Bullhorns & general advice

Questions about purchasing bicycles and parts

Bullhorns & general advice

Postby DJenkins » Sun May 12, 2013 11:10 pm

Hi guys, I’m brand new to the forums here and have a few questions regarding the style of bike I have in mind for my first serious purchase.

It will be used for short 20 minute trips around the city and surrounds (heading out from Redfern, Sydney) and some longer recreational trips on the weekend with my girlfriend.

I have a pretty good idea of what I want – pretty much a flat bar road bike - but also some extra ideas that I’d like some advice on. I’ll try and explain as best I can so my apologies if my commit some terminology faux-pas!

I don’t find the perpendicular wrist angle on normal flat bars comfortable. In comparison the parallel position on drop bars feels great but I don’t like the super low riding position of riding all the way down on the drops. I also don’t think being down that low would be good for my neck and keeping an eye on traffic in the city. Although I could make-do riding on top of the drop bars, don’t think a full on race/road bike with super skinny tyres would suit my riding situations. For this reason I’m thinking of getting bullhorns on a more practical road bike.

I went to one of my LBS in the city and was fitted for a Trek 7.4 FX and had a test ride. The bike felt great except the flat bars and grips. I went in pretty close to closing time so unfortunately didn’t have much time to really dig in to what I want. Next weekend I’d like to go in to a few different stores with a bit of understanding of what’s possible. I’ve also tried out my parents’ bikes being an Avanti Agressor mtb and a Giant TCR carbon road bike, although the frame size and fit was too small.

Bikes I have in mind just from looking online are:
Orbea Carpe H30
Schwinn Slicker

Anyone have experience with these models?

I do like the style of the single speed/urban bikes out there but would rather at least a few gears.

Now I know looks may be the last thing I should be thinking about… but I have to admit I can get quite obsessed with these things and would love to get a bike that both suits for functionality and the look I want. The plain look is more appealing rather than something with hi-tech speed stripes all over it… though having said this would rather buy the right bike for functionality and modify the looks later.

Would I have any problems re-painting any of these bikes?
Would I need completely different brake levers and shifters if I swapped for bullhorns?
Is this swap a difficult process, and would I need to modify anything else?
I’d also be looking at getting a rack for the back.

Sorry for the long post but any recommendations on suitable models or advice for my possibly stupid ideas would be greatly appreciated!

I look forward to my stay here 

Best regards,
Danny
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by BNA » Mon May 13, 2013 10:14 am

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Re: Bullhorns & general advice

Postby TTar » Mon May 13, 2013 10:14 am

For similar reasons, I too considered bullhorns at one stage.

I found I prefer bar-ends. My favourites were salvaged from an ancient MTB and are a chunky and stubby oval shape -- they do look a little out of place on my sleek hybrid, but I can set them at whatever angle I choose. With time, perpendicular grips became more comfortable for me, but I still prefer to cruise along on the bar ends. I have them angled so that there's no bend in my wrists -- unless you tilt bullhorn bars up to a ridiculous angle, you just can't "customise" them to suit.

Also, I hide/carry a patch kit and tyre levers inside my bar-ends and I have a solid topped rear rack under which I hide/carry a cheap mini pump. They're always onboard, so you never forget them and because it's all cheap stuff it's no great loss if they're pinched, but hidden as they are, only a serious and experienced thief might guess that they're there and such a character would likely be too discerning a thief to lift them.

I didn't notice any terminology faux-pas, but "faux-pas" should've been plural -- faux-pases?
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Re: Bullhorns & general advice

Postby RonK » Mon May 13, 2013 1:33 pm

Matching handlebars with levers, brakes and derailleurs is a bit of a minefield. Getting the right combinations may difficult.

Here's a page about handlebars sizes.

Note that flat bar bikes are generally fitted with MTB bars, while bullhorns are road bars. Most likely the levers (gear and brake) on your flat bar won't fit on a bull horn. Depending on whether your bike is fitted with v-brakes (long pull) or cantilever brakes (short pull) it may be difficult to find compatible brake levers. For gear levers, bar-end shifters may be the only practical option.
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Re: Bullhorns & general advice

Postby DJenkins » Mon May 13, 2013 4:56 pm

Thanks for the replies!

I've had a dig around and can probably eliminate my question of a respray, seems my money would be better spent on the hardware itself for the moment. Would also likely void the warranty and seems a waste on a brand new bike. Found Star Enamellers and Mr Clean etc had been mentioned a few times if I ever decide to go ahead.

The bullhorns seem to be quite a bit of messing around if I want comfortable access to the shifters and brake levers quickly and easily. Sounds like a heavy custom job and I would almost be tempted to build the entire bike while I'm at it!

The time I'd have to put in probably means I'm not on the road any time soon :(

So for a ready to ride solution I'm still torn between the safer riding style of flat bars or the more comfortable hand position of drops - likely just riding up on the hoods.

