Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Jones Cut H-Bar

While I've always been intrigued by the Jeff Jones H-Bar, I never intended to try it out. I was perfectly happy with the stock Salsa Bell Lap bar that came on my Cross Check. However, a recent back injury, along with some bicycle touring planned for the spring, prompted me to do a bar swap. I needed something that would give me a more upright position, and would also provide multiple hand positions for extended riding. There aren't too many handlebars that meet this criteria, but the Jones bar seemed like a good solution.

jones cut h bar

Jeff Jones is an independent bicycle designer based in Oregon. He is known for his unique, unorthodox approach. The original H-Bar made a bit of a splash, and was licensed by Titec for a while. Titec stopped manufacturing their version of the H-Bar, however, so a Jones original was my only option. This was ok by me. I like supporting small, independent businesses when I can. When I visited the Jones website, I learned he had redesigned his H-Bar, and it now comes in two versions: The Loop H-Bar and the Cut H-Bar. Each design is offered in aluminum or titanium. I opted for the more compact Cut H-Bar in aluminum. Since Jones bars are manufactured in limited quantities, there was no guarantee that my bar of choice would be in stock. The bike gods were smiling on me that day, however, so I placed my order.

The first thing that struck me was the quick and friendly response I received to my inquiry. Even though I was ordering just one handlebar, I was treated like a valued customer. It's really nice to get that personal touch that comes from a small business. The bar was delivered in just a few days, and included a handwritten note of thanks. Nice.

I was eager to get this bar on my bike as soon as possible, but there were other parts I needed to get. The first thing I had to do was shop for a new stem. The Cut H-Bar uses a 31.8 clamp diameter, which was incompatible with my 26.0mm stem. So, I headed over to my local Re-Cyclery, and dug through their collection of stems to find the right one. I settled on a 105mm stem, which was about 15mm shorter than the one I had been using before. Next, I had to modify my shifters and levers. A set of Paul Thumbies allowed me to use my existing DuraAce bar end shifters. Then I thought about my brakes. I took the opportunity to swap out the stock Tekro canti brakes for some Deore V-Brakes, which I mated to some XT levers. I got some classic Ritchey grips to complete the build.

Once I put everything together, I eagerly took the bike out for a test ride. What a revelation. It felt like I was riding a different bike, for the better. I felt great comfort and control, and the different hand positions were really nice. I used the grips for the most part, as the hand position there felt very comfortable and natural. The forward bars stretched my back out nicely, which will certainly be welcome on longer rides. My hands occasionally migrated to the middle of the bar during long climbs. The general feel of the H-Bar on my Cross Check was reminiscent of a classic steel mountain bike, and during my inaugural run through the neighborhood, I was already thinking about finding some dirt. There too, the bar gave me great confidence and control due to the wider spread and more upright position. Lastly, when I stood on my pedals to grind up a steep hill, the bar again provided excellent control, definitely more so than the drop bars did.

There is a downside to these bars. Using separate shifters and brake levers necessitates mounting one or both on the forward part of the bar. While I was able to fit the brake levers just in front of the grips, the shifters had to go further forward. This makes shifting a bit awkward, but for me, the benefits of the bar outweigh this minor inconvenience. For those who might not be so accepting of this, the Loop H-Bar offers much more room for mounting components and accessories.

surly cross check h bar

2 comments:

  1. I'm afraid (but not regretful) that I copied you, and am running Cut H-bars and Little Big Bens on my singlespeed Cross-Check. Excellent! I love them both.

    Thanks for the write-up, and safe riding!

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    1. Hey, that's great. I too love the Little Bens and it seems like the cut H-Bar would be great on a singlespeed. Enjoy that bike.

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