To quote a certain vintage racing manual, The Rome Cycling '72 Coni Manual, "The cyclist must <<Love>> his bicycle". Whoops! That's one of the few quotes I really do remember, but the manual also spoke of bar width. Narrow bars only allowed the lungs to expand when a rider is arched over the bike. Wider bars opened up the arms when stretched out allowing for free-er breathing. I seem to remember the width was supposed to optimally be the width of the shoulders (wherever thats measured). Its been 30+ years since I've read that, so please don't flame me, but reading that is what drove me to spread out to a wider 40 cm, and wider 42 cm Giro di'Talia bar. When I went to 44 cm on a tandem, that seemed ok for it, but wrong for me on a single and have since backed down to my 42 cm optimum on road bikes if I can get them.
Getting too many bikes (weren't we just talking about this?) means using my older parts bin, narrower Cinelli's rather than my more modern, snobbily inappropriate 42 cm other name bars. Another problem is always having been a devotee of barend shifters (Campy of course are the smoothest), many of my old classic bars are missing an inch to keep my knees from shifting while standing on the bike.
Narrow bars sure were more inspireing to ride between narrow gaps between cars in those years I commuted in downtown Baltimore when I was young and fearless.
Dan Artley, spread out in the country above Baltimore, MD
Ever since Aldo showed a pic of Bottechia and his narrow drops tilted downward, I've been thinking how comfortable and sleek he looked in the position he was riding in. His hand positioning seemed rather like a jockey on a race horse holding reins. And the narrowness of the bars seemed a virtue leading to comfort, dexterity and less wind resistance; at least less of all these than I see today with everyone riding with these extremely wide handle bars. I have tended to prefer wide drops myself. But I went out and adjusted a bike with narrow drops and a long quill to this position of Bottechias, slipped the brake levers up a bit, and liked it, despite being 6'2" tall and average shoulder width for that height. It seems that wide bars not only weigh more, but would create a bigger frontal surface to push through the air. Further, wider bars locate a persons hands and arms out wider when staying near today's integrated brake/shifter controls and enhance the sail effect of the body. Why are wide bars so much more in favor now? Or have they always been and I've just been around alot of bikes with narrow drops for small riders?
Los Olivos, CA USA