Mention the name Jeff Jones in a bike forum discussion and you are sure to provoke a reaction. For a bearded fellow living with his family out in the woods in Oregon who designs and builds some truly striking steel and titanium frames, he doesn’t half manage to split opinion. It’s a curious thing that a design such as his trademark spaceframe can engender everything from positively gushing levels of enthusiasm to wholesale derision and complaints of it ‘just looking wrong!’. Never let the experience of actually riding one get in the way of forming an opinion! At the end of the day, though, it’s just another interesting take on bike design as far as I am concerned.
Taking delivery of a set of his 710mm Aluminium (that’s ALUMINIUM! Not Aloominum or however else our American brethren pronounce it…wrongly, of course!) H Bars in a rather natty anodised black finish, I was impressed by their relative lack of weight compared to what I was expecting. The pronounced back sweep looked weird to my lo-rise eyes but having previously ridden a set, albeit briefly, my initial scepticism had mellowed a little.
Jeff Jones claims that this gives a more comfortable riding position that more naturally makes use of your arm and back muscles
The theory behind the bar is fairly simple. With your hands placed at the rear of the bar and at their widest point, you should be able to more easily adopt a weight back position not dissimilar to riding a wide bar coupled with a short stem that is the current flavour of the month for cockpit set up. For climbing, with your elbows pulled back further than with a regular set up, Jeff Jones claims that this gives a more comfortable riding position that more naturally makes use of your arm and back muscles. Further benefits claimed are that if you tend to push a high gear, the bar position enables you to pull against them more easily and thus push down harder on the pedals. On switchbacks, your arms and wrists aren’t taken as close to their flexible limit. Phew! Finally, with multiple positions from wide and back to narrow and tight on the front bar, you’re not confined to one position. ‘Blimey, where do I sign up?’ I thought to myself when I read the claimed benefits on the Jeff Jones website. More pertinently, it made me wonder why the mountain biking community hadn’t embraced them en masse? Only one way to find out.
I really appreciated the stability and control on offer from the bars when descending the likes of Gypsy Glen loaded up and riding at speed
Set up was a snap. Hey, they’re handlebars, it isn’t rocket science! After a bit of faffage, I angled them slightly down as I found this to be the most comfortable position. Jeff Jones recommends a long handlebar grip with the brakes placed further inboard than I’m used to but it just didn’t feel right from the get go so I opted for regular length grips. The pronounced rear sweep felt a bit odd at first, not bad, just odd. Not one for doing things by halves, I settled on a technical rock fest of a coastal ride for my first time out. Even without dropping the saddle, I found that I could easily get my weight right back in that old school style of the early nineties when riding steep drop downs. Endo hops felt somewhat unnatural but with a bit of perseverance they are now second nature again. For steep climbs, having my arms down low with my elbows dropped proved remarkably effective for getting up and over obstacles. Popping a wheelie was particularly easy. On subsequent rides, my initial favourable impressions have been consolidated. Riding up Keppel Cove beneath Helvellyn, I didn’t find myself doing that awkward, nose of the saddle hunch to retain traction on the steeper switchbacked sections. From a breathing perspective, it felt like my lungs were more opened up on the climbs making things seem just that little bit easier.
An unexpected bonus was that when riding up long ascents, I could ride with my hands right next to the stem, road bike style. Also, when staring into the teeth of a headwind, I found that I could place my hands on the front bar and drop into a comfortable aero tuck position; the bar tape I had wrapped round the bars giving both comfort and grip.
For bikepacking, there is an awful lot of space upon which to hang a harness and dry bag while you could probably disprove a key tenet of quantum mechanics and illuminate a black hole if you filled the front bar with lights! Loaded up, the bars felt pleasingly stable even when riding over rough terrain. Using them for the Capital Trail, I really appreciated the stability and control on offer from the bars when descending the likes of Gypsy Glen loaded up and riding at speed.
So what do I reckon to these curiously shaped bars? Bloody marvellous, truth be told. I was prepared to hate them but the more I ride them, the more I have come to appreciate that the benefits claimed for them are on the money. I’ve not tried them on my full suspension bike thus cannot comment on how they fare with a suspension fork. However for rigid bike riders, bikepackers, fat bikers, commuters, cross riders looking to take a different path or even riders with back issues, I suspect that they will really come to appreciate the benefits they offer. Look weird, work brilliantly. Job done.
|Tested:||by Sanny for 6 months|