Building a Better Gravel Grinder Part II

I addressed the drivetrain issues I was having in Part I of this process. Now I am moving on to the cockpit of my gravel grinder.

Since I was going to be removing the shift wire for the front derailleur I took the opportunity to change out my OE drop bar for something different. Depending on who you ask around here the most popular drop style handlebars come from Salsa. Almost to a person they recommend the Cowbell or the Woodchipper.

What makes these bars special? It has to do with flare. Unlike traditional drop bars, which have zero flare on the drops, the Cowbell and Woodchipper flare 12 degrees and 26 degrees respectively. The Woodchipper takes things a measure further by canting the flat part of the drops out to the sides. How to decide? Thankfully the good folks at World of Bikes in Iowa City, which is a designated Salsa Adventure Center, had these bars and the newest entry from Salsa, the Cowchipper, in stock for me to take a look at.

Like Goldilocks I found the Cowbell and Woodchipper to be off just slightly from what I wanted, but the handlebar positioned in the middle of the lineup—the Cowchipper—was just right. It has a more traditional drop shape, but the flare is 24 degrees. I also upsized my handlebar from the stock 42cm to a 44cm bar in order to “open up” my shoulders and hopefully reduce some of the back fatigue I was experiencing on longer rides.

Below you can see what my stock handlebar:

IMG_0489

Notice the awesome bar wrapping that is coming undone? Yeah, I suck. Below is what the cockpit looks like with the Cowchipper installed:

IMG_0490

Normally, I could care less about the difference in weight between two components given that I am carrying approximately 20 extra pounds myself. However, I was kind of surprised that the stock compact road bar weighed in at 430 grams and the Salsa Cowchipper weighed in at 290 grams. Remember, the Cowchipper was a 44cm versus the stock bar’s 42 cm size. Sometimes OE stuff is really heavy junk.

Yeah, the orange tape on a red bike is butt ugly. But I always know where my bike is and no one can forget that it is mine. Okay, the color is not what I was expecting. Considering that I suck at bar wrapping it will not last overly long and can be replaced with something less garish.

But how does it ride? Like the 1x drivetrain I do not have a lot of miles, but in a couple of rides I notice that my hands and back are less fatigued. The flare in the drops puts my wrists in a very neutral position when I am riding on the brake hoods and I actually spend some more time in the drops than before when trying to cheat the wind. I am sure that I am sacrificing some top end aerodynamics by going with the flared bar, but comfort over the long haul seems to be worth the price of admission. For anyone who spends a lot of time on gravel the Cowchipper might be the answer to your handlebar prayers.

Note: I paid retail for everything in this post. That means I spent ~$75 on the bar at my LBS and do not need to send kind words to anyone regarding their product.

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3 responses to “Building a Better Gravel Grinder Part II

  1. Love the bike posts! Did you remove the extra brake levers, or are they just hiding behind the bars in these pictures? I thought that would be the first thing I’d change about mine but I find I actually kinda like them (plus they give my shadow devil horns when I ride away from the sun).

    Like the bars, I get the feeling that all the miscellaneous pieces on this bike are unnecessarily heavy junk, so I’ve been shopping around for bars, stem, headset, seatpost, etc. Oh, and wheels. Not that I’m a huge weight weenie, but this is just SUCH a heavy bike out of the box. But first I need to fix my saddle situation, I just haven’t gotten the motivation to go to the bike shop and sit on a bunch.

    • I have both sets of brake levers installed right now as they were delivered with the original setup. Next year, when I am more comfortable braking from the drops, I might take them off for a cleaner look. Not yet…

      As someone who has replaced the wheels with a moderate upgrade I can tell you without a doubt that it is a huge upgrade. Even bikes costing a lot more than this one come with janky wheels from the factory. Also, the tires make a huge difference. I am big fan of the Clements that I installed.

      Good luck on your upgrades.

  2. Pingback: All-In Gravel Grinder | My Green Misadventure

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