Gettin’ Groovy, Luv: Experiments in Alternate Handlebars

Often I wonder how we have come to certain standards on bicycles. I will read about why this or that happened over time such as wheel size standards or fork offset or what have you. Often the reasons for things being the way they are are kinda’ funny. A lot of the time it just worked out that way or was convenient or expedient or a roll of the dice, but here it is, 100 years later and voila, the veritable ‘way it is’.

Take handlebars for instance. When did someone decide that the modern standard for mountain bike handlebars was a certain rise or bend or width, something that has only recently begun to change? Sure there have been cruiser bars and other things like commuter bikes, hybrids, etc, but the majority of real mountain bikes have come with a 3 to 6 degree sweep, maybe more, and 0 rise for years. Basically the typical XC bar that we have all owned. Riser bars are kinda new on the scene, but even so, they don’t differ too much other than the 3/4″ to 1.5″ rise in the shape of the bar. Sure, 31.8mm oversize bars are cool and new, but they still mimic the shape and sweep of the predecessors.

So what? Well I will tell ya what. There is a lot of stress and strain placed on the arms, wrists, and hands of an off road cyclist. We can strengthen them and we can adapt to the current norm of a mild sweep handlebar, but have you ever heard of ergonomics?

From Websters online dictionary.

Main Entry:
er·go·nom·ics
Pronunciation:
\ˌər-gə-ˈnä-miks\
Function:
noun plural but singular or plural in construction
Etymology:
erg- + -nomics (as in economics)
Date:
1949

1 : an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.

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Ergonomics produces things like the ergonomic keyboard, designed to alleviate strain on the wrists, etc. It also gave us the fabulous option of using saddles with the center relief/ groove, like the BG saddles for Specialized, the Koobi, etc, all designed to keep blood flowing to parts of our bodies that we want to remain happy. Are they for everyone? No, but options are a good thing.

Back to the handlebars for a minute, we see that, looking back in time, handlebars were often much different on the early bicycles of our grandfathers and great grandfathers. Don’t these pics make you want one of these babies? C’mon, admit it.

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I remember having some old knock off Ritchey Bull Moose bars on my first bike and they had a very aggressive sweep back to the hands. I liked those bars, but they were not very adjustable, being basically welded to the stem in one position. What did they know that we have forgotten? Or, did we finally take it to the final refining of the breed, the pure essence of form and function with the typical XC mountain bike handlebar of today? Is this the way it should always have been? Perhaps we got mistaken for motorcycles instead of bicycles? Maybe it came from this influence in the next pic?

800px-john_tomac_1995

The Tomes, muddy and pinnin’ it!

Now Tomac can go fast on pretty much anything. Heck he was winning races on Farmer John tires, maybe the worst handling tire of all time.

But who says my hands/wrists are happy at 6 degrees of bend? Why is that the gold standard that all riders need to comform to?

No good reason, at least, not anymore. Enter the alternate bend handlebar.

Mary Bars. FU and FU 2 bars. Salsa Pro Motos. Jones bars. H bars, J bars, Z bars, Q bars, what have you bars. What they all have in common is a different take on what a handlebar for a mountain bike can look like. Even drop bars are making a comeback for off road use although they never really left altogether. Much of this is being driven by folks on singlespeeds, 29ers, etc. If you are open minded about gears, big wheels, and other departures from the norm, you are more likely to be ready for other things as well.

mary Look familiar? Compare them to the handlebars on the classic bikes from the turn of the century. The Mary bars in this pic on the left are pretty ‘old school’ looking, are they not?

Lately I found myself riding along wanting to do an odd thing: I wanted to turn my wrists inward, rotating my hands on the grips in a position that I could not accomplish on the Easton Monkeylite XC bars I had on both bikes. I never had felt this way before. I never had issues with numbness in the fingers, wrist pain, etc that drives many riders to look at handlebar options. But there I was, wanting to bend those bars to a shape they were not interested in being bent to.

So, I began looking at options. I rode some FU Bars, and although they were very comfy, they felt too narrow for me. The Mary Bars sweep back towards you more than they sweep away, so the end result is the need for a longer stem, something I did not want to do. Then, I found these: The Groovy Luv Handles.

groovy-1 From the website at Groovy Cycles,words by Rody : “I’ve been searching for just the right bar to decrease the pain in my wrist and elbows after an intense ride. The current crop of bars like the Mary and Jones just did not seem to do it for me…too much sweep, not enough rise, etc..

So, working with my mentor, Bill Grove (a wealth of metal fatigue engineering knowledge) and an exercise physiologist, I fabbed up some for myself and the test team to try out. Now we’ve got them dialed and they are available for you, too.

Built of 4130 aircraft steel, with a gentle 4 degree rise and a 21.5 degree back sweep, these bars meet the natural anatomic position of your hands to allow for all day comfort and control. The design allows you to use your current stem and the grip section is long enough to mate with any combination of shifters and brake levers…just slide them on, mark the excess and cut off the material you don’t need.”

Here are some specs for you:

Width – 26.0″ from the tip of the grip to the opposite point
Rise – 4 degrees or 1.0″
Sweep – 21.5 degree
Clamp diameter – 25.4 (custom shims for 31.8 available)
Weight – 315 grams uncut

So, I thought I would give them a try on the SS DiSSent project and see if they are really the answer to what I was looking for. I ordered a set of the steel (he also makes them in Ti), wide at 28 inches and powdercoated black. When I got them it was obvious they are going to be a bit of a weight hit over the carbon bars on there now. But, I am willing to accept that if it feels great.

