Thursday, September 22, 2011

Boardwalk TT Review: Taking comfort to the next level

It has been around one week since my Boardwalk TT was officially completed! Since then I have done a few short rides nearby and also longer rides to work. I'm pleased to report that there has been no major issues with the upgrade! The most significant change to the ride is the increase in comfort, due to the better hand positions possible with the bullhorns.

With the bullhorns, I have a lot more hand positions for greater comfort! Previously on the flat handlebars, I only had the usual grip position and the bar ends. This is fine for short rides, but for extended or faster rides, this is not really sufficient. It is common to get some numbness with the limited hand positions.

These bullhorns offer up to 5 hand positions, for very different purposes and riding style! There are hand  positions for leisure and also other hand positions for speed.

1) On the top of the handlebar 

In this position, the grip height is relatively high, which puts me in the most upright position. Very relaxing position, most suited for leisurely rides, such as LCSG Sunday rides! Allows me to see far and enjoy the scenery around me. I also installed cyclocross brake levers on top, so that I can brake from this position! Although I cannot shift gears from this position, I can select the gear I want before that, before settling into this comfortable riding position.

2)  At the corner of the handlebar

This is a position that is rather uncommon. I find this actually quite interesting, as it feels like I'm holding a steering wheel! Gives me good control over the handlebar, as it is a wider grip position than the 1st hand position. Still allows me to stay upright and comfortable. No brakes or shifting from this hand position.

3) Traditional bullhorn grip

This is the most basic and common hand position for these bullhorn bars! In fact, it is the most ergonomic position, better than the grip position on a flat handlebar.

Try a little experiment. Hold your hands out in front of you. Try rotating your palms to face up, face each other, and face down. You will find that the most comfortable position is when your palms are facing each other. This is due to the structure of the arms and shoulder, which puts your hands in this position.

Translating this hand position to the bicycle, you will see that gripping the bullhorns this way is the most comfortable hand position for riding. This is also one of the main reasons why I changed to bullhorns! Braking is easy, just pull on the brake lever with the fingers. Shifting is also easy, just push the levers inwards with the fingers. At all times my palm is resting on the grip, so I am always in control.

In this position, I can also ring the bell easily, by reaching up with my left hand and turning the ring surrounding the bell. More reach is achieved in this hand position,as it allows me to bend over more. Less upright riding position, but still very comfortable. 80% of most rides would be spent in this hand position.

4) On the hoods

Gripping the bullhorn in this position is very similar to riding on the hoods with a drop bar. The difference is that in this case, instead of gripping the rubber hoods of the Dual Control Levers, I am gripping the upward-tilting corner of the bullhorns. Very good position if I want to go for speed, as it extends the grip even further, putting me in a low aerodynamic position. Control is good too due to the self-centering effect and the wide grip.

Shifting is possible in this hand position, by pushing the levers inwards with the fourth and little fingers. However braking is not possible as the fingers cannot pull on the brake levers in this position.

5) Time Trial (TT) position

This is the hand position that gives the longest reach! Grip the ends of the bullhorns and rest your forearm on the handlebar.By doing so, the elbows will be at almost 90 degrees, which puts me really low and aerodynamic! Although this is not as aerodynamic as proper TT bars which puts the arms closer together, this is much better that having none at all. Perfect for windy stretches of clear straight road, such as at Pengerang ,Tuas South or Changi Coastal road.

One disadvantage of this hand position is that my arms will become tired more quickly than usual, because the arms are now supporting more of my weight. Still need more practice in this position, to find the ideal angle and location for gripping and resting the forearms. My neck also becomes more tired as I will have to make an effort to look up to see ahead. Not safe to just look down and pedal on!

Ringing the bell is easy, I just need to twist my hand as I am already gripping part of the bell!

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