The Bridgestone/Nitto/Rivendell Moustache Handlebar

Quick! How can I get these?
The following three illustrations and accompanying text (in "Typewriter" style) are Copyright (c) 1993 Bridgestone Cycles (USA) Inc. and Bridgestone Cycle Co. LTD and are reproduced without permission, since I'm too lazy to write a letter to Tokyo, and I'd just end up confusing some poor office serf who probably has better things to do.

First JPEG of M bars
A fast and very comfortable hand position for relatively smooth roads. The brake-hood tips should be 12 to 13cm apart, and no higher than horizontal.
Note: I currently have them set up a bit further than 13cm apart and quite a bit lower than horizontal, and this works great for me. Leave the tape off when you first set them up and be prepared to stop and adjust during your first few rides until you find the brake lever position best for you.
M Bars braking position
Off-road braking is secure, just like on a mountain bike. If you ride steep, bumpy off-road descents, add padding under the tape, inside the curve.
Note: I used an old innertube, folded over a few times, and taped to the bar underneath the handlebar tape for padding and it works quite well.

Using the dummy levers
Mounting "dummy" levers here gives you another hand position. Tip: Remove the vestigial levers with a 2mm allen key, then saw off the exposed nub and file the edge smooth. This saves 2.2 oz and adds knee clearance.

Note: If you look at the picture of my Moustache bars, below, you'll see that I've removed the vestigial levers, but not yet sawed off the nubs.
Note 2: This is not a very stable riding position. To test to see if you find this position stable enough, ride the bike that you want to equip with Moustache bars and put both hands on the stem or on the bars real close to the stem. If you find this to be intolerably unstable, either don't put the dummy levers on, or improve your balance by riding rollers. After about 1 hour total time on rollers I could ride with my hands on the dummy levers just fine.

Which Style Brake Levers?

If you're going to use cantilever brakes, you should definitely consider using non-aero road brake levers. If you're going to use sidepull brakes, you should still use them, because they're out of style, and thus will be cheaper. Dia Compe makes the model 287 cantilever-specific road-style brake levers that folks have said work well with these handlebars.
Aero brake levers
Look at how the cable housing for the front brake goes through about a 120 degree turn, immediately followed by a nearly 90 degree turn. This makes for lousy braking control. Sidepull brakes would be similarly affected, but you have more room from the point where the housing exits the tape until it enters the brake lever, so the turns would be less severe. A longer stem, or one with less rise, would probably reduce the severity of the turns. The rear brake cable housing goes through an acceptably tight turn, but is still improved by the change to...
Non aero brake levers
...non-aero brake levers. Note how the front brake cable housing now follows a gentle arc over the stem, performing only one turn, and an easy one at that. Changing from aero to non-aero levers has significantly improved the feel of the front brake. The rear wasn't really affected much, but it's nice to have them match.

Can I buy these?

Yes you can! Rivendell Bicycle Works sells them with 26.0mm clamp diameters for about $57, but call to confirm price and availability.
Rivendell Bicycle Works
P.O. Box 5289
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
T 800.345.3918
925.933.7304
F 877.269.5847
You can also get any bike shop, online or otherwise, who orders from QBP to order the Nitto bars for you.

Nashbar sells two models of their own version of the Moustache bar, but they're not the same as the Nitto bars shown here. They're made of steel, so heavier, but much cheaper.

Redline sells a bike, the 925, with their own version of the Moustache bar. I don't know if you can purchase that version by itself.

On-One in the UK makes a version of the Moustache bar that they call the Mungo.

Dimension makes a "Double-bend Urban Alum Bar" available from aebike.com, in black or silver, but it doesn't take bar-end shifters, but does take road brake levers, so I guess they're for dowtube shifters or single-speeds. They are pretty cheap, though.

I've never ridden any of the other moustache bars, so can't comment on their feel in comparison to the Nitto bars.

Do I need anything else?

You'll need road style brake levers, preferably with non-aero cable routing, as explained above. Expect to pay up to $35 or so for good levers, but your local bike shop may have cheaper ones lying around.

You'll also need bar-end shifters, which Rivendell will soon be making in a friction only model, or indexed versions are available from Shimano and Campagnolo, although the Campy ones are very hard to find, very expensive, and indexed-only (Shimano's are switchable to friction mode if you like). Check mail order if your local bike shop doesn't carry them. If you only want friction shifting, Campy, Suntour, Zeus, and others made them long ago, and they might be available used if you keep your eyes open. Rivendell has been keeping various and sundry bar-end shifters in stock, check to see what they have currently available. If you buy used, make sure you get appropriate length cable housings and cables - the rear deraileur cable needs to be extra long for bar-end shifters.

Craig Calfee of Calfee Designs swears that moustache bars and Ergo shifters are a perfect match. The ergo shifter "nubs" end up right where your thumb rests normally. I saw a bamboo Calfee with Moustache bars at the 2006 North American Handmade Bicycle show. Very nice.


