Thursday, June 16, 2011


Yesterday was my last shift at OCB and Monday will be my last day in "my other job". The times they are a-changin'.  My last OCB day was enhanced with a bit of a special/awful/excellent (delete as appropriate) project. Our great friend Gary has discovered triathlon. I pity the fool, but then I did a triathlon once so who am I to judge? An essential part of triathlon seems to be obsessing over equipment and the bug has apparently bitten Gary, with some unusual symptoms. Before the race Gary got some faster tires for his flat-bar commuter bike and while he was in the shop picked up a rusty old drop-bar from the $5 bin. He told me about his plan to cut the hooks off it and jam them into the ends of his flat-bar. Knowing Gary, I had a feeling this wasn't actually a joke and feared for his life. I suggeted a few more-conventional options (aerobars, bar-ends), but Gary is a man who knows his own mind... and the drop bars were happening one way or another.

The race came and went... and then last week Gary asked if I could "take a look at his bike". The drop-bars were on there alright, but what was missing was any way of braking or shifting gears effectively. Something had to be done and I like a challenge, so rode the contraption into OCB and got to work. Unexpectedly, it turned out quite well (relatively speaking). You can hold the hooks of the bars, you can brake, and you can shift (with some dexterous finger-work). Obviously there's no "hoods" position that you can brake from, or even hold, but the bars are set really high which makes riding in the hooks pretty comfortable. I even managed to rig it up so a standard length gear cable is just long enough for the rear... despite the epic proportions loop of housing from the from the shifter to the frame. I learned the following things doing this that perhaps someone in the internet universe might find interesting, as unlikely as that seems.

Thing #1: Old steel drop-bars (from an old 10-speed) have a smaller tube diameter in the hooks than modern drops, so you can slide flat-bar shifters on there with no problem. The bulge also clamped just fine in a standard 25.4mm stem.

Thing #2: These flat-bar STIs with the brake reach adjuster wound all the way in mounted on the hooks quite well, and you can actually brake. Amazing.

Thing #3: Doing this "properly" would have involved buying a set of road STIs, plus changing the disk brake calipers to those Avid ones which work with the short cable pull of road brake levers. That's got to be at least $400 in parts... if I could even find 8-speed road STIs. Doing this the "Gary way" involved buying a couple of pieces of cable housing and some bar tape at a total cost of $28.

Thing #4: I can't wait until Gary races this thing again... I would love to hear the comments.

For the ultra-observant: the bar tape is wrapped backwards for a reason you know.