I measured the reach and height of the existing bars for comparison and removed the carbon bars from the DiSSent. Wow, those are light! Weighing them, I had 412 grams for the Luv Handles and 191 grams for the carbon XC bars. Oh well. I also anticipated losing some shock absorbtion by running the steel Luv Handles. Rody at Groovy Cycles suggests that riders who are running with a rigid fork pop for the Ti bar. The cost is much higher, but they flex quite a bit more.

You can see from the pic that I should end up approx where the 8 degree sweep carbon bar placed the grips as far a reach and rise, but the angle/sweep is drastically different. Also, I used the shims that Groovy Cycles sells since the Luv Handle  is only made in 25.4 diameter and I had all 31.8mm stems.

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Post-installation I put the measuring tape to work and found them to be juuust about 1/4″ further away from the saddle and at nearly the same height from the ground. Good enough. I set them to where the bar was relatively flat as far as rotation up or down.

Riding around the street it was a dramatic change. The increased sweep was immediately comfortable. They felt wide but when I turned sharply, I was able to make the turn with much less strain on my arms, like I was not reaching as far. I think the bend at the wrists allowed my hands to more easily follow the arc of the end of the handlebar as it turned. Nice.

I did change seatposts to get 1/2″ closer to the bars, but I was going to do that with the XC bars as well. Off to the trail.

I have about 3 good rides on the DiSSent now with the bars in place. So far, my thoughts are:

–    They are stiff little beggars. They feel absolutely stout and safe when you are honkin’ on ’em, but they do transfer a lot of shock up into your bod. They ain’t carbon. Solution for you rigid fork riders out there? Pony up for the Ti version.

–    The angle feels absolutely spot-on to me so far. I let another very experienced rider try them and he said the same thing. It just feels right, right away.

–    I love the width, although they feel somewhat narrower to me, a lot of that is the angle of the hand position more than actual end to end width. I like wide bars and I am happy, but Rody makes them narrower and to order as well.

–    They feel great when climbing out of the saddle on the SS. Like the days of bar-ends, it just works here, no doubt. They are excellent in a singlespeed application and they do allow you to move your weight off of the bars, kinda settle back and let the bike float over things a bit.

dscn4521csdscn4519-cs

So now, I thought I would move them to the Lenz and see how I felt about them on a geared bike where standing and leverage are not as much a part of the game, but the speeds go up and the demands for handling, jumping, increase.  However, I found that I had to re-run both shifter cables as the angle of the bars did not agree with the housing length.  With a big ride set for the next day, I swapped back, but not before carefully putting around in the street to get a feel for it, and as before, it felt immediately comfortable.  I will update my feelings later on as I fit them to the Lenz at some point, but for now, I will wrap this up with a very positive impression and some final thoughts:

–    The bars had a rather thick powder coating on them, quite nice after looking at all those bland carbon bars.  However, it made for a tough go, sliding on the brake levers and other controls.  I was able to open the brake levers very slightly with a screwdriver and that worked, but the Gripshifts were a real struggle.  Ouch.  The nice, shiny powder coat is not as nice looking now.

–    They spoil ya.  Swapping back to a bike without the bars felt very odd for quite a while, then I got back in the straighter bar groove.  That may mean a bit of spending to get all bikes equipped with the Luv Handles.

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Groovy Cycleworks:  http://groovycycleworks.com/default.aspx

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4 Responses to “Gettin’ Groovy, Luv: Experiments in Alternate Handlebars”

  1. AC Says:

    I run Mary’s on my Redline Monocog 29er and my Surly Big Dummy and I love them, but I wish they were flat, a bit wider and had more of a straight section at the stem for lights and other stuff. I run a Niner Flat Top 9 Bar with stubby bar-ends on my SS (race/axc) 29er and it’s the bomb, for climbing and going fast.

    I’m actually in the process of making my own custom bar modeled after the Mary with the tweaks mentioned above. I wish I had all the money back I’ve spent over the years on different bars. That would pay for my bender…

  2. Dave Byers Says:

    GG, This past winter I bought a set of Ti bars for my snowbike that look to be similar to the Groovy Luv Handles (quite possibly the best name ever for a bike component): http://speedwaycyclesak.com/blog/?p=46
    I like them for the snow bike but I don’t know if I could bomb singletrack on them. 🙂

  3. chris_geotec Says:

    Having the Jones H-bar, the On-One Mary-bar and the Groovy LUV-bar mayself (and ridden all of them intensively) I can only salute all those disigning the various designs. They are not for everyone, since each desing has drawbacks in shifter compatibility or mounting options, but for me they have been a hige step towards better biking.
    I agree that the LUV, due to its intermediate sweep is easiest to get used too. When shifting hand positions within the bar´s range it affects least the bike´s handling. While the larger sweep bars have a much larger range of fore and aft movement, for many the LUV will suffice. Also, as stated, the LUV surely is the stiffest of them all.
    And don´t you just love that name?!

    All in all thanks to grannygear for this informative and great reading article. Had you not done it – I just might have.

  4. Quinn Says:

    Last year when I was building up my latest do-everything rig, I originally had the EC-70 Mokeylite bar on it, figuring the carbon would do enough for my left arm that has been put through a lot of serious wrecks.
    Well it wasnt’, and knowing I didn’t want a bar as drastic as the Mary I went with th 15° NU bar, and love it!

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