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I have a 2009 Kona Dew that comes with handlebars that have a rise in them.

I've noticed that I feel pretty upright while biking so I'm looking to get into a more aerodynamic position. Looking at the 2009 Dr. Dew, it looks like the geometry is more aggressive due to a flat bar and a different stem.

How is the fit/posture affected by the difference in bars? Is it more taxing on the rider to maintain such a posture without increasing the weight on the hands?

Given that the basic frame geometry of the Dr. Dew is identical to my bike, can I replicate the setup simply by switching to a flat bar like this FSA XC-180? Should I replace the stem and/or headset at the same time?

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Another difference between Dew and Dr Dew is that the latter has disc brakes (which people like in Vancouver when it's steep and wet). –  ChrisW Jul 20 '11 at 13:38
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5 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Looks to me like the difference is as much in the stem as in the bar. (It may be that for the Dr. Dew the bar has simply been rotated to a flatter position.) And both bikes appear to use a threadless headset, so the stem can be replaced without touching the headset proper. In some cases the stem is designed to allow it to be removed from the bar without having to "strip" the bar, in other cases not. Can't tell from the pictures.

Minor differences in bar position -- height and "reach" -- can have a major effect on riding comfort. Lowering the bar and/or moving it forward will significantly increase the pressure on the hands and add strain to the back. It does improve aerodynamics significantly, but, unlike with a "drop" bar, you tend to be stuck with that lower position, even when you'd like to relax a bit. (But there are various add-ons for straight bars that allow one to switch back and forth between a relatively upright position and a more aero one.)

(In fact, it's a pet peeve of mine that many bikes are designed to look "mean" on the showroom floor, with bar positioned low, but the bars are positioned too low for the comfort of most riders, and the threadless scheme makes it harder to raise the bar very much. As a result, many bikes are purchased, ridden for a few weeks, found to be uncomfortable, and then forgotten.)

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+1 for the suggestion to look at add-ons for your bars. I had a flat bar bike with aero bars and it worked really well that when there was a headwind or I was in a hurry I could drop onto the aero bars and fly along! –  Mac Jul 20 '11 at 6:52
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I'd also add that flat bars tend to be narrower than riser bars. In general when I've changed handlebars I've gone the opposite way because of my broad shoulders. As far as changing parts goes I'd recommend you just do one a at a time and figure out what's wrong then change that individual part. In general that should be possible and the simplest way to avoid spending money you don't need to. –  Colin Newell Jul 20 '11 at 10:54
    
Thanks for the add-on suggestion! Aero bars look like a nice way to get into a more aero position for the long straights without too much effort. –  Soo Wei Tan Jul 20 '11 at 18:46
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Is it more taxing on the rider to maintain such a posture without increasing the weight on the hands?

My bike is a Dr Dew. When I first bought it, to commute 2 hours/day, for the first couple of months I had it, I noticed the weight on my hands. This is fixed by:

  • Varying the position of my hand, even slightly: e.g. putting the thumb under or over or along the bar makes a (very) slight variation in the wrist position

  • Putting the bar on the heel of the hand, instead of in the palm, puts less stress on the wrist and other fleshy bits

  • I wear padded gloves all the time

Sometimes, too, I seem to have more or less weight: depending on whether I'm sitting back or forward on the saddle, and how hard I'm pedalling (as an extreme example, weight on the hand is negative, i.e. I'm holding/pulling on the bars, when I'm first accelerating from a stop).

Also, if I recall correctly, someone commented to me earlier on this board that your weight should be partly supported by your trunk/core/back.

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I find that I switch my hand positions every couple of minutes or so - especially when I come to a stop at a traffic light. I use padded gloves from MEC - which are fantastic for the price BTW. –  Soo Wei Tan Jul 20 '11 at 18:41
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As the geometry of the two frames is identical, the short answer is that matching the same stem and bar from the Dr Dew on your PhD candidate Dew will create the same body position as the D. Dew comes with Stock.

Both stems are designed to allow the bar to be removed without stripping the bar of shifters, brake levers and grips. There is no need to change the headset, but the bolt in the topcap of your stem is your bearing adjustment for the headset, and it may need extra spacers, or to be readjusted after changing the stem.

The bar on the Dr. Dew is swept back 12 degrees. If you really want to match the position of the Dr. Dew, then you'll want a bar with matching sweep as well as rise. The FSA bar you linked is a 5 deg sweep, which will produce a different feel when riding. Whether that matters to you depends on why you are changing the bar. Kona's Deluxe Energy bar is available aftermarket, and is the bar from the Dr. Dew, with a better finish and graphics.

Daniel is right that small changes in position on a bike produce radical changes in comfort. I'd suggest changing the bar, but hanging on to your old one in case you don't like it.

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Ah, I didn't consider the sweep too. So there are several factors to consider: width, rise and sweep. –  Soo Wei Tan Jul 20 '11 at 19:15
    
Yes, that's correct. If you match those it will be the same position. –  zenbike Jul 21 '11 at 17:07
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Personally I think that the straight bar encourages the elbows to stick out unless you consciously remember to put your thumbs on the top of the bar, therefore not very aerodynamic.

You could consider putting some mini-tri-bars on your bike to give yourself another tucked in riding position that you can use when you don't have to be near the brakes.

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I've suffered from carpal tunnel due to keyboarding so bicycle ergonomics interests me. Finding a comfortable balance between an forward and an upright posture would depend on what task you're trying to achieve. I have 5-inch risers on my extracycle, but a 2-inch drop on my road bike sporting butterfly bars. From what I've read, basically your core strength and not your shoulders should be keeping you upright. Choose a sweep and grips on your handlebar that keep your arms reasonably straight, comfortable and neutral. If you're leaning on your wrists for hundreds of miles, you might be damaging yourself. On my risers, I choose ergonomic grips that I tilt to support the edge of my palm, and my brake levers are oriented to keep my knuckles oriented in a straight line to my wrist and elbow.

An alternative to flat or riser bars that might provide some variety in posture are butterfly (aka touring) bars (like a figure eight). These can be fitted with flat-bar equipment or drop bar equipment (depending on what brakes you have, if you have V-brakes, that means you want cyclocross style long pull drop bar brakes). I ride a Trek 7200 with integrated brake-shifters from the original 1"-riser bars mounted near the back of the bars. I use the back of the bars to get a more upright posture, and the front of the bars for an aero posture. I can tell I need to adjust the brake lever angle on the butterfly bars, I'm flexing my wrists too far forward.

In "It's all about the bike" by Robert Penn, the author is coached to set handlebar height to what angle he can hold his fingers lightly on for a time without leaning on the bars. Leaning on the bars could lead to shoulder, elbow and wrist strain.

Having ridden almost only flat bars or butterfly bars, I am becoming more open to the notion of drop bars. I believe that "Dirt Drops" are wider and shallower, intended for less areo and more steering leverage as appropriate for cyclocross.

Here's a page showing butterfly bars. Livestrong has a few good paragraphs on handlebar fit. Also, I find lots of discussion on handlebar sizing on bikeforums.net as well.

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