Review: Velo Orange Il Postino Handlebar

I’ve been using my Velo Orange Il Postino handlebar for a month or so now so I figured it was high time to share my views on what has turned out to be the bar that I’ve been looking for for a long time.

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The Il Postino – a flat riser bar, if you will…

The Il Postino is Velo Orange’s take on a classic Italian city bike bar, named (by means of a contest on VO’s blog) by one if their fans. It’s that most rare of rare things; a bar with back sweep but without rise or drop.

I’ve tried a number of different bars over the years. Straight bars, riser bars, drops, north road bars and moustache bars but I’ve always had a nagging feeling of ‘not quite right’. Well folks, I’m pleased to report that the Goldilocks feeling is no more: I’ve found my perfect commuting bar.

Il Postino is 57cm wide and made from something or other series aluminium. Whatever it is has produced a nice stiff bar that doesn’t complain when a bit of body English is applied. It’s zero rise with a classic forward then backward sweep, the bar ends at a 25 degree angle.

For me, this width and sweep combination is perfect. The fore then aft sweep means that no stem changes are necessary and the 25 degree angle equates to my natural wrist position. (Dangle your arms down by your sides and you’ll see that the hands come to rest roughly in this position)

The grip area is spacious enough for generously sized grips and controls and the satin finish is very classy, accompanied by the subtle VO logos.

The comfort and control that this bar affords is excellent, with great leverage when climbing out of the saddle, less weight on the wrist and the elbows tucked in, unlike with straight bars.

The retro looks might not be to everyone’s taste but I find that they team well with old or new bikes. If you’re the kind of person who likes to festoon their bars with gadgets and lights there isn’t much real estate due to the double bends, but that’s not an issue for me.

There’s nothing I don’t like about these bars and a lot I love. After a month of daily use, there’s nothing I’d change about their design or finish. Teamed with Velo Orange’s model 5 sprung leather saddle, the bar has transformed my Ridgeback Flight into a fast, comfortable and (IMO) classy town bike, that’s lost none of it’s élan.

I’ve yet to ride long distance on them yet so can’t comment on whether the lack of a secondary hand position is an issue. However I can say that the position that these swept back beauties affords is very comfortable and I don’t find myself ‘searching’ for another hand position like I have in the past with all the other bars I’ve used.

I’d be keen to hear from anyone else using these or similar bars.

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Theeverydaycyclist’s bike, rendered as a high speed city bike courtesy of Velo Orange

Waxing Lyrical; Whipping Twine, Chain Lube and the Tale of the Lost Mudguard Eye Nut

It’s funny how things happen in threes. There I was, this morning, sitting, drinking my coffee, wondering what my blog post would be today. Then an hour later, after my commute, three interconnected things come along, all at the same time; handlebar twine, chain lube and a lost mudguard eye nut. But what’s the thread that twines this trio together? Well, it’s wax.

Waxed cotton twine on brown cloth tape with four coats of amber shellac.

Twine

I’ve been experimenting with twine for a while; a few weeks ago I shellac-hemp-twined my handlebar tape ends, but, after living with it for a few days, I wasn’t entirely happy with the results. Hemp twine can be pretty ‘hairy’, meaning that something that’s meant to neatly finish the bar tape ends up looking messy. However, the other day, and quite by accident, a roll of waxed-cotton twine came into my possession. A nice cream colour makes a nice contrast with the dark brown cloth tape. However, the killer feature for me is the waxed finish, which makes the twine adhere to itself and its sub layer. The wax finish also makes the tying-off more secure and will also make the twining water and dirt-proof. Some folks don’t like waxed twine because it doesn’t take shellac well, but I see no need for shellac on the waxy stuff. Its main use is in nautical circles, where it’s used to ‘whip’ rope ends, and also to bundle wiring in electrical installations.

Lube

Late yesterday afternoon I received a package from my friends at Green Oil, who, for some years, have been marketing their excellent range of environmentally friendly lubes and bike cleaning products, which use plant-based (rather than petroleum-based) ingredients. Their latest product is something that’s been missing from the shelves forever – ‘White’ liquid chain wax; a beeswax-based dry chain lube, which claims to protect and lube the chain in all weathers, and doesn’t attract road grime. Now, waxing chains is nothing new. Grant Peterson described the process of paraffin waxing chains in one of his fabulous Bridgestone catalogues and he wasn’t the first; it’s been a popular practice with master-mechanics for generations. However, this is (to my knowledge) the first beeswax-based (and therefore non-petrochemical) wax lube available, which is great news. I’m looking forward to degreasing my drivetrain, White-lubing the chain and seeing how it performs over the coming winter. Expect a full test in a few months – in the meantime I’ll keep you posted.

