Stubs, Oury grips on NJS, and Risers: Urban Fixie Bars

The other day I got an email from Byron asking about why “hipsters ride fixies with stub straight bars”, so I’ve been thinking about trends in fixed gear handlebars. Setting aside cultural relevance of the term “hipster” as either praise or pejorative, let me share a few perspectives.

bar_spinner.jpg

Photo Credit: carltonreid

So, then…stub straight handlebars. Ostensibly, well cut-down straight handlebars allow a rider to pass in between cars and other obstacles, but anything narrower than your hips and shoulders is just style…and stupid. But there are a lot of people out there who don’t know any better, just follow what they see others doing, or never think about what their body does on the machine. I look at a rider on a fixie with a bar that is completely covered by the width of the hands, and I think wow, that person isn’t interested in being fast or efficient. It burns my eyes to see such a rider try to accelerate from a stop or climb a hill.

I am only a little more forgiving of riders who have super-deep track drops on a rakishly angled track stem and then mount a set of Oury grips next to the stem. When I see a bike like that, I have to assume that the rider pretty much rides like the guy with the stub bar. I mean, with the bend on a track bar, you can only grab it on the drops or next to the stem. Why go through all that trouble of getting NJS (as in certified for the Japanese professional track racing league) bars and stem so that the drops are so low that you can’t ride in that position? In contrast, a real Japanese pro track racer has grips at the drops only…as he rides fast on a velodrome and doesn’t need to scan 50M ahead all the time. Your average urban rider would be better off raising the bars to an uncool height so that he could get a strong, powerful position from the drops. Instead, he just rides along with his hands next to the stem so he can sit bolt upright. I mean, if he was leaning over, how would he see past the brim of his faux trucker’s hat? But at least Wannabe-san has the possibility of using the drops, unlike Mr Stubby in the previous paragraph.

Then there is the explosion of fixies with riser bars. Actually, I’m okay with this. The riser bar allows the rider to do a barspin while wheelie-ing (provided that the wheel won’t hit the down tube). Granted, it’s not the best position for out-and-out speed, but I can see the functionality of that set-up for tricks. And for casual riding, risers provide leverage and a comfortable position to see traffic. Granted, just because I know a handful of people who can do mindblowing tricks on fixies, that doesn’t mean that the majority of riser-riding fixie dudes have any trick abilities whatsoever. Yet, I say, let them aspire to coolness from cool moves rather than a cool look.

from Laali’s flickr page.



8 Comments

Excellent response to my question and also note I spotted those risers bars in the Single Speed races during last year’s Cross Season.  One [such barspinner](http://www.flickr.com/photos/carltonreid/2888789461/) was present at our Mobile Social Interbike.

I see stupidly narrow bars squeezing between a pair of rear-view mirrors if you tuck your knees to the frame and/or turn your trunk sideways.  Fixie riders aren’t exactly Grant Petersen, so it’s possible that the rider’s hips are at the same height as the bars.

I’ve read enough BSNYC that I’m planning my very own ironic bar bike with all the fixter trappings like Oury grips, Knog frogs, the vestigial top tube pad, and maybe a handful of inside jokes.  It’s going to be one fierce whip.

“...anything narrower than your hips and shoulders is just style…and stupid. ”  Amen to that.

@Champs…take it to the next level—an Oury grip stretched over an empty stem, with the bike steered “boat tiller” style!  Who needs cutdown risers when you’ve got a freakin’ TILLER to steer with?

I was thinking exactly the same thing, when I saw a narrow bar today that was no wider than two fists. Just tiller it and then you’d have another hand free for cigarettes, beers, and cell. The bar I saw looked [just like this](http://www.wendmag.com/blog/2009/02/06/some-hipster-is-really-bummed/)

You forgot the other fixie doofuss fashion fad: chrome steel bars with no tape or grips. Yeah,that makes sense in a place where it gets cold and rains a lot. Nothing like bare chromed steel for grip! Last week I saw some young pinhead nearly eat it when he hit a pothole and his hands almost slid off the bars. Laughed so hard I nearly pissed myself.

Then there’s the whole thing of not having a front brake. Anyone who says you don’t need one hasn’t been riding very long. Of course I’m sure some 20 year old knows more than some geezer like me. I remember seeing a too cool for school messenger plow into a FedEx truck in SF. The idiot went to skid stop and his chain snapped. That’s why you have a front brake. Things go wrong, it’s always good to have a back-up plan for stopping. Pulling a Fred Flintstone stop isn’t going to work at 20+mph. It’s sort of like a fighter pilot having a parachute: you don’t plan to actually use it but if the excrement impacts the air conditioning you’ll be mighty happy to have it! But hey, why be smart when you can be young instead.

Riser bars on the other hand do make sense for city riding.

I’m with ghost rider, i want handlebars out of my life all-together.

I find the comparison to trendy ape hanger bmx bars pretty funny actually. Well, the trend is towards bigger bars, and for good reason. But like anything else the 120 lbs kid with 30"wide, 9"rise bars…

Not everyone has the same preference to handlebars. Some like them wide, some like them narrow, some like odd shapes and angles (where’s Dr. Seuss when you need him?). I do agree that some bars are definitely for style but even stubs has its positives (mainly trick riding). People do “stupid” things every millisecond of the day. Riding stubs for bars, brakeless and unwrapped hardly makes the top of the list. I’m not one of them, but there’s always an anomaly out there to prove you wrong. I guess the problem is all the unskilled kids want to be like them.

I realise I have stumbled upon this article fairly late, though here is my two cents anyhoo.

I am feeling that the whole act of riding a fixed gear bike, or perhaps even simply daring to be interested in them, carries some kind of instant label as being a try-hard.

On the face of it, I can see where people are coming from with the whole hipster thing. But then who writes the rule book on these things, why can’t people look good and use a bike as just another accessory? Just because this particular bike happens to be fixed gear, how does that by default mean they MUST be fast, hardcore and able to do tricks?

And then you have to consider that there is a process. You get a bike & you learn how to use it. THEN… you get better, it’s not instantaneous. People can’t be old school fixie guys that eat, shit and breathe fixed gear straight away. I personally find it more incessant when some dude thinks he’s amazing because he’s “been riding fixed forever” and “can’t fucking stand all these hipsters on bianchi pista’s”, as opposed to some cashed up kid who perhaps accidently buys the “wrong” set of bars when he’s starting out.

On topic though, I think that bars really aren’t one size fits all. Some are suited to some modalities, and others to different one’s. Personally, I find that modestly cut risers are the best all-rounder.

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