Friday, December 19, 2014

The Bosco Bar

Ten years ago I built up my Titanium General Purpose Commuter/City Bike (TGPCCB) and it has served me well.  Over the years I've messed with different drive train configurations and little tweaks here and there but one thing that remained constant was the original handlebar.  Because the frame was intended as a mountain bike I naturally mounted it up with a flat mountain bike style bar.  While I'm usually pretty good at thinking outside the box I never gave my handlebar much thought and just put up with the uncomfortable bent over position the straight bar.

Many recumbent advocates will say that a recumbent bike makes a fine commuter but I disagree. In my experience with lots of starts and stops and busy streets I believe the upright safety bicycle configuration makes the most sense as a city/commuter ride.  On the open road that's another the story.  Of course in that application the recumbent outshines them all. 

Back to the subject of this post.  The last couple years I have been commuting to and from my day job more often than ever before.  My trips around town are usually very short amounting to 20 minutes or less.  While that is not a long enough sitting to incite the aggravation of a bent over riding position the flat bar slowly became my bike's least favorite attribute.

One of my favorite luminaries of the bicycle world is Grant Petersen who is a great author and proprietor of the amazing Rivendell Bicycle Works.  As I've gotten older and more retro-grouchy I've come to appreciate the idea that bicycles can be rolling versions of artistic expression and vehicles of fun instead of just performance oriented machines derived from the latest and greatest of the racing world.  Grant's philosophy has really changed my thinking on how I ride and how I tailor my equipment to match the riding style. 

One day while I was wandering around the Internet I came across a handlebar called the Bosco Bar.  I liked the old school euro city bike look of the thing and right away I thought that's what I need for the Ti GP.  Upon further investigation I discovered this bar was the brainchild of Mr. Petersen and manufactured by Nitto of Japan.  Built in a few different widths and versions made of chromoly steel and aluminum the bars are very high in quality and finish.  Established on February 11, 1923 in Tokyo; Nitto has built a fine reputation as one of the worlds oldest bicycle component makers.

Unfortunately the more affordable steel bars were sold out and on back order and impatient as I am I settled instead for the aluminum version which was in stock.  The good folks at Rivendell had the bar boxed up, across the country and to my doorstep in five days.  Thanks guys!

I sourced a new cable kit and a thumb shifter because the old cables and jackets would be way to short for the reach of the new bars.  

The modern Shimano trigger shifter I was using for the 1x9 drivetrain did work flawlessly but I thought the look would be off on the Bosco bar so I relegated it to the spare parts bin.  I remember two of my first mountain bikes back in the 1980's had thumb shifters and I always loved them so it's great to finally have a thumbie perched back on my bar.

The Bosco only comes in silver polished alloy or steel so I had some decision making to do in keeping with the black on Ti theme of my bike.  I thought about simply roughing the bar up and going at it with some flat black rattle can but the Nitto is just too nice for that.  Another idea I had was to slip on some black shrink tubing over the bars to get a uniform utilitarian look.  Ultimately thanks again to the Internet I found out the cool kids were wrapping their bars with old fashioned cotton bar tape. 

I stopped short of getting out the shellac but I did finish off the end of the wraps with some waxed linen serving from my archery supplies.  Very sharp if I do say so!

Here's the cockpit view of the controls.  A little dusting of snow for the morning commute and just right in the holiday season.

Per the instructions I used my calibrated eyeball to put 6 degrees or thereabouts of tilt to the bars for optimal comfort and boy do they deliver.  I've only ridden about an hour so far on the new bars but I am very impressed with the feel of the Boscos.  Before mounting them up I was a little concerned about tiller effect with my hands back a bit of the steering axis but the control and reach is perfect. The bike feels more natural now than it ever has.  With a longish 23 1/2" top tube I believe the Bosco clamped up in a 110mm stem is about as close to perfection as the bike is going to get.

With the old flat bar and its more aggressive leaned over riding position the WTB saddle was acceptable even on longer rides but now sitting nearly bolt upright I'm thinking a seat upgrade may be in the future.  I've been eyeing those fancy Brooks leather saddles with the wider seat and springs underneath and that just might be the ticket.


  1. I commuted by recumbent for about 4 years, but still I don't recommend it in general; half my route was on a trail and the other half not excessively busy or dangerous. One must ride more conservatively when recumbent; even my SWB is not what anyone would call nimble, fast as it is.

  2. The bars DO look great.I suspect they match the fenders even better than it looks in the photo.

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  4. This is the comment as I meant it to appear:

    I commend you for your open-mindedness. As a person who has ridden a BikeE in Washington, D.C. traffic, I agree with you that recumbent is really not the way to go for stop-and-go commuting.

    Granted, I don't have as much experience as you, but then again, comparisons are odious, as it is said. Toppling gently to the right, as I have done, when trying to get started is embarrassing, although mainly dangerous only to one's pride.

    You've got better photos than Bike Snob NYC. Tell us more about how you shoot them (I've recently become a camera / film / image nut).

    My only negative is very sad for you, because it is unpardonable: Why, WHY did you give away George Costanza's password? A pox upon ye for being such a careless lout!

  5. Once I discovered "sensible handlebars" I couldn't go back. It's really a shame that we're sold "commuter" bikes that are nothing more than a mountain bike with a rack added.
    Mountain and racing bike handlebars are specialized things for certain activities but they're not suitable for everyday use in my opinion.
    What I like about handlebars like these are that your hands are in a natural position. When you let your hands hang down naturally, that's the position they're in.
    If you look at things globally, this kind of handlebar would be considered normal, and for good reasons too.
    And yes, your weight is in a different place than with mountain bike or racing handlebars so you'll want a different seat.