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  1. #1
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    New mountain bikes are set up really strange to me...

    I have an Ellsworth FS/2XC from the early 90s. Before he made a bike called the "Truth." I'm a roadie so it's set up like my road bike. I'm nicely stretched out with fairly narrow bars and bar ends. I've gotten back in shape via my road bike this summer and plan to ride trails again this fall and winter--but here is the issue...

    I have a fiancÚ who has never ridden a mountain bike but who got into road cycling the summer to discover that she has a beautiful pedal stroke. She spins like a racer but has fairly rudimentary handling skills. To that end, I got her a used Ellsworth Truth 26" wheels in small (she is 5'5") from 2003 and want to set it up for her so she can begin learning.

    It came with riser bars... What the heck are those for? They are way too wide in my eyes, and don't have bar ends... Why on earth not?

    It doesn't have a crank on it and I am pretty sure I want to put her on 170s (her inseam is 30.5" or 77.4cm). I ride 175s (with about a 3 inch longer inseam) on my MTB bike so that seems just too long for her.

    So I guess I have two questions.

    1. Why riser bars without bar ends? That seems to limit the rider to hand position and leverage.

    2. Do you agree that she should be on 170 cranks? I guess I should mention that her road bike has 170s (and I would have installed 167.5s if I had had them).

    Your thoughts? I'd be most appreciative!

  2. #2
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    I think the answer to your first question is that recent MTB's have become lower and slacker to optimize the geometry for speed downhill (not that they are bad climbers). As this has happened the stems have gotten shorter and the bars wider in to position the rider further back but keep the same feel for steering. Wider bars are less conducive to bar ends as hitting trees on narrow single track becomes and issue. Also hand position isn't as much of an issue in MTB. I never even think about it while on the trail, though it is something I am always playing with on the road. That being said, you can find narrower bars and bar ends without much travel.

    I would keep the cranks the same length between the two. I have a 31" inseam and have used both 170 and 175 without being able to tell much difference between the two. Though I will say I had fewer pedal strikes with the 170s.

  3. #3
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    The wider bars open up your chest area more and stretch your hands/arms out in a way similar to bar-ends, so bar-ends become redundant. They do this while at the same time giving you more leverage for steering and pedaling efforts, making it less likely that the front wheel doesn't end up somewhere you don't want it to go. As the bars get wider, the stem needs to be shorter, otherwise it ends up goofy and your body becomes way too stretched out. A side-benefit is your body is not so far forward so the probability of endoing over the front wheel is lower. The old idea that he bars should be as wide as your shoulders is complete BS. Now you can ride with the benefit of bar-ends with greater steering/handling ability. You won't tag trees because if your hands are on the grips, your mind will know where the hands are.

    Be careful of those 2003 truths, they had a tendency to crack at the bottom of the seat tube shock mount gusset.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  4. #4
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    I put bar ends on one of my bikes for a little while. Only used them 3-4 times over a couple months, and only on steep uphills just to give me more leverage. Don't think they really helped that much for leverage either. End of the day, I caught more trees/bushes with the bar ends than I used them. Off that bike now, although I have them on a hybrid bike just so I can have a few more hand positions after mile 20.

  5. #5
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    Hmm... Good replies! I never thought about catching the ends on trees... That's never happened to me but perhaps that's a function of the trails I've been on... and the only real technical one has been the Potawatomi here in Michigan.

    2003 Truths cracking... I'll look and watch closely. Really thanks for the head's up.

    It seems to me that the more upright positioning would be good for downhills, but by that measure worse for uphill climbs, which require getting weight forward and low, at least in my experience. Going fast downhill has never been an interest of mine. Climbing without a dab has been a passion. So, maybe it's rider style and trail interest that is dictating this (to me) odd positioning. It would seem physics are physics when it comes to climbing. Yes?

  6. #6
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    And some folks like a wider riser bar and bar ends with ergonomic grips such as the Ergon varieties. I use 30"-31" risers with bar ends and shorter stems on my single speed and 1x9 racing hard tail for the leverage, especially when mashing a hill. Again, great for varying hand position on longer stretches. The short stem, the more upright seating combined with the bar ends makes a steep bike feel stable both climbing and on descents.
    "I love the bike. It's my meditation. I think I'm bike-sexual." -Robin Williams

  7. #7
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    Should I stick with 9 speed cranks?

