VELO ORANGE GRAND CRU HANDLEBARS
397g 46cm width $60 (£48.83 at time of writing).
The Grand Cru Rando Bars maintain Velo Orange’s reputation for style and function. Aimed at the drop-bar enthusiast who wants a more comfort on the drops mixed with a bit of swank, they’ve impressed me on long day ride and a longer tour. Different clamp sizes would be welcome, but they are hard to fault in terms of the ride.
Pros: good choice of bar width, sensible flare.
Cons: only 26mm clamp.
Aluminium manufacture, highly polished for the bits on display once the bar tape has obscured the “bead blasted” surface, is what one would expect at this price from Velo Orange. The retro Grand Cru logo is displayed either side of the clamp point. The bars are polished and anodised, and sand-blasted.
Velo Orange state that the “bend” is wide and open … the area behind the hoods long and flat …. The drops long so you can slide your hand well back.” You’d expect this in comparison to compact bars, but it is also true in the context of the older touring bars, such as those that have served well since the middle-aged Supergalaxy was assembled.
The biggest attraction, for me at least is the flare, which adds 60mm to the spread. Measured from bar-end to bar end the Rando Grand Cru are available in 42,44,46, 48, 50cm versions. Drop-wise, things are pretty normal, with a height difference of 130mm. From the 26mm clamp expect and extension of around 120mm. On that note, check your clamp size, especially on older stems for authentic retro refits. They may well go as low as 25.4, with the addition of a good quality shim.
All in all, it seems that the spec admirably meets the intended audience of tourers, gravel and rough-stuffers, on solos, or tandems, especially skippers.
The rationale between my eagerness to test the Rando bars sprung from two lines of thought. The first was to upgrade the old Carlton Clubman, with something that would give me a more open stance when riding …. yup, wider, flared bars … that would also allow for occasional blasts of speed on the drops, as well as long hunkering-down into headwinds. I’m fairly broad in the beam (42” chest). In my case the 46 version has proved to be just about spot on, although I would not have been disappointed by the 48. Indeed, I procrastinated a good deal before plumping for the 46. Debate was resolved by sitting on the bike with the current bars and imagining how much wider I wanted to go. There are other ways!
I’m not a great one for bar-mounted gadgetry, but there’s plenty of space for main light, auxiliary light, and GPS. Even with that lot there’s ample space for riding on the flats, the hoods, and, goes without saying, the drops. Fans of drop-mounted blinkies may appreciate the length of the drops.
Putting in some long miles, as the Rando bars are intended for, I’ve really enjoyed the variety of hand positions, and the space available compared to narrower or compact bars. Generally., I’m habitually on the hoods when at cruising speed on tour or out for a full day. However, the width of the drops has drawn me into more miles hunkered down in position to pull the brakes or, with hands further back to push more speedily along straights and or into headwinds.
From a touring perspective, the more open-chested position on the drops, especially with hands right back is a revelation. Not the thing for speedsters, but perfect for tourers who like a bit of a bash every now and again. There’s also nice position in the lower crook of the curve. I’d not spend so much time there, but perfect for ready access to brakes and gears. Mind, I’ve even considered opting for bar-end changers, to take full advantage fog the extra length.
Steering is more responsive, too. Not a surprise given the flare, but there’s a definite feeling of swooping round bends. Moving from tops to drops and back, things have kept solid and steady.
Whilst I have not noticed any great difference to other drop bars when on the hoods, the longer flat area, compared to many drop bars I have used, certainly less vibration if reduction in incidence of numb-thumb is anything to go by. I’ve not added any bar gel or anything like that.
Combined comfort and control make for very good tenure and sense of security when taking on traffic or heading onto the gravel.
Genetic’s D Riser Bars have a similarly subtle flare, and come in about the same price, but they have more of a gravel/cross take, compared to the Rando’s touring habitat. By contrast, Soma’s Condor Shallow Drop Bars are sportier, and pricier, and, in my opinion, don’t offer the same touring comfort – not that they are really meant to. In short, the Rando bars offer very good value for touring and general riding with a smart look.
Quality bars for those who like a bit of extra space, feel comfortable in a less perfectly aero-dynamic position on the drops, or just like to cruise in style. Good for tandems, too.