For the fourth time in my life, I have broken a set of handlebars while riding. Unbelievable (knock wood), I have never gone down when this has occured. Today was day six of my program and it almost ended with me going down in a heap. I was only a mile from the house and accelerating away from a traffic light when, all of the sudden, the bar snapped off in my hand. For a second and a half, I was fairly sure I was going to go down, but as I regained my balance, I was able to manipulate the brake in my right hand (the hand holding the broken bar) and safely slow the bike. In this situation, you want to use the rear brake to slow since you are essentially riding one handed. Luckily, I was not going that fast in the first place
The first time I broke a set of bars, I was using the “Scott Branded – Drop-in.” These were the bars designed by Greg Lemond after his famous finish in Paris in 1999. Those of us who were plugged into The Tour on that year watch Greg smash French rider Laurent Fignon and take the tour by a mere eight seconds. Without Greg’s aerodynamic gear, he would not have won the tour in 1999. Soon, Scott, inc. designed a bar that could be used for road racing that was legal for competition. I had to have it. And, it worked. Until one day, I snapped one off at the stem during the final stage of a five-day stage race. Unfortunately, I was leading the GC (General Classification) for the stage race and was sure to wrap up with an overall win, when my bars snapped. I was very, very lucky. We were attacking into a turn a 30+ mph, and I managed to stay up. It was the left side that broke and as I lost my balance, the brake lever snagged the quick release on my front wheel and that managed to keep me from going right to the ground. It all worked out sort of nicely in the end though, because I wrote to the company about the experience. In my letter, I was sure to tell them that I was unable to finish the race and claim my cash prize (which I depended tremendously on…). To my surprise, Scott, inc. sent me a check for the first place prize to compensate me for the incident…or, almost incident.
The second time, I broke a pair of Modolo Professional bars on a training ride in Wichita Falls, Texas. I was going very fast on a service road with my teammate Alberti Vasquez. Luckily, I was sitting down when the bar snapped off in my hand. Again, I managed not to crash.
The third time, I was descending on a hill in Cedar Hill, Texas on a training ride. It was an aggressive, curvy, bumpy descent and the bar snapped off in my right hand again. I have absolutely no idea how I stayed up that time. I thought for sure I was going to crash. That time, I was using the Ritchey RaceLite World Series bar.
The net/net is that I cannot isolate this phenomena to a single brand of handlebar. Maybe it is just because I am as big as I am and components these days are made for little riders. I shudder when bicycle component manufacturers release their new products, shaving ounces to maintain their competitive edge. I would be perfectly happy to ride a 30-pound bike if I knew it would never break.
Road to Fitness – Day 6