Written by Troy Nye Wednesday, 28 February 2007 00:00
Tester: Troy Nye, Team Bikeman.com Rider, Certified Bikeman Product Tester
Conditions: 24 hours of Old Pueblo.
Review: I like the strange stuff. There is a certain immeasurable coolness factor that goes along with the strange stuff. I like Bobby Julich’s elliptical TT cranks. I dig the old slingshot frames and all the new 29 x 26 mountain bike frames cropping up this year are driving me insane. So, you can imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to test Titec’s new, Jeff Jones inspired and Jeff Jones licensed H-bar.
To be fair I came into this knowing plenty about the original Jones offering and had probably read every review out there. I even have a few singlespeed buddies who have been using H-bars for better than a year, so I had asked all the questions and gotten loads of opinions months before my test bar even arrived. What I had never done however, was mount this puppy up, put it to the test and form my own opinion.
Frighteningly, the H-bar experiment nearly died before it ever got off the ground. This was more the fault of my Juicy brakes than it was of the H-bar and on a permanent build it would obviously not be a problem at all as I would have simply sprung for some new brake hose. See the problem is that the brakes are mounted on the bar in such a way that the brake lines project forward quite drastically, requiring at least 5 or 6 more inches of brake line (especially for the rear brake) than a normal handlebar mount would require. To remedy this, I was forced to go with a slightly shorter stem than I intended (Titec/Jones recommend using a slightly longer stem), and even then, my uncut, factory length, rear brake line was taxed pretty badly. Again to be fair, I know that there are other brakes out there that may fit better – I doubt any work better, but some may fit better.
The main test was set to take place at the 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo near Tucson, AZ. I had signed up for a 4 person singlespeed team, but desperately wanted to log a few miles on the bar before diving headfirst into a race. Wintertime in my home town of Kaysville, Utah usually provides for some pretty fair riding on frozen fire roads and this year was no exception, in fact it was probably better than most years; right up until the time my bar arrived, that is. Suddenly the temperatures became very mild and we even got a little rain. My frozen fire road playground was now pretty much soup. Long story short, my first test ride was to be a pre-ride of the race course the day before the race.
Now, I had read all the hoopla about how comfy and natural feeling this design was but I was skeptical – big time. How could such a radical design feel “normal”? Impossible, right? I don’t mind admitting that I was so skeptical, in fact, that I brought my old handlebar and stem with me to Arizona half expecting to make the swap at some point during the race. Nothing doing! Unbelievable! This is, bar none, (no pun intended) the most comfortable handlebar I have ever experienced. I know; I couldn’t believe it either.
Besides the obvious comfort upgrade, the Titec H-bar has plenty of upside. Every other user I had asked, and many of the reviews I had read stated the same thing; that the myriad of hand positions is really somewhat of a gimmicky selling point and that, in reality, they pretty much never, ever remove their hands from the super-comfy 45 degree grips. My experience was a bit different. Perhaps on any other day, at any other race, I might have fallen in line with the other reviewers. But on this day, with long sections of the Old Pueblo racecourse being smooth, slightly uphill and dead-on into a 20 mph headwind, the pseudo time trial position offered by using the forward, more centered hand position was just the ticket. This allowed me to very comfortably decrease my exposure to the wind and motor past a ton of folks who seemed to be doing their best sail boat impressions. It was a noticeable difference and a huge advantage, no question.
Weight – While the Titec version (390g) is actually reasonably and surprisingly close to the weight of the much more expensive titanium Jones original (350g), it is more than double that of my old Carbon riser and around three times as heavy as many carbon flat bars. Apples and Oranges? Probably. 25.4mm clamp diameter – While I did not experience any slippage personally, I’d have to say I would have felt much more comfortable with a 31.8mm clamp, especially with the added pressures applied by a Clydesdale singlespeeder torquing up a steep climb, and let’s face it, 90% of the users will be singlespeeders and a few of them are bound to be Clydesdales like myself. Geared bike fit– While I cannot speak from experience, it is clear that there are few options for folks who want to use the H-bar on a geared bike. There simply is not a good spot to mount the shifter. Integrated shifters are about the only option and even then I can’t help but imagine it would still be somewhat ergonomically challenging.
All in all this bar certainly lives up to the hype. It’s an outstanding singlespeed bar, especially for non-racing applications when weight is not an issue. Additionally, at a whopping $180 less and mere 50g more, it is the clear choice when choosing between it and the Jones original. One thing is for certain; with either bar the coolness factor way is off the charts!
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