Benchmark List of Comfort MTB Handlebars

Don’t let comfort come second to performance when you bikepack. Because the further you ride, the more important it is that you look after your body. A comfortable handlebar is a great place to start, so here’s our full benchmark list of riser and extreme sweep models that we’ve either tested or have on our radar…

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‘Benchmark Gear Lists’ is a resource series that collates all the key options available for each topic discussed; be it handlebars, bags, or tents. Our aim is to make this a valuable resource for the bikepacking community and newcomers alike. Note that some of the gear listed hasn’t been reviewed on this site. Look out for the ‘T’ symbol that denotes items we’ve tested and can happily recommend.

For the most part, modern mountain bikes come stocked with relatively wide and straight handlebars, typically with a 9-degree sweep or less, and a subtle rise at best. Whilst these may well suit your trail riding needs, they’re not necessarily the best option for big backcountry rides and long distance bikepacking. After all, a comfortable setup allows you to cover more miles, recover more easily… and really enjoy the scenery while you’re actually riding.

For those looking at alternatives – be it handlebars with more backsweep, more rise, or more width – we’ve collated our favourite ‘comfort mountain bike bars’, for want of a better term. By ‘comfort mtb’, we’re referring to handlebars that are suited to challenging terrain and still allow precise control, be it on trails or dirt roads, rather than comfort bars in a more traditional touring sense, like butterfly or trekking bars favoured by many traditional long-distance tourers. For those who favor curly bars, fear not. A Benchmark List of drop handlebars is in the pipeline too.

By looking at a few key ingredients, we hope it will help you find a handlebar that’s better suited to your multi-day riding than the one you’re likely on. Exactly what rise and sweep you prefer will often boil down to personal preference, the terrain you ride, and to some extent, what your body has become used to. Just remember that muscle memory is a powerful thing, so you’ll need to try a new setup over several rides before knowing if it’s the right one for you. Initially, your sense of control and steering will feel markedly different with bars with more backsweep, so give them a chance and don’t hop back onto those flat bars too quickly! Bear in mind that changing handlebars (and stems) will also affect your weight distribution across your contact points, as well as your cranks and front wheel. And it can have a knock-on effect on the position and angle of your wrists, arms and shoulders. Bike fit is a topic in itself and will be saved for another post.

What’s with the crazy sweep?

Given the caveat that the best amount of sweep for you is subject to personal taste, terrain, and how it fits in with the rest of your bike setup and its geometry… generally speaking, we think you’ll really start to notice a difference with handlebars designed around a 15-degree sweep or more, in terms of the pressure it takes off your wrists. So for the most part, that’s what we’re focussing on for this post. Broadly speaking, this is the angle at which the ulnar nerve is allowed to have a more natural position – rather than being pinched and constricted as it can be with straight bars, resulting in numbness for many. See these diagrams by SQ Labs for a clearer understanding.

More extreme angles exist, typically ranging from 30-45 degrees, which we highly recommend trying too, depending on the kind of riding you favour. And be sure to consider the shape of the bar too – some bend straight back, others curve forwards first – which may require experimenting with different stem lengths, should you also want to keep a similar reach across your cockpit. And, just to add to the potential data points, some manufacturers also list an upsweep, the angle at which the bars bend up from the stem, which can affect the position of your elbows.

Why the Rise?

A lot of mountain bikes aren’t necessarily designed for touring. Their headtubes are often on the short side, or the steerer tube has been cut down more than you’d like. Options include stacking up a series spacers like casino chips and running a stem with more angle. Or, you can avail yourselves of the increasing range of handlebars with an inch of rise or more, which is especially good news for tall riders. This will help bring your cockpit up and make it more in line with your saddle – probably a good starting point in a long distance setup. A more commanding riding position also has the perk of being great for looking around and soaking up the sights. Note that you can also fine tune the amount of rise, reach, and your hand position if you rotate the bars forward or backwards slightly.

What about Width?

Old school mountain bikers loved narrow bars. Modern trail bikes favour wider cockpits. We’re fans of wide bars on the whole, as they help offer a more control, especially on a loaded bike down rocky singletrack. The downside is that they can be tricky in tight corridors of trees or for the bike tourer, negotiating a bike up a flight of stairs or through a narrow doorway. Depending on your shoulder width and the kind of terrain you’re riding, a narrower bar may work better, though for the most part, wide bars can always be cut down. The handlebars listed below range from around 645mm to 820mm, which will suit different body types, preferences, and riding styles.

Materials

There’s a range of materials to choose from… aluminum, Chromoly, carbon, and titanium. Each has its own merits. Aluminum is popular, affordable and a good all-rounder, but will eventually suffer from fatigue. Chromoly handlebars are extremely hardwearing but tend to weigh a good deal more. Carbon is most compliant but less resilient to scratches and off-the-bike abuse. Titanium will last a lifetime and has some ‘give’ but is very expensive. Ask yourself if a light bar suits your build and riding style, or do you need crowbar like strength? Are you traveling overseas where bikes can be manhandled on flights or buses, or keeping to local rides? And consider that rigid setups benefit most from more compliant handlebars.

Other factors to consider are the general shape of the bar, with regards to how your bikepacking bags will fit across the tops, before the bar begins to sweep back, and how the angle of your brake levers will affect cable routing. With so many variable around, nothing beats experimenting with different handlebars. Try and borrow handlebars from friends, so you can nail down the best one for you and your setup.

