20 October 2011
As I mentioned before, I now have some fairly comfortable bar ends on my Brompton, but they were unfortunately set at a less than ideal angle, to keep them (barely) clear of the ground when the bike was folded.
Looking at the variables open to me it seemed like the simplest and cheapest to try was a new set of handlebars. Whilst it seems that you can spend upwards of £100 on handlebars(!) for this experiment I went with a rather more modest set at a grand cost of £11.81 including shipping from Amazon.
The most important thing to look for when buying new handlebars for a Brompton is to ensure that they are 25.4mm (1 inch) in diameter at the clamping point. Some mountain bike handlebars are rather wider. The set that I got are shaped so that the grips are about 3cm above the clamp. I hoped that this would help to stop the riding position from being too severe and also provide some clearance for my luggage (a T bag).
Fitting the new bars was fairly straightforward it was just a case of:
- Removing everything from the old handlebars, noting the routing of the cables. (Also note that if you still have the original Brompton grips you almost certainly won’t be able to get them off without ruining them so you’ll need something to replace them with).
- in my case undoing the handlebar brace on one side.
- loosening the handlebar clamp.
- sliding out the old bars and sliding in the new ones.
- reversing the other steps above, remembering to route the cables correctly.
The new handlebars went in fairly easily as they only bulge out at the clamping point (the grip ends are at the normal 22.2mm diameter) which meant that the curves in the bar went through the clamp without much trouble.
With everything fitted I found that I could easily position the bar ends at the angle I wanted and keep them clear of the ground when the bike was folded.
However, there are a couple of other clearances you need to worry about when changing the handlebars:
- The clearance between the brake levers and any luggage you may have
- The clearance between the cables to the rear of the bike and the front cog
With these handlebars the brake levers are a little close to my T-bag for my liking, I wouldn’t be able to pack it too full. The brake and gear cables, whilst closer to the front cog, seem to be OK.
In use the first thing I noticed was that the riding position felt very strange compared to before. My arms felt quite widely spread, the steering felt a bit less lively, and my knees were getting rather close to my stomach when peddling.
The first two of these changes are down to the fact that the new handlebars are rather wider than the standard m-type handlebars and I got used them fairly quickly. The third change was down to the new handlebars obviously being much lower. I’ve never owned a proper racing bike but looking at picture it seems that they often have their handlebars down below the height of the saddle so it may just be my overly large stomach getting in the way! (Or it may be that having a longer distance between the saddle and handlebars on a full size bike counteracts this issue somewhat).
After a couple of rides I also noticed that the saddle feels rather less comfortable than before, I’m not sure whether this is down to the change in riding position or just the fact that I haven’t ridden a bike for a few months. I may try tipping the saddle forwards a little to see if that’s any more comfortable.
Overall I’d say that these handlebars are a qualified success. They allow me a good bar end position but are a bit uncomfortable at the moment - I’d not go on a long ride without a few trial runs first to see if I could get comfortable in the new position.
Given my findings I think I’ll try to find another set of handlebars with a bit more rise in them to see whether I can get a better compromise between bar ends and overall comfort.
[The links to Amazon on this page won’t cost you anything, but will make me some money if you buy through them]