My new bike – Less pain, less gain?

July 1, 2011

I mentioned before that I am putting the Ergonova handlebars with anatomical grips on my new bike. This is actually the first time I spec one of my bikes with such a grip. I have always preferred the non-anatomical grips with the constant curve which, after extensive branding sessions,the industry has decided to call “round”.

3T Ergosum shape, almost straight where you would normally grip the drops

3T Rotundo, rounded where you grip the drops

3T Rotundo shape, rounded where you grip the drops (you rarely grip the straight part)

While the concept of only supporting your weight with the edges of your palms doesn’t sound comfortable, I actually like that feeling. This may be because I’ve always been told that’s what “the real pros” use and I am vulnerable to occasional bouts of cycle snobbism.  In fact one pro (who shall remain anonymous) once pronounced a bike with an anatomical handlebar “unridable”, which I thought was pretty funny. Or it may just be that the the roundness on the other side (where your fingers are) gives you the sense of a better grip.

Be that as it may, I’m going to ride these Ergonova anatomical bars for now. I’ve ridden them on demo bikes in the past, quite liked them, so it’s time for a longer test period. BTW, they differ from the 3T Ergosum anatomical bars in that while the grips are very similar in shape, the Ergonova has a broader, flattened top, which means that when riding on the tops your weight is distributed over a larger surface. Bigger surface, less pressure, more comfort, or so the laws of physics say.

And if all else fails, I’ll go back to my trusted 3T Rotundo bars with “shallow round” shape (meaning round grips but not too deep, so the drop from tops to grips is manageable).

Have you tried different handlebar shapes? Which do you prefer and why? Let me know in the comments section or contact me via twitter @gerardvroomen.

20 Responses to “My new bike – Less pain, less gain?”

  1. Just switched my cyclocross bike from round shape to the anatomical. I prefer the new setup. The shape of the bar fits the hand better at the point where you grip. The drop on model I chose (Zipp short-shallow) means that my position on the drops is actually much closer to riding on the hoods than previously.

  2. Christian Says:

    I have an anatomical handlebar and I liked form the beginning. I don’t have much experience with the round ones but the idea to give the hand a wider surface to reduce the pressure seems to have point.

    My favorite handlebar is probably the FSA Plasma. I like how FSA used the advantages of a fully integrated CFRP design. Furthermore the flat top should be good when you get down to a time-trial like position.

    On my MTB I’m changing from round grips to grips with palm support. After 2-3h I start to feel a pain in the palms and I hope the new grip will help.

  3. josh sakofsky Says:

    i rode the modolo kx curvissima (anatomical) for a little while, they weren’t bad. i’ve been riding the PRO vibe 7s now (round) for 2 years and i prefer it a lot more. it just feels nicer to me. i say ride what works for you, as long as its not garish (ahem:

    • Anonymous Says:

      Ahh, the judgement of the uninformed. Josh, you surely are a comedian, but don’t quit your day job just yet. I’ve put about 7K miles on my K-wing bars, and I can tell you unequivocally they are superior in ride comfort and quality to any and all other bars I’ve seen in my 30+ years of racing and riding. Good to know you won’t be stealing my “garish” bike!! Really though, you should try before you judge. You may be surprised at what you find.

    • josh sakofsky Says:

      i did try, i especially disliked them and not just because of their appearance. when i sprinted i kept nailing my inner wrist too much. they didn’t work for me, but i am happy they work for you.

  4. Rodney Says:

    I switched from the Rotundo to the Ergonova on my R3 over the last Winter. I don’t ride with gloves and find the Ergonova suits me better.

  5. I put the Ergonova on my new R5 some weeks ago. Like it better than a “usual” handlebar. More comfort, more relaxation and better grip going uphill.

  6. Allie Says:

    I ride mostly on the hoods and tops of the bars but I do find the anatomical style not to my liking for steeper descents. I prefer more surface area to grip so the 3T Ergosum shape just makes more sense for me. However I am eager to hear more about your experience with the Ergonova bars and your description of comfort when riding on top or the hoods.

  7. Tim Says:

    I use a shallow reach, compact drop, round bar on my road and cyclocross bikes. I’ve tried the ergo-profile bars in the past on a road bike, and I found the flat tops to be really hard on my wrists and actually more fatiguing to grip. Equally bad for me was the inability to adjust the rotational angle of the bars to accommodate SRAM shifter hoods because the flat tops would always be at an angle that didn’t work for my wrist position when I got the rotation just right. I find that the compact bend creates a really nice, flat line from the bar tops to the shifter hoods that I prefer.

