Sunday, December 9, 2012

Alt bars: They're the new black.

I'm told I need to talk more about gear around here.  Told that I spend too much time posting pretty pics and not nearly enough time geeking out on the equipment that I use when out playing.

So, uh, ok.

Today I'm gonna write a bit about handlebars, specifically the Answer 20/20's that I've been riding for about 3 months on my Mammoth, and the last month on my Snoots.

Also worth mentioning?  L has had them on her Mammoth for the last month+ also.

The above should tell you that we like them plenty.

I've tried many other 'alt' bars (Jones, Mary, Mungo, Black Sheep) in the past, even had several sets of custom ti Moots and Black Sheep bars made when none of the above scratched my itch.

I was *very* surprised when the Answer bars hit the market--this just seemed to be the domain of smaller boutique builders.  I saw immediately that the overall dimensions were very, very, very close to a few pairs of custom ti bars I'd had made and been riding the past 2+ years.  But the Answer bars were both lighter and less expensive, so I bought a pair to try out.

And shortly after I'd adapted to them, Herself got a pair too.

Overall, they are fantastic.  The 'neutral' feel of that 20* sweep just ticks all my boxes--comfy for hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.  The amount of abuse my body endured during my racing days is difficult to explain, but summed up succinctly by stating that I simply cannot ride "normal" flat or riser bars without significant discomfort--mostly hand soreness and numbness.

I expected that I might have trouble adapting to the 20/20's for full-on tech rides, and others have expressed a similar sentiment.  Happy to report no such difficulty--I am every bit as competent with them as without.

L seems to feel the same way.  Note that she rides with them in the 'drop' position.

I no longer notice a difference when switching back and forth between bikes with different bars.  In other words I can re-adapt to normal riser bars if needed (like on my DH bike) but greatly prefer the position of the 20/20's for longer days, bikepacking, etc...

Nice that they are so stinkin' light, too.

If Answer were to make a slightly wider set that happened to be DH/FR rated, but otherwise identical in rise/sweep, I'd have them on all of my bikes.  But that's a niche of a niche, and I'd be shocked to see it filled--ever.

Gripes?  I'd love to see them a titch wider--10 or even 20mm would be nice.

A small detail, but worth mentioning, is that you may have to swap stems to keep your overall position the same.  I was able to keep the same stem on one bike, but had to swap stems on another, to get the 20/20's where they needed to be.  Overall not a big deal--the gain in all-day comfort was well worth it.

Try them if you can.


P.S. Several of my riding partners have expressed instant disdain upon seeing these 'Mary Poppins' bars on my bikes.  Of these people, 3 out of 4 have gone out to buy themselves a set shortly after demoing mine.  The 4th is a dirtbag whom only gets 'new' bike parts if they are hand-me-downs.  Fat chance of that...