Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Le bourru et la moustache

For those of you in the audience who abhor applications like Google Translate, that title is supposed to French for "The Surly and the Moustache". In my recent boredom with the configuration of the Surly, I recently acquired a set of Soma Moustache bars, some Thick and Zesty bar tape, and a mind to swap my drops for something a little more swept back.

I had originally planned to have either a bike mechanic friend or a shop install the handlebars, but cheapness, impatience, and self-reliance got the best of me, so I moved the bike into the kitchen and because the process of unraveling the leather bar tape I've dragged through rain and sun, dust and concrete, rides and falls. It looked like long strips of abused bacon.

I busted out my handy-dandy guide to bike maintenance, my toolbox, and the internets and set to work learning how to remove my shifters and brake hoods. It turns out you can literally do everything to remove my shifters, brake hoods, and handlebars with two or three Allen wrenches and a screwdriver. I pulled my shifters out of the handlebars, my hoods off the bars, and unscrewed the faceplate of my stem. My bike was headless!

Not to be deterred now, I busted out my shiny new handlebars, made sure they were even, and re-attached the faceplate of the stem so my bike wouldn't look quite so House on Haunted Hill. I very carefully re-attached the brake hoods, aligned them where I thought looked right, and tightened them down. Next came the shifters, one of which is aligned a tad crooked, but not so much it interferes with usage.

I test rode the new setup in downtown Austin before wrapping the bars, and once satisfied, ended up wrapping my handlebars standing next to the service counter of Mellow Johnny's bike shop - many thanks to their techs for loaning me a roll of electrical tape! My squishy new (bright red!) handlebar tape in place, my gentleman companion and I set off for the South by Southwest music festival (though that is another post entirely).

I think the new look is quite rakish and lends the TARDIS the air of the Red Baron - dashing, gentlemanly, and certainly evoking flight. The ride quality is distinctly different - for one thing, my hands seem to default WAY closer towards me than they ever did on the drop bars. This has the side effect of making me more upright, which has vastly improved my ability to change lanes in traffic - it's so much easier to look over my shoulder!

I feel like the mustache bars may be a bit of a concession on my part in some ways - when I purchased the Long Haul Trucker, it was with images of long tours in my mind, sweeping through mountain passes and only seeing new people as long as it took to pass through town. The reality has been much less grandiose - it's a bike I use to get around and do some heavy-duty commuting on. I've rarely ridden distances greater than 30 miles at a time in the last year and the bike's setup is slowly altering to reflect it's job as my city/everything bike. That in mind, I absolutely love these handlebars. I have a Long Haul Review of the Long Haul Trucker coming up after almost two years of doing everything BUT long-haul tour with this bike, and I'll include further comments on the handlebars after I've had a bit more time to become friends.

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