Monday, July 27, 2015

The Trekking/Butterfly Handlebar

When posting about the newer addition to the bike stable, the Velo Orange Campeur, I noted that I had opted to try out a set of handlebars that have awaited placement on a bike for some time. The right bike had not come along, but when the Campeur landed, the trekking handlebars seemed entirely appropriate.
*Image from Bike Touring News
While browsing, I've noted that there are a variety of manufacturers and retailers that sell their own sets of trekking handlebars. Nashbar, Dimension, NittoDajia Cycle Works, Modolo are just a handful of the companies that have a version available. Since I haven't tried every style of these, I will state up front that the version I have are the Dajia Cycle Works variety. I've been told that the same handlebar sells under a variety of manufacturer names, but I don't have much to prove this as a statement of absolute truth. Most of the handlebars I've seen appear to have very similar positioning and bends (the exception being the Nitto version which appear more squared at the corners), so I'm not entirely certain that the exact manufacturer is of great importance if the products themselves are so similar.
I still haven't settled on a bar tape color... but I will, eventually. 
These handlebars are made of an aluminium composition. The 25.4mm stem clamp diameter may make them a challenge for some setups, but I've found if the diameter is too small, using a shim is helpful (and necessary) to get them to work with a variety of stem diameters. Since the bike these are set on has a 26.0mm clamp diameter, the shim works perfectly to make them snug.

This particular set measures 57 cm at the widest point, providing a broad stance. However, there are also lots of positions on the bars that are much narrower. For a mountain biker, the distance may not seem very wide at all, but for someone used to drops or more standard upright bars, there is a definite difference.  If a rider prefers a narrow position in a handlebar, there are positions on this bar that fit that need, but the widest points of the handlebars would likely go unused perhaps making them not an ideal option.
I'll admit, at first I was a little put off by how wide the bars ride, but over a relatively short time, I came to appreciate this quality. It's nice to get some leverage once in awhile and I feel a bit more in control of steering as well. Whether this is the handlebars themselves or a quality of the bike is up for debate. There are many positioning options available on these bars though and a rider doesn't have to live at the extreme outreaches of the bar.

While there are technically four hand positions, I find that I use a broad spectrum of space in between each of these, depending on the day and/or task. It seems a natural place to put my hands at the sides (the widest point) of the bar, much as one would with a northroad style or albatross handlebar, and I do spend a fair amount of time here depending on where I'm riding.
In traffic, it's a little more difficult to rely on that position as the brakes have been placed at the furthest position on the bars directly in front of me. So, while riding in higher traffic areas, I have found it more comfortable to be in the most outstretched positions with my fingers at the ready when braking becomes necessary.

If I have a little more space in traffic or I'm out on back roads, I find that my hands naturally tend to want to move around the corners/bends of the bars. When I feel the need to sit more directly upright, I use the portion of the bar directly in front of and closest to me.

As someone who needs to move her hands frequently when riding, having so many possibilities is really ideal. Even for those who don't have injuries or ailments that require position changes, it's a good idea not to stay in one position for too long to prevent strain, injuries, and just simply pain.
When these handlebars were set up, I wasn't entirely sure how to place them. They can be flipped over to ride on either side (neither side is really considered upside down), and they can be changed so that the opening point is closest to the rider (as in the first photo above) or flipped so that the opening is at the farthest point in front of the rider. I have seen these set up in each of these possibilities and they appear to work well, regardless of set up for the individual riders. I think it's more a matter of preference or what feels natural to the rider more than anything else.

I will note that I have tried these bars on a couple of different road bikes too. Both of these bikes were quite stable using a drop bar set up, but I didn't necessarily appreciate the trekking bars on each of these bikes the way I do on the Campeur. More specifically, the set up with the trekking bars worked decently on one of the road bikes, but the other seemed to make the bikes' handling more squirrelly. This could be a result of different body positioning on each bike, however.

Sitting more upright on a bike intended for speed doesn't seem to be a good combination with these handlebars - at least during my limited testing.  Granted, these are handlebars meant for long distance, multi-day cycling, so using them on a bike meant for faster rides is perhaps not ideal, depending on the situation and again on the riders preferences.

There are a lot of handlebars on the market to choose from for a variety of riding purposes, so I often find myself wondering what the benefit is of one type over another. As pointed out earlier, I think the biggest asset with these is the number of hand position possibilities. Beyond that, it becomes a matter of likes and dislikes as well as aesthetics. If a drop bar set up is working well for the rider, I see no true advantage to these handlebars. However, if the rider struggles with utilizing all the positions available or if one additional position may do the trick, these may be a set to try out.
After several months of near-daily use, I am really appreciating the qualities of these handlebars and finding them to be quite useful. I have not been able to take them on trips of great distances (yet), but for commuter/errand purposes and rides under 40mi/64km, they have worked well. They may not be a handlebar that meets every riders needs, but they are a nice alternative for those looking for multiple hand positions and perhaps even a wider handlebar.

If you've tried these on your own bike, I'd love to get your feedback in regard to what you've liked or haven't with this style of handlebar. Likewise, if you have questions, I will do my best to answer, or perhaps others can offer their expertise.

