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Why do mountain bike handlebars suck so much?

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Why do mountain bike handlebars suck so much?

Old 11-07-22, 03:56 PM
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Polaris OBark
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Why do mountain bike handlebars suck so much?

Really, I have tried, but I cannot seem to escape wrist pain with canonical flat bars. I've even tried Jones bars, and although they relieve some wrist pain, they seem to make up for it by introducing a bunch of other compromises. I've also tried a drop-bar mountain bike (with a frame purposefully designed for them), but it again trades one set of ergonomic problems for another.

I'm quite comfortable on my gravel bike, but there are a lot of trails here that are beyond my ability on a rigid bike, and short stem/long bars are used for a reason.

Has anyone who suffers from this problem come up with a solution?

Bar-ends seem like a possibility, but the only time I really started to make use of them was when I put them inside of where the brakes, shifters and grips go, so they look like little demented aero bars.

I live in Class 5A mountain bike territory, and I would like to be able to ride some challenging single-track but not have to choose between a clown-bike and orthopedic rehab.
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Old 11-07-22, 04:08 PM
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Maybe modern bars are too wide? I ride vintage, and I'm always amazed how wide modern bars have become. Just a thought.
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Old 11-07-22, 04:11 PM
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I find myself gripping near the center of the bars sometimes (on non-technical parts of a ride), which helps relieve some of the wrist issues. (By the way, I am not aware of having any wrist issues off of the bike, or on drop bars -- although I usually am on the hoods).
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Old 11-07-22, 09:53 PM
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If the drop bars work for you on the gravel bike you might want to give further consideration to the drop bar mountain bike. True, it is not the ideal solution, but it works pretty well.

I rode mountain bikes with flat bars for 30 years until I developed arthritis in the base of my thumbs which was excruciating, especially on steep rocky descents with lots of braking. I found that drop bars solved that problem because of the radically different hand positions. An old friend built this drop-bar specific mountain bike frame for me. Not the same as your wrist pain but the solution may be similar.



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Old 11-07-22, 10:12 PM
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Maybe look into Velo Orange Crazy Bars or Koga Denham bars and of course as always Ergon grips (GC1s for these bars) and for the extensions I like the ESI grips. That might help.

There are also a ton of different mountain bike handlebars out there with different levels of sweep and rise and length so hard to really help when we don't know your set up. Maybe something needs to be tweaked. I would certainly give Ergon grips a try if you are still wanting to try the stock set up. Those really help with wrist pain in my case.

If you are looking for drop-ish bars I would look at Surly Corner Bars, those will use the same controls but give a more drop bar feel.
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Old 11-08-22, 12:16 AM
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Whatbars.com to check out reach and sweep.

I don’t have neutral wrist on my trail bike when sitting but trail bikes are not made for just sitting. It’s a different fit than for bikepacking or commuting. If you are jumping anything or using a dropper you don’t want a Jones bar which is basically a beach cruiser bar. If you are crawling along all day or putting your head down into the wind to make speed it’s a different story

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Old 11-08-22, 12:21 AM
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The corner bars look interesting. I wonder why they chose steel? They seem to be unobtanium at the moment.
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Old 11-08-22, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Chinghis
Maybe modern bars are too wide? I ride vintage, and I'm always amazed how wide modern bars have become. Just a thought.

Amen ÖÖ I cut 1-1/2Ē off the ends of my bars and it made quite a difference.
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Old 11-08-22, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark
The corner bars look interesting. I wonder why they chose steel? They seem to be unobtanium at the moment.
They are surly I think it is the only material they know....LOL

A huge massive +80000000000000000000 for WhatBars.com and you could double or triple that next time they update with some new stuff.
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Old 11-08-22, 11:35 AM
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Maybe it is not the bars. Maybe it is your wrists that suck.

Have you tried different grips (like Ergon)?
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Old 11-08-22, 01:45 PM
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Yes, but it is definitely the angle that is problematic.
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Old 11-08-22, 02:57 PM
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Have you tried varying degrees of back sweep? Jones bar is pretty extreme in that regard.

Something like 15ish degrees?
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Old 11-08-22, 04:30 PM
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I started mtn biking when it was first becoming popular (yeah, I'm old!) Back then 600mm (26") bars were the usual. I still use a 26 with a slight rise and I think 9 degree sweep. Nothing says you have to use the newer, wider bars with less sweep. Many wide bars are pre marked for cutting. You just need to find what rise/sweep will work for you and cut a wide bar down a little at a time until you find the "sweet spot" that works for you. Because I've ridden the same type bar for decades, not sure if it's the best for me or I've just become used to it! Think I might like more sweep, but not riding lots of off road so the old bar is staying.
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Old 11-09-22, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta
Have you tried varying degrees of back sweep? Jones bar is pretty extreme in that regard.

Something like 15ish degrees?
+1 to that
My ride on the Jones bars was miserable, did not care for that much sweep. My wrists like the 30-35˚ mark or less is fine. I wanted to like the Jones because I like the idea of whacky and weird bars and I do like Jones as a company/designer but those were just too sweepy and my wrists said NO!
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Old 11-09-22, 04:09 PM
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Seen allot of young guys around here using BMX bars on thier mountain bikes. Sure enough some of these guys have spent many years on thier BMX bikes before growing up to a larger bike. I see it... Comfort and Familiarity rule...
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Old 11-09-22, 09:45 PM
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Just a thought, is your suspension working for you? A fork that requires a big hit before it starts working might/will cause more strain than something in good working order.

