Weird Flex But OK

It’s been two months since I fitted my Artisanal Singlespeed with some fancy bamboo bars, and since I rode it today I figured I’d put on my semi-professional blogging pants and give you an update:

When it comes to non-traditional handlebar materials, the first consideration is, “Will it break?,” and I’m pleased to report that so far it has not. Also, this sort of thing is subjective, but I do happen to think the bar is quite aesthetically pleasing, and it certainly turns heads–at least of the deer variety:

That’s a genuine Bronx deer, by the way. It’s downright bucolic up here, I don’t know how people in Brooklyn even manage.

Apart from aesthetics and novelty factor, the whole point of this bar is that it has “natural flex” for comfort, and it is indeed extremely comfortable. In fact, I daresay it is downright sumptuous, and like a pair of orthopedic shoes it’s helping me continue to enjoy this completely age-inappropriate bike even as I begin to tickle the undercarriage of 50:

At the same time, as much as I like it, it’s hard to imagine that I’d have paid $250 for it:

That’s not an indictment of the product, by the way; frankly, I can’t imagine myself paying $250 for any handlebar. This is because I’m stuck in the pre-crabon era, and stuff like handlebars that cost more than $200 and wheels that cost more than $2,000 dollars seems wildly decadent to me, even though for lots of people that’s totally normal.

But setting aside my own hangups, let’s just say you want to seriously soften up your cockpit. (It’s ironic that as we age we need to soften up our bikes’ cockpits yet stiffen our own.) What other gimmickry solutions are out there, and is the Passchier a good deal or not? Well, I hopped into the cockpit of a popular search engine and did a little window shopping to find out.

One way to go is the Flexx Enduro:

As Passchier explains, their bar is not designed for full-on, testicles-out, shreddy-Freddy bro-ballin’. The Flexx Enduro most decidedly is. Indeed, it’s meant for people who “Rice or Die:”

At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it says.

Obviously then if you’re the sort of person who wears cargo shants and carries your bike with the front wheel hanging over the tailgate of your pickup truck then you’re going to go with the Flex Enduro. On the other hand, at $324.99 it’s more expensive than the bamboo. Furthermore, as a rider who will always opt for rice over dying I’m more than willing to risk unlikely bamboo bar failure on my adrenaline-free trail rides than I am to put hinged handlebars on my bike. So while I still think the Passchier is expensive, this at least helps put it in perspective.

Of course, anyone who’s spent more than five minutes on Reddit knows that if you want to smooth out your ride you’re supposed to use crabon handlebars, and according to some test I saw somewhere the most “vertically compliant” mountain bike handlebar is this one:

I have no idea if this is as plush as the bamboo bar. However, it is $100 cheaper, and it’s an actual mountain bike bar, so presumably you can beat the hell out of it worry-free. Assuming it’s comparable in terms of flex, you’d have to either really like the aesthetics and novelty factor of the bamboo bar to choose it over this, or else you’d reeeally have to have something against crabon–like some deep-seated resentment that defies all reason. As it happens, I do have a deep-seated resentment of crabon that defies all reason, though even I have to acknowledge it makes absolutely no sense to choose a bamboo bar over this for a mountain bike.

But what if you don’t want to mess with your bars at all in order to smooth out your rigid bike? Well, there’s the hypnotically phallic Redshift suspension stem for $169.99:

I’d pay the extra $80 for the Passchier not to have that thing on my bike. In fact, I’d pay $80 not to have that on my bike even if I didn’t get a pair of handlebars out of it. “Here’s $80, just get that thing away from me!,” I’d scream.

Same thing goes for the Lauf fork:

They seem popular and I have no doubt they work as advertised, but when I look at it I feel the same way I do when I see people hitting their kids on the subway.

So that just leaves these suspension hubs…:

…which obviously nobody in their right mind is ever going to use:

Not because of the design, but because they cost $7,000.

Anyway, what I’ve come to appreciate since taking delivery of my A. Homer Hilsen is that the real key to a smooth-riding cockpit is a threaded stem with some extension paired with non-oversized everything. However, if you’ve got a racier bike that was initially built for stiffness, then a pair of boutique bamboo handlebars isn’t the craziest thing in the world–especially if you’re going for elegance over maximum strength. As for me, I’m subjecting it to plenty of roots and rocks, and it probably would have been foolish to actually buy this bar for this bike, but I doubt I’m pushing them too far past what they’re able to handle.

At this point in my life it’s my body that’s the limiting factor.

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