Dropbar Obsession; Pt1

For some reason, my riding position has evolved to be lower and I now spend more time in the drops. Further, my preferences for drop handlebars has changed. The shape that I spent most of my time riding was the 3T Forma (and its subtly different successor, the Forgie, shown below), but the fact that this bar was originally designed for early aero-routed brake levers as opposed to the integrated brake/shift levers of today changes the ergonomic balance. So recently I have put a lot of thought into what I want from my drop handlebar, and now I’m bent on changing the bar on every road and track bike I own. I ended up going with several different bars, each for specific reasons.

forgie side.jpg

Here’s one bar I chose for my oldest bike: a 3T Super Competizione in the “Gimondi”-style bend. The old 3T, sharing only a name with the current company, had for years marketed handlebars with different option shapes. The two of the more popular shapes were named after the greatest riders of the mid-1960s to mid-1970s: Eddy Merckx and Felice Gimondi.

gim top.jpg

As seen below, on the Gimondi bend, the flats on either side of the stem almost immediately start curving forward and down for the hooks, rather than squaring off with a tighter radius further out. This eliminates most of the “ramp” of the dropbar, the fore-aft section above the hooks. This shape favors an out-of-the-saddle style of sprinting by making room for the riders forearms as the bike is rocked side-to-side. This shape is sometimes called a “criterium” bend, and another famous handlebar maker, Cinelli, once offered a bar similar to 3T’s Gimondi bend called the “Model 65 Criterium”.

This bar was designed for the best brake lever of the day, Campagnolo’s Nuovo Record. Compared to today’s levers, the NR lever hood is a tiny thing that does only a little more than keeping your hands from sliding off the front of the hooks. Today’s lever hoods are large affairs since they contain shifting mechanicals, but the new designs also give much greater support to the rider’s hand. In conjunction with more modern handlebar designs with nearly zero slopes on the ramps, the modern levers continue the horizontal platform of the flats and ramp forward almost like mtb barends or a time trial base bar. As a result, riding from the hoods is pretty much the norm for most riders nowadays.

gim sharp trans.jpg

For myself, I would like criterium bar’s forearm clearance but with the modern flat ramp-hood transition. The Gimondi curves downward from the flats, so normally I would have to mount my Dura Ace 7800 levers further down the hook to get the ramp-hood transition smoother, but then I’d have to rotate the whole bar up in the stem clamp, which would make the angle of the grip section below the hook too steep for my tastes.

gim too low.jpgSo what can be done? Next time I’ll show you. It’s a trick that can help you fine tune the ergonomics of your own handlebar too.