Probably the very first thing I noticed about my first mountain bike was that the handlebars felt awkward. They were a pedestrian steel flat bar with about a five degree bend. I thought, "Why not have more sweep to the bar". I figured that it would have to be more comfortable. I remember playing around with trying to get my hands and arms to relax so that I could note the angle that was formed by my palms when held out in front of me. I could readily see that some sort of swept back bar would seem to place my arms in a much more relaxed posistion. As it was, I had to hold my elbows out and up to get my wrists lined up with my hands comfortably. If I let my arms down to relax them, then my wrists would get sore, and my grip on the bars was compromised.
Now, let's get a little perspective here, because things were way different back in '89. This was the rigid, steel, quill stem days. Not a whole lot of give there in your front end. Add to this the mid profile cantilever brakes in vogue at the time and the resulting hand fatigue from grasping the levers hard a couple hundred times each ride, and you can begin to see why upper body fatigue could be an issue. I was looking for relief, and that dratted handle bar was my target of disdain!
I asked my motocross friend what he thought about my dilemma. He told me about the type of aluminum bars that he was using that had alot more sweep than mine did and they were a bit wider, as well. Then he told me that these bars had rise to them. He wondered why in the world mountain bikers would ever want a flat 3-5 degree bar that was sub 23 inches in length. He then told me that BMX cruiser class bikes had very similar bars to the motorcycles that he rode. He thought they would work a whole lot better than my then current set up.
Well, I could see the benefit of going wider with more sweep, but that rise thing kind of bugged me. I couldn't see why you couldn't get your rise from a stem, and keep the handle bar flat, adding more width and sweep. That would keep excess material out of the handle bar and be lighter in weight. Well, I let it simmer on the back burner for awhile.
Next installment: I'll explain why I got mired in flat handle bar hell for several years, and tell you about some discovries I made along the way!