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Alterra Cafe Bars by Fxyation

by Melanie Colavito

I can ride my bike with no handlebars…

OK, truth be told, I actually can’t ride my bike without handlebars. I knew that handlebar song was crazy… Unlike the Flobots, I do rely on a good set of handlebars to steer, balance, and generally complete my bike. However, handlebars are often not the first thing I think about when customizing the perfect commuter bike. Although arguably, they should be pretty high up on the list of considerations for a comfortable ride.

Alterra Cafe Bars by FxyationSo when I got the opportunity to review the Alterra Cafe Bar by Fyxation, I jumped on it.

Fyxation is a company of urban riding enthusiasts, and their style certainly gives out a hip, city vibe. Most importantly, however, they are focused on providing durable products that also happen to look good.

Now, I’m not exactly the best example of a hip, urban cyclist. I’ve been riding a beat-up, rusty old Ross Eurotour that weighs a mere 40 odd pounds around Tucson for the last four years. Beneath the rust, grease, and grime is a great bicycle, and I have kept it ugly to deter bike thieves. However, I recently upgraded my primary commuting bike to a hip little Trek Belleville. Unfortunately, due to the Belleville’s proprietary handlebar/stem design, I can’t change out the handlebars. So the next best choice for testing out the Alterra Cafe Bars was the family truck a.k.a. the Xtracycle.

Alterra Cafe Bars by FxyationThe Cafe Bars are designed to provide an upright riding position, which I think is perfect for the Xtracycle, whether its being used to haul a lot of stuff or just for cruising downtown. My husband and I are only a few inches different in height, so we both use the Xtracycle, and it was important to find a pair of handlebars that suits a range of shoulder widths. The Cafe Bars definitely fit the bill with a nice ergonomic swooping bend that allows for a number of different hand positions. The design provides a nice wide, comfortable shoulder position without being too beach-cruisery. The bars also feature a slight rise, which helps with the upright feel.

However, we prefer to use bar-end shifters on our Xtracycle, as they are easy to reach and very comfortable for using a wider handlebar. Unfortunately, due to the small inner diameter of the Cafe Bars, they can’t accommodate bar-end shifters. This was definitely a disappointment, but easily fixed with a pair of bar-mounted shifters. But in an ideal world, I’d like to put bar-end shifters in the Cafe Bars.

Alterra Cafe Bars by FxyationThe Cafe Bars also came with a choice of bar tape or grips. This was definitely a pleasant surprise upon opening as the box, as bar tape works great when you are using bar-end shifters. But therein lies the rub, of course. And the bar plugs that came with the bar tape didn’t fit inside the small inner diameter of the bars either! Nonetheless, we decided to use the bar tape, since it makes it easier for different riders to find the perfect hand position, and we found a smaller pair of bar plugs. The bar tape that came with the bars is a nice cork with a classy, subtle Fxyation logo stamped into the tape. And the black tape looks great in contrast with the brushed silver finish (they also come in black) of the bars.

Fyxation Bar Tape

We have one hip Xtracycle now.

We occasionally haul very heavy loads with the Xtracycle, and it’s important to have a sturdy pair of handlebars to rely on. The Cafe Bars are made from 6061 T6 aluminum, which makes for a light and strong handlebar. We will be more confident hauling weight in the Xtracycle with the Cafe Bars than we were with the old steel bars we used before. While I’m not sure that load-hauling Xtracycle riders were the demographic being targeted with the hip and stylish Alterra Cafe Bars, I hope Fyxation is happy to hear that we are pleased with their product.

Alterra Cafe Bars by Fxyation

 
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16 Responses to “Alterra Cafe Bars by Fxyation”

  1. Ted Johnson says:

    Melanie, I think you’ve done the longtail movement a favor by sexing up that bike. (Just don’t undermine what you’ve done by riding that in Spandex.)

    • Ted, I think the Xtracycle, and most definitely the Cafe Bars, would self destruct if I wore spandex around them. There is a time and a place for such things. Though the bike we use for the Xtracycle was my first race bike…

  2. Tom Bowden says:

    The Cafe bars are very similar to the “North Road” style bars on my Sprite. Very comfy. I need to get a shorter stem though to get a little more upright. Recently started a discussion in LinkedIn Bike Commuters group on the topic. There are very strong opinions out there. I suggested that commuters might like to try this style of bars, but the overwhelming blowback from the drop bar cabal was truly a surprise. However, their logic seems flawed to me. Apparently they NEED drop bars because of all the hand positions they offer. You see, with more hand positions, you can avoid numbness that comes from leaning forward on your wrists all the time. I tried to point out that with upright positions and traditional bars, your hands don’t get numb in the first place, but they were having none of it. Apparently if you are not hunched over in an aero crouch, you are not really “cycling.” More recently I took up the issue of pedals. Same deal. Lots of pre-conceived (marketing implanted) notions out there.