    Oh, a related question on the crank issue. This is a 3x9 speed drive train. Finding a good 9 speed crank has been a little difficult. Nice 10 speed cranks all over the place. I want something light... Can I go with a 10 speed crank and have it shift well? I do NOT want my fiancÚ to have shifting issues.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by thegreatdelcamo View Post
    I have an Ellsworth FS/2XC from the early 90s. Before he made a bike called the "Truth." I'm a roadie so it's set up like my road bike. I'm nicely stretched out with fairly narrow bars and bar ends. I've gotten back in shape via my road bike this summer and plan to ride trails again this fall and winter--but here is the issue...

    I have a fiancÚ who has never ridden a mountain bike but who got into road cycling the summer to discover that she has a beautiful pedal stroke. She spins like a racer but has fairly rudimentary handling skills. To that end, I got her a used Ellsworth Truth 26" wheels in small (she is 5'5") from 2003 and want to set it up for her so she can begin learning.

    It came with riser bars... What the heck are those for? They are way too wide in my eyes, and don't have bar ends... Why on earth not?

    It doesn't have a crank on it and I am pretty sure I want to put her on 170s (her inseam is 30.5" or 77.4cm). I ride 175s (with about a 3 inch longer inseam) on my MTB bike so that seems just too long for her.

    So I guess I have two questions.

    1. Why riser bars without bar ends? That seems to limit the rider to hand position and leverage.

    2. Do you agree that she should be on 170 cranks? I guess I should mention that her road bike has 170s (and I would have installed 167.5s if I had had them).

    Your thoughts? I'd be most appreciative!
    170 crank should be fine at her height. Wider bars/no bar ends. This is the current "thing" and honestly after riding in bikes from the early '90s with the brakes nearly touching b/c the bars were so narrow..this is a much welcomed change. You get more leverage, better breathing, and generally can the muscle the bike around better. The downside is an occasional tree-hit where I am (its tight in spots..I use a 720mm bar). The bar ends are pretty useless to me now (I used them religiously back then) with the bars being so wide.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by thegreatdelcamo View Post

    It seems to me that the more upright positioning would be good for downhills, but by that measure worse for uphill climbs, which require getting weight forward and low, at least in my experience. Going fast downhill has never been an interest of mine. Climbing without a dab has been a passion. So, maybe it's rider style and trail interest that is dictating this (to me) odd positioning. It would seem physics are physics when it comes to climbing. Yes?
    Steep climbing is about where your weight is, not where your grips are. Just weight the front end. My friends and I do this easily with 35-50mm stems and 750+mm bars and clean some very steep techy climbs. We can also go down in control, safely, and have fun doing it. Descending at speed is not your thing? I think that your bike setup is holding you back in this reguard. Road bike setup is for road bikes, and mountain bike setup is or mountain bikes. Mountain bikes have been evolving at a fast pace since their inception.
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  10. #10
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    Re: New mountain bikes are set up really strange to me...

    Quote Originally Posted by thegreatdelcamo View Post
    Hmm... Good replies! I never thought about catching the ends on trees... That's never happened to me but perhaps that's a function of the trails I've been on... and the only real technical one has been the Potawatomi here in Michigan.

    2003 Truths cracking... I'll look and watch closely. Really thanks for the head's up.

    It seems to me that the more upright positioning would be good for downhills, but by that measure worse for uphill climbs, which require getting weight forward and low, at least in my experience. Going fast downhill has never been an interest of mine. Climbing without a dab has been a passion. So, maybe it's rider style and trail interest that is dictating this (to me) odd positioning. It would seem physics are physics when it comes to climbing. Yes?
    Yeah, the poto is not exactly a narrow trail either. It's pretty wide. Nothing like Hickory Glen or Maybury.

    I still see a few bar end guys out, but not many.

    Join us on mmba.org for more relevant info on biking in Michigan.

    You'll find trail location, maps, trail conditions and best gear for the local trails.

    Also in Michigan as you know we don't have much tech and not really any downhill compared to out west. Lots of people still rockin' the old school xc bike setup. Slack bikes here are not the best choice for the mild terrain.
    Have fun.

  11. #11
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    Hmm... I'm listening...

