cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

July 2024
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Hitting the Bars
Filed under: photos, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:39 am

Rivendell’s Noodle bars absolutely ruined me for any other way of riding a road-type bike. I got my first set for the cross bike, and noticed two things about them immediately - they had a flat ramp (the area directly behind the brake hoods) and the tops (which have some noticeable sweep  - they come back towards you a bit) made my wrists feel relaxed. (Here is a good general article on handlebar dimensions which appeared in the Rivendell Reader #38.) Positioned deep in the drops, the bend tended to contact my forearm when the trails headed down. But to me it felt reassuring, a secondary point of contact during sketchy handling positions.

The Quickbeam came with Noodle bars as the stock configuration, and I’ve now spent some serious time with them in roadish (and not-so-roadish) applications. Again, as baby bear once opined, “just right…”

Then one day, my open-wheeled racer whimpered and complained that it hadn’t been out much recently.  “But, you don’t wear fenders,” sez I.  “And I don’t really want to run you and your 25c smooth tires up on the trails.”  It just looked at me with those big pouty eyes and I relented, putting on the bike-guy shoes and clomping around like a horse when I wasn’t locked into the all-aero-all-the-time pedals, pumping up the tires to something like 285 psi and trying to remember what to do with 18 different gear choices.

Don’t get me wrong - it’s a nice bike, and other than a little squerk-squeak out of the bb, runs flawlessly. Except for one little problem - the cool-when-I-bought-’em Cinelli bars. (I didn’t actually buy them, they came with the bike). Up until this time, I’d really never had a strong opinion on road bars.  But, on that ride, it became clear that the best way to use them was either riding the tops or riding the drops. The on-the-ramp position, which had never been a concern before, felt ridiculous.

Before I used the Noodles, the heel of my palm would settle right into the valley created by the ramp and the brake lever.  It used to seem comfortable, but on that ride, it felt like I was starting the big drop at the boardwalk roller coaster - literally sliding forward in my seat. When I really began to contemplate the setup and dimensions, the old bars clearly lacked, well, everything… 

If you look at the angle of the brake lever itself, you’ll notice that it sits just like the fast kids have theirs, but because of the extremely steep ramp on the bar, it sits much lower. A secondary issue is that with my stubby little fingers, I can’t bring them up any higher and easily reach the brake lever. (And I know I could rotate the bars up a bit, but I like a fairly flat drop area).  As a result of this little ride, I tacked a set of Soba bars to my next RBW order…

…and they sat in my closet all winter, patiently waiting the end of my sloth.

This is not my sloth. But, it is a fairly cute one.

Anyway, last night I went at it - it’s quite possible that the reason I haven’t ridden that bike more than once since then has a lot to do with how nasty those bars felt.


I knew I bought that nifty Nitto shim for some reason…  In this case taking up the gap between the proprietary 26.4 Cinelli  1A stem and the 26.0 Rivendell Soba bars.

Muy Bueno! Ochen Horosho! Sehr Gut!

These bars look so nice that I’m actually thinking of not taping them. The Soba Bar has the same sweep, ramp and dimensions as the Noodle, but use a bulged center section rather than a separate sleeve. They look smooth and gorgeous.  The only glitch is that I need to replace the cable housing for the back brake, as it was not-quite-tight with the last bars, but definitely gets stressed with the slightly longer run required for the Sobas. So, off to the bike shop on my lunch break… Can’t wait to ride them!

6 Responses to “Hitting the Bars”

  1. Jim G Says:
    Why did you need a shim — the Soba bars are 26.0mm diameter, no? Is your stem a 26.4mm Cinelli? BTW, that nasty steep-ramped shape of your Cinellis is exactly what I don’t like about the set I’ve got on my Fuji CX! On another note, like you (apparently) I’ve always subscribed to the “bottom-of-brake-lever-flush-with flat-part-of-drop” school. Some people routinely mount their bars with tundra-flat ramps, letting the drops curve and slope as they will, and then position the brake levers where they make sense. in other words, you and I fit the brake levers and then position the bars; other folks position the bars and then mount the brake levers. I don’t particularly like the aesthetic of drops that point towards the bike’s BB, but then again I’ve never really tried it…
  2. The Cyclofiend Says:
    Yep, the shim was for the 26.0 -> 26.4 mm gap. I like the Cinelli stem - it has a smooth minimalism and graceful curves.

    The dimensions of brake lever bodies dramatically shifted in ‘96 or so, as Shimano continued to refine the shape. If you look at early ’90’s photos, most road bikes seem to have their levers much lower, but I think it’s mostly a lever body design combined with the more prevent nasty sharp ramps. The early repair books I read all showed brake setup with a straight edge on the bottom of the drop, and a small gap to the tips of the lever. I found that if I changed that too much, I would have to literally drop my elbows and stretch to reach the brake - shortish fingers, y’know. Those same books also used the rear axle as the aim point of the drops. In this case, I did set up the bars first and got them flat on top before adding the brakes.

    The end result is exactly what I need - reachable levers and extremely comfortable bar positions. Pretty much why the Noodle/Soba ruined me for everything else…
  3. Ken Says:
    Whatever you do… don’t try even wider Noodle bars. I recently built up a bike for a friend with 48cm noodle bars. Good thing he picked up the bike… I have 46cm Noodle bars on several bikes and a set of the Soba on my “go fast” Rivendell. If I’d tried the 48’s any more it might make settling for 46 tough. You could be like my brother and have to change out SEVERAL bikes from 44 to 46? Ahhhh…. such is the problem with nice stuff. Ever since putting the Brooks leather bar tape on my Quickbeam, now I want it on all of my other bikes too. So, whatever you do… don’t try that!
  4. The Cyclofiend Says:
    Thank you Ken! I shall attempt to avoid such temptations! ;^)
  5. scott Says:
    That looks like a huge improvement, Jim. Should make the bike a lot more comfortable! I’m turning into one of the “flat ramps first, let the drops go” types, fwiw. The last major change (OK, I just *hope* that’s true ;-] ) the Univega needs is a stem/bar change to set up the bars and levers as you did there, with the bars a little higher.
  6. The Cyclofiend Says:
    Hoping to get it set up tonight so I can see what it rides like… Got the housing on Friday, but had limited extra time this past weekend. I try not to let maintainence get in the way of riding… ;^)