  3. Tom Bowden says:

    I wonder if BluesCat needs drop bars on his recumbents? Is numbness an issue for you BluesCat?

  4. Hmmmm. . . very elegant! I like very much. Perhaps a little more curved back than those of my Breezer. I’ve never used a bike w/ bar tape but always admired brown cork as being quite attractive.

  5. Tom Bowden says:

    I’ll agree that the longer the ride, the more you might want the drop bar aero option, but my point remains that for commutes under 10 miles, a fuddy-duddy upright position is quite appropriate, and even at slower speeds, gives you plenty of exercise because of a) increased wind resistance and b) longer duration (inverse of lower speed). Comfort, exercise, more time on the bike – what more could you want? More recently I participated in a discussion on pedals. While some participants agreed with me that platforms can be an excellent solution, it’s been made clear to me by others that I really don’t know wtf I am talking about. And here I was, thinking I was a real bike commuter! Cyclists can be an opinionated bunch – that’s for sure. These bars look really great to me though – for what it’s worth.

  6. Wow, I guess I had no idea there were such strong feelings out there regarding handlebars. For my part, I feel that the handlebar should suit the bike. TT bike? Aero bars. Road bike? Drop bars. Mountain bike? Flat bars? Commuter bike? Commuter bars. Ah, and those are what appear to be the source of debate. What makes a commuter bar? Really, it boils down to personal preference. What kind of bar is the most comfortable for the average trip that you make on your commuter bike? If the drop bar cabal is happy with their drop bars…well, good for them. If you prefer flat bars or Cafe Bars, for that matter, well good on you! Who cares what they say, as it doesn’t change whether you are a “real” bike commuter or not. It’s not about the bike or the bike parts (if I may be so cliche). Just ride, folks, and ride what makes ya happy.

  7. Tom Bowden says:

    Thanks Melanie – I feel both vindicated and validated. Actually my favorite bars for commuting are Hershey Bars, but I’m trying to cut back.

  8. BluesCat says:

    Tom – (he, he) No numbness in the HANDS, but I did have a long trip on the ‘bent where I got my first case of “recumbutt.” This is the same condition football fans (with a full NFL cable TV package) get after a 12-hour Sunday parked in their La-Z-Boy.

    Melanie & Tom – Oh yeah, people have their own opinion about what constitutes The Very Best Set of Handlebars. They are all opinions, though, since y’all here on Commute by Bike have the FACTS about what the very best set of handlebars are: Trekking Handlebars and Other Comforts.

    As you can see, according to this Recognized Authority in Bicycling Comfort, Trekking bars satisfy every requirement you’re talking about:
    * Multiple hand positions? Check.
    * Upright riding position? (If you like.) Check.
    * Drop position? (If you like.) Check.
    * High tech, classy look? Check.

  9. BluesCat says:

    Tom – Nope: Payday bars! (I limit them to every other week.)

  10. Tom Bowden says:

    Cat – My brain still rejects trekking bars at an autonomic response level for some reason. But in the spirit of open-mindedness, I just may give them a try. Stay tuned – but don’t hold your breath.

  11. BluesCat says:

    (No prob, Ted, I’ll revive him.)

    I have to admit that cafe-style bars, like the Alterras, are probably a better solution for crank-forward cruisers like the Electras. A lot of the Electras come with these huge sweeping handlebars with the wingspan of a bald eagle. Cafe bars would provide a trimmer, more connected posture to the bike.

  12. Chris Iversen says:

    What about mustache bars mounted upside down, with rise rather than drop? Would this work? I’ve been thinking about giving it a try. Especially now that I’ve purchased a road bike for riding longer distances. Before my commuter bike was my do-all bike, and my only other bike was my DH mountain bike. Now that I have the road bike, my fixed gear commuter is become more of a utility bike. I’m thinking the shallow drop in my mustache bars is no longer necessary, and I’m wondering if flipping the the other way might make them similar to the cafe bars being reviewed here. Any thoughts?

  13. BluesCat says:

    Chris – Might be worth a try, as long as swapping the brake/shifter setup to the other side of the bars doesn’t turn into too much of a chore (sometimes, the amount of cable available is “Goldilocks Just Right” when the bars have the riser dropping, but come up short of the mark when the riser is rising). Of course, you mentioned this is a fixie, so if you’re running without brakes you will have no problems since you have no cables!

    And if the slight rise you get isn’t enough, you could always add a handlebar stem extension to get it a little higher. If you DO have brakes, then watch out for the Goldilocks problem.

  14. Chris Iversen says:

    Thanks for the info BluesCat. It is a fixie, but I still run a front brake, but I am a proponent of extra cable when I built this bike up, so it should be fine if I flip it. I’ll give it a try. A stem quill extension might be a good idea as well, and would certainly be my next step.

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