Bar Wars: We Have a Winner

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.

16 Responses to “Bar Wars: We Have a Winner”

  • Dan says:

    Having installed four, that’s four, albatross bars on various bikes, I can completely relate to the need for 50+ degree of sweep. I do wonder, however, given your point about the lack of barcon compatibility, why you’ve opted for less sweep and thumbies over your previous Albatross set up (with the sprung saddle)? I’ve recently switched from the Albatross with a B17 to the Moustache with a Swift and am enjoying the change of pace. We’ll see if it lasts though.

  • Alan says:

    @Dan

    “I do wonder, however, given your point about the lack of barcon compatibility, why you’ve opted for less sweep and thumbies over your previous Albatross set up (with the sprung saddle)?”

    On this bike, which is arguably one size too small for me, the North Road bars were just at saddle height. I didn’t realize it was an issue until I swapped out for the Aldrich bars, but I was sliding forward on the grips as described above. With less sweep, the Aldrich bars brace my hands and prevent the feeling of sliding forward that was causing me to unconsciously over-grip the grips. So even though these bars are slightly lower and have less sweep, they happen to have just about the perfect amount of sweep on this bike. Again, this all relates to this particular bike and how it fits me. On the same bike in a 58 or 60, the bars would be higher and the issue of sliding forward on the bars would be lessened or non-existent.

    Alan

  • Casey says:

    I ended up putting bar end shifters on the Loring bar through Jagwire bar-end adapters. They work great! They can be pretty pricey at full price, but my LBS had them for 50% off, which made them cheaper than Paul Thumbies.

  • Jim Ball says:

    One thing I’ve noticed is that you do not angle the grip area down. The only way I am comfortable on bars that sweep back is to angle the grip area so that the wrist is neutral when gripping the bar. Much like I set up the hoods of road bars. I think one needs to keep the wrist neutral and straight. This may require a taller stem for some bikes.
    jim

  • Alan says:

    @Jim

    “One thing I’ve noticed is that you do not angle the grip area down.”

    Actually, I do. At this bar height, my preference is for the grip area to be angled just slightly down. They don’t appear that way in this photo because the back of the bike is elevated 3.5″ by the dual-legged kickstand (notice the angle of the top tube).

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Casey

    Which drivetrain are you running on your Loring?

    Thanks,
    Alan

  • Helton says:

    I installed a generic albatross-style some months ago, and noticed a great improvement in my hands’ position, but also noticed that the slope of the handlebars (the angle it is attached to the stem) highly influences it’s comfort and stability. If I rise it a little bit, the slip-forward effect is instantaneous, with aching wrists and all, and if I spin it back to lower it slightly too much, I feel a slip-backwards effect, even during braking. I guess the ideal position is such that the angle between the forearm and the bar is around 90 degrees (the normal force does not generate any slipping component).
    Unfortunately, the hands got positioned behind the steering axis, and since I also have a frame that’s a bit small for me (by my recent 30+yo standards… not a youngster anymore…), I feel a bit “without room”, and sometimes tired. That’s the ideal excuse for ordering the new Surly Troll 22′ as soon as I can!! ;o)

  • Luke says:

    We have a couple of local machinists that have machined out the ends of handlebars in order to make them bar-end compatible.
    I would guess that your local shop could get the job done for you.
    Luke (Calhoun Cycle)

  • Casey Brown says:

    Hi Alan:

    The drivetrain is mostly the stock components that came on my Jamis Aurora–a FSA triple crank (but with a bash guard replacing the outer crank) and a 9 speed shimano cassette on the back, with shimano derailers. It all works great with the loring bar and the bar end shifters!

    Casey

  • Joseph E says:

    Alan,

    Are any of these bars long enough for twist-shifters plus brakes? I would like to change my stock Breezer Uptown bars (which have no rise, and about 30 to 40 degrees of sweep, but a long straight section at both ends) for bars with extra rise and sweep, similar to North-Road. But all of the Nitto bars I tried seemed to have short grip sections, too short for grip shifters from what I could tell. I could cut the grips, but they are curvy Biologic grips and would look strange if cut.

    Another bike shop had a steel, chrome handlebar of the “North Road” type but with a longer straight section, but they thought there were no alloy bars available of this type. Is that true?

  • Alan says:

    @Joseph E

    When I get home this evening I’ll measure the grip areas for you. Check back later…

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Joseph E

    “Are any of these bars long enough for twist-shifters plus brakes?”

    Hi Joseph,

    Here are the lengths of the straight grip areas on the Civia bars:

    Dupont: 8″
    Colfax: 7″
    Aldrich: 7″

    For comparison, the Nitto North Road and Albatross both have grip areas of around 6.25″. It seems the Dupont might be exactly what you’re looking for.

    Regards,
    Alan

  • edde says:

    Try a Civia Loring bar w/bar-end, grip shift or “trigger” shifters and MTB brake levers. I use ‘em in drop position on my T-town Traveler (local made cromo crank forward) with RANS CF stem. I’d prefer just a degree or two more outward spread but these bars work great for me.

    Comfort can be dialed in way more than currently done on upright bikes. I start with CF bike, adjust stem height, seat position, handlebar angles and so forth. Not for old school uprights, I guess, but I haven’t ridden one of those in years ;-)

    edde

  • Joseph E says:

    Alan, thanks for measuring the grip lengths. I’m not sure why the manufacturers fail to provide that information. 8″ is plenty; even 7″ should work with most grip shifter/brake combinations.

  • Tim in SB says:

    Alan,
    Have you ever tried the Wald 8095 handlebars? http://www.waldsports.com/index.cfm/8095handlebars.html They have about a 45 degree grip angle and also accept bar end shifters. I tried the Nitto North Road for a few weeks but it didn’t cut it on the rough streets and hilly commute that I have because my hands slid forward, (see my comment on April 9th 11:46 pm: http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/04/09/my-commuter/ ) I’ve installed the Wald 8095s on two of my bikes and one of my wife’s bikes. The only downside is that there is only one truly comfortable grip area, but I’m considering putting some bullhorns just inside the brake levers for longer distance comfort.

  • joe says:

    actually if you look at the newer jeff jones h loop bars it is pretty similar…but it also has an additional few hand placements too….going to check it out and get back to you on it for my riv atlantis.
    http://www.jonesbikes.com/h-bar.html

 
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