200k, cork tape, cotton bar tape, drop bars, hand comfort, nitto, Nitto B-115, nitto noodles, noodles, Olympiade, populaire, porteur, randonneur, ride comfort, rivendell, VO
When I started riding road bikes again around 2009, I read a lot of opinion on the “internets”, and a few things were spoken of as gospel. One of these was:
- Drop bars, in particular Noodle bars are great for long term comfort (Discussion Thread from ’09)
I’m a dedicated experimenter/tweaker when it comes to building and riding bikes. I had been on road bikes with drop bars for a short period of my life from about 1983-1991, but mainly as a part-time commuter. I never raced, and only did one 2-day 150 mile ride in high school.
When I moved to Seattle in 1991, I rode a friend’s mountain bike down some fire trails in Whistler, BC, and was totally smitten. From then until 2009, I had various mountain bikes with flat bars. When I bought my first Rivendell, I tried 46cm Noodles, but found them uncomfortable. Specifically, when I was in the drops, they felt really deep/extreme, and my forearms hit the tops disconcertingly. There was something off.
I found VO Porteur bars to be a better fit for me initially, as they had a nice stretched-out thin position on the flat fronts, and I could also get very upright on the swept back part of the bars. I went through a few iterations with these bars until I started riding in longer Randonneur events. On one Populaire, I developed a bit of numbness in one hand at the 50-mile mark, even with soft cork tape. I was definitely the only rider using upright bars of any kind, and most of the folks were using drop bars of some sort.
I decided that I would have to try some drops for the longer 200k ride I had planned. I had an older pair of Nitto B-115 Olympiade bars from the 80s, and the width was a tiny 39cm (compared to the 46cm). I set these guys up, and found them comfortable on my commute (7-12 miles each way). I also found that my forearms didn’t hit the tops of the bars when I was in the drops. The next test was the Bellingham 200k.
At the end of the event, I had no hand discomfort, and felt that the bars were close to ideal. They just needed more width, and a bit of curve back like the old noodles had on the tops. This led me back to the beginning (almost) and the Noodle style I started out with. I went with the next bigger size of Noodles and have not gone back to uprights.
Sometimes it is best to listen to the wisdom/opinion of experienced riders in the first place. At least cheaper…