I am going to use a lot of visual aids today and first I want to point out a basic design feature of flat bars.
|Basic flat bars are generally set up close to parallel with the ground.|
|This would be considered "bad" for a normal mtb bar to have as a feature.|
|Charlie Cunningham with one of his drop bar equipped bikes. Image from MOMBAT|
After Charlie helped found Wilderness Trail Bikes, the company made its own version of the original Cunningham modified bars for years. I remember mounting several pairs of them to cyclo cross bikes in the 90's. Then, WTB went through several changes, and the drop bar was cut from the product line, and that would be that for years. After a time when used WTB Dirt Drops were fetching triple digit prices on the used market, a couple of dirt drop aficionados helped design the On One Midge Bar using the WTB Dirt Drop as the design foundation. The off road dirt drop market was born again with the rising popularity of 29"ers and "monster cross" bikes in the early 00's. Several off road drop bars have followed in the wake of the Midge bar, but many have veered wildly from the basis of thought behind drop bars for off roading.
|A modern take on the off road drop bar- This is an Origin 8 Gary Sweep OS Bar|
|The same bar as above, rotated so that the ramps/tops are parallel to the ground. (Note spaces in porch boards as a reference)|
|An effective lever placement could be anywhere between the two red lines, depending upon the rider's preference.|
Now perhaps you can see that a really "open radius" design really limits the effectiveness of an off road drop design. You may have flare and sweep in the drops, but if you almost cannot use that position, what is the point? In the case of the Gary Sweep OS, a slight compromise in the ramps- having them slope downward slightly, away from the rider as seated, yields an extension position that points slightly downward, but is still usable. I find that if the extensions point in the general direction of the rear axle of the bike, it is okay. Anything forward of that, if the extensions point at the cranks, or even closer to the front wheel, that is a bar that is set up, or designed completely with disregard to the entire reason for having an off road drop bar. Again- why bother if that is the case?
|Examples of the Jones Bar. (Image courtesy of Jones Bikes)|
Finally, an off road, flared, swept drop bar is not for everyone. I get that, but if you think that a design with an extension pointing downward radically is a good thing, consider the Jones Bar. Do you ever see anyone pointing the extensions of a Jones Bar so radically downward? I have not. You may say, "It's a completely different handlebar. " Well, it is, but it isn't. I think of a Jones Bar as a "flat plane off road drop bar". There is sweep, multiple hand positions, and a definite component of reach, which drop bars have as well. Jones Bars are designed with multiple hand positions in mind, just like a good off road drop bar should have as well, but it is obvious that the "primary" position is where the grips and levers are. Just like a good off road drop bar should have. Again, if the radius of an off road drop bar precludes any of the aforementioned traits, and doesn't promote the ergonomic features that Cunningham and Jones promote, it is the antithesis of an off road drop bar design.
That's my opinion, and with the above explanation, I think it is apparent why I feel that way. You have to decide for yourself what is right for you.