My comments from one year with the Moustache Bars:

I won't try to convert all the worlds' heathens to the Moustache Bar way, but I do think that a lot of people who currently use straight handlebars would be happier with Moustache bars, and a smaller percentage of folks who use drop bars would be happier with Moustache bars.

Advantages over straight bars:

The primary advantage over straight bars are that straight bars give only one hand position, and not a very comfortable position at that, while moustache bars give 4 or 5 distinct hand positions. Straight bars need bar-ends attached to give them a second or perhaps a third hand position, and they still don't have a good position for aero road descents or for shifting while climbing. Put your arms in front of you and notice the position to which the wrists naturally fall, it isn't the position offered by straight handlebars, but is the position offered by the moustache bars if you bring your hands slightly back from the braking position as shown in the second diagram above.

The next biggest advantage is shifting while climbing. Most folks with straight bars ride on the extenders (or "bar ends" which is easily confused with the shifters on this bike) while climbing, forcing them to rotate and move their hands to get to their shift or brake levers. The optimal climbing position on moustache bars is right next to or slightly forward of the shifting position, making it much easier to downshift when gravity unexpectedly gets stronger. This optimal position is the same one your wrists drop into naturally, as explained in the previous paragraph.


Disadvantages when compared to straight bars:

You can't simultaneously shift and brake, which can be a bit of a bother. Primarily, this is a problem for me when I crest a hill and need to change from the granny to the middle chainring so that the chain doesn't chew the chainstay to bits while it bounces around on the downhill (and I want to have a useful gear for when I next start pedalling, one that doesn't put me into a 200rpm spin). With practice, I've learned to shift the front as I crest, and if needed I have rear brake control while doing so. If you don't mind using only one brake at a time, this isn't much of a problem.


Advantages over drop bars:

You get much better braking power and control with moustache bars than with drop bars when you ride on the hoods. The braking is comperable if not even a bit better than the control and power you get when riding in the hooks, but you're much more upright, which is really nice when off-roading or when you want to sit up and enjoy the scenery. I've never lost my grip on the brakes on bumpy stuff, while I've had one or the other hand knocked off the brakes while riding on the hoods on regular drop bars when riding on bumpy roads.

The second major advantage is that you can shift your bar-end shifters while standing, quite easily in fact, while shifting bar-end shifters on drop bars while standing is too annoyingly difficult to be worth the effort--I've found it easier to sit for a fraction of a second and shift.


Disadvantages when compared to drop bars:

They really don't give all the positions of drop bars, and on very long some rides won't be as comfortable, but will still be more comfortable than straight bars on long rides. You also can't get quite as low and aero as easily and as comfortably on moustache bars as you can on drop bars (if you're using a short stem with a high rise, as most folks do with these bars), but again, they're still better for an aero position than straight bars.


What other folks think of the Moustache Bars:

Art Davis (artd@scisoc.org) says:
I commute (28 miles round trip) on a Bridgestone XO-2 from late March to early October (Minneapolis area!!). I also ride a Bridgestone RB-1 on weekends. The moustache handlebars are great for commuting except for the fact they make attachment of various devices such as lights and bags difficult. For the road bike normal drops are preferred both for riding position and as a contrast to the moustache bars.


Larry Carey says:
I've been running the Moustache bars on my MB-4 for about two years. I tried them out and never went back. I don't commute (wish I could) but do a lot of riding. Most of my rides consist of a medium-long road ride, where I like to hit the trails. The trails that I ride go from flat fire roads to trick single track and even trials type terrain. My point being that I use the Moustache bars for all types of riding. I got mine from a dealer in CA somewhere that has piles of them everywhere from when they yank em off the new XO's (who wants curvy bars when you never see them in the MB Action ads?) I didn't get the vestigial levers when I bought 'em. I use standard mountain bike shifters (XTR thumb shifters set on friction) and brake levers (as shown in the catalog). I have no problem mounting a small light on them (the real light I wear on my head anyway). Here is a brief listing of my favorite aspects of those wavy beauties: (Larry's Letterman Impersonation --Drew)

1. The many hand positions make them more versatile than straight or true drop bars.
2. They are superior to anything else in any climbing situation. Better leverage, without cheesy bar-ends.
3. They've got that chewing gum look: very wriggly.
4. Naturally prone to aero riding positions (relative to straight bars).
5. Added natural suspension when riding on the ends of bars, letting them bounce and flex (who needs springery?).
6. Alienates tri-athletes and keeps techno-geeks at bay.
7. I'm not sure about this, but they sure LOOK old-timey and traditional.
8. Shape seems to lend a feeling of added balance and stability to the front end.
9. Excellent for aggressive descents, allow you to naturally shift weight way back, more easily than straight or drop bars.

Hey what is this a top ten list?

10. I don't know. Hey it's good to see that I'm not the only guy that appreciates these things.


Richard Drdul (drdul@mindlink.net) says:
I went from drop bars to moustache bars on my commuter (35 km round trip), mainly just to be different, and because Grant P.'s description made 'em sound like the cat's meow.

