I’m going to explain, by photo, schematic drawing, and video what Profile Design (PD) is doing for road cyclists and for bike fitters. This is a fully-formed system, just like PD does for triathlon (which I’ll be writing about again soon in a number of articles).
There are 3 places you touch your bike: saddle, handlebars, cycling shoes. These are the most important parts of the bike, once you settle the questions of: the tires need to hold air, the bike needs to not break, and so on. There are a few companies that've realized this, and have rethought handlebars: PD, Zipp, FSA, and those who inhabit certain niches, like TriRig, maybe Culprit. Here’s one thing they all have in common: Just like in bike making, it’s the companies with North American sensibilities who’ve taken over. Just as Trek, Specialized, Cannondale and, in a smaller but powerful way, Cervelo wrested bike making from the European companies over the past 40 years, these P&A companies are going to take over from the Euro brands of my cycling youth (Cinelli, Modolo, but 3T is a special case to be covered later).
Wait! Neither PD nor FSA is an American company! True. But, like Giant, they’ve adopted a North American willingness to reimagine a product, and an attention to fit and ergonomics that improves upon tradition. I’m going to talk about a product, that your bike fitter will use, and a theory of road bar geometry that goes with it.
DRV (or Drive)
I began a bit of a revolution, I think, without realizing it, or intending it, and really my ambitions were much smaller. I conceived of and named a couple of metrics in 2003 called Stack and Reach. These metrics defined the absolute length and height of a bike element (the frame), for the purpose of creating a system that allows me to prescribe with precision which bike exactly matches your bike position. Looking at points on a bike in an X and Y dimension took hold, and we now have Pad Stack and Reach, HX and HY, and we have (road) Handlebar Reach and Drop. In the schematic above you see Reach and Drop, but you see a 3rd metric: Drive.
This is a move by PD back to an angular dimension, which it feels is warranted in this case, because – and these are my words, not PD’s – while there are these X and Y dimensions to describe a handlebar’s geometry, the truest thing you can say about that bar is its Drive number, because that’s where you contact the bar (at least in the drops). DRV, which is Drive devoweled, follows the axis your arm creates or follows as you extend out and grab the bar. Fair enough. I do though still think that Bar Reach is handy to know, as a metric when you’re simply interested in how far out you’ll need to reach to grab onto the hoods. But if we tell ourselves the truth, we only grab the road bars on the hoods or at that spot where DRV is measured. So, perhaps Bar Reach and DRV ought to be the two metrics we name on road bars.
If we’re going to eschew vowels, let’s go full Kyrgyzstan, name our next son Cnychwr, and call it DRV SZR. That out of my system, let’s talk about this bar!
The DRV Sizer Handlebar for Bike Fitting
As bike fitters we need bars in 38mm, 40mm, 42mm and 44mm. But we also probably ought to have a couple of different bar geometries. That means at least 8 road bars in our fit studios and it’s not the cost of the bars so much that vexes us, it’s the cost of the road controls. If we also concede that the truest test of bike fitting includes ergonomics of road controls, we need all of this times at least Shimano and SRAM. Also, in the case of SRAM, cabled and hydraulic. That’s a lot of hardware!
The DRV Sizer means the following:
1. Fewer hooks, fewer road controls, because all the bars are width adjustable.
2. Saves time, because I don’t have to take the bars off the bike for a wider or different bar.
3. Saves my fit bike hardware, because the more I take bars on and off the bike, the more I round out those 4mm cap head Allen screws.
The DRV Sizer bars that I have come with 3 sets of hooks, with a DRV of 105mm, 120mm and 135mm. These have Bar Reach measures of 70mm, 75mm and 80mm respectively. Here’s a couple of minutes of this bar on my fit bike:
I’m not going to get into the pricing of this bar because it’s not an end user product – it’s just for bike fitters. However, when I look at what goes into this bar, and what it costs, I suspect PD is not making any money on it. Rather, it’s a Trojan Horse, to get its actual for-sale road bars into the stores. In my case, it’s a Trojan Horse I’ve gladly invited inside my city walls.
And finally, let’s talk a little about ergonomics. There are two things that really bug me about road bars. First, we all want to wrap our hands around a 31.8mm section when riding hands-on-tops. PD extended its 31.8mm section. Bravo. Second – and more urgent for me – I hate that depression my hand sinks into between the bar and the hood. Why do companies do that?
PD appears to have asked that same question and this is what I mean when I say that these forward-thinking companies have a, “willingness to reimagine a product, and an attention to fit and ergonomics that improves upon tradition.” If you look at that schematic highest above you’ll see that the angle or aspect of the bar as it prepares to engage the hood – what I’m calling the Hood Transition – is a quite shallow 7 percent. Boy, I really wish handlebar companies would pay more attention to this.
All of PD’s newer road handlebars are now made with DRV in mind. I’m not going to go through these, bar by bar, rather it’s the concepts I want to highlight, and I’m talking to your bike fitter, and the product managers of the bikes you might ride, as much as I’m talking to you.