Jones Loop H-bar

The Jones Loop H-Bar is the iconic ‘comfort’ mountain bike handlebar, the blueprint from which many other designs have been based. Although designed for dedicated mountain biking with Jones’ own bikes, it’s also a great option for anyone seeking a more comfortable riding position with other brands of bikes too, by taking noticeable pressure off the wrists thanks to a 45-degree sweep. There’s an ever-growing range of options available, both with and without loops, in a choice of materials, widths and rises. All share the same 45-degree sweep and overall hand position.

Jones SG Loop H-bar, bikepacking

  • Jones SG Loop H-bar, bikepacking
  • Jones SG Loop H-bar, bikepacking

In addition to the SG (straight gauge) model shown here, Jones offers the custom butted original, as well as titanium and carbon versions, along with the Jones Bend H-Bar Bend, which does away with the loop altogether. This offers a lighter bar with a more compliant feel, at the cost of some hand positions and real estate (the Loop is ideal for lights and a GPS etc…). Note that Jones bars are designed specifically with long grips in mind, so you can slide up and down the bar for a more aggressive or upright riding position.

  • Width 660/710mm
  • Rise .5in (13mm)
  • Backsweep 45°
  • Weight 275-625g
  • Clamp diameter 31.8mm
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $75-425
  • Manufacturer’s Details Jones

Jones SG 2.5 ‘Riser’ Loop H-bar

The Jones Loop H-Bar SG 2.5 has the same proportions as the standard bar, albeit with a 2.5in rise. This makes it perfect for bikes with a low stack, or a steerer tube that’s been cut short.

  • Jones Riser Loop H-Bar, Jones SG 2.5 Aluminum Loop H-Bar
  • Jones Riser Loop H-Bar, Jones SG 2.5 Aluminum Loop H-Bar
  • Width 660/710mm
  • Rise 2.5″ (64mm)
  • Sweep 45°
  • Clamp diameter 31.8mm
  • Weight 650 grams
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $79
  • Manufacturer’s Details Jones

Surly Moloko

Surly’s take on the Jones bar is the Moloko, with a touch less sweep and two prongs for extra hand positions – which has proved surprisingly useful. Made from stout steel, it also offers a loop into which nests a stowage compartment (see below). Note that there’s more forward sweep than the Jones and no rise, so you may find yourself wanting to run a shorter, steeper stem. Similar to the H-bar, there’s lots of space for attaching gadgets, like a speaker, a GPS, and the like.

Surly Moloko Handlebar

  • Surly Moloko Handlebar
  • Surly Moloko Handlebar
  • Width 735mm
  • Rise 0
  • Backsweep 34°
  • Clamp diameter 31.8mm
  • Weight 709 grams
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $95
  • Manufacturer’s Details Surly

Loophole bags

There are various bags on the market designed in the loop of your Surly or Jones bars, making use of that nook. Pictured below, from left to right, are Surly’s Moloko Handlebar bag ($60), Jones’ Loophole H-Bar Pack ($89), and Randi Jo’s custom-colored Jeff ‘n Joan ($90) – note that the latter is deeper, so works best as a standalone bag or perfectly with a basket. UK bikepackers can check out the Wildcat’s Tom Cat (£52). Certain rollbags are designed to be used exclusively with Jones Loop H-Bars, like Carsick Designs’ Handee Randee, pictured as well.

  • Surly Moloko Handlebar bag
  • Jones SG Loop H-bar, bikepacking
  • Randi Jo Jeff and Joan handlebar bag

Carsick Designs Handee Randee bikepacking

Velo Orange

Honestly named and following on from the pronged theme, the Crazy Bar is intended for touring on paved and unpaved roads, rather than singletrack. Made from 6061 Aluminium, the main section of the bar is 670mm wide, with the bullhorn section offers a streamlined position for smoother roads and headwinds. Velo Orange say the center portion replicates the top of a drop bar, and placing your hands at the junctions is not unlike riding on the hoods. The main bar is 22.2mm so MTB grips, levers, and shifters fit. The ‘horns’ are 23.8mm, so road levers – including inverse levers – fit, as do bar-end shifters.

  • Velo Orange Crazy Bar
  • Velo Orange Crazy Bar
  • Width 666mm
  • Rise 0
  • Backsweep 45˚
  • Clamp diameter 25.4mm
  • Weight 450g
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $60
  • Manufacturer’s Details Velo Orange

Oddity Razorbar

Oddity’s Razorbar is made to order in Colorado, USA, constructed from 4130 cromoly steel or
titanium. The standard spec – 15 degree backsweep, a 2.4in rise, and 820m wide – can be completely customised to suit your whims, without any upcharge. And there’s a choice of colors too. The ones pictured below are 800mm wide, with a posture friendly 3.5in rise and a 30 degree sweep. This particular handlebar has seen action in Peru and Ecuador, both in and on top of bouncy buses, so we can definitely vouch for its durability. Note that there’s no forward sweep, so you may prefer a slightly longer stem. unless you prefer a more upright riding position. For the same version with a ‘hook’, check out the Razorbar Plus.