Nuts

And finally, on the way to the station, I noticed an annoying rattle from the front end of the bike. Before I could locate it, one of my mudguard eye nuts had worked loose and rattled onto the road. They’re special 8mm nuts with an extended ridge at the back which tightens into the ‘eye bolt’ and grips, the mudguard stay, keeping the mudguard properly adjusted. I cussed, shook my head and put up with the annoying rattle all the way to the station (I hate annoying rattles). No biggie though; I’m pretty sure I’ve got a spare in my nuts and bolts tin at home. However, what I plan to do is use a little candle-wax on the threads to stop the new nut rattling loose (another top tip courtesy of that clever Mr Peterson). And let’s face it, there are worse things in the world than rattles (but not many).

Ch, ch, ch, changes





The postman arrived today with  two packages containing three items, which meant some QT with the all-rounder bike. New additions are:

The ultimate barbag, seatpack or manbag – A Swedish Army Gas Mask Bag re-purposed as a bike bag. I’ve long thought that Army Surplus kit can be made into great cycling luggage and this is my first item. 
I saw it first on OYB – a cool sustainable living blog. This guy adapts his to make it work on the bike even better, adds his OYB (Out Your Backdoor) patch and resells ’em. And good on him. Take a look.
I bought mine from Ebay shop Jungle Clothing UK
The second item was a kickstand – I always loved the kickstand on my Raleigh Chopper when I was a kid, so why not have one now. I’ve got one on the Dahon and I use it at least three times every ride. 
Last item from the postman, and definitely least, was a very boring pair of curved rack mounts for my SL Tournee rear rack, meaning I can use it in conjunction with V brakes. 
The other change I’ve made is to swap the 610mm North Road bars for a narrower 490mm pair with a greater sweep-back. They were on a Pashley trike I’ve got that was just begging for wider bars. I’ve polished them up – they’re a little scratched from about 20 years of usage, but I think the scratches polished out count as beausage.
I’ve finished them with a minimalistic wrap of bar tape and a pair of wine cork bar end stoppers. 
Most people think I’ve created Frankenstein, but to me, she’s a workaday Venus.  

North Road Bars for Country Bike


The North Road bars have been hanging around in the shed for too long, so finally a few weeks ago I decided to give them a run on the country bike. And boy was I in for a treat.

Before I did the swap I had to do a few mods. With no shifters available in the spares bin that’d fit on the MTB diameter bars, I had to revert to singlespeed. While I love the look and simplicity of singlespeed, I’m missing the gearing options. So I’ve ordered a set of Sunrace friction thumb shifters from a US based ebay seller. They should arrive soon.

Also sourced from ebay were a set of Tektro V brake levers to work with a set of Promax V brakes that I had taken off the Dahon. I had a front loading quill stem taken from a Fuji track bike that works really well with the generous 80mm of rise on the Raleigh North Road bars. A set of Bontrager foam grips and I was sorted.
So what’s the verdict? Well I have to say that this is by far the most versatile and comfortable handlebar I’ve ever used. Better than flats, risers, moustaches, butterflies or drops. What I’ve done since these pics were taken is to completely wrap the handlebar with Specialized Roubaix tape. It’s the best bar tape I’ve ever used. Cloth-like look but great padding, and reusable – it doesn’t have adhesive on the back – rather it uses semi-sticky gel to keep it in place. Just wrap it tight and secure the end with electrical tape and voila!
On this bike I’ve ridden steep rough downhills and tricky trails with more confidence that on any other bar setup, including that of my Mountain Bike. The bars are a full 610mm wide and have a 45-50 degree backsweep. Some North Road bars have more backsweep – usually around 70 degrees or more, making it hard to brace the hands on bumpy off road descents. With this bar though, no problems. With the bars ‘wrapped’ instead of ‘gripped’ you can use the full length of the backswept section, both fore and aft of the brake lever, including the forward bend section, where you can hook your thumb under, like on a moustache or drop bar. This gives you a great stretched position for more athletic riding.
All in all, the best setup yet. Will post again when the thumbshifters arrive. I intend to put them well inboard, on the small flat section next to the stem, so they don’t use up valuable hand-real-estate. A bit like Myles from Rat Trap Press’ Surly LHT

Shock News – A Bike Related Post!

I’ve been harping on so much about Primal Blueprint that I thought I’d post some bike stuff for a change. 

Spent yesterday clearing out the shed in the fine spring weather and I found three bikes that I’d almost completely forgotten about! Well, almost…

Above: The country bike, basking in the autumn sunshine, back in 2008
I’ve decided that the country bike is just too nice to sit there in the dark, slowly rusting away. So I pulled it out of the shed and gave it a dust down, pumped up the tyres, gave the bar tape a couple of coats of shellac and let it dry in the sun. 
Today I took it for an afternoon spin around the park. I had the bars set pretty low and have got used to a much more upright position on the Dahon, so I pulled them up, a la Rivendell. Grant Petersen’s advice is to get the bars at least level with the saddle, if not a little higher, for the moustache bar to work best. This is certainly good advice when you’ve got shellacked cloth tape, which doesn’t afford the hands much in the way of cushioning. With this tape setup, it’s best to carry a little more weight on the saddle – and the B17 Standard is great in that respect. 