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by thickfog View Post
    Yeah, the poto is not exactly a narrow trail either. It's pretty wide. Nothing like Hickory Glen or Maybury.

    I still see a few bar end guys out, but not many.

    Join us on mmba.org for more relevant info on biking in Michigan.

    You'll find trail location, maps, trail conditions and best gear for the local trails.

    Also in Michigan as you know we don't have much tech and not really any downhill compared to out west. Lots of people still rockin' the old school xc bike setup. Slack bikes here are not the best choice for the mild terrain.
    Have fun.
    I was wondering if the type of riding I've done is influencing my understanding of what works best... Thanks for the info! I'll check it out!

  13. #13
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    Great Explanation! One thing to note though, bar width might matter for tagging trees. Depends on where you ride. There are trails here that my 780mm bars won't fit through two trees on either side of the trail. Even without that one spot, many trees are close enough in that to carry the section with speed, brushing with the bars is very possible even when you are on the widest line possible. I've brushed enough to wear out my bar end caps. No serious crashes because of it, but does make the heart go pitter-patter. Cut the bars down to 754.6 to see if that helps. So bars can be too wide.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    The wider bars open up your chest area more and stretch your hands/arms out in a way similar to bar-ends, so bar-ends become redundant. They do this while at the same time giving you more leverage for steering and pedaling efforts, making it less likely that the front wheel doesn't end up somewhere you don't want it to go. As the bars get wider, the stem needs to be shorter, otherwise it ends up goofy and your body becomes way too stretched out. A side-benefit is your body is not so far forward so the probability of endoing over the front wheel is lower. The old idea that he bars should be as wide as your shoulders is complete BS. Now you can ride with the benefit of bar-ends with greater steering/handling ability. You won't tag trees because if your hands are on the grips, your mind will know where the hands are.

    Be careful of those 2003 truths, they had a tendency to crack at the bottom of the seat tube shock mount gusset.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by thegreatdelcamo View Post
    It seems to me that the more upright positioning would be good for downhills, but by that measure worse for uphill climbs, which require getting weight forward and low, at least in my experience. Going fast downhill has never been an interest of mine. Climbing without a dab has been a passion. So, maybe it's rider style and trail interest that is dictating this (to me) odd positioning. It would seem physics are physics when it comes to climbing. Yes?
    But what has happened is that bike's top tubes have become longer, in between now and when you got your first bike, riser bars became popular to give that more upright riding position that you are speaking of, but after that, longer top tubes and shorter stems with wider bars became more common, getting you back to being "lower" over the front to assist with climbing. Overall, the riding position is still likely a little more upright, as the first generations of mountain bikes mimicked what people knew back then, road bikes, and it wasn't as versatile a riding position as we have these days.

    The more recent trend is to go back to lower-rise wider bars, 29er bikes and the like end up with somewhat high front ends without riser bars and long stems, so the low-rise bars give you the wheel advantages without compromising the cockpit position. This is even more important with suspension 29ers that have a decent amount of travel. It's also nice to have wider bars on single speeds and fatbikes, where out-of-the-saddle efforts/sprints are more common. The leverage the bars (and the lack of flex with a short stem) provide in these situations is very nice, and of course many people want that same benefit on their "normal" bikes.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by IPunchCholla View Post
    Great Explanation! One thing to note though, bar width might matter for tagging trees. Depends on where you ride. There are trails here that my 780mm bars won't fit through two trees on either side of the trail. Even without that one spot, many trees are close enough in that to carry the section with speed, brushing with the bars is very possible even when you are on the widest line possible.
    I've found very few trees that are really that close, but we have lots of rooty-tree-lined singletrack that has tight stuff. More what I find is that your brain knows where the edge of your palms are and it "adjusts" accordingly, so if your bars are 680mm, you'll just barely pass a tree or brush the edge, but if you change to 780, your brain will recalculate and adjust your path accordingly. This IMO is a large reason why we tend to think we can't go any bigger. There's also the "leaning" between trees that are not exactly in-line with each other, so you can kind of counter-steer around by leaning the bike in the opposite direction many times. I think there's a little fear factor thrown in too, and of course a few trails that may be just that narrow, but I've ridden lots and found very few.

