|Wide tops, enough flare to clear your wrists, and a decent amount of sweep.|
So, let's talk about why you would want a drop bar design for off road riding with a wider top. Looking at our flat bar users, we see that the wider bar, as well as the tops of an off road drop bar, are going to pretty much determine where the controls end up being in space. Typically you're going to want wider tops than narrower on your drop bar set up for control reasons, just like flat bar users do. This can be tough to find in an off road drop bar. That is because several off road drop bars have flared drops that are at such a severe angle that the slanted in drop section took away from the width of the bar overall. This puts the hoods at a much narrower point, not to mention slanted over on their sides more, which is putting your hands in a narrower stance if you are on the hoods. This makes riding the hoods less appealing, or not at all appealing, depending upon the radius of the drops. While being in the drops is where your set up should be focused upon, having a hoods position compromised due to excessive flare is not ideal. Remember- flare on the drops is there to clear your wrists and forearms while down in the drops. Enough flare for that is plenty, We don't need more.
|The ramps shouldn't "reach" out too far forward of the top section.|
Again, due to stem limitations, we don't want to have a ton of "drop" either. Drop is the distance from the tops to where your hands will grip the extensions while in the drops. Deep drops are harder to use since they require a higher rise stem, and again- those are tougher to source without going custom. Besides, a slight difference in height for positions from "in the drops" to "on the tops" is easier to negotiate off road. Obviously, weirder radius bends can cause the extensions to have "constantly varying drop" which can get so radical the extensions/drop position is essentially unusable. The bars with a tighter radius bend tend to have the most usable positions because of this.
|The Cowchipper has a reasonable swept extension outwards which should appeal to most riders.|
The extensions length is the final piece of the puzzle and that is a personal preference that each rider can decide on for themselves. Midge Bar/June Bug Bar models tend to the minimalist side, offering only one good grip at the extensions, while a Cowchipper gives you room to move.
|Luxy Bars had a radically swept extension and a shallow drop|
Finally, I wanted to tackle the questions about these sorts of bars and gravel road/touring use. In my opinion, we do not really need these sorts of bars for gravel road riding, although there are races/events/rides where things get rough and the control an off road drop bar lends a rider would be a nice option. I feel a wide road bar is definitely a good choice for gravel roads, and in my humble opinion, the Cowbell Bar by Salsa Cycles is the classic gravel road cycling bar. Some may say the Nitto Randonneur bar is better, or that some other bar is best, but for a road based design with modern features, a Cowbell is the bees knees with just enough flare and sweep to keep you in control.
Next time I'll talk about stems and how frame design plays into how you choose a stem.