Thoughts on handle bars and stems

So I’m setting up my DX 350 for the upcoming Southern Cross/Assault on Mt Currahee gravel grinders and I’ve been struggling with a few things. First and foremost is handlebar width. I’ve got a few options; I can run my regular road-sized 38cm bar with @70mm reach or I can run a 43cm bar with @100mm reach. Naturally this difference in width would require a stem change as well. I’ve got a 90mm stem and a few “110” stems that vary from 105ish to 112ish.

Right now my thought process is the wider bar is better and the reason for this is my recent experience with mountain bike handlebar width. Last year I rode and raced on pretty narrow bars, maybe 500mm if I’m being generous. This is mainly due to the fact that I started out riding a bike from 1989 that kinda came with short bars and then I just chopped them on my new bike out of habit. Over the winter I sold my two old bikes and picked up a 2010 Breezer Thunder Comp. This bike came with 620mm bars and I’ve kept them stock, so when I went for the first ride I was blown away by how much better the bike handled. I think part of that was the bigger size and much better fork but the bars were definitely a huge part. There is this gnarly rooty uphill at Sope Creek that I had about a 50% chance of muscling up without dabbing with the two other bikes. Riding with a wider handlebar made me realize my struggles were related to the narrow bars that just didn’t give me the leverage to control the bike around a rooty, uphill, off-camber turn under low-cadence and high-power. I’ve been 100% with the 620mm bars and this success is indicative to an improved overall riding experience. The Thunder Comp is just a significantly better bike and this translates to all parts of the riding experience.

ANYWAY, right now I’ve got my DX 350 set up with 43cm bars and a 90mm stem flipped up. Reach to the hoods is near identical to my road bikes but the drop is a lot less. I’ve planning on going for a shakedown ride and probably flipping the stem. There isn’t much gravel around here so my thought is to tune the bike on the road and then try to get to Auburn about a week before and spend a few hours on the dirt roads down there to really fine tune things.

 

Hmm. I think this is too high.

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