  • Oddity Razor handlebars bikepacking
  • oddity razor steel handlebars
  • Width 820mm
  • Rise 1.8in (60mm)
  • Sweep 15°
  • Clamp diameter Shimmed to 31.8mm
  • Weight 700g
  • Place of Manufacture CO, USA
  • Price $140-350
  • Manufacturer’s Details Oddity

Moonmen Moonriser Bar

Made in the USA from titanium, the Moonriser is a wide handlebar with a 3.5in rise and a 26 degree sweep, which is likely to be a good compromise for many. Given that it’s built to spec, individual wishes can be accommodated too. Although it coms with a price tag, quality and finish are fantastic.

  • Moonmen Moonriser handlebar
  • Width 780mm
  • Rise 4″ (102mm)
  • Backsweep 24˚
  • Clamp diameter Shimmed to 31.8mm
  • Weight 375 grams
  • Place of Manufacture CO, USA
  • Price $395.00
  • Manufacturer’s Details Moonmen

Defiance Arise! Bars

For Bjørn Olson, Defiance Frameworks’ Arise! Ti meets the three criteria for what an MTB bar should be: comfortable all day use, surgical control over the front end, and rad looks.

In Bjørn’s words, “Beyond being comfortable for long rides, due to their upright and swept design; and beyond the powerful control and torque you can exert over the front of the bike, due to their width and perfect ergonomic arc; and even beyond them looking hella rad, which they do, these bars are also amazing expedition bars. The cross bar allows for some fantastic and very stable front-end packing arrangements.”

Defiance Arise! Handlebars

  • Defiance Arise! Handlebars
  • Defiance Arise! Handlebars

These riser bars are also made in a 4130 Chromoly version for the very reasonable price of $100. The standard spec comes in with a 4″ rise, 12 deg backsweep, with a width of 780mm wide and a cool, clear powder coat finish. But given these are also made to order, everything can be made to spec.

  • Width 780mm
  • Rise 4in (10cm)
  • Backsweep 12˚
  • Weight TBC
  • Clamp diameter Shimmed to 31.8mm
  • Place of Manufacture AK, USA
  • Price $100 (chromoly)
  • Manufacturer’s Details Defiance Frameworks

Surly Sunrise bar

The Sunrise bar is Surly’s take on cruiser bar/trail bar/bmx bar rolled into one. Backsweep is a relatively conservative but noticeable 15 degrees, with a 6.7 degree upsweep. Typical to Surly, the Sunrise built with stoutness in mind, with a generous width that can be cut down to a more svelt 780mm should you find yourself mutilating your prized doorframe or the local woodland. The cross hatched centre is a nice touch that limit slippage in the stem and helps center the bar. Price is a very reasonable $60 too.

Surly Sunrise Comfort Handlebar

  • surly sunrise handlebar
  • surly sunrise handlebar
  • Width 820mm
  • Rise 3.3in (83mm)
  • Sweep 15°
  • Clamp diameter Shimmed to 31.8mm
  • Weight 780g
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $60
  • Manufacturer’s Details Surly

Hunter Smooth Move Handlebars

Designed in California, Hunter’s Smooth Move aluminum handlebars are made by Nitto in Japan, always a sign of quality. Heritage wise, these bars are designed around the ‘Baja Bend’, pioneered by Renthal MX. The same bar is available in two variety rises; the High Rise (75mm), the Mid Rise (38mm), both with a 5˚ upsweep. There’s two finishes available; black and polished. Hunter also offers a Flat Sweeper, with no rise but a 20˚ backsweep instead.

  • Hunter Smooth Move handlebar
  • Hunter Smooth Move handlebar
  • Width 750mm
  • Rise 1.5-3in (38-75mm)
  • Sweep 15˚
  • Clamp diameter31.8mm
  • Weight 380-405g
  • Place of Manufacture Japan
  • Price $100
  • Manufacturer’s Details Hunter

Stooge Moto Bar

According to Stooge, the 7075 aluminum Moto Bar is ‘inspired by 70’s California and the original klunkers and Motocross bikes’, accounting for the generous 800mm wide. Its 17-degree sweep is one that is likely to appeal to many, with enough rise to offer a noticeably more upright position than you would with a standard flat bar.

  • Stooge Moto Handlebar
  • Stooge Moto Handlebar
  • Width 800
  • Rise 1.5in (38mm)
  • Sweep 17°
  • Clamp diameter 31.8mm
  • Weight TBC
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price £65 ($85 via Aveturon)
  • Manufacturer’s Details Stooge

SQ Labs 30X 16˚

SQ Labs have a wide range of ergonomically designed handlebars in both aluminium and carbon, sporting a broad spectrum of sweeps and rises, with a pedigree of ergonomic research behind them. The 30X 16˚ is really comfortable handlebar that’s likely to suit those who like the sense of control that comes with a more typical trail bar, but want to take some of the pressure off their wrists. These bars feature a 4 upsweep and are available in a 15mm, 30mm or 45mm rise. The carbon version weighs in at a paltry 235g.

  • SQ Labs 30X handlebar
  • SQ Labs 30X handlebar
  • Width 780mm
  • Rise .6 – 1.8in (15-45mm)
  • Sweep 16˚
  • Clamp diameter31.8mm
  • Weight 235-325g
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price 90-200 Euros
  • Manufacturer’s Details SQ Labs

Origin8 Strongbow

If you like the idea of the Jones bar and its convenient loop, but aren’t convinced by the amount of sweep, check out the 6061-T6 Aluminum-constructed Strongbow. Amongst a vast range of options, this one sports a 15 degree backsweep and a ‘loop’ that offers potential mounting points for a light and GPS, as well as possible hand holds with a 120mm of additional reach.

