On bar angle, width and hand position.

12 11 2019

Recently I have been messing around with different handlebars. For years I have used Jones Loop bars exclusively.

From the first time I put them on a bike, swapping out my custom bent Seven 11° ti flat bars, I knew that they were awesome. I have no doubt I will always have Jones bars in use, particularly in the carbon version – light, forgiving and strong. They also have more grip positions for those long rides and the forward loop is excellent for additional bar mounted objects or handlebar harnesses.

The other strange thing about Jones bars, with the 45° sweep, is they seem wider than they actually are – a boon for tight, woodsy riding.

Over the years, however, I have used many different handlebar set ups in an effort to learn what I can in terms of comfort, effect on hand position and control in technical riding situations.

The most difficult, for me, has been drop bars. No matter how much I tired, I could not get in a good position on trad drops or even a rare set of WTB off road drops I owned briefly.

Early on, I knew that ti bars offered excellent flex to take some of the buzz out of the terrain – useful when you like rigid bikes and long rides. As mentioned, one of my favourite handlebars aesthetically and in terms of ‘softness’ was a Seven cycles ti in 11° around 660mm wide iirc. Crazy how we managed with bars like that. Of course, that was pre Jones bars and the added sweep definitely changed things for me. But I never stopped experimenting.

Later came a steel Groovy Luv Handle – great shape, but the steel was less forgiving – and soon after another custom Seven bar with 21° bend in ~710mm ish width if memory serves. The pure rearward sweep of that bar was difficult as stem length would have needed to be increased to make it fit correctly.

I found that a little strange – if you have tried several different bar sweeps, and overlaid them, or even use the fantastic ‘What Bars‘ site, you would be forgiven for thinking if you get the middle of the grip section in roughly the same airspace, you will be in the ball park for fit. Well, it doest seem to work like that. The orientation off the hand changes how you align your elbows and shoulders and the change in x, y and z in space is also extremely noticeable. Jones bars for example are best from flat to around 15° down slope towards the rear axle, but other bars may be best flat to swept upwards. Trial and error is important here.

So a Watson Cycles Parkarino was the next bar – a wide (720mm!) 31° sweep bar and if this had more grip space, I think it would have led me in a different direction. I had become used to the 160+mm grip lengths on Jones bars and even longer as they stretched to 710mm width. The Parkarino just had too little grip area for comfort. I am not sure Watson cycles is still trading…

For years, I then again used Jones bars exclusively, but a project that is on the go got me thinking again about different bars.

These days it is impossible to ignore the bigger fork, slack head angle, longer front centre, short stem, wider bar set ups. Key for control in these situations is how all the pieces come together – the leverage over the front wheel at speed is important but also the body position in resisting hard impacts. Wide, flat-ish bars and short stems put weight far behind the front axle and the width – a longer lever – offsets the shorter stem and greater trail.

I have never felt any issue using Jones bars, in technical riding and the rearward sweep keeps your weight well back when needed. However, it bears a closer look.

So, that being said, I bought a Salsa cycles Bend Deluxe – 750mm 17° and gave them a try on a couple of bikes. The 17° felt very ‘elbows out’ to me and the harshness of the aluminium was – well, harsh. But it got me thinking. Despite the negatives and ‘position shock’ I wanted to know more. Strangely, the thing I thought would be most noticeable (the width) was not. The Jones 40mm less width was indiscernible. Hmmm…

Next up with the help of some Control Tech Terminator I extended the Parkarino’s to 760mm wide, critically in the grip length, and put them on the bike. The ti flex was back and the width and bend was pretty good!

That led to a call to Rody at Groovy and a set of 765mm Luv Handles in ti were purchased – such amazing workmanship! 275g of comfort and control.

Then soon after I contacted James at Black Sheep to enquire after a set of 787mm, 25° custom ‘Flatter’ bars. My most ridden bikes now have considerably wider bars with 21-25° of sweep and I admit I like them a lot.

I have shortened the stem on one of the bikes – from 80mm to 70mm – and I am not sure I like that move. As noted above, the rise, or x,y,z position is not easily predictable in terms of what will feel right and another grouch is the stem length options. Stems are almost universally shorter than they used to be (35-80mm as opposed to the 100-150mm tillers we used to use). That means a 10mm change is a much bigger percentage of difference when compared to a 10mm change in a much longer stem. My view is that stems should be available in at least 5mm increments.

Syntace do offer a 75mm stem option suitable for 800mm bars and I have one waiting to fit.

The latest bar I have my hands on is a Meriwether double bend Sweeper bar (with shimzilla) with ~21° bend and 800mm width. I’ll report back once I have some time on them.

My conclusion is that if you do like more sweep in your handlebar, but don’t want to give up on width, there are a lot of options these days with excellent  buzz control that allow a wide option for the ‘new school’ geometry that is becoming more popular.

As to how this all goes together with stem length, that is another post…

 

 


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15 12 2019
Decaleur. | drj0nswanderings

[…] mounting with the bar and the forward ‘loop’. I emulated this using a Bar Yak Ultra on another bike I use with a less swept/wider bar […]

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