At 194cm / 6ft 4in, Jan-Willem van Schip isn’t a small man, but his handlebars are tiny. Measuring a mere 32cm center-to-center, van Schip’s bars exemplify the ‘narrow is aero’ mentality to the extreme.
Van Schip and his Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij squad were racing Wednesday at Scheldeprijs, the Belgian midweek sprinter’s race falling between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
While a few riders historically have used the event as a last chance to race-test cobbles equipment ahead of Roubaix, other teams who aren’t racing the Hell of the North come with full aero equipment to contest the dead-flat, often-windy Scheldeprijs.
Most riders had aero wheels and aero bikes, and a few, like Kenny Dehaes of WB Aqua Protect VeranClassic, had relatively narrow bars of 38cm.
But 32cm? That’s pretty much unheard of for road racers.
If you measure van Schip’s alloy bars at the apex of the bend on the tops, they are only 30cm wide.
The drops flare out quite a bit. But even then, the ends of the drops are only 38cm center-to-center.
“He’s from the track,” said team director Michael Boogerd, a longtime elite rider himself. “He says it’s not more comfortable, but it’s more aero.”
While Boogerd declined to specify the bars — they certainly are not team-sponsor Ritchey product — they appear to be a Nitto randonneur model.
“People think the bar is something new and special, but it’s just an old bar from a touring bike,” Boogerd said.
For reference, a stock bike that fits the tall Van Schip would come with at least a 44cm-wide handlebar. Some sprinters like Dehaes often use narrower bars, but in the 38-40cm range. Most riders have 40-42cm bars in the pro peloton.