I was recently asked if moustache bars for touring are a good idea. Here are my thoughts.
Many cyclists are content with sticking with the same bike setup for years, changing only the tires when needed and perhaps adding a new light or reflector here and there.
It’s those cyclists who are always taking apart their bike, adding and replacing components every other week and trying to find the best combination for their needs - those are the real fanatics.
And then you have the next level of cycle-enthusiasts: those who go on tour.
If you’ve ever ridden any kind of long-distance, you’ll understand the importance of building your bike so that it’s working with you every mile of the journey, not against you. You and your bike should have a zen-like, harmonious relationship.
But that’s just not going to happen if you’re cursing it out as you awkwardly try to tackle that intense climb.
Moustache bars are a popular favourite for many cyclists, especially those who like to stand out on the road. Whilst they may fit you just fine for a Sunday afternoon ride – will they come through for you on long-distance trips?
Let’s find out.
To tour or not to tour?
The answer is, of course, that you should absolutely go on a cycling tour. If you’re new to touring, though, you should be aware that this isn’t some casual excursion we’re talking about here.
Whilst bicycle tours are rife with fun and adventure – they can also be extremely strenuous, challenging, and, depending on the location you pick, potentially dangerous to the unprepared voyager.
You could end up stranded in the middle of nowhere, halfway up a mountain in a foreign country, running low on supplies and exhausted from the effort. Or you could end up simply calling it quits a day into your tour and wasting your holiday. All because of poor preparation.
Handlebars might not seem like a big part of that preparation, but anyone who’s ridden more than a few miles with ill-fitting handlebars which force them to ride in an uncomfortable position will know the truth of the matter.
You’re going to be doing a lot of pedalling, so take steps to ensure your comfort.
That being said, there’s not really a solid answer to this conundrum. It all depends on you and your body, your weight and shape, your preferences, and any existing physical conditions you may have.
Those prone to carpal tunnel syndrome or with generally weak wrists need to especially take care with these kinds of decisions.
So what about moustache handlebars while touring? Well, again, this is down to personal preference – though the general consensus is that, while moustache handlebars have many saving graces, they might not be the best for your cycling tour.
Put simply, moustache bars don’t offer a variety of positions for comfortable riding. So, if you find that you’re not enjoying the position you find yourself in after a few miles in – it’s not likely that taking them on tour would be a great idea.
Some prefer moustache handlebars because of their width, which makes for good turning capabilities and suits people who prefer a modest range of hand position options. Also – it has to be said – they look pretty darn cool and tend to catch the eye of people as you cruise around.
The harsh nature of touring leaves little room for pleasing aesthetics, though – so looking fly shouldn’t be high on your list of priorities.
Gearing up for a tour, the right way
If you do find that moustache's aren’t the right fit for your long-distance riding, don’t fret. There are plenty more options open to you.
The most viable would be butterfly bars – also known as trekking bars. The shape of butterfly handlebars offer many different places to rest your hands, including positions which many have found comfortable for long sessions in the saddle.
The benefit of having a decent range of options for hand positions is pretty straight forward.
No matter how comfortable you are, if you keep your hands in the same place for too long they will inevitably cramp up and start to give you problems. Being able to significantly change your grip on your handlebars will make a big difference.
Another advantage of having butterfly bars for long distances is the amount of space they provide.
This will allow you to hook up some gear to your handlebars and create a dashboard of sorts for your bike.
Giving you easy access to things like your phone, GPS, handlebar bag, mirrors, lights, GoPro camera, and pepper spray (which you hopefully won’t need, but it pays to be prepared on the road).
Watch the video below to see CaptainBobAdverntures talking about his butterfly bars.
The downside to butterfly bars is that they tend to weigh a good bit more than most other handlebars. When you’re going to be cycling for days on end, trying to get to your next location before sundown, every pound will matter.
This point is extra important when you take into consideration all of the other gear you’ll be taking with you - from camping equipment to food and water, it all adds up and you’ll no doubt be feeling all of that weight during an intense incline or when you’re going for that last push at the end of the trail.
As we’ve already covered though, it might benefit you to try out a range of different handlebars to see which work best for you. It’s always better to find out whether your current setup will serve you well before your cycling tour, rather than during.
Image Credit Flickr Creative Commons - David B. Gleason, Joshua Putnam