  • Width 760mm
  • Rise O
  • Sweep 15°
  • Clamp diameter 31.8mm
  • Weight TBC
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $65
  • Manufacturer’s Details Origin8

Origin8 Space Off Road 2

Amongst Origin8’s wide range of bars, Space Bar Off Road 2 bar is a popular budget model. It features a 40-degree backsweep with 50mm of forwardsweep. There’s used to be wider carbon incarnation too, the UL8, albeit with a 25 degree backsweep and 40mm of forwardsweep, but it’s currently discontinued. Note that the even more budget-friendly and slightly narrower Space Bar Off Road ($25) has a similar backsweep to the Off Road 2, albeit without the forwardsweep, in a 25.4mm clamp diameter.

Origin8 Space Off Road 2

  • Width 655mm-685
  • Rise O
  • Sweep 25-40°
  • Clamp diameter 31.8mm
  • Weight 170-340g
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $51-$130
  • Manufacturer’s Details Origin8

Soma Clarence Bar

Even Soma agree that the 6061 aluminum straight gauge Clarence bar is inspired by the Jeff Jones H-Bar, albeit with less sweep and a little less width too. Note that there’s both a 31.8mm version and a 25.4mm one too, which will be useful for some riders. The official spec lists a 19˚ upsweep too.

  • Soma Clarence Handlebar bikepacking
  • Soma Clarence Handlebar bikepacking
  • Width 670mm
  • Rise 1.5in (37mm)
  • Backsweep 34˚
  • Clamp diameter 25.4 and 31.8mm
  • Weight TBC
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $60
  • Manufacturer’s Details Soma

Soma Osprey bikepacking handlebar

Soma Osprey Bar

The Osprey has more backsweep than the Clarence Bar, with a wider straight section (135mm) in the middle, for attaching accessories. Like the Osprey, it’s available in both a 31.8mm version and a 25.4mm one too. It’s made from plain gauge 6061 Aluminium.

  • Width 710mm
  • Rise .5in (12mm)
  • Backsweep 40˚
  • Clamp diameter 25.4 and 31.8mm
  • Weight 400g
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $60
  • Manufacturer’s Details Soma

On One Mary Handlebar bikepacking

On One Mary Bar

Considered by the company to be their ‘extreme sweep riser bar’, On One’s Mary is a budget swept back aluminium handlebar that also comes in a variety of colors and two clamp diameters. It’s long been a staple of UK riders looking for more comfortable alternatives to flat bars. Upsweep is listed as 21˚; width is a little on the narrow side at 645mm.

  • Width 645mm
  • Rise 1.5in (37.5mm)
  • Backsweep 40˚
  • Clamp diameter 25.4 and 31.8mm
  • Weight 300g
  • Place of ManufactureTaiwan
  • Price £35
  • Manufacturer’s Details On One

Variations on a theme

There’s simply too many models to cover every permutation on the market. Note that Soma, Velo Orange, On-One/Planet X, Rivendell, Origin 8 (recommended for budget-priced options), and SQ Labs have a wide range of handlebars, in addition to the ones we’ve selected. Nitto make many bars for other brands and are always a good mark of quality. If you’re more of a gravel and forest road rider, you may want to check out the classic Albatross, which has seen a number of imitations over the years.

When choosing a bar, be sure to check their intended uses, as some are designed for urban commuting and gravel riding rather than off-road touring.

If you want to dig deeper into body ergonomics, this SQ Labs link has plenty of info.

These guides are subject to changes and updates. Please let us know if you’ve come across any related products, and we’ll add them in.

  • David

    I have the Jones loop bar on my Fisher. Went with a 40* by 80mm stem to raise things up to level with the saddle. For me it works great. Did notice some weight shift.

    Dave

  • Adin Maynard

    I’d love to see a review of SQlab’s new 16 degree carbon bars. They seem great for mtb performance and a nice sweet spot between flat and ‘comfort’ for touring setups https://www.sq-lab.com/shop/en/Handlebars/

  • Skyler

    Agreed. That’s about the most sweep I can handle without getting numbness in my palms. 11-16° sweep is the only ‘alt’ bar type that interests me.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks, we’ll try and get some imagery and add that in.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’m the opposite! Anything less than 15-20 degrees makes my elbows feel like they stick out like chicken wings and puts pressure on my wrists. Most ergonomic designers tend to agree that some backsweep helps to alleviate numbness in the hands, but it’s each to their own, hence the options out there.

  • spencer harding

    dreaming of those moonmen bars but will probably land on a set of surly sunrises

  • Rowan Boutette

    I use the Origin8 Trail Sweeper. Its got 15° of sweep, is nice and wide, and most importantly is cheap.

  • Lionelbichee

    not a single dirt drop bar up there?

  • Bernd

    My choise (and I’m very happy with it): Stooge Moto Bar
    7050 alloy, 800mm wide, 38mm rise, 17 degree sweep

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Bernd. I wanted that one in there too, but clean forgot. Will add it in later. So many great choices these days!

  • Cass Gilbert

    This is mtb bars… drop bars a whole different post…

  • Cass Gilbert

    The Sunrises are a solid choice for the $$$!

  • Locke Hassett

    Heed thy unfounded knowledge and opinions, oh great makers of goodness: Ti bull moose. 820mm, 17.479 degree sweep, .666 inch rise, and enough room to fit a bedrock feed bag in the middle.

