10 March, 2015

Building a Bike From the Frame Up - Flat and Upright Handlebar Selection

by Igor

In the last episode, we talked about drop handlebar selection in our Building a Bike From the Frame Up series. This time we'll discuss flat and upright handlebar selection while addressing technical and functional characteristics of our current offerings.

Handlebar and cockpit set up is the part of the build that riders are arguably most particular about. Comfort, visibility, and ease of use are the usual reasons for selecting an upright or flat handlebar.

Definitions we need to get out of the way:
  • 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 mountain bars have gone to 31.8mm).
  • Brake Lever Clamp diameter - The measurement outside to outside of the bar where your brake levers and shifters clamp.
  • Width - Measurement from center to center of the ends of the handlebar.
  • Rise/Drop - Measurement from center of stem clamp to the center of the start of the grip area. 
  • Sweep - Measurement from center of stem clamp to bar end.
  • Grip Length - Measurement of straight area of grip from end to end.

I'll start off with Montmartre Handlebar since it is the one pictured above. If having an upright riding position is a priority, then you're all set. This bar features a rise of 6cm and sweep back of 18cm which gives you a comfortable, upright riding position allowing you to see above traffic, and for traffic to see you more easily (compared to a drop handlebar). A width of 42cm allows for easy navigation of narrow side streets while keeping handling neutral. Grip area measures 12cm. Available in 22.2 as well as 23.8mm clamp diameter for your city or road components.
If you'd like a wider version Montmarte bar the Left Bank Handlebar will fit the bill. Width measures 49cm, nice for those with wider shoulders. This model flares out 4.5cm on each side from the beginning of the grip area. Rise measures 7cm and sweep is 19cm. Grip area measures out to 16cm. Available in 22.2 as well as 23.8mm clamp diameter for your city or road components.
Next in the riser handlebar division is the Tourist Handlebar. Width is 57cm and rise is about 7cm. It's not uncommon to see this type of handlebar of English Roadsters. This model is only available in 22.2mm as putting bar end shifters or inverse levers would make the bar too wide! Grip area is 16cm long.
If you'd like a less sweep and rise, the Milan Handlebar is a perfect option. It doesn't look out of place on an old Italian steel road bike or a tourer. Grip area measures 17cm and sweep angle is roughly 30 degrees. 22.2mm city and MTB components only. Classic and simple handlebar.
Postino is similar to the Milan, but features no rise; a flat bar indeed! If you want something zippy, look no further. This bar uses a 22.2mm brake lever clamp diameter for trigger/grip shifters and city/MTB brake levers. We have seen many of our Pass Hunters built up with Postino bars - the best combination of comfort and aerodynamics.
The Belleville Handlebar is a flat city handlebar with a classic design that's been used on countless French city and utility bikes. Width is 43cm and has a sweep of about 15cm. Pair the bar with Dia-Compe Guidonnet Levers for true Parisian flare. Available in 22.2 and 23.8mm brake clamp diameter.
Our Porteur Handlebar has been a long time favorite of ours for its versatility and graceful bends. The bars are designed with a slight drop, but some folks flip them for a more upright position. A width of 48cm means it's wide enough to navigate rutted trails, but narrow enough to zip around town without worry of swiping mirrors on parked cars. The 23.8mm version is capable of taking road components such as bar end shifters, thumb shifters, or even brifters. The 22.2mm bar takes city or MTB components.

Alright, here is where things get a bit weird.
Casey's Crazy Bar always gets loads of attention. People pick it up and you can actually read their minds saying, 'Huh, weird, but you know what? It makes a lot of sense!'. The swept-back portion (22.mm clamp) is a comfortable flat bar section for trail navigation. The forward extensions (23.8mm clamp) are for tucking into the wind for aerodynamics or cranking out of the saddle. Roadies will feel right at home on the junction where the extensions mount to the swept back portion. This position feels very similar to being on the hoods of a drop handlebar. Loads of hand positions keep you feeling fresh. This bar is available in alloy, anodized noir alloy, and chromoly (sorry, discontinued).

The Seine Bar is an offshoot of the Crazy Bar. Same sweep portion and design, sans forward extensions.
Last is our Dajia Trekking Bars. This style of bars is rarely seen in the US, but are very common on European touring bikes. Need hand positions? You got 'em. All of them! There are seemingly endless permutations of brake levers, shifters, grips, and handlebar tape that can be achieved to fit your style of riding. They feature a rise/drop of about 4cm and a width of 57cm.

So that's what we have currently. We're always interested in trying out new bends or designs. What are we missing? What bar do you dream about but cannot find?


balaenoptera said...

I am surprised that you offer most of the useful and interesting h-bars in more traditional diameter clamp size only - and then again, I am suprised to find the very elegant and useful stem with the integrated stack height only in an oversize clamp - well, I like the stem and use it with shims and with your bars. but it ain't pretty...

Tim said...

Lots of great options, particularly for city/porteur style bikes. I don't see a 'dirt drop' type bar though!

Janice in GA said...

I've been using a Postino bar on my old Trek 720 hybrid for the last few years. It works great, and has room for my old Suntour shifters and old brake levers. :) It's a very comfortable handlebar, especially with ergo handlebar grips. Easier on my achy old hands than flat bars.

Anonymous said...

piggy back balaenoptera. wish you made (i think i understand your financial logic in making the tall stack stem 31.8 only) your tall stem was available in 26.0 or and 25.4. i am the service manager at a shop and i think such a product would be great to have (especially polished with a vertical rise).

Book Worm said...

Very helpful post. I have a 2013 Specialized Globe "Daily 3" step-through frame with a 7-speed Shimano Nexus internal hub. It has priest city handlebars that are too wide for me and I would like to swap them out for something narrower. I am considering the VO Montmartre handlebar. Do you think that would work with the twist/grip shifter and standard handbrake levers?

VeloOrange said...

@book worm

I haven't had good experiences with twist shifters in general. You have 120mm of flat area to work with on those bars. I imagine the twist shifters are going to be too long with levers and grips.