bit of tweaking, the saddle is now further back than in the picture below and the hoods are also a bit higher up on the bars, but, basically, this is my bike's setup:

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Old 01-04-16, 06:58 AM
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I literally had to laugh out loud at this thread...there are "standards" of how to set up the handlebars? Standards for how to set up the seat? Etc., etc., etc...OK, I acquiesce on the "racing" side...I have never been a racer, never aspired to race and never will race...so I will leave that alone! But...for the REST of us...to me, IMHO, the right set up...is the one that gets you out on the bike and riding...so long as there are no safety issues (i.e. setting up a seat post or stem beyond minimum insertion). Get on the bike, ride it, move stuff around, get comfortable and then ride, ride, ride...what others think of your "wonky" handlebar angle (or brake placement)...has NO BEARING...IMHO, your HO about my riding position does not matter! But...I admit to loving to read the arguments here!
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