Back in July, Civia sent me 5 handlebars to try out. The group included the Dupont in a 65 degree bend, the Colfax in 25 and 50 degree bends, and the Aldrich in 25 and 50 degree bends. After initially mounting each of the bars on my Surly, my first choice was the Aldrich 50 degree bend. I rode that bar for about a month before going back to the others for further testing. I had initially planned to spend at least a week or two on each bar to give them a further workout, but it didn’t pan out that way. What I sort of knew intuitively, but became consciously aware of through this process, is that handlebars are not unlike saddles; if you’ve been riding a while, it only takes an hour or two to figure out if a particular bar is going to work for you. Consequently, long term testing on each bar wasn’t actually required to reach a few conclusions.
Here are a few things I learned (or confirmed) in this process:
- Handlebars do not exist in a vacuum. In other words, it’s impossible to recommend a particular handlebar as “better” over another (assuming similar manufacturing quality) because whether or not a bar “works” on a particular bike and creates the desired fit (assuming basic compatibility with the stem and levers) is not only dependent upon shape, but also upon frame size, stem length and rise, and personal preference.
- For myself (and this is highly subjective), I prefer a bar with at least 50 degrees of sweep. Any less than that and my wrists are placed in what feels like an unnatural position. This partially explains my preference for the 50 degree Aldrich bar over the others I was testing.
- Bars with a sweep greater than 60 degrees work best when the grip area is above the saddle. Otherwise, because the grip area is essentially parallel with the direction of movement, the rider’s hands tend to slip forward while braking or descending steep grades. Bars with shallower sweeps brace the rider’s hands and give the rider something to push against while leaning forward. Again, this is a non-issue when the grip area is above the saddle and most of the rider’s weight is on the saddle.
- Two sets of bars that look totally different can end up placing the hands in exactly the same position. In other words, when we’re talking about “city” type bars that provide one hand position and are intended to be used with hand grips, what we should be concerned with is the fore/aft distance and rise/fall from the stem to the grips, not the shape of the bars themselves.
- For rides over, say, twenty miles, handlebars such as Drops or Moustache bars that provide multiple hand positions are advantageous. Otherwise, for around town riding, city bars that provide only a single hand position are probably fine for most people.
- For me, the 50 degree Aldrich is the hands down winner on this bike. In fact, it has permanently displaced the Nitto North Road I’ve been riding for the past couple of years.
These Civia bars are very pretty and provide a nice range of bends. The only thing I’d like to see added is a bar-end option on the Dupont with its 65 degree sweep. This would make it a clear contender against the North Road and Albatross. As it is now, none of the Civia bars accept bar-end shifters. But, if you’re using Thumbies or twist shifters, these Civia bars are a welcome addition to the current crop and provide some unique bends that are both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.