21 February, 2008

Handlebar Basics, Part 2

Now that I've stirred up some dissent with my views on bar width and height, it's time to ramble on about the mechanics of handlebars.

Stem Clamp Size: This is easy; most modern bars have a clamp area of either 25.4mm or 26mm. If you want to use a 25.4mm bar in a 26mm stem you need a shim, like this lovely Nitto product. The other way round won't work, unless you can find one of the rare negative shims on E-bay.

Most older French bars and stems use a 25.0mm clamps. I've used these bars in 25.4mm stems, but it's best to make a little shim from some beer can aluminum. (BTW, obtaining shim stock is the only acceptable reason to drink beer from cans. I seem to need lots of shims.)

Older Cinelli bars and stems are 26.4mm and there are a few other odd sizes. So it's wise to check when buying older European bars.

Stems and Forks: Again this is simple. Most 1-inch forks use 22.2mm stems. Older French forks use 22.0mm stems. Fortunately these are close enough that a 22.2mm stem will sometimes fit in an old French fork. And if it doesn't, 10 minutes of sanding (on the stem not the fork) will allow it to slide right in.

Inexpensive older American and Japanese frames sometimes used a smaller diameter, 21.15mm, stem that is becoming very hard to find. This size is also common on BMX bikes.

There are also some newfangled 1-1/8" forks and stems, but it's too soon to say if they'll catch on. And some tandems use 1-1/4" forks/stems.

Bar Diameter: The outside diameter (OD) of bar tubing varies a bit by manufacturer, but the standard for road bars is 23.8mm and MTB and city bike bars are around 22.2mm. That means that MTB brake levers and shifters will not fit on road bars.

The inside diameter (ID) of road bars is around 20mm and for MBT bars it's about 17mm. This varies with the exact type of tubing used, but inverse brakes and bar end shifters generally will not fit MTB/city bike bars. They commonly require an ID of not less that 19.6mm.

One way around this problem of compatibility is to buy old French city bike bars which were often made with road bar diameter tubing. With these you can use bar ends, inverse shifters, and some of the old-style brake levers with band-type clamps.

A way to make everything fit is to use chrome molly, rather than aluminum, bars. The steel is stronger than alloy, so it can be thinner, resulting in bars with the OD of MTB bars and the ID of road bars.

As with most thing, there are some odd, mostly French, bar diameters out there.

Digital Calipers: Cheap digital calipers are available for about $15-$20. If you work on older bikes they will save you countless headaches. And you don't even have to learn to read a vernier scale. Try Harbor Freight or E-bay. Maybe we should stock them?

What have I left out?


Anonymous said...

Everyone should learn the Vernier scale.

Schorsch said...

What handlebars are those, noodles? I like the slight slope on the flats.

Re: canned beer: It is also acceptable to drink canned beer when doing manual labor on the weekend. Canned beer is also almost indistinguishable from bottled when poured into a glass.

Anonymous said...

Ok ... now for the serious and very contentious stuff ... it seems the photo of the the beautifully wrapped classic handlebars in the photo are wrapped starting at the area near the stem. Now I was always instructed by the very serious Italiano cyclists from the 1970's to wrap may bars starting on the outside of the drop. In fact I was sent home from rides if it appeared my cloth Tressotar tape was wound otherwise. It was one strike against me for not having the latest Cinelli bars. Another strike for not having the nicest Cinelli stem. And well the tape winding procedure was as they say 3 strikes and you're out of here.

I of course had 3T at the time and felt the need to wind differently. I see you concur. However I must say I now wind from the outside in because of this horrible experience with the Italiano riders of the day.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, obtaining shim stock is the only acceptable reason to drink beer from cans and I use lots of shims."

I used to be in this camp until a friend turned me on to Dale's Pale Ale - which is can-only. The NY Times rated this beer as the best American beer so I'm not alone in now claiming it as my favorite. If you need further evidence of why canned beer can be exceptional, read about it at length on the Oskar Blues site - brewer of Dale's.
nv (who knows more about beer than handlebars, but does know that he prefers Promenade bars over most anything else.)

Anonymous said...

For calipers, I've found the General brand at Home Despot (uh, Depot) works well. Enough that my dial calipers (which were old, cheap and worn out) ended up in a landfill someplace.