I've been riding on them now for 8 months. The verdict? They're definitely different, and for me, are worth it for that. I couldn't ride long distances on them, though, because more road shocks and vibration are transmitted to my hands than on drop bars (I like to ride on the hoods on drop bars, where the soft part of my hands between thumb and fingers cushions road shocks and vibration -- I lose this benefit with the moustache bars).

Braking is great (I use aero levers with groovy old Gran Compe centrepull brakes) -- as good as on drop bars when pulling on the levers from the drops, better than when trying to brake from the tops of the hoods.

I don't like riding on the hoods. It's not that it's unstable, it's just uncomfortable and awkward. By the way, I started with the tips of my brake levers 13 cm. apart, but have moved them out to 15 cm. for more comfortable hand positioning.

I use Shimano barcons, which I first encountered on our tandem. At first I hated them, but have grown to love shifting with indexed barcons -- to shift to a smaller cog, I just press against the barcon with the lower palm of my hand, keeping a nice firm grip on the bar all the time. In fact, you can grip the bars and shift with both hands at the same time. Much easier to use barcons on the moustache bars than on drop bars.

All-in-all, I enjoy the moustache bars on my commuter bike, but wouldn't recommend them for a touring bike (use good, wide drop bars instead).


Syd Garriss (sgarriss@erols.com) says:
I've been riding an XO-3 since September of 93. I have an RBT with drops and recently purchased a Mongoose Rockadile SX with a straight bar -- the XO-3 is my preferred ride.

The bike came with DiaCompe brakes, LX shifters and dummy road brakes with hoods. The setup includes Ritchey grips as well as taped bars. I have recently switched to STX shifter/brake levers. I really like the current setup except the shifter trigger lever can crowd the grip area (this has only been a problem when hitting bumps while braking downhill.)

The dummy road levers are mounted just to the inside of the forward most sweep of the bars. This gives a fairly aero hand position, moving your hands about four inches inward and about 5 inches forward of the normal bar end position.

I commute and I like having my hands on the brakes/shifters most of the time. I have also ridden this bike on a 110 mile ride and the multiple hand positions were a real godsend. Also, my commuting route is hilly and I find the moustache bars let me on and off the saddle very comfortably, I don't have to hunch and my weight doesn't go too far forward.

I'm a believer, glad to see I'm not the only one.


Kevin (plant@sirius.com) says:
I have used moustache bars exclusively for the past three years on my Rivendell All-'Rounder in the city, on the trail and on fairly long road trips (100 miles). I like the fact that there are so many hand positions available and disagree that it is not possible to brake and shift at the same time, if you only use one brake while shifting you can easily come to a complete stop efficiently, but why would you need to brake and shift at the same time?


Carl Gonzalez (bikecg@worldnet.att.net) says:
I have recently mounted moustache bars on my Peugeot PX10LE. I also added 36 hole Wolber Super Champion Mixte rims and TUFO 28mm cross tubulars. The bike is outfitted with Campy Nuovo Record stuff but essentially the moustache bars have created the result I wanted, that is, a racing bike with cross and commuter characteristics. I like the moustache bars for short distance rides and light off road duty. I will say that my lower back gets more sore using them. That may be due, however, to the extra work required riding lower pressure high rolling resistance tubulars. I really like the bars for climbing.
Drew's Note: Hsing Lung made some Moustache Bars for Bridgestone that were designed for use with "Mountain Bike" shifters and brake levers (22.2mm or 7/8 inch outside diameter), and it sounds like Larry's MB-4 and Syd's XO-3 are equipped with these. Unfortunately, these are no longer made. Nitto Moustache bars have always been made to be used with "Road Bike" shifters and brake levers (23.8mm OD), as shown in the pictures above. You can put thumb shifters on these larger bars, but I've not done it or seen it, although I'd be happy to put instructions here if anyone would be willing to provide them.


Enrico Mezzacappa (enrico@phoenixdsl.com) says:
I have equipped two of my bikes with moustache bars, and have ridden these both for the past year or so. My Waterford, which I use primarily for weekend rides, has the 'road' version. I purchased these from Rivendell and have Modolo Super Prestige non-aero brake levers and Suntour Power Ratchet friction bar-end shifters on this set up. My Fuji Touring Series is my commuter. I was able to find the 'mountain' version at a local bike shop a couple of years ago, and mounted it on this bike with older Campy Euclid combined brake and shift levers, so I can brake and shift with both hands at the same time.

I am extremely pleased with the performance and comfort of these bars in both instances, and have no intentions of going back to other bars. I purposely kept both stems (Nitto Technomics) at 10 cm, so as to be able to get more 'aero' when I'm out on the bends. Long rides, climbing, and braking are great with these bars, and commuting is comfortable and secure. It is very easy to change not only your hand, but your seat position as well, with these bars. So no part of your weight-bearing anatomy has to suffer!


If you have reasonably extensive experience with Moustache bars and want me to put your comments here, mail me at dru@leland.stanford.edu.


The mstache bars, view
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URL: http://www.stanford.edu/~dru/moustache.html