Guess I will be widening my search for test rides this weekend, please keep the advice coming!
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Re: Bullhorns & general advice

Postby RonK » Mon May 13, 2013 5:47 pm

DJenkins wrote:So for a ready to ride solution I'm still torn between the safer riding style of flat bars or the more comfortable hand position of drops - likely just riding up on the hoods.

Hand comfort is a function of bike fit - you can be uncomfortable with any type of bar if your position is not right.

I dunno where you get the idea that flat bars are "safer". Best bet would be to get a properly fitted drop bar bike and ride it on the tops and hoods like most of us do.
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Re: Bullhorns & general advice

Postby DJenkins » Mon May 13, 2013 10:32 pm

RonK wrote:I dunno where you get the idea that flat bars are "safer". Best bet would be to get a properly fitted drop bar bike and ride it on the tops and hoods like most of us do.


I hope it didn't sound like I was having a go at the roadies & drop bar riders, it was just my brief experience that riding low on the drops meant my neck was quite hard to tilt up and keep an eye on things around me in a traffic situation. Also when riding up on the hoods the levers felt like a bit of a stretch but it actually was the most comfortable position. Hands down near the stem meant I was even further from the controls.

However I think this bike was too small for me and this could definitely have been the cause of some of the problems. I think I will try a properly fitted road bike with drops this weekend just to see if the issues still exist.

I'm also thinking about what TTar said, going with flat bars for now but cutting the width down a little and adding bar ends. If I find I want to take it further to bullhorns or drops then I can take my time to find the right parts. Maybe even build another bike while still having something available to ride. I just think exploring all these options could take me forever and if I fuss over things for too long I'll never make it out on the streets!
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Re: Bullhorns & general advice

Postby jaffaman » Tue May 14, 2013 8:32 am

DJenkins wrote:
I do like the style of the single speed/urban bikes out there but would rather at least a few gears.


Multi speed urban style http://www.electrabike.com/Bikes/townie-original21d-bikes-mens. Lowish end parts perhaps on this one though it does come with an 8 speed Alfine internal gear hub version as well. Would also likely fix your hand position concerns.

Very well suited to short and recreational riding.
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Re: Bullhorns & general advice

Postby TTar » Tue May 14, 2013 10:39 am

DJenkins wrote:
I'm also thinking about what TTar said, going with flat bars for now but cutting the width down a little and adding bar ends. If I find I want to take it further to bullhorns or drops then I can take my time to find the right parts.


Hooray for thinking about what I said, but that means I must now take responsibility for my comments and make some qualifications;

Not sure what you mean by "cutting the width down", if you're wanting narrow flat bars there's plenty of different sizes available. If you mean you're losing width you'd rather keep because of the addition of bar ends; you're not really, you just have clunky handlebar tips where the bar ends clamp on.

An advantage of bullhorns and drops is the "rounded corners". Regularly changing your grip alleviates fatigue and those rounded corners allow you to half grip, half lean on the nearest "corners" with your palms facing forward. You can practically arch your back backwards and fully stretch your arms for a spell -- a great relief on long rides.

Not plunging into the deep end with bullhorns or drops from the beginning is probably a good idea, but you may as well start without bar ends into the bargain. Perhaps just start riding with whatever flatbar comes with the bike and when fully familiar with that, you'll have a much better idea what you need -- you might even decide you don't want anything else at all.

Another equally important consideration which I think is too often overlooked, is your actual grips and precise placement and angling of brake and gear levers. I've never encountered a bar tape I've liked and your options for grips on bullhorns or drops are quite limited. I have large spongy grips with palm rests on my flat bars and just some inner tube over my steel bar ends for padding. It may sound like a strange combination, but I've come to this configuration after years of experimentation. And I expect it'll be further refined in coming years...

This is the world you're entering -- welcome and condolences.
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Re: Bullhorns & general advice

Postby RonK » Tue May 14, 2013 11:43 am

DJenkins wrote:I hope it didn't sound like I was having a go at the roadies & drop bar riders, it was just my brief experience that riding low on the drops meant my neck was quite hard to tilt up and keep an eye on things around me in a traffic situation.

No, but you seem to have the common misconception about drop bars. I can only repeat - you don't have to use the drops. Most of us don't, or only use them for hard efforts or headwinds. We ride on the flats and the hoods most of the time - this is essentially identical to using a bullhorn. The levers are designed to be used from either position.

DJenkins wrote:Also when riding up on the hoods the levers felt like a bit of a stretch but it actually was the most comfortable position.

You do need to adapt a little, but most likely the fit is not correct. You may want to consider a bike with a "relaxed geometry" - these usually have a higher and shorter bar position.

DJenkins wrote:Hands down near the stem meant I was even further from the controls.

Well the close to the stem position is most frequently used when climbing. However, it is not necessary to have your hands hovering over the controls all the time.
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