  • Christian

    I have a Watson Cycles ti bar (a custom with extra rise and about 30 degree sweep). He has lots of different swept options. Very happy with mine.

  • Greg Day

    On One Mary bars, I use them reversed, upside down on a KTM 29er, doing training and riding Tour Aotearoa, New Zealand brevit in 2017 added aero bars and Revelate Design handle bar harnesss. Compared angle and rise with Jones bar, cheap alternative. No cramps or numbness averaging 100 km daily gravel plus forest trails.

  • Medium Rick

    Thanks for the great overview. Do you have a personal favorite, Cass?

  • Doug Reilly

    The origin8 Strongbow is worth mentioning here as another Jones alternative. It’s essentially the Jones H loop design with the extra handholds in the front, but the bar itself is almost straight, radically so compared to the intense sweep of the Jones, which is something about that bar I couldn’t get used to. The strongbow gives you, basically, a straight bar with the extra loop in front. For some that might be the ticket!

  • Cass Gilbert

    They’re in there… although not upside down (-;

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve always been a big fan of Jones bars, they work really well for me on a number of bikes. More recently, I’ve been touring on the 30 degree Odditys. I like the extra width too. It’s a chunky bar but so very comfortable, and still great for trails too.

    I’m pretty open to anything that has more than a 15 degree sweep and not too much forward sweep…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Interesting, thanks.

  • Adam Żebrowski

    Gusset Stash 680mm, 35* back sweep

  • fauxpho

    Answer ProTaper 20/20 bars are a worthwhile consideration for the category . . . msrp $159 in carbon, 20deg sweep, 720mm width.

  • fledersau

    I‘m a huge fan of the seine bars from velo orange, stainless, 45 degrees sweep, no rise and a 25.4mm, clamp diameter.The damping is incredible… perfect for rigid fork. Transformed my awol to a singletrack slayer and will be used on a piolet from now on… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1ee3dad4b66d99cfa50d30d8b9e90291b05d97cecb8733483af974c3fbaa8c5b.jpg eine bar from velo

  • StaySaneSleepOutside

    I’ve been using the same Origin8 Carbon UL Space bar on fat and mountain bikes for a handful of years. 685mm, 25º sweep, slight rise. Light, very compliant, and seemingly perfect. If only they were 720.

  • The love mud Confucius bar by Alpkit is another Jones inspired flat bar with a loop out front, made from alu with a width of 760mm and a 9º back sweep and at £35 a pop a great choice if you’re just starting out bikepacking.

  • Skyler

    Yeah, I think there’s a lot of variables in human shape that mean there’s no single solution. I’ve got broad shoulders, so elbows out is not such a problem. My big issue is when the bar crosses from the soft part between my thumb and pointer finger, to some place near the base of my palm. I guess I’ve got a nerve right there, and too much sweep puts the bar right in that tender fleshy bit. Instead, I need something that runs more parallel to my knuckles, through my hand. Then my hand stays happy and it becomes all about wrist angle.

  • Cass Gilbert

    We were planning on including them, but the carbon 20/20s were all coming up as discontinued when I searched. Maybe they changed the names bit.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks, interesting bar! Trying to keep to bars that have a mininum 15 degree backsweep for this post.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, I personally find it’s got to be a minimum of 710mm for me these days…ideally more!

  • fauxpho

    Hmm. Shows in stock at QBP (p/n HB5472) and associated retailers like Universal Cycles. FWIW.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I guess it’s the Answer XC Enduro 720 Carbon Bar that’s unavailable on all the sites I’ve searched. Weirdly, on the Answer website the Carbon Protaper is only in an 8 degree sweep.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve heard those are lovely bars. Thanks.

  • Cass Gilbert

    That’s an interesting looking bar, thanks! Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to appear on the VO website anymore.

  • fauxpho

    “Carbon ProTaper” is sort of a technology / product line of theirs, so shows up in several model names. Get the 20/20 in the search and all will reveal itself! :)

  • Dru Simonson

    Another Surly to consider is the Open Bar, a simple swept upright bar. Similar shape to the Jones Bend H-bar. It comes in either flat or 40 mm rise, a 53 degree sweep, and 666 mm wide.

  • scott

    Great article. Do the sweeps help with the ulnar nerve symptoms (aka handlebar palsy)? I’ve heard of “wrist discomfort”, which I seem to suffer from, but does that include handlebar palsy or numbness?

  • BenniM

    A timely post! For the last few months we’ve been experimenting with various bars – currently have the ‘Salsa Bend 2’ in both 17° and 23° (710 width). Unscientific survey of NZ brevet riders came up with similar theme – 23° most comfortable but 17° offers a little more control on the singletrack. 17° working for me currently – Wifey has the 23° but is still deviating wrists – I suspect bars are too wide so am trying some narrower SQlab ones.

    Will also be experimenting with flipping them to get 5° downsweep – if the stem is high enough then a slight downsweep looks more natural for your wrists.

    I’m sure there must be a way to calculate ideal width and sweep based on body geometry – experimenting gets expensive!

  • BenniM

    Would be really interested to see how your arms (and Elbows /shoulders) sit with those Oddity bars, Cass. Does the width not give you chicken wings unless bar rotated down?

