Every time Dirt Rag editor Eric McKeegan looked at the Soma Condor drop bars on my gravel bike, he just shook his head and laughed. Which made me laugh. Why? Because they do look pretty ridiculous.
But all giggles aside, these bars do have a purpose aside from looking funny, and that’s to provide an alternative bar option for people who want the benefits of drops but have fit issues or never liked traditional offerings.
The Condor is dubbed as an “ambitious alternative drop bar,” a statement that I can certainly agree with. It has more curves than you can imagine – in fact, there’s no part of this bar that isn’t bending in some way. With rise, backsweep, upsweep and shallow flared drops, it offers hand positions galore and is ideally suited for long days in the saddle. Rotating the bars forward and back can emphasize or deemphasize certain characteristics depending on the wants and needs of the individual using them.
These aluminum drop bars were originally designed for the Japanese market, but Soma decided to try their luck in the States and see if this unique design would fly. Because of their intended market, the Condor bars weren’t designed with large hands and wide shoulders in mind. The XL size bars are 49 cm wide at the drops and 44 cm at the hoods, while the medium (the smallest size available) is only 45 cm wide at the drops and 40 at the hoods. The large is somewhere in the middle and the size that I tested, which I find somewhat amusing because, at 5 feet 3 inches, I’ve never been a size large of anything in my life.
I didn’t expect to love or even like these bars, but they surprised me. I should have been a little more open-minded going in, because I did suffer from lower back pain while using traditional drop bars on rides longer than about five hours as well as occasional hand numbness. I previously attempted to fix these ailments by swapping stems, but soon resigned myself to accepting that they were just a part of doing long rides.
Enter the Condor bars. I won’t say my issues were magically solved – regular stretching and riding are also vital – but I will say that I did a 10 hour ride last weekend with absolutely no back pain whatsoever and a number of other all-day rides over the past few months that resulted in similar outcomes.
The shallow drop allowed me to spend much more time in the drops without discomfort than on “normal” bars. Most of my long rides on the gravel bike are mixed surface, with chunky dirt roads and even some singletrack thrown in occasionally, so having the extra control that riding in the drops offers while maintaining a less aggressive position is very advantageous. I used to dread long, loose gravel descents because I knew that being in the drops for so long would hurt my back and neck, but the Condor bars have all but obliterated that issue.
As Soma says, the Condor is not a better bar for everyone, but it may be a solution for riders who find other types of drop bars not working for them. Bike fit is a very personal thing, and what worked for me may not work for you, but if you’re a smaller rider (or at least have small hands and relatively narrow shoulders) and traditional drops bars aren’t cutting it or you have experienced similar issues to my own, the Condor just might be your ticket to soaring down the road (or wherever your adventures take you) in comfort for miles.
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It’s been said that no experience is a true adventure until something goes wrong. In fact, that’s where the idea for this issue began: We wanted to share the most death-defying stories of cycling that we could find. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized it doesn’t take any special skills for things to go wrong (trust me, I know). So instead we turned it around to bring you stories about how to handle yourself when the proverbial poo hits the fan: how to keep your cool, how to get yourself out of a jam and how to avoid one in the first place.
Our longtime columnist Beth Puliti and her husband traveled through Nepal shortly after the devastating earthquake that killed thousands and left most roads impassable—except for bikes. In her extended column in this issue, read how Nepalese cyclists leapt to the challenge to shuttle medicine and supplies over massive mountain passes and help the recovery effort any way they could.
But communities shouldn’t wait until the worst has happened to start working. That’s the theme behind the Disaster Relief Trials, a cargo bike challenge that demonstrates to emergency management agencies how pedal power can be part of the resilience movement. I took part in one of the races and interviewed the founder of the growing series, Mike Cobb.
There are a lot of things than can go wrong on a ride, and while we could never publish an exhaustive list of all possible solutions, we reached out to some experts about what cyclists could do to take care of Number One. From getting lost to getting hurt, we hope these lessons will help keep you safe and ready for anything.
If the worst happens, it can lead to a good story. For our correspondent Chris Reichel, the cross-country bike tour of a lifetime almost came to a tragic end in a field in Kansas. Read how he rode out a tornado in his tent.
Reichel was alone on his ride, and having to face your fears without support can be difficult. But does it have to be that way? Amanda DelCore asked some solo bike-touring experts to weigh in.
Finally, I just want to encourage you all to push your envelope with cycling a little bit. Try to go a bit further, a bit faster or just conquer that hill you hate. Try a type of riding you never have before, or take someone new to cycling for a spin. It’s not until you’re out of your comfort zone that you learn just what you’re capable of and, who knows, you might just surprise yourself. Good luck, and enjoy your Bicycle Times.
- Soma Wolverine
- Yuba Spicy Curry
- Surly Wednesday
- Marin Four Corners
- Fat bike tires
- Packable jackets
- Solar and battery power
Where to ride your bike thru the drive-thru!
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