Author Archive | Natsuko

Handlebar Width Matters

When I got my new C. S. Hirose, I was excited to have a bike with wide tires for the gravel roads of the Cascade Mountains. I love my other Hirose, and so I asked the builder to make the new one as similar as possible. Some parts we brought to Japan, like the cranks, fenders for 26″ wheels, and a generator hub, but most components the builder could just order. I wanted to use modern parts as much as possible.

And yet when I first rode my new bike, it felt different. It was hard for me to tell the reason, but I was more tense riding the new bike. I expected wider tires to be more stable, and yet the new bike didn’t put me at ease.

At first, I wondered whether the wide tires somehow affected the handling. The builder suggested that the bike’s geometry might work best with the low-rider panniers attached. But even that didn’t change it. Then I noticed that my elbows hurt a little after an all-day ride on the new bike. That’s when we measured the handlebars. They were 39 cm wide. And yet I knew that my old bike had 37 cm handlebars. In fact, I didn’t use Rene Herse handlebars because the narrowest version we offered was 40 cm.

Why had the builder used wider bars on my new bike? I checked the Nitto catalog and realized that the 37 cm handlebars had been discontinued. Suddenly it made sense: The builder had used the narrowest bars he could get. I was quite surprised that narrow handlebars no longer exist.

During our next trip to Japan, we asked Nitto’s president, Mr. Yoshikawa, about it. He said: “You’ll probably notice bars that are 2 cm wider, but there simply wasn’t much demand for the narrowest version.” 

Handlebars for not-so-tall riders may not be a big market, but it’s bothered me for a long time that the bike industry mostly thinks of riders as men of average height and body shape. Many Rene Herse products were created because we needed them, and nobody made them. So we decided to make 37 cm handlebars.

We modified the shape of our Randonneur handlebars a bit for the 37 cm version. The drop is a bit shallower, since a very deep drop would be a bit of a stretch for not-so-tall riders. The bars flare a little more at the bottom to give enough leverage over the front wheel in technical situations. The 37 cm handlebars are made to the same Superlight specification as our other bars. They weigh just 262 g – my bike got 45 g lighter with the new bars!

I don’t notice the lighter weight, but the feel of the new bars is very different. The bike feels more stable. I find it easier to direct the bike where I want to go. And there is no elbow pain any more, even after a challenging ride to Naches Pass in the heart of the Cascade Mountains.

The narrower bars make it much easier to bend my elbows, too. The width difference may just be 2 cm, but it makes a big difference when I ride. I finally feel at home on my new bike. It’s easy to relax. It’s my bike now!

And for those who are looking for narrow handlebars, we have the new bars in stock now.

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Longing for the Mountains: Giovanni’s Covid-19 Experience (Italy)

In this series, we’re sharing the Covid-19 experiences of friends and contributors from around the world. Giovanni Calcagno won our photo contest two years ago with this photo, taken during his ride on the Via del Sale that criss-crosses the Italian-French border. Here is his experience during the Covid-19 lockdown in Italy.
– Natsuko

Tell us about yourself and where you live.

I’m 59 and live in Arenzano, a town of 12,500 people (rising to 40,000 during the summer months) near Genova on the northwestern coast of Italy. I work as a fisherman, catching swordfish with my brother. We come from a family that has been fishing for four generations. Continue Reading →

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Covid-19 Experiences: Donalrey in New York City

The first Covid-19 case in the United States was detected near us here in Seattle in mid-January. Back then, we didn’t imagine that this would turn into such a difficult situation. The entire world has been affected. As we’ve stayed in touch with our friends and Bicycle Quarterly contributors in some of the most affected regions, we’ve been encouraged by their resilience. In this series, I’ll share some of their experiences.

I caught up with Donalrey Nieva from New York City. He and his partner Karen Yung photographed and wrote the cover story in the current Bicycle Quarterly.
—Natsuko Continue Reading →

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Jikkoku Pass in Autumn: Day 2

In the last post, I talked about riding on the old road across Jikkoku Pass.

Where to go on the second day? We haven’t quite decided yet. The typhoon is getting closer, and we don’t know what the weather will be like. If it’s just raining, it’s OK, but this time, a huge typhoon is forecast, which may make riding in the mountains dangerous because of landslides. We will adjust our plans as the day develops. Continue Reading →

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Jikkoku Pass in Autumn

Usually, October in Japan is a month of good weather, with an occasional typhoon that needs to be considered when planning a cyclotouring trip. But when I visited Japan this autumn, October saw so many typhoons and rain. It’s very unusual.

We did not want to miss the short window of good weather as we planned a cyclotouring trip. Mr. Yo had time off and could join us. We decided to go on a two-day trip together. Where to go? Continue Reading →

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