Saturday, November 16, 2013

Avanti Inc 3: Stem and Handlebar Adjustment

After settling all the issues with the belt drive system, I could finally enjoy the smooth and quiet ride of the Avanti Inc 3. With the commuting accessories installed, riding in light rain or wet roads is no longer a problem. This greatly increases the opportunities for me to ride a bike, especially with the wet weather nowadays. Of course, I would still not ride in heavy rain, as it is not practical, not fun, and definitely not safe.

While riding, I found that the riding posture felt a little bit strange. Not a big issue, but something that I would like to improve on. First of all, the handlebar felt very wide. I measured it and found that it was about 680mm, which is rather wide for a city commuting bike. This length would have been good on a mountain bike (which is the handlebar length that is on my Polygon Cosmic CX 3.0), but it is too wide for city riding. It would be more practical to have a narrower handlebar that allows me to squeeze through narrower spaces. It will also put me in a more upright riding posture as my arms will not spread as far to hold the ends of the handlebar.

Wide 680mm handlebar that comes stock on the Avanti Inc 3

Instead of buying a new handlebar, I decided to just take an existing handlebar that I have, and cut it down to size. This is definitely cheaper and I can also choose the exact length that I want. On my Polygon MTB, I had earlier changed out the handlebar to an Easton handlebar, and thus the stock Entity handlebar was available. It has an original length of about 640mm.

I tried a few other bikes and found that a good handlebar width for city commuting is about 600mm. Therefore, I decided to cut the length of the Entity handlebar from 640mm to 600mm.

Using a saw to cut the handlebar is the most straightforward way, but it is not a good way as it is difficult to get a clean cut. The ends of the handlebar may also be slanted if not done properly. I decided to get a proper tube cutter to do the cutting job properly, and it is also a good chance for me to try out this tool as I have not used it before. It can also be used to cut steerer tubes or seat posts.

Tube cutter from Tactix, can be found at Home DIY stores. Only $10! Fits up to 1 1/8 inch tubes (About 30mm)

At first I thought that this tool is not big enough to cut the 31.8mm handlebar, but then I realised that I am not cutting the centre clamp portion which is 31.8mm. What I need to cut are actually the ends of the handlebar, which are a standard 22.2mm in diameter.

As shown below, a standard tube cutter has a sharp circular blade, and two rollers to hold the tube in place. It basically works by running the blade around the tube many times, till it cuts through the tube walls.

The instruction says to tighten the knob, so that the roller pushes the tube against the blade. Tighten after every round, as the blade cuts into the tube.

 The blade and rollers of the tube cutter.

The ends of the handlebar, with width indications to tell you where to cut for the preferred handlebar width. I double confirmed with a measuring tape. Measure twice, cut once!

After running the tube cutter around the handlebar for a few rounds, a deep groove can be seen clearly.

The handlebar cut at the 600mm mark. The other line shown is not the cut, it is just a scratch caused by the rollers of the tube cutter.

With an aluminium handlebar, it didn't take very long to cut through the handlebar. It took less than 20 rounds to cut through it, tightening the clamp after every round. Of course, remember to cut both ends or the handlebar will be of unequal lengths on both sides. It will take much longer to cut through a thicker steerer tube.

Besides cutting the handlebar to a preferred narrower width, I also wanted to change out the stem. The stock stem is a short 75mm, which is because the Avanti Inc 3 that I have is a small sized frame. Larger sized frames will come with 90mm stems.

I was about to get a longer 90mm stem, when I realised that I can invert the stem, as this will make the effective reach longer. Currently the stem is angled upwards, and by tilting it downwards instead, the handlebar reach is increased.

Since this is a no cost change, it makes sense to just try it out first. After all, there is nothing to lose! I then installed the newly cut handlebar (600mm width), and inverted the stem at the same time.

Original stem orientation. Tilted upwards.

After flipping the stem, the stem is now angled downwards.

The new handlebar is 600mm wide, significantly narrower than the stock 680mm wide handlebar. It may not be obvious from this picture, but it is obvious when riding.

 After flipping the stem, the saddle and handlebar height is about the same.

With these changes in the bike cockpit, the bike now handles a bit differently. The narrower handlebar gives a more nimble ride which is quite similar to that of a small wheeled bike. This is useful for navigating tighter spaces and sharper corners in an urban setting.

On the other hand, the lower handlebar height improves stability, and the longer effective reach also allows me to stretch out my upper body more. Overall, the riding posture feels better. The bar ends are also used more often than before, as they can now be reached more easily, instead of being located at the ends of an already-wide handlebar.

You may also have noticed some other small changes from the previous pictures. I have added a Topeak F66 Fixer, which replaces the stock stem cap. This Topeak stem cap comes with a fixer for Topeak bags, such as the Topeak SmartPhone DryBag 5". I can mount my phone on the stem, which is more easily accessible and also frees up space on the handlebar for other accessories.


Replaces the original stem cap on the stem.

My Topeak pouch can now be clipped onto the stem!

Another little addition I made is this Fizik Seatpost Ring. It is just a simple rubber ring that goes onto the seatpost, to prevent water from going into your seat tube through the seatpost opening.

The other useful function is to mark your seatpost position, especially when you remove the seatpost for cleaning or any other reason. Just remember to get the correct sized ring for your seatpost, for a nice snug fit.

Fizik Seatpost Ring. Black colour is not available for this seatpost size.

The Topeak Wedge DryBag was also remounted on the rack, in the position shown below. There is more clearance for the saddle to be lowered (for shorter riders), and also improves the angle of the rear light.

Topeak Wedge DryBag mounted on the rear rack instead of the saddle.

With these improvements in the bike cockpit, the bike feels perfect now. With the belt drive, the bike rides silently and smoothly, and the riding posture is comfortable. It is low enough for a sporty feel, yet not too low for comfortable riding. The Ergon grips and bar ends offer a comfortable grip and a couple of hand positions. The stock saddle is surprisingly comfortable and I think I will just keep it and use it for now. SPD/Platform dual sided pedals enable cycling in all sorts of footwear, from slippers to SPD shoes. A set of full fenders minimises road spray when riding on wet roads, while the rear rack holds panniers for carry some load.

Current form of the Avanti Inc 3, with no plans for further upgrading (for now).

Keywords for the upgraded Avanti Inc 3: Silent, Clean, Comfortable.

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