Earlier this fall, my friend Jonathan Foster showed up for a weekend ride with a new handlebar set-up on his black 1996 Serotta CSI road bike. I found the lines of the new bars so elegant that I asked him about them. They’re called moustache bars because that’s exactly what they resemble when viewed head-on from above. Beyond their novel appearance, they offer advantages in comfort and stability that afford a good compromise between straight and drop bars, serving both country and city riders well.
Foster (above), an architect and photographer based in East Hampton, NY, and owner from 1972 to 1976 of the shop Bike Man in Amagansett, tinkers ceaselessly with his bicycles using components that he’s acquired over the years.
“Little bits and pieces of my life, that’s what this bike is about,” he says, thumping the Brooks saddle with his palm.
Moustache handlebars (below), a style designed in the early 1990s by Grant Petersen for Bridgestone XO-1, are based on semi-drop bars used by school children in Japan. Foster’s bars are made by the Japanese manufacturer Nitto and sold by Rivendell. He installed Campagnolo Record bar-end shifters (indexed), as well as Campy Centaur brakes and 1970s-era Campy Record levers from his bike shop. The Brooks leather bar tape matches Foster’s saddle.
The bars curve forward from the stem and then sweep back in the direction of the rider. The stem has an extra-tall shaft that fits most normal steel frames and raises the handlebar above seat level.
“I wanted to be upright while riding around town, but I also wanted to go fast sometimes,” Foster says of his new set-up. For at-ease local riding, his hands rest on the part of the bars that extend back toward his body. For longer rides or cranking uphill, positioning his hands on the forward part of the bar provides the same stability and advantages as a traditional drop bar.
Foster rides this bike both for local errands, using a musette bag for grocery shopping, and for longer road rides — a round trip between East Hampton and Orient Point, for example. With all this versatility, his enthusiasm is well-founded. “These bars are just fantastic, I love them,” Foster says.