Handlebars: Wide vs. Narrow

Off The Beaten Path

One of the hardest parts of bike fit is the width of the handlebars. There are many recommendations, but not all make sense. For decades, racers have been told that handlebars should match the width of their shoulders – but nobody seems to agree how to measure shoulder width! Let’s look at what we know about handlebar width.

Historically, handlebar width has matched the handling of racing bikes. When bikes had slack head angles and much wheel flop (1920s), bars were very wide: 46–48 cm was common to provide the leverage required to keep the bike going straight. When low-trail geometries were popular (1940s), bars shrank to 38 cm, because that was enough to guide the bikes with a light touch. Narrow tires made the bikes less stable again (1970s), and bars grew to 42 cm. I wrote about that in detail here, but even that is not the…

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How are Compass Tires Different from Panaracers?

Off The Beaten Path

From time to time, a customer will ask us: “How are Compass tires different from Panaracers?” It’s no secret that Panaracer makes our tires – we benefit from the research and technology of one of the best tire makers in the world. Panaracer’s engineers know more about casings and tread rubber than almost anybody, and they translate our ideas into tires that outperform all others in their intended environments.

That also means that it may not be immediately obvious how our tires are different from Panaracer’s own tires, like the Gravel King – or even Panaracer’s budget model, the Pasela. At first sight, with tan sidewalls and black tread rubber, they can look very similar. They are even made in the same factory!

Recently, we had the opportunity to spend some time with Mark Okada from Panaracer Japan (right) and Jeff Zell from Panaracer USA (left). When I mentioned the Pasela…

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SKF Bottom Brackets Back in Stock

Off The Beaten Path

Bottom brackets are almost invisible, and you only notice them when something goes wrong. When the bottom bracket in my Firefly started to bind after just a few hundred miles, I put in an SKF, and that was the last I thought about it. When the bike was overhauled, the BB was spinning as smoothly as ever. That is how it should be!

How does the SKF last so much longer than other bottom brackets? SKF is a world leader in bearings, and they’ve applied all their technology to these bottom brackets. The two biggest advantages are larger bearings and better seals.

Let’s look at the bearing size first. SKF runs the bearings directly on the spindle and on the shell of the cartridge (above). That way, there is enough room for large ball bearings that can handle the high torque and low rpm of a rider’s pedaling, which is…

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Myth 6: Tread Patterns Don’t Matter on the Road

Off The Beaten Path

To celebrate 15 years of Bicycle Quarterly, we are examining 12 myths in cycling – things that we (and most others) used to believe, but which we have found to be not true. Today, let’s look at tire tread.

“Bicycles don’t hydroplane,” declared some experts many years ago. “Hence, tire tread patterns don’t matter on the road.” The first part is true – even wide bicycle tires are too narrow to lose traction due to hydroplaning – but the conclusion assumes that tread pattern only serves to evacuate water from the tire/road interface.

The reality is more complex. I once cycled on the polished stone that surrounded a college library, and I was surprised by the lack of grip: I crashed. Even though I was unhurt, I learned the hard way that the coefficient of friction between our tires and the rocks that make up the road surface isn’t…

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Myth 5: An Upright Position is More Comfortable

Off The Beaten Path

“Raise your handlebars, and you’ll be more comfortable.” It’s one of those almost self-evident ‘truths’ of cycling. And yet the reality is not that simple…

To celebrate 15 years of Bicycle Quarterly, we are examining 12 myths in cycling – things that we (and most others) used to believe, but which we have found to be not true. This post is about optimizing your riding position for comfort and speed.

The photo above shows me riding in a much lower position than Natsuko in the top photo, and yet we are equally comfortable on our bikes. The difference is in our effort levels: Natsuko is cyclotouring at a leisurely pace, while I am racing cyclocross.

What is important is that our positions match our power outputs. A cyclist’s upper body acts as a counterweight to the forces of pedaling. The harder we pedal, the more inclined our upper bodies…

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Lael Rides Alaska Women’s Scholarship

lael's globe of adventure

Lael Rides Alaska, Lael Wilcox, Hope, Palmer Creek Road, Alaska Palmer Creek Road August 8, 2017, near Hope, Alaska. Photo: Rugile Kaladyte 

On behalf of Specialized Bicycles, Revelate Designs, Big Agnes, GU Energy and Patagonia, I’m offering the “Lael Rides Alaska” Women’s Scholarship.

Design and ride a 1,000 mile route in Alaska this summer. Expect the ride to take about three weeks. Include an entrance and exit strategy and a budget.

One woman will receive:

— Specialized Diverge bicycle
— Revelate Designs bikepacking bags
— 10,000 Alaska Airlines air miles courtesy of Revelate Designs
— Big Agnes tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad
—$1000 community funded travel stipend
— Patagonia apparel
— GU Energy Nutrition
— a copy of The Milepost guidebook

Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? How do you want to get there? Be Creative. You can include planes, trains and ferries in your trip plan. You can ride alone. You can…

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Global Cycling Networks Video on Frame Flex

Off The Beaten Path

Global Cycling Networks just published a video in which they did an experiment that many of us have been talking about: Load up a frame with flex, and then release that energy. It will turn the wheel as the energy is returned to the drivetrain. It’s nice to see it in practice…

Also nice to hear: “I wonder whether frame flex is going to be the new tire pressure. Go back 10 years, and we all knew that harder tires rolled faster. And you could feel it as well. Except that now, we know that lower pressures can roll faster.”

Watch the video above, or click here to see it directly on YouTube. Enjoy!

Scroll down or click here to read the recent post about how frame flex actually can contribute to making you faster.

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