Above: Reelight SL100 induction lights – fitted to both of my ‘useful’ bikes

So I can make sure I get the most use out of the country bike, I’ve ordered a set of Reelight SL100s for it. The Dahon D7 has got a set and they are unbeatable for fit and forget battery free lighting. 
I’ve also ordered a Carradice SQR block for the country bike, so swapping over the Carradice isn’t a pain. What I’ll do is alternate between the folding bike and the country bike for commutes, and keep the folder in the hallway for shopping errands and the like. 
Which just leaves the other two bikes in my stable. A 2004 Claud Butler Alpina MTB, which has served me well on bridleways, trail centres and rocky Pennine trails. 
The most neglected of all is the road bike. An aluminium framed ‘winter bike’ with carbon forks and a few Rivendell inspired touches – bar end shifters, Brooks Swift saddle, Stronglight compact double crank and a set of 28mm tyres – the biggest that it’s clearances will allow. 

Above: The latest version of the Picador – ours is much older and rustier
Also loitering in the shed is a Pashley Picador trike which must be 20 years old or more. It’s my step-daughter Kelly’s and it’s going to her dad’s house to live – he’s got access to some great country parks and bike paths so it should get a lot more use up there. Just a new set of (incredibly hard to source) 500a (20 x 1 3/8) tyres and tubes and it’s ready for action. 
And that brings us up to date on the bike front. The much modified Dahon continues to serve me well – so well that the other bikes have had to fight for their place. 

Dahon D7 – Stem Mod





I’ve modified my Dahon D7 handlepost to accept a standard ahead stem, as detailed in a previous post. ‘Modified’ is probably a bit of a stretch – ‘sawn the top off’ is probably a little more accurate.

Last night I picked up a 100mm 10 degree rise four bolt MTB stem from Bikehut (rebadged Tioga) and scurried home, where, while dinner was cooking (primal diet compatible of course – mackerel with broccoli and peas…) I added the stem to the existing post and with some trepidation, trialled the new cockpit arrangement in the street.

It was a total revelation… The D7 now steers like a normal bike, it’s no longer nervous and demanding of constant attention to keep things in a straight line. Also, for the first time, the bike now fits me properly. Indeed, I’ve got enough reach to move the seat to the middle of the rails. The fit is very like the fit on by road bike and MTB.

I also trialled the other important thing – how the bike would fold. It’s inevitable that the new bar arrangement was going to mean a change in the folded size and the folding process, which now goes as follows: 

  1. Drop the saddle
  2. Fold the bike in half
  3. Undo the bottom handle-post latch and lower the post onto the saddle
  4. Undo the top quick-release on the handlepost and remove the handlebar/stem/telescopic bit
  5. Place the handlebar assembly between the two folded halves of the frame (I’ve found that I can pop the luggage elastic from the rack over it to keep it in place)

The fold isn’t as neat and tidy but it actually takes less time to fold and unfold, because there’s less time faffing getting the bars flipped upwards and the stem in the right place for folding. Of course it’s a little bigger folded than before, but it still fits in the end of carriage luggage racks, which is all that matters to me.

This morning I decided to seal the deal and hacksaw the hinge unit from the top of the post. It was a scary moment taking the hacksaw to the top of the handlepost to remove the hinged stem and leave basically a 1 1/8” aluminium tube, to which I reattached the stem.

Riding it to work and back today was, again, a breath of fresh air. Now the bike fits properly, I can climb out of the saddle and use a lot more upper body when I’m riding. The front end is stable, with much better weight distribution and if I closed my eyes (which I never recommend when riding!) it would feel like riding a full sized bike.

All I need to do to complete the job is get a star nut and top cap – not that it actually needs one from a functional point of view, but it will tidy up the exposed end of the handlepost. ***I’ve since used a tongue-in-cheek solution to the problem – a wine cork 😉***

Anyone else out there done this mod on a Dahon or other folder (I know the SP Brompton uses a similar setup and Bike Friday Tikits are set up like this)

North Road the Wrong Road…

… well at least for the Dahon. 

Bars arrived this morning and looked good out of the box, but on the bike, they just didn’t work. Either run as flipped (drop) or riser, they just looked odd – at 610mm they are pretty wide giving the bike that monkey-bike look – not good! Also, they badly affected the fold – adding about 4 inches of width to the folded package. Again, not good. 
Had a ‘mare of a time getting the shifter off, eventually had to drill right through the bolt (an also unintentionally through the old handlebar) to get the old one off, as it had been totally overtightened. This meant new shifter time. Now running a set of Kore Lite flat MTB bars with bar ends. New shifter is the same model (SRAM MRX 7 speed) but was unable to get the model for reverse action derailleurs, so the numbers are reversed – no big deal as I always look at the cassette to check what gear I’m in anyway. 
Haven’t given up on the North Road idea though. I may try them on the country bike – they’ll be super comfy, that’s for sure, and they’ll look more at home on a full size rig. It’ll need new brake levers, shifters and grips to make it happen, so it’ll have to wait…