From style to fit to function, bikes tend to be very personal items and within that realm how a bike is set up is even more personal. There are seemingly endless possibilities for dialing in your handlebar, stem, grips, and brake and shifter lever placement. Over the years some product trends have become the standard (riser bars and shorter stems for instance) while others have fallen into the history books. Where do bar ends end up?
The rise of bar ends
Remember bar ends? Maybe that’s a loaded question if your handlebars still have the short extensions. For those less acquainted, handlebar bar ends were bolt-on extensions that mounted to your handlebars on the outside of the grips. Numerous companies made them out of every conceivable material: aluminum, titanium, even carbon. Most protruded only forward, but some added extension fore and aft of the bar.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t had bar ends since my first mountain bike back in the mid nineties
Bar ends were standard issue for mountain bikes throughout the eighties and early nineties, when 71-degree head angles were the norm, 640mm flat bars were mega wide and cantilever brakes were considered acceptable.
In the list of pros for bar ends is the argument that they give your hands another position and increase leverage when climbing by recruiting more muscle groups, primarily the triceps, shoulders, and latissimus dorsi in your back. Moving your hands in front of the bar also shifts your weight forward making climbing easier. Some riders feel having your hands parallel with the direction of travel is more ergonomic as well. Even Shimano embraced bar ends with an XTR remote shifter that allowed rear shifts while your hands wrapped the bar end.
The fall of bar ends
Then the late nineties hit. The internet was a real thing, cellphones became commonplace, and technology of every sort had endless dollars poured into it. It was also around the time that bike companies were seriously working on full suspension and riding that evolutionary tide came the swell of riser bars. With this, bar ends quickly disappeared from spec lists.
Sure, a rider could still slip a pair of bar ends onto a riser bar, but the singletrack collective deemed it goofy looking. Additionally, as bars inched wider the chances of hooking a bar end on a tree grew, and riders began appreciating being able to use the entire width of the bar and not having their hands corralled at the ends.
Plus, a different style of riding was quickly emerging and the terrain people tried to conquer grew more technical. The days of standing and hammering on the pedals (taken from roadies) was quickly falling by the wayside as mountain bikes (particularly full suspension) enabled riders to sit and spin up even challenging climbs.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t had bar ends since my first mountain bike back in the mid nineties. Even then I didn’t care for them as I recall a strong dislike for the way they crowded my hands. I also didn’t much care for moving my hands away from the brake and shifter controls. On the flip side though, as a mechanic I have installed hundreds of bar ends on everything from flat bar road bikes to mountain bikes to hybrids and high risers, so I understand people still find them useful.
So over to you…
What do you think about bar ends? Do you like the extra hand positions and climbing power or do you think your grips are the best and only place for your hands? Let us know in the comments below.