The Moustache Handlebar

Nitto Moustache Handlebar
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After first seeing it in the Bridgestone catalog in 1992, I admired the Moustache handlebar from afar for many years while only occasionally having a chance to try it on borrowed bikes. It wasn’t until purchasing my Rivendell Sam Hillborne in September of 2009 that I had an opportunity to give it a try over a sustained period. I’ve been riding it at least a few days a week since then, and over that time it’s become one of my favorite handlebars for city riding and day trips.

I see the Moustache as a cross between a flat bar, a North Road, and a drop. The brake position closely mimics the powerful, easy-to-reach, flat bar brake position; the bar ends provide a hand position not unlike a North Road or Albatross bar; and the forward position in the bends provides a powerful, secure feeling similar to riding in the drops.

Setting up a Moustache bar is a little tricky. On many bikes, simply bolting one onto an existing stem will place the bar too far forward and too low. The key to making the Moustache comfortable is a stem with less reach and more rise that brings the bar closer to the rider. On bikes with threaded headsets, the Nitto Dirt Drop is a perfect match for the Moustache (see photo above).

Nitto Moustache

The Moustache bar is not without its limitations. While it does provide multiple hand positions, it’s missing the drop bar’s all-important top/ramp/hood positions that are so useful for long distance riding. It’s because of this limitation that I classify the Moustache along with the North Road and its variants as a city or short-distance touring bar. Certainly, up to a day trip is no issue with the Moustache, but personally I’d opt for a drop bar if I was setting up a bike for an extended tour.

The Nitto Moustache was designed by Grant Petersen when he was with Bridgestone. That bar is still available today through Rivendell. Originally there were 2 versions; one for road levers and tape, the other for MTB levers and grips. Today Riv only sells the road lever version, but just recently Soma introduced an MTB/grip version. They look similar in photos, but I don’t know for sure if the bends are the same on these two bars. I may pick up the Soma bar and try it out on my LHT just to see how it differs from the Riv/Nitto version. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Rivendell/Nitto Moustache
Soma Moustache

19 Responses to “The Moustache Handlebar”

  • Allan pollock says:

    spot on, Alan. Accurate and fully thorough. I suspect that this review could help demystify these bars for people that are curious about the appeal of the moustache bar.

    Allan P.

  • Eddie Flayer says:

    nice photos. i loved the idea and the look of m bars, but when i tried them for a short period, could never get used to having to move my hands so much to get from the ends to the braking position.

  • Eric Mann says:

    A friendly note to anyone who is going to install the stache: the old school non-aero levers are much easier to work with on this bar. The aero levers make for some hard cable bends and really dont look any better for this setup.

  • Andy Goodell says:

    Looks like your handlebars are angled a bit off center, or it that just how the photo looks?

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Andy,

    I noticed that too. After originally processing the photo I went and checked and the bars are, in fact, straight. Getting that shot required a wide angle lens which caused a subtle fisheye effect and an illusion of misalignment.

    Alan

  • Andy Goodell says:

    Alan, can you take a picture of my bikes? Maybe you’re camera will make them look *more* aligned than they really are! :D

  • Alan Barnard says:

    “Alan, can you take a picture of my bikes? Maybe you’re camera will make them look *more* aligned than they really are! :D”

    ;-))

  • Don Stevenson says:

    The LHT lives on in the R&D department! : )

  • Jeff Stewart says:

    I put moustache bars on my Raleigh One Way and really like them although I had to use one of those ugly steer tube extentions (yuck). I wasn’t happy with the stock bars on my new LHT so I swapped them for the Salsa Moto Ace Woodchipper. Now THAT is a great bar imo. The angled hoods, short reach, shallow long drops and width (46) is perfect for longer rides. Btw Alan, you greatly improved the look of your M’s with the shellaced cloth!

  • JT Foster says:

    For me, the “in-the-bends” position feels more like “in-the-hoods” on standard drop bars. If I raised my stem an inch or two, I would have no problem riding in that position for hours at a time. (At the moment, the bars are on a townie bike with its stem at max height, so the utility gained vs money spent on new stem isn’t good economics). Riding on the actual hoods tends to feel more like being in the drops or riding aero-bars—nice and tucked in.

    Just thought it’d be helpful to point out that there is a lot of versatility in how to set-up these bars.

  • Alan Barnard says:

    “The LHT lives on in the R&D department! : )”

    Yup!

  • Chris Kostman says:

    I prefer my brake levers slid much more close to the stem than you have yours set up. This provides a neat hand position when really “jamming” by just gripping the hoods, and also puts the tips of the levers in the ideal position for when the hands are in the hooks. With your set-up, you have to pull the levers with your pinkies when in the hooks, or slide your hands way outboard to pull the levers at the right point with your index and middle fingers. GP, as I recall, posted a diagram of this preferred set-up in the 93 or 94 Bstone catalogue. If you don’t mind undoing that shellacked bar tape, I would recommend giving this a try.

    All that said, I don’t ride moustache bars anymore because I miss the “tops” position too much for riding around town, in traffic, and uphill.

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Hi Chris,

    I’ll have to try your suggested set-up sometime. The way my levers are set-up in the above photo is how Rivendell is doing it now – in other words, I haven’t moved the levers since receiving the bike from Riv.

    Here’s an illustration from the 1992 catalog:

    Those are even further outboard than how mine are set-up. I’ll have to see if I can find the diagram you mentioned from the 93-94 catalog – that sounds interesting.

    Thanks,
    Alan

  • Chris Kostman says:

    Yes, I remember that original diagram. I don’t think Grant had ridden them much when that was 1992 catalogue sketch drawn. Maybe it was in a Riv Reader that showed them much closer together, or GP just told me in person to set them up that way. I can’t recall now, but I thought he had publicized the suggestion.

    Here’s a shot of my All-Rounder with this set-up:
    http://www.adventurecorps.com/chronicles/bikes/rivendell/pages/IMG_1647.html

    And here is my XO-1:
    http://www.adventurecorps.com/chronicles/bikes/xo/pages/DSC05582.html

    Really, I think it’s a huge improvement to position the levers much further inboard. Enjoy!

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Cool shots – thanks, Chris.

    I’ll post it here if I can find that diagram – I may have it in my archives somewhere.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • Alan Barnard says:

    Here’s the diagram from the 1993 Bridgestone catalog with the levers mounted closer to the stem…

    Alan

  • Pete Pesce says:

    I don’t own M bars, but it just occurred to me that if you want a position like the tops of drop bars, you could actually mount MTB bar-end grips on the very ends of the M bars, pointing inward toward the stem. You’d end up with a version of “trekking” bars. Just an idea.

  • dominic furfaro says:

    I had moustache bars on a Fuji Touring for a couple seasons. It took some time to figure out that tipping the bar end about 15- 35 degrees would give me a “power grip” The Rivendell set up is a neutral position and a good starting point with the bar end perpendicular to the road. But, this position can be improved. By rotating the handlebar downwards (15-35 degrees) from this neutral position you accomplish a comfortable posture and a powerful position for fast take off and climbing.

  • Garth Liebhaber says:

    I used to have Moustache bars and really loved them, except that I, too, had a goofy stem set-up on a threadless steerer.

    But then I tried the belleri porteur bars (threaded stem!) on my Wayfarer, with the brake levers mounted Moustache style, and never went back. With the Porteur bar, you don’t need as short of a stem. And they are narrower, so you don’t feel like you’re handling an old farm plow.

    I think, though, that I am finally ready for drop bars, like the Nitto Noodle.

 
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