Monday, August 05, 2013

Equipment - FSA Energy Handlebars

Over the last month or two I've been thinking about trying to fix my bar position. I mean, okay, I've been thinking about it since the winter, but I finally got another bar that might work - the FSA Energy handlebar. I was running an FSA Wing, a "compact" bar. It has 12 cm drop and 8 cm reach, instead of the 15 cm drop and 11 cm reach of the crit bend bars.

To try and make up for part of this I got a 2 cm longer stem (14 cm long) which moved the drops out 2 cm and therefore reclaimed 2 of the 3 cm lost. I'd be running 1 cm shorter reach.

I got the stem in a Deda Pista (track). Unfortunately instead of the normal 65 degree angle the Deda came with just a 70 degree angle, a whopping 3 degrees downward angle from horizontal, not the 8 degrees I wanted.

Ultimately the stem got me another half centimeter of drop, netting me a 1.5 cm raise, versus the 2 cm raise before. I knew it affected my sprint negatively but I decided that it would be acceptable. After all, 2013 was the year of no goals, just to ride and race as possible. Sprinting on the drops felt awkward, kind of like doing curls but just the top 25% of the motion. I want to get into the meaty part of the curl, the middle 90 degrees, not the top 45 degrees. The shallow drop bars kept me from really being able to push/pull the bars.

The big benefit to me was that the tops of the bars were 2 cm further out. I really liked that for the JRA type training I do out on the road - tops or drops for me.

Since the higher drops grated on my nerves every time I rode I decided to look for a deeper drop 8 cm reach bar, so a deep drop compact if you will. I saw the FSA Energy fit the bill, so when I could I bought one.

Then I let it sit around for a month or two. Or three even.

The other day, reluctantly getting on the bike for a hot trainer session, I decided that, okay, I'll try the doggone bars. I'd gotten a 73 degree 14 cm 3T stem as well so I bolted the two together, making it a Road/Energy combo, and stuck it in place of the Pista/Compact bar set up. I didn't bother transferring anything over to the new bars - if it didn't seem right I'd just put the complete Pista/Compact cockpit back on the bike.

Road/Energy stem/bar combo, bare.
Note the regular Pista/Compact assembly dangling below it.

Another view which clearly shows how I simply put a different bar/stem on the bike.

I rode the trainer like this. Shifting was awkward at best. Trying to check ride time on the SRM involved moving the dangling bar a bit so I could see the SRM.

A sideways view (left is down), showing the Pista label on the original stem.

I did the trainer ride with the Road/Energy set up, no cables, no tape, and even though the skinny unwrapped bar felt incomplete the overall setup felt better. Shifting the other sets of bars inconvenienced me, of course, but, more significantly, I noticed the 2 cm drop immediately. It felt better, it let me drop down lower while on the drops, and it felt like it ought to work. I even rode with gloves because the bar bars slipped too much. The drops themselves felt weird so after a not-too-intense ride, tired in a sleepy way, I decided to deal with it later.

The next day, when I looked at the bike with a clear mind, I realized that I never properly tightened the handlebar clamp bolts so the bars tilted up when I pedaled while holding the drops. The ends of the bars were pointing comically at the rear hub.

I had ridden a clown bike.

This is why the bars felt so weird on the drops, and in the dimly lit room (it was late at night), a hazy brain, I just didn't see it. I tilted the bars to a more reasonable angle, pointing to just above the rear brake, and sat on the bike. It felt okay so I spent some time moving the cable housing and levers over. I even moved the SRM mount over.

With no tape I did another trainer ride, again with gloves. Unfortunately I bonked on this one so I ended it quickly. Even in the short 35 minutes I realized that the right lever sat just a bit higher than the left and that otherwise the bars were great.

The next day, with the Missus's encouragement, I adjusted that lever just a touch lower in preparation for wrapping the bars. The cable housing seemed just a touch too short, just enough to make me feel slightly uncomfortable. I thought about lengthening the housing, something that you can do with the Nokons, but then I realized that maybe the Pista stem, with its 3 degree downward slope, would help. I quickly switched out the 73 degree 3T road stem for the 70 degree Deda Pista and lo and behold the housing looked okay. Amazing what a few millimeters of drop can do.

A final check of the lever level and the bar angle and I wrapped the bars. I bought some Fizik tape for its grip in the wet, to replace the set on the Compact bars. I'm not keen on how it doesn't really stretch but that's okay. I think I need to get cheaper tape in quantity so I can keep fresh tape on the bars.

I headed out for a proper road ride, complete with out of saddle efforts and such. The deeper drops felt great, familiar, like getting back into the groove again. I tried to remember the different positions, the different efforts, spinning, sliding a bit forward on the saddle, sliding a bit back.

The forward position worked well, tilting the pelvis forward, flattening my back, allowing me to spin. I could hold the bars with little effort, no stress on my arms, no stress on my back, unlike trying to hold a low position with the shallower Compact bars.

Although I focused on the position, on making sure the bars were straight, the angle was good, and the levers were level, I got back home a bit quicker than normal. The Missus queried me on the loop since I was back a bit quicker than expected - I did the loop in a bit under 50 minutes (about 18 mph). That's better than an hour or so, not as good as the 43 or 44 minute lap I did one time (over 20 mph).

The drops felt better, the tops felt the same, and the hoods, for some reason, felt better when I was standing. With a slew of races coming up I'll have some time to see how the bars work for me. I have races scheduled for Tuesday Aug 6, Saturday Aug 10, Sunday Aug 18, Friday Aug 23, and then finally Sunday Sept 22.

I have more thoughts about the deep drop bar (or, really, the "normal drop" bar) but I'll post on that later. For now some pictures on the bike with the Energy handlebars and the Pista stem.

The bike pretty much as I rode it for the first time with the new bars.

Notice there's no bottle? No frame pump? Yeah, I forgot that stuff. Oops. I got on the bike after the first attempt at pulling Junior along in a trailer. That wasn't a great success. It took a while to figure things out though plus we waited through two short rain showers. When we finally got back from our 1 mile outing it was getting late. I basically jumped on the bike and left, sans bottle and pump. I did have my pockets full with my tools and stuff but yeah, brain scattered results there.

Slightly better view of angle of bars.

You can see the the drops are about level with the tire. This is where I'm used to having my drops, there or slightly below.

For comparison here's the Wing bar from an earlier post.
Note how the drops are above the tire? Not good for me.

Normally I cut the last couple inches of the bar off but I didn't have the wherewithall to do that so I just left it as it. Seems awfully long - on a normal top tube length bike I'd worry about hitting it with my knee. I'll cut it down the next time I wrap the bars, with the end of the bar a vertical line down from the back of the tops of the bars.

Slightly different angle of the Energy-based cockpit.

You can see the slight downward angle based on the garage door lines. It's a very slight angle. I'd prefer to have a 3 cm shorter head tube and an 80 degree stem but that's not possible. A downward angle stem is the only real option.

From above. The SRM is missing - I had that on when I rode.

Now to see how the bike works at the next race, either tomorrow at the Rent or Saturday at Rocky Hill.

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