However, in the area of religion (beer), it is acceptable to drink canned beer if it is (a) Surly, which needs to transfer to a glass recepticle for proper consumption; or (b) one of the numerous draught cans from across the pond. See (a) for proper consumption.

Anonymous said...

31.8? I know it's not really within the VO realm, but I've yet to find a quill-style stem that fits a 31.8mm bar. Closest I could get was to buy a threadless adjustable-angle stem, and then a quill style adjustable-angle stem from the same nmanufacturer, and combine the parts. Never actually did it, just researched for a friend.

Yann G.S. said...

dale's pale ale is ok, and definately one of the best of the canned beers... (i cant imagine rating it as america's best beer!!) but there are tons of beers that taste worlds apart without even traveling abroad.. weyerbacher/dogfis head/stouds etc..

Anonymous said...

My favorite shim stock comes from the Pabst brewery.

Unknown said...

Should we use american or metric cans?

Anonymous said...

I think we should use Babylonian hemp.

Velo Orange said...

Schorsch, those are indeed noodles.

Phillip, that is the best way to wrap bars when they will be shellaced, as the bars in the photo eventually were.

Aaron said...

Why is that the best way to wrap bars if they are going to be shellacked? Can you explain what difference it makes?

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris. How many rolls of cloth did it take to cover the Nitto Noodle bar? I have a the Belleri randonneur and I can't seem to cover the whole bar with 2 rolls.

Velo Orange said...

I use three rolls of tape on most bars. I wrote a post last year about the "Alex Singer" method of taping bars that describes how I do it.

Anonymous said...

I wrap my drop bars in two parts for each side, starting at the ends and at the sleeve and working toward the levers. All the taping occurs under the brake hoods for a nice, clean look. NO exposed tape or twine! I can wrap a 48cm Noodle with two rolls of cloth tape (Viva or Tressostar) as long as I don't overlap too much. Personally, I don't like the look or feel of shellack, but it does make things last longer.
Another thing...
Does Nitto make the Noodle bar in a 25.4? Most of the cool looking stems I come across are 25.4 rather than 26.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris ... I do have a Nitto Noodle bar on my classic Motobecane Grand Record however I haven't shellacked it . I just finished the top off with some matching tape and it looks pretty good. I've been wrapping drop bars with cloth tape now for about 34 years and if I take my time I'm pretty happy with the results. Normally I have no problems using just two rolls of Tressostar on the drops.

My most recent wrapping was using the Brooks perforated leather on some Nitto mustache bars. In the end I'm very happy with both the expensive Brooks leather tape and the final result. However I did run into a problem at first.

I originally had some really cool NOS CLB levers with the adjusting screws and of course the very nice hoods that comes on quality NOS levers. It seems that the leather created too much thickness at the area of the lever body that there wasn't enough bolt to attached the tightening nuts. However I luckily had some unused Campy Record levers which worked fine. And even though most would consider me part of the lower income group of bicycle aficionados I truly feel the Brooks leather tape was a investment that I will enjoy for many years to come.

On a single speed bike I have the Nitto Albatross bars (flipped of course) with the Soma reverse brake levers. So I taped them with cloth tape. The first taping did not get the feel thick enough. So I taped them again. Now I think they need a third taping and this will be finished with shellac to preserve the color. I'm even thinking about finishing them with tat twine.

Now if I could go back to the 1970's I could really impress those Italianos who often put down my bicycle finish handiwork.

For some reason finishing the bars properly is the most interesting and confusing part of bicycle handiwork. However nicely taped bars even on a older bike is sign of class that few of the stretched-out spandex Lycra crowd rarely appreciates.

john k novack said...

for me, cycling is not a sport. i ride 200 miles/week, as general transport. i love my bikes, ('61 olmo, riv bleriot, miyata 610, miyata 912, diamondback apex mtb.
tried wide bars, ended up back with 42's, same as my suit size. the technomic is good for me, bar height 1-2 cm below saddle height. sticking with classic dimensions might be wise. by classic i mean 1950's-60's long distance road racing stuff.
year round oregon rider!

Anonymous said...

as for can beer, dale's is good, but you should try sly fox. it's excellent. and should you try to put 26.0 bars in your older cinelli stem, shims will do that too, proudly.