My bike’s handlebar is an Easton EA50 Monkeybar, which has a 1.5 inch rise and 9 degrees of sweep.
Coming from a recumbent, and with a history of Repetitive Strain Injury, hand comfort was a major concern with an upright bike. Going into this little experiment, I didn’t really know how my hands would respond. There was a distinct possibility that putting weight on my hands would cause my RSI symptoms to re-emerge, and I’d be unable to ride the bike at all, or would have to limit my rides to short distances.
Thankfully, that hasn’t proven to be the case. I’ve been able to ride pretty much as long as I’ve wanted, and the hands haven’t been a big issue.
However, they haven’t been perfect, either. I definitely experienced some numbness and discomfort, but changing hand positions frequently, as well as stretching, helped a lot.
However, at some point I added some Dimension long bar ends to give myself extra hand positions. This has worked out fairly well. At one point I mounted the bar ends “backwards” — pointing back towards me, and angling away from me. This was kind of nice, as it let me sit really upright, with very little pressure on my hands. However, this made the bike really wide, and looked pretty goofy.
I eventually switched the bar ends back to a more normal position, though I have them rotated somewhat further forward than is typical, nearly parallel to the ground. This allows me a sort of “drop” position, where I can lean farther forward, which is more aerodynamic, and it also feels like I can generate more power in this position. I typically use it on flats and when climbing long hills.
So, at this point, I’m fairly happy with my handlebar setup. The bar ends give me quite a few hand positions, and the leaning-forward position feels more efficient.
Still, I’m considering making some changes.
One, I’m considering using “ergo” grips. I have some on order from PricePoint (the Sette Ergo 2 Grips). I’m thinking that spreading the pressure points across more surface area would be better than the round grips I’m currently using. Plus, these are far cheaper than the name-brand “Ergon” grips, and I’m a sucker for a deal. However, I don’t know how well these will work with the bar ends, or if they’ll even work at all. I’m a bit dubious, but time will tell…
Two, I’m thinking about some alternate handlebars. The Origin8 “Space Bar” looks promising. I think the more swept-back bar would make for more natural hand positions, and as I understand it, the bar should work with my existing controls. Don’t know how it’d play with the bar-ends, though.
The Origin8 “Gary Bar” is another possibility. This actually is a drop bar, but with the drops “spread out” rather than completely vertical. Looks kinds weird, but has garnered decent reviews. I think I’d have to change my shifting components, though, which I’m loathe to do.
Another intriguing design is the Titec H-Bar. This funky-looking bar offers both sweep and bar-end-like extensions on the front, proving lots of hand positions. It’s a little more expensive than the other two options, and I’m not sure how my controls would mount.
For now, I’m probably going to stick with what I have, but I find the alternate bars rather compelling, so may have to give them a try someday, just to find out what they’re all about…