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Saturday, December 3, 2016

An Overhaul (part 6) - Controls

The Black Mountain gravel bike overhaul moves to the handlebars, stem, saddle, seat post and collar.  To the non-cyclist, these components may seem to be, well, rather pedestrian.  To the cyclist, however, one errant component in this mix can turn a nice, long ride into something entirely different.  Here's a look at some under appreciated components after 12,000 miles.

Handlebars (Salsa Cowbell 44 cm).   Over more than a few miles and seasons of road riding, I have tried many different handlebars in an endless search of long distance comfort on the hoods, functional control in the drops, and usable recovery space on the tops.  Longer distance, rough road riding is tough enough on the hands and I have an additional challenge of a problematic left wrist, first broken and not properly healed back in 1974.  No handlebar worked just right.

No handlebar, that is, until the Salsa CowBell I installed on this Black Mountain gravel bike.  The slight flare, shallow drop and short reach combine to make this an exceptionally comfortable road bike bar for me.  Although the flare is reminiscent of the old Salsa Bell Lap cyclocross bar and many varieties of road bars offer a shallow drop or a short reach, the CowBell put it all together in a way that works just right for me.

A careful inspection of the CowBell bars reveals no cracks or flaws, or other reason to retire them.  So, they go back on, with a fresh wrapping of bar tape.  All that being said, I remain intrigued by the Salsa CowChipper bars, which look like a CowBell with about twice the flare.  I don't know how my wrists would respond to even more flare, but maybe next overhaul I'll consider experimenting with a CowChipper.

Stem (Thomson Elite 4X).  There's nothing complicated about this stem.  It's just strong, durable and, in this case, elegant.  No slippage or sway.  The right reach and angle.  A perfect perch for those CowBell bars and still gorgeous.  No polish necessary.

Saddle (Terry Liberator).  My longer distance road bikes have sported Terry Liberator saddles since the early 1990's.  Like the Time ATAC pedals, I stumbled into this saddle a long time ago, discovered that it fit just right and was comfortable for hours on end.  Lighter, more glamorous saddles adorned some go-fast bikes, but this model always seems to end up on the bike set up for longer rides.  So, when I built up this gravel bike, I naturally installed a new Terry Liberator.  Now, I simply cannot rationalize replacing a proven performer when it works so well and still looks good.  I'm always open to suggestions and maybe next overhaul I'll look at something else.  Maybe.

Seatpost/Collar (Thomson Elite/Thomson).  Like the Thomson stem, there's nothing complicated about the seat post.  An elegant component that happens to be strong and durable.  Easy to set right and then just forget about.  A perfect post for that comfy saddle.  Clean, regrease lightly and return to its rightful place.  And that collar looks like a sterling silver ring, securing holding everything in place over the roughest terrain.

Various designs of suspension seat posts are now available for rough road riding.  I think the general concept is solid and may well become a popular standard feature on many all road bikes.  But not mine.  This bike in particular is not the one for a seat post with moving joints or flexing carbon.  More fundamentally, this artfully designed rim-brake steel frame and fork, with quality 40 mm tires on wide 32 spoke rims, combine with the other components to create an exceptionally comfortable ride.  No suspension needed for me.

In summary, the control components of the handlebars, stem, saddle, seat post, and collar each work as intended.  No changes.

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