Since 2002 when I bought my first cyclocross bike, a Gunnar Crosshairs, I’ve racked up a lot of singletrack miles using skinny tires and “road” bars. I still love doing mixed surface riding involving pavement and smoothish dirt roads with these types of bikes:
Lately, however, I’m just not enjoying the rougher stuff with the drop bars as it beats the hell out of my hands. As I’ve discussed before, to truly optimize a bike for off-road drop bar riding, you really need to get the drops up so that they are only just below the saddle.
Unfortunately, this means the the other positions on the drop bar tend to be sky high and make you feel like you are pushing a shopping cart. In effect, you take a multi-position bar and reduce it to only one or two good positions. Granted, the positions you are left with are good ones, but it still seems to defeat part of the purpose of drop bars.
Back in 2007, I had James at Blacksheep bikes make me a monster cross drop bar rig for multi-surface adventure bike exploring. It’s a great bike, but for the last year or so, I’ve hardly ridden in the way it should be ridden, in part for the reasons discussed above: The drops were too low for real rough dirt riding and therefore beat the crap out of my hands, but I didn’t like a higher setup with midge bars either as the limited good hand positions tended to make my hands go numb on long rides
Well, after “only” four years of experimentation, I think I’ve found the optimal setup for this bike and the kind of riding I want to do with it using the newest version of the Jones H-bars:
So far, I’ve taken it out for an 8-hour pure dirt and single track ride, and a 6-hour multi-surface adventure bike ride. In both cases, it performed superbly. My hands did get a bit beat up on the 8-hour ride, but not bad for 8 hours of rigid riding off road. Both on road and off, the multiple hand positions really make for a comfortable set-up.
Jeff designs his own bikes around a relatively high bar position and short top-tubes. This helps get weight off the hands for off road riding riding, but you can still lean forward on the extensions to recruit a wider range of muscle groups for the climbs.
By essentially flattening out an off-road drop bar like the WTB or Midge, you get a multi-position bar where all of the positions are actually usable. They work especially well with the Shimano integrated brake/shift levers as your hands really have free range on the bars.
Here’s the bike’s original incarnation with a Rohloff hub:
Later on, I ditched the Rohloff, and converted the bike to regular gears, before finally making my way to the geared h-bar setup pictured above.