  • BenniM

    Yes, That’s the main reason we use swept bars – Deviating your wrist inwards (towards the thumb) to grasp unswept bars (or flat – 9° ish) puts pressure on the Ulnar nerve, leading to numbness on the outside of the hand. In my experience, I think you want to aim for as straight a line as possible between arm and wrist – i.e. no cocking of the wrist, up, down, left or right.

  • Cass Gilbert

    The 30 degree sweep serves to tuck the elbow in and stops the shoulders from rolling forwards, as I often see in riders. When I swing my arms up (freely), they rise in a kind of arc with the hands naturally sit at is around 30-40 degrees . So to me, I makes sense to replicate that, broadly speaking, when I’m riding all day.

    It’s really hard to beat the Jones bar, once you’re used to it, for ultimate comfort – which is why it’s been copied so much, either exactly or with minor changes. But I like the control I get from a wider bar when I’m riding a heavy bike, which I often end up doing. The 30 degrees was an experiment but it worked out well. A few friends have ended up getting similar setups and seem to like it, at least for long distance bikepacking/touring.

  • Cass Gilbert

    That’s a nice one too. A little too much sweep for me given the more narrow width, but I’m sure good for some. We couldn’t fit everything so picked two we know and liked, but will add other options in some kind of list format. There are so many bars on the market!

  • Cass Gilbert

    It allows the connection between the hand, wrist and arm to be more natural, and not cocked to one sie, as tends to happen with a straight bar.

    There’s a lot of info on the SQ labs site:
    https://www.sq-lab.com/en/sqlab-ergonomics/the-hand/hand-on-the-handlebar-ulnar-nerve.html

  • Cass Gilbert

    Interesting!

    I once had a proper bike fit and it completely changed how comfortable I felt on the bike. Initially it all felt wrong (habit/experience isn’t always best!) but after sticking with it a while, it really made sense. I’m a big believer in investing some $$$ into a good bikefit (from someone who understands the kind of riding you do) to help stay injury free both now in and in the future!

  • Mike Winstone

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c47461ed4fbb7c4e260d1576dcc688d829e79ca814c90b8862e6a306123482b2.jpg

    i recently captured the last set of Casey’s Crazy Bar in Western Canada and installed them on my Surly “Gravel Trucker”. They truly rock! Now that they are back in production I have ordered another set for my road touring bike.

  • Tom Johnstone

    I’m sorry to say I was sorely disappointed with this article, out of ALL of the alt bars available you only managed to review 13 of them?

    I was hoping for a table including width, weight, sweep, rise and brand and expected at least 30+ bars in there.

    Why only current production bars when the second hand market is so rife with bars people have tried and retired?
    It feels like this is a review pointing you toward buying Jones, or custom expensive ti bars.

    I think to really count as a round up of decent bars it needs to include a far wider range of bars available or recently available, including (and these suggestions are just what’s in my spares pile, so others will doubtlessly add numerous more)
    On one OG
    On one fleegle
    Radley carnegie
    Alpkit fu manchu
    Titec Jones
    Salsa moto

    Come on guys, bikepacking.com usually do killer articles, this one is poor!

  • BenniM

    Ah ok, good to know.. Comes back to overall bike fit a little wrt shoulders etc..i.e. how upright the rest of the setup allows you to sit. Agreed, a proper bike fit is worth the $$$ and will be next step when we run out of parts to play with (soon).

    I also like my Jones bars, but wanted to see if there’s something less sweepy I could live with for the single-track. The Jones feel like riding a wheelbarrow occasionally!

  • Howard Matthew

    I’d be interested to see a review of off road drop bars – my guess is there would be fewer options than MTB bars but please surprise me

  • strangeshape

    From an ergonomical stand point, the pronated grip of all flat handlebars does not seem optimal for prolonged use. Many flat handlebars are however very wide and provide control on rough ground, which I guess is the reason why they’re are very popular among bikepackers.

    I believe a wide stance drop handlebar would be the best solution to the problem, which is why think Crust bikes is onto something with their Towel Rack ( https://crustbikes.com/products/wide-load-bar/ ). They’re mostly out of stock though. Let’s see how long it takes before Kona or any of the big brands pick this up.

  • Some nice options here including a few I haven’t seen before. I’m considering trying a SimWorks Little Nick myself. Available in steel or titanium and has 15° backsweep. They also have some other options with more sweep such as the Getaround and the cool looking Fun 3 bar.

  • The Seine was the same as the Crazy Bar without the horns.

  • Igor Shteynbuk

    Love it!

  • Peter

    Hi half off the bars listed in your list are no longer made.

  • Tom Johnstone

    And half the bars currently being made aren’t on their list either.

    My point being twofold –
    1- there are far more bars available than just the 13 listed here, this is really no more than a review of some of the authors favourites and is far from a real world ‘list’ of what’s available, and;
    2- almost every rider who tries ‘alt’ bars ends up with spare ones they didn’t get on with in the shed / for sale second hand, so why not list them too?

  • Cass Gilbert

    Sorry to disappoint you Tom! We weren’t setting out to cover every single bar, both current and no longer manufactured…

    Over the years, I’ve tried several of the bars you’ve listed and as good as some of them have been (the Carnegie was a favourite), I really don’t think it’s relevant to include those that are no longer available, even if they can be tracked down second hand. As I mentioned, borrowing bars off friends is a great way of experimenting and seeing what works for you. And in the last paragraph, I’ve pointed people towards brands with a wide range of bars, given how many subtle and not so subtle variations on a theme there are.

