Broken Handlebars — Not Cool

Dec 4 2005

broken handlebarsFor 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.

bikeThe 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.

Chris Ronan
Road to Fitness – Day 6
258 pounds


6 Comments to “Broken Handlebars — Not Cool”

  1. Damn, Chris, that’s wild. Glad you’re OK. You’ve gotta quit taking it out on the bikes, man! :)

    By Jerry Brown on December 5th, 2005 at 8:39 pm
  2. Chris:

    Are you really 258 lbs?

    By jorge costa on December 6th, 2005 at 11:56 am
  3. Yes. When I started posting these blog entries, I was 267. I am working through diet and exercise to put myself in a beter place with respect to my health. I hope that within 45 days I can reach my target weight and attain my goals with power output on the bike!

    By chris ronan on December 7th, 2005 at 3:15 am
  4. did you get companies to refund you for them or replace the part? just happened to me today – pain in the butt. I’m only 180.

    By andrew on July 15th, 2007 at 7:02 pm
  5. wow, four bar breaks and no injuries? Go out and buy a lottery ticket, i hear horror stories of broken components, let alone a critical one like the bars! Are you referring to the double drop bars scott had for a while where you could hold the lower ‘tops’?

    By Gromit on February 14th, 2010 at 4:01 am
  6. Yes I can hardly believe it myself. The first ones I broke were during a criterium while going into a corner. They were the Scott bars, yes. I managed barely to stay upright.

    The other three bars I broke during training rides. So the first three breaks were right at the stem. The last break I had was just below the brake clamp. That one was scary because I was going down a very steep and bumpy hill. It just snapped off in my hand when I hit a dip in the road. There was a turn ahead and it was my left side that snapped off which meant I could only use my rear brake to stop. I ended up staying upright but ended up riding off the road and into the weeds while I was trying to slow the bike with rear brake only.

    Yes I’ve been very lucky. I’m a big guy and the bars just get lighter and lighter. So I try to have the presence of mind to replace them often before they weaken.

    By Chris Ronan on February 14th, 2010 at 11:18 am

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