Reader Chris is embarking on a two year bike trip from Alaska to Argentina. Think on that for a moment . . . don't know about you, but I'm jealous. He sent along the following post and will likely contribute more during his journey.
* * * * * * * * * * *
One of the best parts about planning for a two year bike tour is revamping your gear. Tents, shoes, bags, electronics; you need it all. I have a reputation for envisioning a very specific piece of gear that I want and painstakingly scouring the bowels of the internet only to find that it exists nowhere but in the depths of my mind. One of the more recent examples of this is a set of clamp on drop bar adapters. I have always had drops on my bikes, so when my Surly Troll showed up with mustache bars I felt a bit out of place. Eventually I came to enjoy the more relaxed feel, but still found myself wanting to get low when firing down a hill or schlepping into the wind.
Origin8 actually makes a pair of these. I ordered a set from Amazon with cautious optimism. I would have to describe them as ill-conceived but well executed. The quality is top notch, but they missed a detail in the design stage. It is tough to tell from the shot below, but the radius of the bend is so small that I could not fit my hand into them. I’m only 5’11”, so I have average sized paws.
I really liked the idea of these, but this particular product just wasn’t right for me. Unable to find another pair, I decided to make my own. I hit the St. George Bicycle Collective and raided their parts bin. My plan was to take a pair of clamp on bull horns and marry them with a set of drop bars.
Above we see the drops and bullhorns that I settled on. The bullhorns are exactly the same style despite being different colors.
The next step was to cut them down to size. This was a pain, and sort of dangerous. The bull horns were designed to come off at an angle. This meant that they had to be cut at an angle in order for the drops to come off perpendicular to the mustache bars. Because of the shape, neither fit into a chop saw. I decided to try cutting them with an angle grinder….. (Please note that the trailing periods after that last sentence are meant to foreshadow a very bad idea).
I’ve had some close calls with power tools. But this may have been the closest. I was in a hurry to get these things cut and as a result did not take all the precautions that I should have. The result? The bars got yanked into the grinder with my hand not too far behind. It would be much harder to type this had I not been wearing thick leather gloves. Check out the picture below. The nick on the glove is from where it got pulled into the angle grinder. That would have been my finger tip.
Unphased from nearly losing my pointer finger I decided I needed to find a way to make this work on the chop saw. This proved to be only slightly less awkward than the angle grinder. The drops got pulled into the saw and completely destroyed the blade.
Third time is a charm right? I might be a slow learner, but as Churchill said, “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” I built a jig to hold the pieces so at least my fingers were out of harm’s way.
The final cuts came out alright.
The next step was to find somebody to weld everything together. At this point it is worth noting a few things about St. George, Utah. First of all, the locals are a people of unmatchable self-pride. They’re cowboys and their ancestors were pioneers. They settled one of the most don’t give a fuck places on earth. Hot, dry, and dead. Being isolated in the middle of the desert, they had to be incredibly resourceful. I appreciate this trait, but sometimes they take it a bit too far; I recently noticed that somebody did a plumbing repair on our house with duct tape…..
I’ve had mixed results with skilled trades here. And by mixed I mean ranging from abysmal to atrocious. Seamstress, boot repair, carpentry, knife sharpening, and now welding. In all cases people have limitless confidence in themselves and are happy to take a stab at repairs, but more often than not this results in me wondering what the hell went wrong and how this person is still in business. I tried three different weld shops. One of the reasons I had to do all the cutting was because nobody seemed to know how to use a protractor and I wasn’t confident that they could get them cut at the proper angle to mount the way I wanted. I tried to explain to one guy how important it was that these things be bomb proof and he cut me off saying, “I just have to be clear, I can weld them, but they will break.”
Nobody inspired confidence. Not willing to risk it, I called a friend and explained what I was looking to do.
“There has to be some old buzzard in this town with a missing finger that would be willing to do this for a case of beer,” I said.
Enter a mysterious character named Ron. I never met Ron. Apparently he builds hotrods in his garage. All I know is that I dropped my parts off with a twenty dollar bill and a twelve pack of High life and two days later I picked up a package from an unnamed woman behind a resale shop that contained my makeshift drop bars.
The welds are solid. Ron made an aluminum plug to fit between each piece for reinforcement. I took them for a test ride; applying only light pressure at first. After a few minutes though I could tell that they would hold up.
Next step; paint. It would have been nice to powder coat them, but in reality they’re getting wrapped with bar tape and they’re just going to get scuffed up. So an old bottle of Krylon would do.
They ended up having a few drip marks. But as I said before, this isn’t really a concern.
Originally I had planned on putting a set of road brakes on the drops and putting interrupters on the mustache bars. This would have made a mess of the cable routing though. After some playing around, I realized that the best solution was to keep the mountain bike style levers on the mustache bars and mount the interrupters on the drops. This provided a relatively clean finish and leaves a few inches of cable to spare on the rear brake.
Not having to wrap a complete set of bars left me with enough tape to double wrap the drops. I decided to go with some cheap pleather tape because it will tatter sooner and need to be held together with electrical tape. This will give the bike a nice poor man’s look and make my wife’s Disc Trucker more attractive to any would be thieves. I’ve been riding on them for a few weeks now. People seem to love them or hate them. Hardcore tourers that realize that there comes a point where you stop worrying about weight seem to get it. They rich guys driving their carbon fiber race bikes to the ride laps up and down the hill think I’m crazy. Personally I’m stoked to have these on my rig for the next two years.
Chris Haag is from Detroit, Michigan, although he currently resides in St. George, Utah. He manages the site www.theplacesipee.com and will be riding with his wife, Sophie George, from Alaska to Argentina beginning in July of 2018.