Sunday, September 22, 2013

Drop Bars on the Cross Check

So after flirting with Soma Oxford bars for a while (both upside down and right side up), yesterday I changed my Surly Cross Check back to a drop bar, geared machine:

The bars are Velo Orange rando bars, which give me a little more upward sweep than normal bars, at the cost of the flats position next to the stem (the upward slope makes the flats a very unnatural shape for my wrist):

My drivetrain is a quick and dirty friction affair, rear shifting only. That lets my use the same crank setup between my geared setup and my fixed setup:

I had the idea in the back of my head that I might be able to get down to three bikes, and I was wondering if the drop bar CC could be my do-all road bike.

Turns out, no, it could not.

The issue was easy to find. Yesterday afternoon, the kids wanted to go to a playground (hence my big flat pedals). At these low speed family rides, there's simply too much weight on my hands for my comfort. With an uncut steerer tube, a 90mm x 17* stem, and the extra height of the rando bars, I can still only get my bar ramps about 10mm above my saddle. Combined with the CC's long reach--I measure the effective top tube at 615mm, 5mm longer than spec--it's no good for going slow.

So this morning, I did a quick spin through the metro park, sans kids.

Even with only a 10 mile loop, I still couldn't get very comfortable on the drops. I like the drops when I'm fighting a head wind or otherwise really trying to put down the power. I like grabbing the lever bodies when I'm standing and climbing. But for the other 90% of my riding, I find drop bars to be less comfortable than either a flat bar/bar end setup:

or some type of curvy mountain type bar:

This is kind of an unsettling realization. I ride on the road a lot, serious road riders are supposed to use drop bars, but I just don't like them. It's not just the Surly, either (though with its long top tube and low stack height, it is kind of a worst case). I've had many other drop bar bikes that I haven't found to be very comfortable--the exception being my Salsa Fargo, with it's long fork with an extra long steerer tube. Some of the issue is certainly due to threadless steerer tubes. I have nearly 30 stems in my stem box (though a mix of mountain and road) that I've purchased to try to get my bars in to the right spot. I would like to make a rule that future drop bar bikes should be old-school threaded, but this makes for a very small market indeed.

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