17 comments:

  1. Since it seems no one has any feedback, I'll chime in.. I have primarily used drop bars, and flat bars on all of my bikes. However, I seem to only use the hoods on my drop bars. So maybe this doesn't matter, not sure... trailing off.. At any rate, my observation of these bars has been interesting, they are very, very versatile, I might even consider using them on my "city" bike which currently has flat MTB bars, as you could flip them over to be a bit more aggressive, or flip them around if you did not want the opening on the top. I have seen a lot of mountain biking guys (particularly weirdo single speeders like me), using mary bars, and other interesting bars with more hand positions, and more leverage. There is certainly something to be said about choice of handlebar, and there are tons out there, just because your local lycra a-hole has drop bars, does not mean everybody needs them.. maybe just this a-hole : ).

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    1. I think what struck me about these bars on one of the road bikes was that it made the bike suddenly twitchy. I think when trying them on the second road bike it was set up in a lower position which must've helped, I'm guessing. I do like that these offer a variety of hand positions without using the drop portion of a typical road handlebar and I think they could work on a variety of bikes, depending on how a person likes to ride.

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  2. Sorry I didn't comment earlier. I've been out of town for a week. These look fascinating. I use drop bars on my road bike and do like the different hand positions. I use swept back upright bars on my commuter and love those for the "heads up" in traffic position. Some time down the road, I might experiment with my road bike handlebars. I like the tops for traffic and the hoods for just about all the rest of the time, but the drops don't get as much use as I had thought they would. These look like a good option. I also like the look of the Jones loop bar, except they look pretty wide all the way out at the bar ends.

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    1. You know, I've read many different articles, blog posts and so on regarding drop bars and it's amazing to me how many people have drops and don't use that portion of the bar. Sometimes, I think it's because it's not comfortable (it puts the rider in too low a position or doesn't feel right for various reasons), but then I wonder if it's just the reality that it's easier to see when on the tops or hoods?

      By the way, no need to apologize... there's never a necessity to comment, but I'm always happy to hear what you have to share, Kendra. :)

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    2. Yes, most folks I ride with are usually up on the hoods and almost never on the drops. Of course, most folks I ride with are pushing 60 years old or more...

      I've got 3 bikes set up with drop bars: On-One Midge, Nitto B-132 Randonneur, and Salsa Cowbell. My current favorite is the Cowbell, but all are good. Somewhat anachronistically, all are setup with bar-end shifters, and when grinding out the miles I prefer to ride on the drops, reserving the tops and hoods for more casual cruising and pootling -- and I love having all these options. Of course, as a geezer myself, I set up the stem with a fair amount of rise, so the tops are at or slightly above saddle level, much as shown on your own setup. But having a lower riding position is almost crucial for reducing wind resistance and reducing fatigue over long distances.

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    3. I've been on rides with some very speedy 60+ riders that put me to shame, and they've been on all different sorts of set ups. I think if it works, it works and that's what really matters. :)

      How do you like your On-One Midge bars? I have a set of similar handlebars that I haven't really had an opportunity to try out for any length of time, but I'm hoping to try them out for a lengthier stint here soon.

      I agree that having lots of options makes things much easier. I was just commenting at home the other day that it's very nice to have a variety of set ups to choose from as some days one works far better than another.

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  3. I am currently debating on purchasing trekking bars for my surly long haul trucker. I like the fact that you have your handlebars flipped like that. It looks fairly comfortable, I will post my feedback on them in a couple weeks. Thanks for the advice

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    1. I think this would be a great option for an LHT. Please do let me know how the set up works if you do move forward.

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    2. hey G.E. so I did purchase them and had them installed and everything. They are definitely a step in the right direction for me. I always kind of felt like the handlebars were to far forward with the stock stem on the LHT. My LHT still needs some adjusting to adapt to these handlebars, but so far they feel great.

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    3. Sean,

      That is fantastic! I'm glad to hear that so far they're working out well for you. I think there's always a bit of an adjustment period, even if everything is perfect on the bike, but hopefully you'll find these to be a great fit. :)

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    4. So far the trekking bars are very comfortable, but i think will add hoods to the bars. The kind of hoods that you could find on drop bars. I believe having that neutral hand grip position on my bars would really make them perfect

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    5. Interesting. If you do end up adding them, I'd love to see how it all comes together.

      So glad that the bars are working well for you!

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  4. I have used Trekking bars for years and have them on three of my bikes, including my wife's. These are a vast improvement over flat bars. And indeed, they can be used with the open side in front or toward the rider, depending on where you want the controls. They can also be flipped "upside down" to give them a bit of a drop (instead of a slight rise). Angle is important too and you just have to experiment.

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  5. When you fitted it on your road bike did you have to change the road levers? I thought the grip diameter is different for them..I'm thinking about switching too but rather not change too many components.

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    1. Yes. These bars will require different shifters and brake levers. If you use bar end shifters on your road bike, you would likely be able to use those with a small mount to attach them to these bars, but if you use brifters on your road bike, they won't work on this handlebar. It would be incredibly awkward, I'd think to use a combo brake/shifter set up such as on a drop bar with the trekking handlebars.

      Hope that helps.

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  6. thanks for sharing "flipped" setup. definitely worth a try. been using mine with open side closest. noticed limited maneuverability with it.

    will also try one respondent's idea of reversing to try lower rise.

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    1. I think one of the nice things with these bars is that they are usable in multiple positions. I would definitely try flipping them to the opposite side to see how you feel about them. I have tried both ways on different bicycles and it does change the way they feel significantly. I hope you find a position for these that works for you.

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