21 January, 2015

Building a Bike From the Frame Up - Drop Handlebar Selection

by Igor

In the last installment, we talked about how to install a bottom bracket into your new VO frame. This time, we'll discuss selecting a drop handlebar for your new ride.

First, we need to get some terminology straight.

  • Drop Handlebar - the most common type of handlebar for road riding, touring, and randonneuring, typically allowing a more aerodynamic riding position than upright city-style bars. Lots of hand positions.

  • Stem Clamp diameter - The measurement outside to outside of the area that clamps to the stem. 
    • 26.0mm - standard road handlebars
    • 25.4mm - standard city, upright, and MTB bars (although many have gone to 31.8mm).
  • Brake Lever Clamp diameter - The measurement outside to outside of the bar to which your brake levers and shifters clamp.
  • Width - Measured center to center of the end of the handlebar.

  • Reach - The measurement from the center of the stem clamp to the center to the farthest portion of the forward extension.
  • Drop - Measurement from the center of the stem clamp to center of the lowest portion of the handlebar.
  • Tops - Portion of the handlebar to the left and right of the stem clamp. 
  • Ramps - Forward extension of a drop bar from the stem clamp.
  • Hoods - Position on the hoods.
  • Hooks - Portion of the handlebar that transitions into the drops.
  • Drops - Portion of the drop handlebar that gets you lower and more aerodynamic.
  • Flare - Difference between width of drops and center to center width of ramps. Taking half the difference gives you the flare for each side of a drop handlebar.
I'll start off with my favorite. The Grand Cru Course Handlebar is our traditional road drop handlebar. The biggest thing that has me using this bar on so many builds is the long ramps leading up to the hoods. You spend the vast majority of your time here, so why not make it as comfortable as possible? If you're coming from a short reach drop handlebar, you'll want to get at least a 10mm shorter stem to have a similar position on the hoods.

Having a long ramp section means your hands can roam freely forwards and backwards, which is invaluable during a long ride or tour. This handlebar has a medium length drop for improved aerodynamics and handling through corners. Flare is a modest 30mm (15mm on each side).

Our Rando handlebar has similar features to the Course, but it has a slight upward sweep by the stem clamp. This is a very traditional randonneur-style bar that can be seen on loads of French bikes of yesteryear. The sweep means a slightly more upright position in the hoods as well as the drops! Ramps are the same measurement as the Course handlebar. Flare measures 60mm. Remember, drop bars are measured from center to center of the drop. If you want 42cm (center-to-center) hood-to-hood, get the 48cm model (480mm - 60mm flare = 420mm).

The last offering in our drop bar selection is the Dajia Shallow Drop (Adrian's favorite, which she used on her C&O trip). The ramp section is shorter for a lower reach to the hoods and the drops are shallower so you don't need to lean over quite as much to find an aerodynamic position. The bar has 0 flare, which allows you snake through the peloton or around parked cars without worry of snagging. This bar is very popular for modern style builds as well as for people wanting a shorter reach bar.

What should the next installment of the series be?


Al said...

Nicely laid out guys.

I'd love to see a similar instalment on your other handlebar options - Grips, brake levers, wrapping, width etc of the porteur, belleville and so on.

Will be stopping by in the Spring, see you then!

pinkshirt said...

Thanks so much for the definitions and particularly the diagrams. You should update your "articles" section with these diagrams.

Any chance of noir Course bar in size extra large?

Anonymous said...

Nice diagrams. One clarification - you say a 10mm shorter stem for the Grand Cru Course bars but the reach is a massive 115mm. If I'm going from the Dajia bars, for example, at 75mm, wouldn't I need to shorten my stem quite a bit more to be comfortable?

Anonymous said...

I would pay lots of money for a 31.8mm rando bar.

VeloOrange said...

@Anon 3:30pm,
Yes, you are correct. Some compact reach bars use slightly longer ramps than the Dajia, so it's a really a guideline more than a rule. I've updated the post to better clarify.

Jorge said...

Next, Gear ratios for touring, please!

Mike and Sherry said...

Why would someone want a flared handlebar? What are the positive aspects of flair?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:46 pm, consider just using a handlebar shim to bring the velo orange rando bar up to the 31.8 diameter. That solution works fine and looks fine under most 31.8 stems. Velo Orange used to sell those shims. They probably still do, and if not, they are easily obtainable. There are at least a couple of manufacturers of handlebar shims. If you just cannot stand the idea of shimming bars and you really want 31.8 diameter, ask your local shop or search the internet for Nitto model B135AA SSB rando handlebar.

VeloOrange said...

@Anon 11:19pm,

Good call! We do still offer 26.0 to 31.8 shims: http://store.velo-orange.com/index.php/components/handlebars/alloy-shim-set-for-vo-stems-26-0-31-8.html

VeloOrange said...

@Mike and Sheery,
Having flare in the handlebar prevents hitting your forearms on the corners of the bar. Especially useful when negotiating obstacles off road.

VeloOrange said...

@Mike and Sherry,
In addition to better control in the drops, you're more aerodynamic!

Cubabikermark said...

Next or Future Topic: Spindle length and crank/frame compatibility, and chainline ... always the hardest part on a bare frame build for me.


Tim said...

@Mike and Sherry,

At the risk of beating a dead horse, a flared handlebar keeps your wrists clear of the bar when you stand up with your hands on the drops. More importantly, the wider position in the hooks and the flared wrist position is really nice when power and control are needed, especially off road.

The bad thing about them is that they make it really hard to use the hooks on your other bikes without flare... but that can be fixed!

@VO, I'd like to see a guide to setting up rattle-free fenders!


Anonymous said...

@Anon 3:46 PM

What benefits would you think you'd gain from 31.8mm rando bars?

They'd be stiffer, which would transmit more vibration into your hands, which would be awful on a brevet. They'd be heavier at the same strength. The only benefit 31.8 has is making carbon reinforced plastic handlebars last slightly longer before they snap. There's absolutely zero reason to use 31.8 on alloy bars and even less on chromoly.

dana the tall said...

I have your 420 Rando bar on my old Raleigh Grand Prix. It's a very noticeable improvement, and I plan to put one (wider) on my all-road bike.

CMC SanDiego said...

I also vote for gear ratios next.

Anonymous said...

I wanted buy your Belleville handle bar and decided to use a dealer in my country this time. I checked "find dealers" and found there is a wrong link for the famous Cherubim in Machida, Japan. It's cherubim.jp, not cs-cherubim.com.


Anonymous said...

On the 2nd to last photograph,the one of the complete bike,
with the compact handle bars.
What is the rise on the stem,
Is it +6, or +17

VeloOrange said...