Running modern handlebars and stem

ishay

Retro Guru
Having faithfully restored 3 early 90s bikes last year I slightly backed off interest when I started riding more again and accepted that they really didn’t ride that great if I was honest.

This month though I completed more of a semi-rat build and decided to test a more modern cockpit. 70mm 35deg stem and 700mm high rise bars.

It has completely brought the bike to life. I will now happily ride this bike on almost anything that isn’t really gnarly.

Anybody else made this one change and loved it?
 

BerthaPog

Retrobike Rider
Gold Trader
Feedback
View
Have wider bars (650mm ish) and slightly shorter stem (90mm ish) on some of mine, no extra rise, def preferred as a general rider.

Sometimes it’s nice to go back to having narrow bars (sub 550mm) one time zone ahead of the rest of the bike. :D
 

Mikey08

Kona Fan
I tried a few modern stems on my 2000 Kula first with 700mm bars which were way wider than anything I had ever ridden before. Definitely better. I then got some 720mm Raceface Next and liked them more, but wouldn't want to go any wider (in my opinion going past 720mm isnt needed on 26" wheels). I tried 3 stems, a 40mm, 60mm, and 70mm. The 40mm was great on downhills but made the bike feel cramped and climbing was awkward. The 70mm and 60mm were good but I settled on the 60mm. For me its still long enough to climb and yet still short enough to give the stable handling on the downs.

All this is based on not being the tallest bloke at 5'8" and riding a 18" Kona frame which is arguably a tab big for me. So it works out.

A point to note. The shorter stem lengths are offset by the wider bar where your hands are further apart pulling so your shoulders forward. It feels weird at first but once you get used to it you soon realize how much more in control you are.
 

MartinYorkshire

Retro Guru
Feedback
View
ishay":euwi5e9l said:
Having faithfully restored 3 early 90s bikes last year I slightly backed off interest when I started riding more again and accepted that they really didn’t ride that great if I was honest.

This month though I completed more of a semi-rat build and decided to test a more modern cockpit. 70mm 35deg stem and 700mm high rise bars.

It has completely brought the bike to life. I will now happily ride this bike on almost anything that isn’t really gnarly.

Anybody else made this one change and loved it?

Short answer is yes. Flat bars and low rise stems were all the rage back then but also I was much younger so I could take the pressure.

My Kona had its tame riser bars switched out for some eastons and my wifes RM had its zoom flats swapped for the same. Wide and with quite a rise on them. I'm in the middle of revamping the rocky mountain with vbrakes (from DX canti's) and riser bars. We both love the bike, but as we get older, it needs some further comfort and utility. Some retro purists may scoff at that, but were they not made more hospitable to older riders who appreciate them, a lot of these older frames may well have been consigned to the dump.

In my view, to run a true period correct retro bike takes something inside you, as in you really want to tick that box that you couldn't tick in your youth for whatever reason. It's an itch we have to scratch. It's similar to owning a vintage car, you put up with the lack of power steering and electric windows because you love it for what it is.

I guess for wifey and I, our bodies decided at some point recently that we were no longer young.

I also keep in mind that mountain biking was considered an extreme sport back when all this kit was devised and comfort was not even a secondary concern. It was all weight, looks and performance.

The really cool thing, which you yourself have noticed, is that older frames still have much to offer in terms of performance. There is no doubt at all, I'd buy an older steel frame over almost anything modern, simply because they were far better made and will cope with pretty much anything. Modern stuff is mostly built down to a price and that is reflected in the ride as it would be.
 

ishay

Retro Guru
I'm fairly lucky in the comfort department, currently 41, I still ride road bikes in an aggressive position, so getting down to an old 130mm stem position isn't in itself too bad. Even so though, the handling is just sketchy on a 50-55cm bar. That's only 5-10cm wider than my drop bars, and there's a reason I never bought into CX bikes...

I effectively have two of the same bikes now (93 and 94 KHS Montana Comps), one faithfully restored (my original, and still only, shop bought bike) and one to ride. It's only the cantilever brakes that now hold it back at all. The shifting (a parts drawer mix of LX/DX/XTR) is not noticeably any worse than modern, the tyres are modern and now the handling is modern. But yeah, on a steep technical descent the brakes are poor.

Agree with Mickey08, the stem is a key part of this. It's easy to talk about the bar width, but without a matching stem change the reach would be horrible. I used a quill/ahead convertor so I could use any modern stem that was appropriate.

It's funny, I was saying to a mate on a road ride yesterday. For years I felt we missed the best years of suspension by doing our mtb racing in the 90s, but having now ridden a modern full sus and a 90s rigid with more modern slack position (handlebars relative to the hub, obviously the actual angles are unchanged), for our local trials the geometry (and brakes) were probably more important than the suspension after all.
 

drystonepaul

Moderator
Retrobike Rider
Gold Trader
Feedback
View
Re:

Much like counting the rings on a tree trunk, you can tell the age of a rider by the number of stem spacers under their stem and the height of their bars.

I tend to prefer a shorter stem and flat bars as high as is safe without compromising the appearance of the bike.
Bar ends also help in terms of comfort, but never with riser bars.

I also predominantly ride road bikes nowadays so a lower position of a retro MTB feels more natural than modern mountain bikes.
 

TSP

Old School Hero
Re:

I’m in the process of building up a 97/98 Mongoose in a dual slalom 4x style and I’m on the verge of doing this. The main reason is the price of good second hand bars and stems these days. I’d really love an Azonic bar and stem combo but I may just settle on a modern Raceface combo instead. It’s nice to hear the compromise of period correct and style can be offset by helping the ride quality.
 

ishay

Retro Guru
Re:

Like all threads, this one needs pictures. Not perfectly taken, but an idea of the change in position/angles
 

Attachments

  • KHS 93.jpg
    KHS 93.jpg
    992.3 KB · Views: 219
Top