    750 is still pretty wide these days. I'd call 750-780 kind of the medium range. 720 is on the narrow side and 800 or more is getting pretty crazy wide (I think my On One came with 800+s!).
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  16. #16
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    Wider bar equal better handling and balance. Whether a riser is needed or not depends on the rider's size/height and how they wish to be positioned over the bike. Shorter stems also improve handling/reaction times.
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  17. #17
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    You will prefer the 680mm bars to the +700mm bars most likely for your trails and bike.
    Anything over 710mm and you will curse while climbing as the front will pitch sharply to the sides making you work your arms and shoulders much harder to keep it straight.
    Bars can be cut shorter.
    Some people like Riser Bars some like Flat Bars, depends on the bike's geometry (balance) more than your preference.

    Bar ends are a personal preference and may need to be removed for some trails.

    Almost no one uses them with the advent of slightly wider handlebars, that were tuned from factory to reduce vibration fatigue and combined with modern cushy grips and gloves there's not much benefit remaining to justify the alt hand position.

    How far do you ride in the woods?
    Do you ride much pavement to reach the woods?

    For such light smooth XC trails you can pretty much do anything you want because the trail demands are so low.
    Last edited by Trail_Blazer; 3 Weeks Ago at 07:23 AM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail_Blazer View Post
    You will prefer the 680mm bars to the +700mm bars most likely for your trails and bike.
    Anything over 710mm and you will curse while climbing as the front will pitch sharply to the sides making you work your arms and shoulders much harder to keep it straight.
    Bars can be cut shorter.
    Some people like Riser Bars some like Flat Bars, depends on the bike's geometry (balance) more than your preference.

    Bar ends are a personal preference and may need to be removed for some trails.

    Almost no one uses them with the advent of slightly wider handlebars, that were tuned from factory to reduce vibration fatigue and combined with modern cushy grips and gloves there's not much benefit remaining to justify the alt hand position.

    How far do you ride in the woods?
    Do you ride much pavement to reach the woods?

    For such light smooth XC trails you can pretty much do anything you want because the trail demands are so low.
    Much opinion here as there was in my response, as well as others. OP, guess you'll have to experiment and find what works for you.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    The wider bars open up your chest area
    Which is exactly why the best TdF climbers keep their hands close to the stem? You might have it backwards.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by juan_speeder View Post
    Which is exactly why the best TdF climbers keep their hands close to the stem? You might have it backwards.
    Yes, runners run with their hands scrunched up next to their head...like chipmunks.


    I'm going to say that road riding positions are different for different reasons.
    Last edited by Jayem; 3 Weeks Ago at 09:50 PM.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by thegreatdelcamo View Post
    1. Why riser bars without bar ends? That seems to limit the rider to hand position and leverage.
    It's not really "no bar ends on riser bars". Unless you care what fashion police will tell you. I have seen people with bar ends on risers, and personally I wouldn't care what others think, if I would like them. Just like I don't care about all "reasons" why riser are so much better and I still ride flat bar (and did ride with bar ends and narrow (60cm) flat bar till this year). So there's no rule you can't put bar ends on riser. You can, but question is, if you really need them on wide(er) handlebar.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by juan_speeder View Post
    Which is exactly why the best TdF climbers keep their hands close to the stem? You might have it backwards.
    ^^^ +1

    I understand the shorter stem and wider bars for leverage with slacker head tube angles and rough terrain. That is a bit of a no brainer. But after years and years of riding road bikes, I just could never understand the concept that your chest is more open with 3 foot wide bars.

    It doesn't matter where your hands are, but it does matter where your elbows are.

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  23. #23
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    Re: New mountain bikes are set up really strange to me...

    Whats so strange about these new MTN Bikes???


  24. #24
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    Re: New mountain bikes are set up really strange to me...

    Quote Originally Posted by juan_speeder View Post
    Which is exactly why the best TdF climbers keep their hands close to the stem? You might have it backwards.
    +2, I've always thought the "wide bars open up your chest for better breathing" was 100% marketing bs. I feel no difference between my 700mm bars on my MTB and my 420mm bars on my roadie as far as breathing is concerned
    Last edited by 8iking VIIking; 3 Weeks Ago at 04:50 PM.

  25. #25
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    I could have sworn wider bars were for leverage. Go figure.

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