20/20 Vision? Answer Products 20/20 Alt Bar- by Grannygear and Jeff J
I remember back in the day when handlebars had a ton of back sweep in them. My first set of faux ‘Bullmoose’ bars were bent (or welded) back pretty far and if you looked around, that was more often the case then not. Our wrists have a natural bend to them that feels good with a swept back bar, but somewhere over time we got away from that and began to move from a 15+ degree sweep to 5* or 3*. I even remember a 0* sweep bar. It sucked. But the single speed movement has seemingly brought back an alternate bar shape(s) to the plethora of handlebars out there with a minimal rise and minimal sweep. The single speed guys seem to be more willing to experiment and the demands of single speed riding are a bit unique compared to the more ‘moto’ trail bike world. Bars got wider and bent into new (but not really that new) shapes again.
So here is an example of that ‘Alt’ bar shape done in carbon by the folks at Answer Products. Developed with the help of Evan Plews, single speed 6 hour cham-peen, the carbon Answer Products 20/20 bar is a 720mm wide bar that weighs 220g, has a 31.8m clamp section, 20mm of rise, no upsweep, and 20 degrees of back sweep. Now I have tried alt bars before and had mixed results. I really liked some things about them but overall it was not my niche and maybe I will re-visit that someday. However, JeffJ, our Clydesdale tester has been having some wrist issues lately and was keen to see if this was a partial answer to that. Here are his thoughts as he has been running them on the long term Giant Anthem X 29″er.
I recently got the chance to put some time in on the Answer Carbon 720 Enduro 20/20 handlebar. After having issues with some of the flat bars I have recently tried, and even most riser bars, I have been interested in trying something with more sweep than an average ‘riser bar’ offers. I have even resorted to calling flat bars with very little sweep ‘wrist-wreckers’ because of the pain I experienced while using them, and I was finding myself wrapping my thumbs over the top of the handlebar while grinding out long climbs. As for descending, I don’t have issues with a standard riser bar, but since I spend considerably more time climbing than I do descending, I was looking for some relief. On the other hand, I didn’t want much compromise in handling while descending either. I have heard the term ‘wheelbarrow’ and ‘alt bar’ used in the same sentence before, and was hoping to find some middle ground as I have spent enough time with wheelbarrows while in the construction trades earlier in life and didn’t want any such traits associated with a bike I am riding like a bat-out-of-you-know-where (at least in my mind). So, that is my dilemma; can I find a handlebar that doesn’t inflict discomfort, yet still be happy with the way the bike handles while descending?
To be fair, I certainly don’t think everyone is made the same, and therefore should use the same equipment. Being that we’re somewhat similar, but unique is why I like to see choices, and the 20/20 bar is there for those of us that want something different. I don’t really care for the concept of being different just to be different. I like ‘different’ if I don’t care for status quo, which is very much the case with me and current handlebar offerings, so to say I was anxious to try the 20/20 bar is pretty accurate.
There were a few things about the specs on the 20/20 bar that intrigued me. I like that it is 720mm wide because I prefer the ‘moto’ feel and ease of control that wider bars provide. I like that it the bends are configured so that you hands end up in the same place they are with your current stem, but are now at a much more comfortable (FOR ME) angle. And, I like that it has what is considered to be a ‘low rise’ to it. The fact that it is carbon is certainly a bonus, but the first three factors are what matter most to me about this bar.
The finish of the bar is smooth and unidirectional, with a textured area where the stem clamps onto the bar. The graphics are what they are, and I found them to be pretty neutral for my aesthetic sensibilities. There isn’t a ton of room for mounting a light clamp next to the stem since the bends need to occur sooner rather than later to fit them all in there. My Magicshine 1400 was still a little off to the right even after I moved as much as it’s mount allowed. My solution was to move the light out to the center of the next bend (about halfway between the stem and the outside of the bar). I used a couple winds of electrical tape under the mount to keep it from slipping, and I was more than good to go. After a bit of riding, I think I may prefer to have the light mounted where it is because I get no weird shadows from the cable housings like I used to get with the light mounted next to the stem. If you like (or need) your light mounted next to the stem for whatever reason, you may want to consider that.
Moving on to the mounting of the controls, there was still room to spare on the bar before the first bend after mounting the X0 10 speed Grip Shifters, brake levers, and Command Post remote lever.
All the above details now out of the way, it was time to see what was what when rubber meets trail. Here in SoCal, we usually climb first since we live in the valleys, and ride in the mountains and hills, so it didn’t take long for me to begin to appreciate the 20° sweep and the comfort it provided me. After more than a month of use, I still don’t find myself wrapping my thumbs over the bars while climbing like I used to, and my hands were indeed, right where they were previously minus the discomfort. My elbows tend to go where they go, which in my case is slightly out. I was wondering if these bars would give me the tendency to tuck them in more than usual, but (FOR ME) this was not the case.
Now that I was falling for the comfort the Carbon 720 Enduro 20/20 bar provided whilst ascending, it was to see what the other side of the coin would reveal on the way down. What would it be? ‘Wheelbarrows’ or ‘wide grins’? ‘Wreckers’ or ‘checkers’?
I generally believe that there are very few free lunches lying about for the taking, so I was going through all sorts of scenarios in my mind about what adjustments I may need to make to ride with the aggressiveness that I am accustomed to. What would I have to do to keep the front wheel weighted properly in turns? Would I have to make a conscious effort to keep my elbows out like I usually do? How would it feel to leave the ground while steering with what might feel like wheelbarrow handles?
Bike fit is about a complex series of compromises so that nothing hurts too much or at least too much sooner than everything else does. Luckily for me, I have yet to experience any flashbacks to grueling days filled with the manual transporting of ready-mixed concrete products, and my elbows seem to naturally go where they always have for me (up and out). The first ride at our local stomping grounds, I didn’t push the handling envelope too close to the edge like I normally might. I descended at about 85% of maximum effort and pushed it a little here and there to see if I was getting sufficient weight on the front wheel, and to see if it felt . . . . ‘weird’ . . . . in the air.
It did feel a little bit ‘different’ in both situations, but not at all unnatural to me. I didn’t find myself feeling odd or the need to really compensate for the different angles. By the time I took them for a second ride, I felt very comfortable riding near my descending limits like I usually do, and having no regrets for trying something considered by some to be an ‘alternative’ or ‘alt-bar’.
As a rider than was looking for an alternative to what I consider to be ‘wrist-wreckers’, I am giving the Answer Carbon 720 Enduro 20/20 bar two thumbs down, BUT in this case, thumbs is a good thing because down is where thumbs should be on a mountain bike. Thumbs up to my thumbs being down, and wrapped around the grips, with a smile on my face.
Note: Answer Products sent the 20/20 bar for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.