    As for pointing people towards Jones and Ti bars… One, I think Jones bars can be considered innovators. They offer a great handlebar at a range of different prices, so they deserve the space. And as for ti bars… there’s only one listed that’s only available in ti. There’s 4 steel bars listed, from $60 to $140, the latter being a fully custom bar, which I think is very good value for money.

    Are these our favourites? Yes, because it’s what we’ve managed to try. Will we be adding to the list so it grows as a resource? Yes, undoubtedly, especially if they come strongly recommended.

  • Tom Johnstone

    Thanks for your reply Cass

    I can appreciate why you chose not to include any bars no longer in production, but only covering 13 bars in an article titled ‘benchmark’ seemed pretty far off the mark. I look forward to it being added to 👍

  • john metcalfe

    I’m with you Cass; Jones bars every time. I’ve just changed my first set for the new riser which has only just arrived in UK. One shop over here lends out a bar for customers to try. Every one so far has kept them.
    Got them on MTb & touring bike
    The Dutch city bikes I rode in the 70’s were similar feel.
    As you say, each to their own. One man’s meat………….
    Great article and debate

  • Ditto Howard’s Dropbar request. As a shorter ride (5’8″) I’m completely unable to slam flat or riser to my preferred riding position on any 29er frames w/out the Dropbars.

  • Yeah, we actually already have something in the works… stay tuned.

  • Sorry you weren’t happy with the outcome. But, did you read the ‘variations on a theme’ section? By definition, ‘benchmark’ means ‘set standard of point of reference by which all things are judged’… not a list of all options possible. Our goal with these lists is not to regurgitate every last product in a specific category, but to outline the ones we think are should be looked at first… then lit a wealth of others that are worth considering. If we listed all the bars available, it would not only take up an insane amount of time, it would be counterintuitive to the purpose here, to show good options, and let allow an open forum so that it may evolve over time. That said, we will likely add to it, so expect a bigger list down the road.

  • Ryan

    Anyone have an idea when the sunrise bars will be available? Been waiting a while now! Wanted to try them at the cheaper price as a starting point before spending for custom ones.

  • Kurt Schneider

    I stumbled across the Stooge Moto bars last year, and liked them enough that they’re now on the Krampus and Big Fat Dummy. Wide and comfy.

  • Kurt Schneider

    In the US, Stooge products are available through Aventuron. $85.

    https://aventuron.com/products/stooge-cycles-moto-handlebar

  • Colin Mckenzie

    Answer makes a nice and relatively affordable swept carbon bar with a bit of rise. Got one for my Corvus and it’s a nice match. It looks a lot like the Mary bar at the end of the list just in carbon. I’d be curious to compare its rise and sweep to the sq labs option.

  • TimFromGuernsey

    +1 for the Stooge bar, I wanted a bar with no upsweep, but with a good back-sweep and width (they’re 800mm).

    Andy ‘Stooge’ (the owner) is a nice chap to deal with too. They’ve given me a good jolt of extra confidence on the Salsa and the comfort levels have (annoyingly!) got me thinking about sticking another pair on my ‘beach’ fattie as the control levels are just sooo good.

    Good wide area for mounting lights etc too.

    Highly recommended.

  • Will

    FWIW, Stooge quotes shipping on the Stooge bars is about $140 to the US, and the SQ Labs site won’t allow for US shipping. Suggestions on a stateside source?

  • Bas Rotgans

    I have two additions that might be interesting:
    – Alpkit Confucius bar (which looks pretty similar to the Strongbow) and is VERY reasonably priced – https://www.alpkit.com/products/love-mud-confucius
    – A Dutch one-off design, originally designed for beach racing, but which might have applications for bikepacking: TrueDNE – http://truedne.com/multobene-handlebar/

    Neither of these have a lot (or any) of rise, they’re not bring the handlebar UP.

  • Mark

    You forgot one of the original swept MTB bars, the Groovy Luv handles! Available in titanium or steel. I think they have 22.5 degrees sweep.

    Also, I’m pretty sure the Origin8 UL8 carbon space bar is no longer available. I’ve had a set for years, and tried to get another last year with no luck. Origin8 said they are discontinued.

  • Lewy

    I went to Jones bars after breaking my back at the end of 2014. Had 7 months off the bike and found the position on the Jones bars allowed me to get back riding. 20000 something kms later I have 3 sets now including the new riser ones.

  • Interesting point. I am now 5 1/2 months off the bike after my back injury in the Caucasus. Well, not entirely true… I got back to 95% and was riding for about 3 weeks a little over a month ago, but had a relapse. At any rate, next time I will be easing my way into it and trying things to improve my posture and comfort (especially in that first month back in action). unfortunately, the bike I am half way through testing is a rigid drop-bar bike!!

  • Aulis Veikko

    I thought the Soma Clarence was more an On One Mary derivative. I’ll tell you one thing, it is absolutely comfortable. I am about to install a Jones SG 2.5 Riser bar on my new XL Ogre, so we’ll see how that goes. Those Defiance Arise! bars are sexy as hell. I just wish they had more sweep.

    Clarence bars on a Pugsley:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/704a0bb48112285d7d6c99e087ac1553fdcd115075ead6725f246faae989939d.jpg

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for your input, Bas. Given that this is a ‘comfort’ bars post, we were keeping the criteria of these bars to ones that feature around a 15 degree sweep or more. The Alpkit looks very interesting, but it’s just 9 degrees, which is a fairly standard sweep. No spec on the Dutch one.