  8. Tim Says:

    I use an FSA Wing Pro Compact. Very similar to the 3T Ergonova that you are switching to.

  9. wisey17 Says:

    Gerrard, I have tried a number of anatomical options over the years and tried to use each for a minimum of three months before giving up on them. One of the best was the good old fashioned Ritchey Logic II (2 year stint), but I preferred the original design with the ‘hump’ in the drop section. With the newer ergo designs, I found the Pro range (6 months) acceptable and the 3TTT (I like the old logo better!) Ergosum (6 months) to be one of the best. However, having tried again and again, I keep coming back to the good old faithful classic shape, whether it is a set of old Cinelli Giro d’Italia, Deda Newton Shallow Classic, or the Rotundo. My problem with the ergo designs it that they tend to have a long reach which is exacerbated by the longish brake levers that we use today. So the tops are very long which then requires a shorter stem. This then places the drops far too close. The traditional shallow drop round bar seems to achieve the best balance for my liking, but every rider is a different shape.

    • Francisco de Almeida Says:

      “My problem with the ergo designs it that they tend to have a long reach which is exacerbated by the longish brake levers that we use today. So the tops are very long which then requires a shorter stem. This then places the drops far too close.”

      Agree entirely! I do however open an exception for ergo bars with a more upright ‘anatomic’ drop section such as the Time Ergo Force. The hands lie closer to the brake levers and the elbows fall naturally into a nice bend.

  10. hf Says:

    I’ve ridden the compact ergo shaped bars on road and the traditional round shape bars on the track, and the ergo bars are much much more comfortable to me, even taking out bike fit/frame differences. Much less stress on the hands and find myself using the drops more often.

  11. Niels Geerts Says:

    On my 3 month old new road racing bike Ritchey Pro BioMax handlebars are mounted. These bars even have a curve in the other direction on the position where you put your hands. Therefore it fits your hands perfectly.
    I now occassionaly use this lower position, something which I almost never did on my previous bike (that one had 10 year old ITM ergo shape bars).

    • Emile Says:

      My new bike has the Ritchey Pro Biomax as well. Those can’t compare to anything else. Ergo bars are nice but the biomax are just better. They have such a natural fitting it’s a pleasure to ride in the drops. Too bad they don’t have a flat top…
      I have wide hands which I think need more support then very curvy drops.

  12. Thanks for all your replies here, it really is a very personal preference, isn’t it? Which of course is to be expected, but it’s just a little surprising that in standard spec there is so little choice. But I hope that at least your local shop has a good selection of different shapes.

    Thanks again for all the feedback,



  13. Paul Hague Says:

    I disagree about rarely using the flat bit of the bar (in the diagram). This is the part I use most and gives quite a relaxed position. Say if you’re riding for a long period into a head wind. I only use the curved part of the drops when I’m riding aggressively.

  14. Richard Says:

    Hi. I just bump into your HB topic. I have changed my bike a year ago and the I have this 3t ergonova. very confortable on steady ride but something was missing.
    I am 1.90 and after 1 year I was thinking the drop was not enough… In fact it is not really a question of drop but more a reach.
    This ergonova is 1,3cm shorter than the round or ergosum.
    If i put a longer stem then i gain 2cm. that is huge.

    Very often I read that this bike brand or the other have “bad geometry” Or that people should invest more in postural study to check what’s the right seat post/crank/stem length!!! but never ever you read about the size of your HB!
    The HB should be start of the study isn’t it? a bike position is a simple equation from pedal to saddle and HB.

    Simple equation but difficult choices! it is almost impossible to try different option w/o buying it. or sometime you are to order bc out of stock.

    Back to me, I should go ergosum or rotund very soon!

  15. Henry Says:

    I like the gradual radius of modern compact bars but don’t like the short reach. I also like a gradual curve into the ramps for a comfortable grip at the transition into the ramp. I’ve settled on the Modolo X-tra – it’s a kind of scaled up compact bar. Large radius curve like typical compact bar but with a 102 reach and 145 drop. Nothing else like it on the market.

    A compendium of drop bar shapes I put together while finding my preferred shape:

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