Aside from that

I donít know what youíre riding. Modern geometry full suspension? A Diamondback Ascent from 1992? Itís a world of difference.

I simply couldnít ride an old bike with new bars, even with a short stem. Those monsters performed best with a long stem and 600-650mm bars. Same is true for a modern long and slack ride with 725-800mm bars.

If youíre shoving a round peg in a square hole and wondering what the problem is, well, there you are.

Another thought. How are your wrists? Ever broken them, had repetitive strain, just started doing a bunch of floor push-ups, need carpal tunnel surgery? Are your hands weak for your size? Or strong? All this matters. The best fit in the world canít fix an underlying health problem. Something to think about.
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Old 11-10-22, 06:53 PM
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I like the Surly Jones bar clone. I have been through countless dirt drops and wide swept bars over the years. The best drop bar off road is the VO Rando bar in 48cm width.
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Old 11-11-22, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by c_m_shooter
I like the Surly Jones bar clone. I have been through countless dirt drops and wide swept bars over the years. The best drop bar off road is the VO Rando bar in 48cm width.
The Moloko bar is I think what you are referring to and I wouldn't so much call it a clone aside from the bags being compatible. The Jones has way more sweep back and no little nubbins at the front to hold on to. Similar sure but the Moloko is way better.
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Old 11-11-22, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Chinghis
Maybe modern bars are too wide? I ride vintage, and I'm always amazed how wide modern bars have become. Just a thought.
bars were too short at one time (especially 540-560 mm) and now are too wide ; some current bars are comically wide
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Old 11-11-22, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark
Really, I have tried, but I cannot seem to escape wrist pain with canonical flat bars. I've even tried Jones bars, and although they relieve some wrist pain, they seem to make up for it by introducing a bunch of other compromises. I've also tried a drop-bar mountain bike (with a frame purposefully designed for them), but it again trades one set of ergonomic problems for another.

I'm quite comfortable on my gravel bike, but there are a lot of trails here that are beyond my ability on a rigid bike, and short stem/long bars are used for a reason.

Has anyone who suffers from this problem come up with a solution?

Bar-ends seem like a possibility, but the only time I really started to make use of them was when I put them inside of where the brakes, shifters and grips go, so they look like little demented aero bars.

I live in Class 5A mountain bike territory, and I would like to be able to ride some challenging single-track but not have to choose between a clown-bike and orthopedic rehab.
how low or high are your bars - relative to seat height ?

maybe your bars are too low
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Old 11-11-22, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by obrentharris
If the drop bars work for you on the gravel bike you might want to give further consideration to the drop bar mountain bike. True, it is not the ideal solution, but it works pretty well.

Brent

back in the day I believe John Tomac rode drop bars off road for a short period - but can't recall details / outcome

might have been primarily because he was a long time road racer and more comfortable on drops in a road-bike like position

picture above

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Old 11-12-22, 12:25 AM
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Sorry, I got kind of behind on reading this thread.

Briefly: nothing is wrong with my wrists that I am aware of, in terms of medical issues or strength The closest bone I have broken is in my ankle.

I find if I am riding flat bars on anyone's mountain bike (mine, my adult kids, recent demos from Santa Cruz, etc), I have the same issue, so I think it is roughly bike-independent.

Right now I have a 2008 Trek Fuel EX 7 that mostly sits in the garage, unused. It has a relatively long stem and short bars, and I put bar-ends on them, internal to the brake levers, which offers a bit of relief.

I have a steel drop-bar steel mountain bike with front shocks and (alternatively) a rigid fork. I pilfered the drop bars from it for my touring bike, and at the moment it has Jones bars on it, but I think the geometry is wrong (Jones Bars assume a reach similar to flat-bar mountain bikes, whereas my drop bar mountain bike has a shorter reach). I've also tried Jones bars on the other bike, and while it is definitely an improvement, in retrospect I probably should have gone for something like the Whiskey Winston bars
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Old 11-12-22, 02:16 PM
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How about considering the type of grip as well? There is a huge variety of grips out there. Problem is finding the bar/grip combo which is closest to optimal.

For me, decades of riding give insight and intuition towards my solutions.

I like to to ride rigid bikes a lot on single track, and so the grip choice is paramount. The mushroom style grip is one of the most forgiving.

Ergo grips offer excellent relief, but the downside is that they are less easy to hold on to when things get really hectic. But if you don't push the envelope or ride technical trails, I'd say look into them.

There's nothing wrong with not riding like you stole it all the time.

Another thing to try is various grip thickness.

Also road bar tape actually can make a decent mountain bike grip believe it or not, and there are gel pads that can be placed under the tape as well.

There are even grips that have a small bit of suspension travel in them. I haven't tried them, but the concept has merit IMHO.
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Old 11-12-22, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by t2p
how low or high are your bars - relative to seat height ?

maybe your bars are too low
My thought as well. Too much weight on the hands. Raise the bar and I would actually suggest wider, maybe 750 or 800 mm. i would also experiment with the Ergon grips as somebody else recommended.
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Old 11-12-22, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B.
My thought as well. Too much weight on the hands. Raise the bar and I would actually suggest wider, maybe 750 or 800 mm. i would also experiment with the Ergon grips as somebody else recommended.
Ergon Grips, the very best there is, when you absolutely, positively have to grip every flat-bar in the room, accept no substitutes.
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