Monday, June 17, 2013

For posterities sake... why no 31.8???

Each week we receive several emails asking if we will produce our steel and titanium bars in 31.8mm center sizing. Each week, our answer is the same; no.

Let me explain why.

For years, the standard for mountain bike handlebars has been a center cross section of 25.4mm or 1.00" diameter tubing. Stems, correspondingly, were sized the same and offered an excellent repository of diverse components to customize your bicycles fit and performance.

When the weight weenie gene began to creep it's way into mountain biking with the introduction of carbon fiber, the game changed. In an effort to keep up with the new kid on the block, Aluminum bar manufacturers began shaving critical material from their bars to save weight, unconsciously moving their durability from sustainable to race oriented. Unfortunately, this race to featherweight components had an irreversible impact on the rider's experience; components, particularly handlebars, were failing. Carbon fiber and the re-spec'd aluminum were not able to deal with the inherent forces of a bicycle hurdling down a single track trail and provide the substantial weight reduction in it's current form. Therefore, a new standard, 31.8mm was increasing the center cross section of the tubing, manufacturers of carbon and aluminum bars were able to increase the contact surface area of the bar, increasing it's strength without impacting the overall weight savings.

Ironically, steel and titanium have the requisite strength and ductility to handle these forces in their current form. By designing with a larger center diameter, it increases the rigidity of the product to a point where it is difficult to provide the desired impact absorption and rider comfort over it's length.

The design of the Luv handle is a three piece mitered and welded product.

The grip section of every mountain bike handlebar requires a .875" outer diameter to appropriately fit provided controls. The center section of the handlebar must be swaged or squeezed into an oval shape to .825" to be properly fitted at the connecting joint. Using the 1.00" tubing, this creates a gentle change in shape which reduces stress on the welded parts and creates a larger welding surface over the grip section, fine tuning the rigidity of the bar.

If I was to move to a 31.8mm standard, it creates two issues;

The first is that the swaging process would have to be much more dramatic to reach the .825" cross section at the end of the center pieces. This process would create two distinct peaks in the oval section, which would eventually serve as focal points for the stress in the bar and provide a failure point, reducing long term durability. This is a compromise I am unwilling to make.

The second issue is that the final product, with the greater diameter center section, would not allow enough flexion over it's length to provide the comfort and control necessary. While it may be fine for those running squishy forks, customers who desire a fully rigid set up would be beat to a pulp.

So, here it is. If you would like a Luv handle you have some options.

- Source a 1.00" clamp section stem, there are lots of them out there cheapish now as they are no longer in vogue.

- Purchase a shim to fit the 1.00" center into a 31.8mm stem.

- Purchase a complete custom bicycle build and I'll make you a one piece bar/stem combo with a perfect fit and lighter weight than you could ever achieve with individual components.

I guess I'm stubborn...I refuse to follow current trends in design just to accommodate weaker materials that provide less durability for perceived weight savings.


1 comment:

Tim Neuschwander said...

Don't change em! I love the flexibility of my ti luv handles when I'm running the bike rigid. I have other handmade ti bars (mountain moustache) and I agree, they are much more flexible than my bars with 31.8 cross section. There are no bars quite like the luv handles.