In an attempt to both save a bit of weight and improve the ergonomics, I switched out the bars on my Nashbar 4050. The old setup had a forged aluminum “Custom” quill stem and a steel Hsin Lung handlebars. The new setup uses an Origin8 Threadless Quill Stem Adapter, an Easton EA50 Stem (90mm, 6 degree, 31.8mm clamp), and a Giant Contact SL Aluminum Road Bike Handlebar 31.8 x 400mm, all sourced used off eBay.
The Giant bar is a “compact” drop bar, similar to the drop bar on my Surly Long Haul Trucker, which I’ve always found comfortable. It is 400mm wide, with a 75 mm reach and a 125 mm drop, with 31.8mm clamp size. The old bar was 390mm wide, so a bit more space for a handlebar bag.
I’m ambivalent about the larger 31.8mm clamp size; I don’t think it matters much (and it may complicate mounting of older accessories), but if that’s the new standard, then so be it. I definitely prefer the removable faceplate clamp vs. the old-style thread-the-entire-bar-through-a-tiny-hole style common with old quill stems.
Removing the old bar was straight-forward enough — just unwrap the bar tape, slide off the brake levers, loosen the stem, and pull the bar and stem out as a unit.
Installing the new bar was equally simple — attach the stem to the stem adapter, slide the adapter into the fork, tighten it down, attached the bars, re-install the brake levers, and re-wrap the bars.
In some ways, this setup is actually more flexible than either a pure quill stem or a pure threadless headset — I get the ease-of-use of the new-style stem, and the easy height adjustments of the quill.
It took a bit of experimentation to get the bar rotated properly and the brake levers in approximately the right spot, but it’s close enough for now. I just went ahead and re-used the old bar tape for the time being, until I get everything dialed in.
In an initial quick ride, the new bar seemed all right; it’ll take some longer rides to be sure.
Weight-wise, the old bar+stem was 1002 grams. The new bar+stem+adapter is 609 grams. So 393 grams lighter, which is about 0.87 pounds. Not bad. On a steel-framed bike, every little bit helps.
All right, pictures:
Old bars and stem on top, new setup on the bottom. The photos are not quite from identical perspectives, but you get the idea. The old bar was actually fairly compact, but the new bar has a flatter and longer drop area, with similar overall reach. I just took a guess on the stem length and angle, but it seems to be a good starting point.
Here’s a closer view from the side.
And a view from the top, which really shows the short reach and long drops.
I realize that I’m changing multiple variables at once — bar shape, reach, drop, width, stem length, stem angle — so it may be a little difficult to evaluate. I didn’t hate the old bars — I thought they were pretty good, actually — but it’s fun to experiment and see how small changes affect the ride. If nothing else, the changes are easily reversible. Time will tell.