  • Bas Rotgans

    Fair point. I’ve ridden both, and the Alpkit is very similar to any widish trail-oriented bar, but with the extra loop on. The TrueDNE doesn’t have any upsweep, which is what put me off after a few rides. The configuration of either with the extra loop is interesting for attaching lamps/computers/whatever, or cinching up any handlebar roll extra tightly.

  • Ryanisinallofus

    Why are so many of the good bars with rise “shimmed” instead of just 31.8?

  • Cass Gilbert

    I quote from Soma’s website…”Inspired by the sweep angle of the Jeff Jones H-Bar.”

    The Arise! can be custom specced – I’m not sure if there’s any upcharge. There isn’t for Oddity’s Razor, though it’s a little more at $140.

  • JannoK

    Nobody mention now out of fashion bar-ends. I use bar-ends similar to KCNC KBE04 or PRO Ergonomic Bar-Ends. Super comfortable and provide additional hand position for my relatively MTB flat handlebar. Also SQlab 411 Innerbarends look interesting and are alternative to Velo Orange Crazy Bar without swapping your handlebar

  • Cass Gilbert

    Those ones are steel or ti. I guess that’s the diameter the tubing comes in; I know ti tubing isn’t extruded especially for bikes.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, those are good ones. Planning to put them in, just tracking down some pics.

    Thanks for the update on the Origin8s. Does indeed look like that’s the case.

  • Aulis Veikko

    Thank you, Cass. I saw that as well. If I recall correctly, Soma once said something about an inspiration from “across the pond”, or some such. I think there is probably a middle ground. The dimensions surely seem to fall fairly well between the two.
    Jones Loop H-Bar: Width 660/710mm, Rise 13mm, backsweep 45°
    Soma Clarence Bar: Width 670mm, Rise 37mm, backsweep 34°
    On One Mary Bar: WIDTH 645mm, Rise 37.5mm, backsweep 40°

  • Toby Park

    With these swept bars of 25 degrees or more, I find I also have to have the grips angled downwards as well as back. When you put your arms out naturally in front of you, yes your hands are angled back a bit but also your little finger is lower than your index finger. To have your hands angled back but completely flat is a very unnatural twist of the wrist. And yes some of these bars angle back and also have a gentle upsweep. Does anyone else bot find this crazy? Most of these bars, I’d have to rotate slightly so the grip sections angles down, but then you lose the benefit of the rise.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I definitely angle my Jones bars down a little, but I don’t think I lose much of the rise by doing so.

    I find there’s other variables too – different ‘ergo’ grips can thrown your wrists in different positions and it can also depends on my saddle height compared to my handlebar height.

  • Cass Gilbert

    As a rule of thumb, I find bar ends feel less and less natural the more backsweep there is to your bars. As I tend to use bars with a 30 degree backsweep or more for long distance bikepacking, I’ve pretty much moved away from bars ends completely. I used to use them all the time.

    The SQlab 411 Innerbarends do look interesting, thanks. I’ll add a few in.

  • Cass Gilbert

    See Kurt’s comment above:

    “In the US, Stooge products are available through Aventuron. $85.”

  • Stephen Poole

    Bike24.com (in Germany, will ship anywhere) carries SQLabs stuff, so might be worth a look.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I like this bar though I prefer the more generous width of the SQ labs 16 degree bar. I’ll add it in!

  • Cass Gilbert

    I had a chance to try this bar for a day ride on a trail bike and I really liked it. Nice sweep, good rise, spot on width, and being the carbon version, extra comfortable too. Definitely a thumbs up.

  • Cass Gilbert

    As for SQ labs, they are distributed in the US through BTI, so there shouldn’t be any issue getting hold of them through your local bike shop. The 30X carbon riser bar is currently in stock.

    http://www.bti-usa.com/public/category/HB/HBBR/QL

  • Kevins08

    As is the Origin8 Batwing, imo. 25* backsweep. A little narrow for my taste, but I switched to the BW as the angle of my Jones bar was to much for my wrists on long rides.

  • Kevins08

    Basically a Groovy Luv Handle derivative in 31.8.

  • Andy Swartz

    Straight gauge bars buy us a lot of clamping real estate for lights and accessories. The entire tapered area between 25.4 and 31.8 on a 31.8 bar is wasted space.

  • Stephen Poole

    I acquired some of the SQlab Innerbarends a while back, and find them very useful on the road, and on smooth dirt. You get at least two extra hand positions, one partially on them, and one fully. They seem like a good alternative to Jones bars for more technical riding. Now I need to get some bars with more backsweep (15-20°, no rise) to go with them so my hands don’t go numb so fast.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks for the input, Stephen.

    I know a lot of people don’t rate the Jones bars for technical riding, but I actually think they’re great for all kinds of trails… particularly when mated to a Jones bike, where they feel part of a perfect, complete system (-:

  • Stephen Poole

    I’ll probably never see a Jones bike here in Oz but have a set of the bars to try. I’ve only ridden them very briefly but think they’ll be great for touring in Ladakh from July. :-)

    The IBEs are on the Stache, which isn’t likely to see much touring as there’s no room for anything. The stock bars feel good at first, but my hands go numb fast. More bend is needed, but the reach is about right as is so maybe the lowest rise SQlab bars might do it.

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