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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Eric Malcolm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    What would you ride to escape a Tsunami?

    Seriously, the sign just happened to be where I parked the bike to take a photo, didn't notice til later.

    I wanted to present a thought, on Aero style for Gravel Racers, instead of drop-bars.

    A history to this is that I live in New Zealand. We have only in the last 2-3 yrs started to see Cyclo-cross introduced as a sport. We have an ever growing network of point to point cycle-ways being established using dis-used railway lines. There are races held on the odd one, one being 95 miles long. I am now 55yrs old and past Cyclocross unfortunately. The generation of cyclists before me used to race 'road races' on gravel country roads as the norm, but the current generation don't know what they rode as bikes. They did amazing feats at 20-25 mph on these events. Today, a rail trail event is ridden on MTB's. No one has clicked on to cyclo-bikes.....yet. I have a riding background in road racing and velodrome. I have carried the style themes across and applied them to gravel and mixed riding.

    Anyway, I wanted to share with you my 'clean-sheet' design that accounts for an Aero bar and in particular the questions of stability and control.

    Lessons that I have learned is that a new approach to modifying time-trial bars needs to be done. You cannot use the elbow pad for instance. The frame cannot have a steep head-tube angle. The spacing between the frontal portion has to be wide enough to allow out of saddle riding and in the case of the forward hand position, control at speed if things get a little loose underneath you.

    This bike is built with a 71.5 degree head tube angle, fork off-set is now 39mm (I originally had 45mm, but the bike was twitchy). At its wide points, the handlebars measure 600mm, the mid-point where the bar joins to the v-stem is 300mm and the forward ends are 220mm apart.
    Reach varies between 90mm @ 600mm position, 190mm @ mid-point and 360mm to the end of the Aero portion. The angle for hand positions need to be drawn out and set to individual taste. The original purpose for these bars was to effectively deal with head winds, ease a bad back, and give me a versatile platform to ride between MTB, gravel and road options with one bike. It works.

    I do not know if this set-up is legal for your gravel racing, but it sure works for me. It has taken me 3 bar sets to refine. Just a word of caution, the mid-position is the most used one. At 300mm wide, it is just right for cruising quickly, if you set it any narrower, the bikes front end will want to buck you off over the handlebars as the control is completely lost when you stand up out of the saddle, at 300mm, this does not happen. Also, at the most forward Aero position, your arms are in line with your legs so the frontal profile is narrow, as you would want it to be. The extention does not over-hang the front wheel axle by too much. If you go too far, the bike also becomes unstable if you need steering input. Those are the design issues that I found needing to over-come.

    As an aside, the hydro disc brakes work superbly. I would encourage there use as 'road lever' sets become available.

    Hope this is of interest to you.

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    Last edited by Eric Malcolm; 05-20-2013 at 01:28 AM.
    If I don't make an attempt, how will I know if it will work?

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Nice looks like a fine gravel racing rig.

    Did you just try clip on arrow first?
    XC, Road, XXC, Endurance, Mtn, All-Mtn, Cross, Gravel, just go have fun on 2 wheels!

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Eric Malcolm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Using clip-on bars that I tried on my 'test mule' did not go well. There were 2 issues. The fore-arm pad area kept the arms too narrow - you need to have free elbows for those odd moments - remember, you are not riding on 'terra firma' that is a good as boards or tarmac. The second issue is being able to rapidly adjust your ride position. That is: sit up-right, go a to wide hand positioning and keep control of the steering inputs. I don't mean that it is scary to ride - it is not, just that you are on gravel, and if a variation comes into your ride line you can address the issue efficiently.

    On my test mule (an old MTB) I had flat bars and positioned the bar-ends inside of the brake levers and progressed variations that way. I also tried a Triathlon bike on gravel and found that the geometry was totally unsuited, so this was when I went for a clean sheet design.

    If I don't make an attempt, how will I know if it will work?

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