8. Bicycle Touring for Beginners. Handlebars, shifter positions and ummm….

So many choices, well, not so many, not like sleeping bags or Tires, but still enough that you want to ponder for a bit.  The two main choices will be the Bullhorn, this is the curved down, Tour de France racing, the more “original” style handlebar.  Equally as common is the MTB, mountain bike bar, which is straight across.

various types of handlebars for bicycles

This is totally user preference.  I prefer the Bullhorn as it gives me more hand positions for when I get ancy, or tired in any given position.  To this I have added aero bars for further hand positions.  I find the aero bars are cool, for me, for a few reasons.  First and foremost, they help me to feel ninja when I am going full speed down a hill, and to give you an idea of the speeds you can hit when you are loaded with gear, when I am in my lowest gear, big ring on the front crank, smallest one in the rear, the wheels are moving so fast the sound changes.  They get the helicopter effect.  You know what I’m sayin’, they get that, whump whump, whump, the rotations are so fast they blur together and the sound becomes a slow steady rhythmic sound.  The wind whistles and you feel the air begin to shift in its relation to flowing over you, and whats best, I cant even pedal any more, I am in the lowest possible gear, the hardest to pedal and the pedals merely spin… You Are Flying.  I drop into my aero bar pose and for a few moments, or in the case of some down hills, for a good long while, I feel free of the 120 pounds of gear I am carrying, instead I am Chris Bornstein, flying, free as a bird, and for me, that is totally worth it.  The feeling is so good, it allowed me to ride for two days with a pretty bad case of heat stroke!

If you choose to include aero bars in your set up there are a few things you would do well to remember.  A.  Make sure those bars are very tight on your main bar.  I had the good fortune of missing a date with death due to providence when I first tucked down on my aero bars and to my surprise I just kept going down and almost went over the front of my bike.  This of course would have been very bad, any personal accident on the side of the road is always bad as it gives the opportunity for you to fall INTO the road, or in the case of where I am now, off the road into rock and cactus.  So keep the bars TIGHT.

Second, remember some basic mechanics.  If you are steering your bike from the aero bars, you are using a smaller point of reference than the main handle bar, because of that the resulting movement will be more exaggerated.  This is most important to remember especially when a Big Truck comes cruising by and you get the vacuum effect and you try to compensate and all of a sudden you are lurching into the road!  I advise you, if you use aero bars of course, to drop onto your main bars when a truck or large vehicle passes.  After all, what is usually behind a truck on the road, some cars, would be a shame to end up in front of one of them…  Use your wits and always be learning on the road, on your journey, in your life and things will work out for the best.

Along with different handlebars, there are a variety of different tapes to wrap your bars.  Choose one you like after trying a few different ones, they are remarkably different and you being stoked is what this is about!

If you opted for the straight across bars, you may think of getting some bar ends, these will give you some extra hand positions.

In choosing your bars, you will also be opening yourself up to different options when it comes to shifter placement.  I have mine at the end of the bull horn, which is cool and at the same time can be a hassle as I seem to bump the shifters with my knees, when I place my bike in various positions it can bump the shifters, this is no good as shifting the lever with out completing the actual shift can result in stretched cables and reduced cable life and therefore unnecessary replacing of parts, all in all, it works for me as well as Diana.

One thing that I can say for sure is that brakes are key in this.  As we are talking about handlebars, I want to say something about brake levers on your bars.  If you go with the Bullhorn style bar, you will have at least 2 brake levers out there in front, these may also be your shifters.  If you went with this style a recommendation that we are currently looking for to make the ride easier for Diana are an additional two levers at the top of the bar. pedaling for peace - profile aero bar These will be more MTB style levers and the cable will pass through them to the main levers out in front.  This makes a BIG DIFFERENCE as it allows you to brake from different positions which can be make a huge difference on wear and tear of your wrist and hands…   remember those huge hills we were flying down with our aero bars, well at times, the hill is so steep you are well advised to be braking slightly a lot to maintain a certain control over your speed, these extra levers make a huge difference.