Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dirt Drops (What, Why & How)

What!? People want to put drops on offroad bikes? It's true! People have been putting "road bars" on not-road bikes. It's kind of a thing.
So what makes a dirt drop different from other kinds of bars, dropish or otherwise? We'll there's no one answer. Traditionally drop bars were used to get the rider into a more tucked position. It's assumed that this was done for aerodynamic reason, but I tend to disagree. Anybody who's done much offroad fixed gear riding knows that you have to get your weight super far forward to get enough weight on the pedals to climb up steep hills. If you have a swept back city bar, nope, not going to work. So by moving the center of gravity forward over the front wheel riders were able to get more power and still have a comfortable grip position.
Fast forward to the advent of geared cyclocross bikes. Roads got better, purpose built racing bikes got more purposeful, and traditions that made sense on fixed gears stuck around and became more orthodox. So you have a bunch of racer bros riding around on hacked together cyclocross bikes using mostly road racing parts and feeling pretty good about themselves.
Meanwhile, some dirty hippies out on the west coast are riding around on beach cruisers running into the same problems that the OG fixiefoos were having, and Papa Charlie gets the idea that the dirtbike levers kinda suck (I assume, because they did). So he starts building bikes using state of the art drop bar levers which allowed lots of modulation and developing space age roller cam brakes to replace the Mafac cantis people were messing around with.
So long story short, Jacquie beats the pants off pretty much everybody, the bike industry at large embraces awful non ergonomic flatbar cockpits, stems get longer, geometry gets steeper and John Tomac gets the credit for inventing dirt drops. End of story.
Then along comes some young wipper snapper from Berkeley selling sorta Major Taylor looking mountain bike bars and everybody goes nuts. Suddenly there are no rules anymore. Nobody cares what their bikes look like. Utter chaos.
One day Benedict Cumberbatch decides to quit acting, grow a wizard beard and become a Zensunni Wanderer. Some journo tracks him down and takes a picture of him ripping a fat skid and everybody needs vintage Modolo levers again.

So now that you know the history of dirt drops, here's where we're coming from with this whole Gator bar idea. Our distributor in Japan makes these funky bars that fit mountain bike brake levers and I find them in their catalog and get to thinking, what if these fit Rohloff shifters? Well they don't, mostly because of the ergo bends in the drops. There are a few ways to get the shifters to fit, but ATMO they look like a chode.

So I did a drawing, and Tange made me some samples. I didn't like how they felt, so I made another drawing and they made those too. Those sucked a little less, so I made a third drawing and voila, the Gator bar. The long handle allows you to mount the shifter anywhere on the drop handle. We're super magnanimous, so they fit bar ends and other stuff, but we really want you to use Rohloff hubs. Seriously, they're cool.

So why are they so reachy? Because handlebar bags are dope as f***, but the problem with bikepacking handlebar bags is that they are so wide that they won't fit most drop bars, including almost all the traditional dirt drops. You want the weight to be as far back as possible, so that means running a shorter stem. But you won't want the hoods to be so far back, so the ramps need to be longer. Velo Orange obviously saw this idea somewhere, or maybe they though of it on their own, but either way they get why you might want to have usable hoods and drops and still be able to use the brake levers from either position.
So what angle should your handles be? I'm not your mother, figure it out yourself! I like my hoods level. The higher the drops the steeper the drops should probably be. A good way to figure it out is to hold the bars in two hands and slowly raise them up to the height you want. What level are the handles? Ok cool, you're done.

But really none of that matters because the same Japanese folks who gave me the idea for the Gator bars invented the negative-drop dirt drop, and then made them out of carbon fiber. So really, everything else is already obsolete. You're welcome. Now go ride bikes.

Also, Go Fund Charlie's recovery fund. We wouldn't even be having this argument without him. Such a badass!

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