Barred

Touring may be on the horizon.  I’ve still not made a commitment one way or another, though I should, really.  Regardless of whether my grand trip comes together or not, though, I’m riding to work and back much more than I used to, and so it makes sense to give my iron donkey of a hybrid bike a little bit of an upgrade/makeover.

When I started riding to work I’d take part of the trip by train, but these days (weather depending) I try to do the whole trip, there and back.  It’s 8-10 miles each way, depending on what part of town I’m working in, and as it has numerous types of gates along the way designed to make you dismount and slow things down it generally takes me around an hour to do the trip.  That’s an hour each way, and soon enough I started to notice I was getting pain in my wrists.

It’s only natural, really.  I use the hybrid and its hardiness for the commute, and the ‘flat’ handlebar it has means my hands are pretty much in one position the whole time.  I do have bar-ends, which help a little, but I found I was spending more and more of my riding time with my hands hanging over the handlebars to give them some resting time.  Everyone does it, but it leaves you pretty vulnerable, with not much control over the bike if something goes wrong.  I needed a set of handlebars better suited to riding for more than half an hour at the time, but not end up breaking the bank having to replace the brake levers and shifters, too.  My solution: Trekking bars!

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Ignore the biscuits

I managed to pick these up online for pretty cheap, and when I had an afternoon to myself I decided to give things a go.  They’re of similar width to my old bars, so I’m not going to lose any manoeuvrability in swapping this out, which had been a concern.  Trekking bars use MTB-style brakes and shifters, so I made sure to keep my parts as I took the old bar off.

I decided to go with foam rubber bar-covers, rather than the more traditional leather bar tape.  I do like bar tape, but the foam has a few advantages over it that won me over:

  • It’s very low maintenance.  This is a beater bike, and though I do take care of it I like to keep things simple.
  • It can be moved around very easily.  I wanted plenty of time and opportunity for adjustments with the bars, seeing as they’re so different to what I’ve had in the past.  This should also mean adding things like a mirror in the future should be simple.
  • They’re a lot thicker than bar tape!

Some forward-thinking and planning’s needed to get the foam on along with the levers, but it’s pretty easy really, just have to be careful threading the bars through with their weird shape.

This bike’s quill stem is adjustable, which comes in handy as a handlebar such as this drastically alters your riding stance.  The nearest part of the bars are much closer now than they previously were, so adjusting the stem can help even things out a little.  I set the bars pretty level to begin with, and (once I’ve fixed all the cabling) take it out for a spin.

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Fully loaded up!

Riding with the new bars is really, really nice, having done about 7 hours of riding on them this week with no wrist pain at all.  You essentially get three ‘proper’ riding positions: on the flats, on the sides, and on the tops – and all the half-positions in between those, of course.  I’m not entirely settled on the angle of the bars, though.  There’s much less of a consensus as to the ‘correct’ angle of trekking bars so it could well be worth doing a little experimentation.  For the money I’ve spent, though, this was a really great upgrade, well worth doing if you’ve got a hybrid, if you ask me.

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