The Case Of The Rotating Handlebars

Once again, recent events have provided ample evidence indicating that I am an idiot.  I have conducted an investigation into my oddly-positioned handlebars and have come to the conclusion that a simple inspection would have solved the problem.

I mentioned after my inaugural ride on the Madone that my brake hoods felt like they were too far forward.  Gerry pointed out that the picture I posted indicated the brake hoods were in the proper position.  Brian concurred.  I looked at the picture and it certainly seemed to be true, so I left my handlebars alone.

Utterly alone.

So alone, in fact, that I didn’t event bother to check whether or not it was properly secured by the clamp whose job it is to hold the handlebar in place.  I then took the Madone on a 60+ mile Vasaloppet jaunt, all the while frustrated at the location of the brake hoods.  I then wrote a ride review and expressed my frustration, but never – not once – did I actually inspect the handlebars closely.

So imagine my embarrassment when I began to adjust the handlebars Tuesday night and discovered two of the four screws were almost completely out of their socket and a third screw was of questionable tightness.  The entire handlebar was held in place by only one screw which (as is now plainly evident) was not up to the task.  Consequently, the bars rotated forward with my weight when I began riding the bike (which was after I took the picture).  This rotation occurred VERY slowly so as to be imperceptible.  The only evidence was an odd creaking sound, which I had attributed to some small issue in my brake hood.  The sound was actually coming from the clamp each time the bar moved a millimeter or less.

Those four black screws are important

The Vasaloppet pics properly show the rotation that so frustrated me and to which all of you looked upon in horror.  It was a short matter to turn the bars to the proper angle and tighten the screws down.

Insert noob cyclist joke here…

On Thursday, I brought the Madone into work so I could take advantage of a 70-degree day.  I hopped on the W&OD Trail for a 17 mile spin and to see if the bars would stay in place.  Of course, they did.

A caboose near the Herndon Station, which is now a museum.

The Washington and Old Dominion Trail was in its usual form, which is to say it was sprinkled with walkers, joggers, and cyclists making their way over many intersections with rush hour traffic.  I rode 8.5 miles out to Dulles and returned.  There were seven road crossings each way, although the ride was less interrupted as I ventured further westward, away from the congested areas of Reston and Herndon.

I was happy to get a ride in while it was still daylight, but once the clocks move forward next week I won’t be doing this routine very often; it’s too big a hassle to load my bike and ride clothes onto my truck, secure my bike upon arrival at work, then drive 35 miles home in a sweaty state.  Besides, the roads are better in Prince William County.  Take that, uppity Fairfax and Loudon County people!

P.S.  All pictures for this ride were taken with the iPhone camera – a first.

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13 thoughts on “The Case Of The Rotating Handlebars

  1. Glad you got it sorted out. (I’d still go get free fitting)

    Like the iPhone pics. When I ride I always think of you because I pass by this cool stuff and think, “Steve would stop and take an awesome photo of that” and then I don’t stop, and feel like a doofus.

    • By not stopping, you get a better workout in. I always feel a bit guilty when I stop to take a picture and lower my heart rate. I guess we’re all just feeling guilty all the time! 🙂

  2. It’s so fun just accepting that we aren’t “cool”, isn’t it. Imagine all the pressure of having to be perfect all the time. Glad you had a comfortable ride, it was a great day for it.

  3. It’s good that the handlebars only rotated slowly and did not come off completely in an exciting fashion. Did the bike shop install those? I am certain that if I had a carbon fiber anything that I’d be scared of over tightening bolts and would consequently be pedaling around with all fasteners constantly working loose.

    • Come off completely? Yikes, I hadn’t even thought of that!!! Yes, that is a good thing.

      The bike shop presumably assembled the bike, since I doubt it arrives from Trek fully assembled. If something cracks, they’ll be replacing it for the first year. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

  4. One of life’s most common experiences is to realise that you should have noticed something that was happening but didn’t. That doesn’t make you an idiot, it just makes you like the rest of us. Idiots are people who are like the rest of us but don’t realise it.

  5. Steve, glad the whole assembly did not fall apart, which as someone else pointed out could have happened. We all have these lightbulb moments and they are nothing to be embarrassed about. As Tootlepedal said, the idiots are those folk that never have these moments and spend their lives riding in the dark!

    Nice pics too. I am a fan of iPhoneography as you know, and probably 80% of my riding pics are with the iPhone largely due to the convenience. There is a difference when I bother to take the Nikon, but it’s got to be a special ride for that, and as you pointed out, one where I am not going to feel guilty about stopping often to take a ‘real’ picture!

    • When I was about 12, the front wheel of my Schwinn fell off while I was riding down a steep hill. I’ve still got scars on my right elbow from that incident and I shudder to think what would have happened if my handlebars came off on a 35 mph descent.

      I find it a bit of a chore to get the pictures off my iPhone, but I suppose it is more convenient than bringing a camera along with my phone.

      • Set up an iCloud account. Completely free, then you can stream your photos directly from the iPhone to the Mac (iPhoto) without ever having to connect the two. It’ll happen as soon as the phone comes back onto your WiFi connection. I am assuming you’re a Mac person, but I am 99% sure you can set the same thing up on a PC with the iPhone and iCloud….you can read about it on Apple.com. Food for thought. I use it and it works brilliantly!

  6. Glad it’s all resolved, Steve. Could have been a bit awkward, had it all come adrift. I had a very rudimentary sort of “vibration dampening” stem on my first Carrera mountainbike which was supposed to have *some* play but descending a long track studded with big stone sleepers from a long-gone tramway, gradually shook the whole thing loose – and by the bottom the only thing holding it all together was ME! Scary. I tightening it so hard it never dampened any vibrations again 😉

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