Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bar Time: Opinions and Conclusions

This is it for the "Bar Time" series. Thanks to those of you who stopped by to read and to those who left comments. I appreciate it. Now, on to the conclusion of "Bar Time".

I've got to say that in all the years that I've been involved in off road cycling, there has to be more handle bar choices than ever now. I'm sure that will change someday. I'm just glad that there is some experimentation going on now. Not just for my own needs, but so that more people can enjoy this great sport more thoroughly. Here are some different takes on handle bars and some opinions of mine on them.

Arguably one of the most prolific and creative companies making handlebars today is On One Cycles out of England. Not satisfied with the "standard" riser bar, On One has proffered up four really cool alternative designs for mountain biking. I use the Midge Bar, which was inspired by the early off road drop bars modified by Charlie Cunningham. On One is to be applauded for their efforts, and they have many devotees. However; I think that they still are thinking too much inside the box, if you can believe that! I'll explain in a bit, so hang on!

You know when a relatively unknown titanium frame builder in the mountains of Oregon suddenly puts a handlebar on the map that is so different that everyone knows about it, you've got something pretty special. That's exactly what Jeff Jones has done with his ground breaking "H-Bar". It has alot going for it. I have already mentioned it in the previous post, so I won't go into detail here. The design has also been licensed to Titec to be produced in aluminum, and therefore at a much lower price than Jeff's titanium beauty. I don't think the design will transfer over to aluminum very well, as part of the appeal here is the natural ability of titanium to flex and give, which translates into more comfort. Time will tell.

Salsa, Syntace, and Surly all have flat bar derrivatives that are sporting some serious sweep. This is good, and a step in the right direction for alot of riders, but it still is a flat bar with limited hand posistions. At least alot of these options are reasonably priced, strong, light, and look good with barends!

"I'm not happy, Bob, NOT HAPPY!" ....from the movie "The Incredibles!"

While all this handlebar experimentation would appear to make me smile, I really have a couple of gripes here. First and foremost, the handle bar manufacturers are still designing in the neandrathal days! Think about this for a minute. Do we pedal our bikes with bare feet on a round pedal spindle? Of course not! That would hurt! Well, why do we continue to put pressure on our hands for hours at a time on a round cross section tube?!! The roadies are starting to get this concept with the carbon fiber road bars that I've seen coming out lately. Flat tops that support your hand better. Shaped tubing that conforms better to the gripped hand. Mountain bike handle bar designers need to take a closer look at this. Ergon, a German company, has at least addressed this with their lock on grips, which come highly recommended by me.

I suppose you would say, "The controls only fit on round tubing!", and you would be correct there. However, it is entirely possible to design components with split perches, which several brake lever manufacturers are already doing. Heck, Shimano might as well do it as well, they seem to delight in making all things obsolete anyway! Then we could get on with making handlebars more hand friendly. It's either that, or we come up with "shoes" for our feet!

The other thing I would like to see is a "Midge" type bar in titanium. Probably not very possible, due to the bends required, and it would be ultra spendy, but ohhhh!..............I can feel it now! That would be primo! Short of that I guess I'm going to get in line for an H-Bar soon. It seems to be the best option to me. Is it the holy grail of handle bars? Not likely. I'm sure I'll still be searching again someday!

Well, that wraps it up for this dissertation! I'll be posting up some newsier stuff in the next few days until some other subject gets under my skin. Thanks for reading!

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