Sunday, July 31, 2011

First Impressions with the Ragley Luxy Dirt Drop Handlebar


I've had an on-and-off relationship with dirt drops - I love them for awhile, then I decide they don't work... then I say, "Hey, why not?" and get into them again. The general problem I have with dirt drop handlebars is that they are a bit narrow for my shoulders. So, when I read about the new Ragley Luxy Handlebar, I was excited to give them a try.

My original thought was to put them on my single speed (as in the pics), then I got a wild hair to put them on my Surly Pacer. After mocking them up on my Pacer, however, I decided they were just too odd to put on a road bike - so on to the SS they went.

The Ragley Luxy bar is something that just can't be studied by a future purchaser with pics alone - you really have to see it yourself and grab it; it is the oddest handlebar I have ever seen and used. The drop is short, the reach a bit far and the flair at the bottom of the drops extends to 680mm wide. The top is 31.8mm and will need a 31.8 stem. The best way to describe this handlebar would be a "...mustache handlebar that has been flared and dropped".

Like all dirt drops, the rider has to expect to be in the drops most of the time and should adjust stem length and height accordingly. As said by Shiggy on MTBR, "...the drops ought to be placed in the same area as you would place your hands on a regular handlebar..." or something to that effect. So before committing to dirt drops, understand that your sugary-sweet Thompson stem may not work - you may have to buy another to work with this set-up. I always have a handful of stems in my parts bin, so finding something that would work was not a problem. As you can see, I have a number of spacers to bring the stem high enough for the dirt drops to be in a reasonable position.

First impression was I felt pretty stretched out until I got used to the dirt drop position again. After the initial weirdness, I really enjoyed being somewhat tucked. As I've described before, dirt drops make you feel like you're "in" the bike instead of "on top". When I finally hit the trails, the true test was afoot!

I don't know what is was, but I felt a good 10% faster than normal. Was it the new handlebar or just feeling good? I know one thing, however, was that drops did help the crank out on the steep XC climbs. I did get some arm pump from bearing down, but that's just riding single speed in general. For the sit and spins, I rode the brake hoods and the top of the handlebar, which was nice.

Descending was extremely confident because you are riding the front tire a bit more than a regular flat or riser handlebar which places the body more upright on the bike. But because of this, you may have to be aware of any rocks, logs or other obstacles that may come your way where you have to heave your front end up-and-over. I was definitely faster on the descends with this bar than I was with my riser bar. Again, there is something about being tucked down that just really speeds things up. Could be in my head, but whatever it was - it made a difference. Don't know how this would do in an extremely technical situation.

I was able to bunnyhop curb height without a problem.

Dirt drops are NOT for everyone. It takes an open mind and a general feeling of experimentation to enjoy them. Some riders will hate this handlebar from the looks alone, as the Luxy really steers away from anything traditional. It is nothing like a road handlebar and a far cry from a MTB flat or riser. Even in the alternative handlebar world, this thing is a monster.

I am not finished, by any means, with dialing in the set-up. I feel like I need a different stem, so I will try one I have in my parts bin that has a very steep rise. If you're in for an alternative ride, try the Ragley Luxy. I like it much better than the On One Midge Bar, plus it has a 31.8 clamp area for extra stiffness.

PROS

1. Strange design that just works
2. People will look at you like you're a space alien
3. Positive climbing and descending characteristics

CONS

1. A shorter, higher rise stem will almost always be needed
2. Bar tape rips on tip-overs unless protected
3. May need disc specific road brake calipers if using discs


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Instagram on my iPhone

Hello interweberz... haven't done much posting lately as a computer upgrade has occurred in the RidesBikes household. I am now a proud owner of a new iMac, and I am completely stoked on it. As the years went by, my PC started to really take a major dump. And in its last days I had SpyBot, BitDefender and Norton Utilities trying to eliminate all the crap and nothing worked.

So, here I am, happily sharing this via my new iMac.

Recently, Mrs. RidesBikes turned me onto an iPhone app called "instagram" which I have been sharing my photos on. If you partake in life's little pleasures such as this, please follow me, using "dionridesbikes" under the search function. Here are some of my latest:





Saturday, July 2, 2011

Two Year Review of my Specialized Comp MTB Shoes

I use Crank Bros. Eggbeater pedals on all my bikes and therefore only use one pair of shoes for all riding. I am very hard on shoes, given that I ride nearly every day, so when I abuse shoes, I really abuse shoes. With very frequent riding in all types of conditions - creek crossings, mud runs in CX races, dry, hot weather and everyday destructive behavior - it has been a long time coming to retire them.

Looking back at my riding photos, it appears that I bought these shoes back in the spring of 2009. I recall my first impressions were that they actually fit my wide'ish foot (as Sidi's do not; even the "wide" ones), and that they were a decent price for a local bike shop mark up. Most importantly, I didn't feel pain nor hot spots at the time. However, as much as they've degraded from use, they do not support my foot very well any longer.

I really don't know how long a pair of MTB shoes is supposed to last, especially with the amount of riding I do. I guess two years isn't that bad considering the ground I've covered - I'm curious to see how my new Shimano M161's will fair against my abusive riding.

The heel wore away on the inside on both shoes.

Both ratcheting straps broke off the tongue, so I repaired them by riveting them on permanently.

That is a big, gaping hole at the little toe area. Both shoes wore holes in this same area.

The sole wore away where I clip-in to my eggbeaters, causing them to feel loose on the pedals.