Breaking Bars

If you have been following my blog for a while you may remember reading about my fixed gear bike, known by riders as a fixie. The primary appeal of a fixie (at least for me) is its minimalism. Not only does it do away with the complex front and rear changers of a “normal” bike but since there is no freewheel mechanism you can slow your progress using the pedals, which means that a rear brake is not required either. My fixie is not particularly light (there are lighter fully equipped road bikes available at a price) but I value sturdy simplicity over super light weight.

In recent months I have been riding a lot and pushing myself quite hard so I can now average 20 mph on a typical 10 mile trip, provided there are no big hills. Hertfordshire is relatively flat and my 72 inch gear is just about right for me on level terrain. When I come to a hill I try to maintain my cadence by getting out of the saddle if necessary. Big hills obviously do slow me down but I try to keep going even if it means hauling on the bars.

Broken Handlebar

Broken Handlebar

On August 4th while staying in Whitwell I went for a ride up to St Ippolyts. On the way back I decided to do a section of bridleway and I was enjoying a nice decent between fields when suddenly, without warning, the right hand side of my handlebar snapped clean off at the clamp! I managed to maintain steering control and luckily I had my fingers round the brake lever on the broken off bit so I could still use that to control my speed. I carried on for about half a mile before reaching the main road at Rush Green where there is a large scrap yard. Although it was a Sunday there were people working and I managed to find a length of studding which I poked down inside the bar to crudely rejoin the two bits (in the photo of the break you can see where the thread on the steel studding has marked the inside of the alloy tube). Clearly the bar must have been on the point of failure for a while and I am lucky it broke when it did, rather than in heavy London traffic for example. The probable cause is fatigue due to bar hauling on steep ascents, I am obviously getting too strong!

Fortunately the guy I bought the bike from had a spare Kona Race Light bar which he donated to get me back on the road. I used soapy water to remove the grips from the original bar and sliced the closed ends off so I could push them right on to the longer Kona bar. The old bar was 19 inches wide but since I was going to be shortening the new one anyway I thought I would experiment a bit and pushed the grips in to 16 inches. That felt a bit twitchy at first but I soon started getting used to it. In the end I increased it to about 16.5 inches before removing the excess metal at each end with a hacksaw and filing flat. The advantage of narrow bars is that you can ride through narrow gaps and they are less likely to catch annoyingly when wheeling or carrying the bike through doors. What I need to do now is find a pair of hard plastic bar end plugs, both for safety in case I fall and land on a bar end and so that it slides easily if I do touch something while threading a gap in traffic. The photo below shows the bike with the new bar fitted and the old broken one resting on top so you can see how much narrower it is now.

New Bar Fitted

New Bar Fitted

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2 responses to “Breaking Bars

  1. Nasty break, you were lucky there! It’s worth checking the edges of the clamp and making sure they are smooth so there isn’t a stress concentrator. Corks make good end plugs too.

    • It is hard to see in the photo but the new bar came with a separate tapered sleeve which projects 10mm either side of the clamp to remove the stress concentrator, so it should be OK.

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