One of the parts I replaced during my hardtail MTB to rigid SS commuter conversion was the handlebar. I went from a "standard" 9-deg sweep, 30-mm rise, 630-mm wide riser bar (herewith called the "old" bar) to a "hi-sweep" 25-deg sweep, 50-mm rise, 580-mm wide riser bar (dubbed the "new" bar).
I couldn't believe how comfy the new 25-deg bar was, even though I wished it was at least as wide as my old bar. I've been riding the new bar for about a couple of months now on purely on-road commutes consisting of mostly flat terrain with about 1/5 of the route having some moderate up-slopes of anywhere between 25 to 200m long. Since I converted to SS, I've slowly learned the stand-up-and-mash method up these inclines so as to save my knees. It is during these climbs where I found the high sweep bars to be a be a bit lacking. I somehow felt I lost some leverage on the new bar compared to the old one. I don't know if it was due to the higher sweep or the narrower width (or a combination of both) but I somehow imagined lower sweep bars would be more efficient.
So I decided to experiment and put back my old bars this past week to see how they would compare. Immediate observations with the old bar included a farther reach (I didn't change my stem when I changed the bar) which didn't feel so good, and a slight discomfort at the wrists during the first few minutes of riding. I suppose the hi-sweep of the new bar has spoiled my wrists. It is likely that in due time, riding the old bar would condition my arms and wrists to eventually get used to the lo-sweep again. But as I said above, moving the other way (lo- to hi-sweep) proved to be a very comfortable transition.
Now on the inclines (where I expected the most gains with the old bar would come), I'd have to say the old bar didn't seem to be that much more efficient or comfortable than the hi-sweep bar. Also, the greater width of the old bars made my steering feel significantly slower. The main disadvantage of the old bar was made apparent when I was weaving between cars to jockey for a front position at stop lights (no, we don't have bike lanes ). Coupled with the slower-feeling steering, the greater width (~2 inches) made this exercise a bit more challenging, as I had to avoid hitting side view mirrors and scraping doors .
Overall, I can't say the wider, lower-sweep bar proved to be better for me than the new, narrower, hi-sweep bar. The seemingly "lost leverage" I previously thought existed was debunked by my little experiment.
While this exercise was far from being scientific (the bars should at least have been the same width), for my purposes, it helped me decide to pick which bar was better for me. I hope it gives others some ideas when it comes time to pick their handlebar.
That said, depending on my ability to procure them, I'm never going back to lo-sweep (<15-deg) bars.
(I still wish my current ones were wider; gotta get me a FloWing or some Luvs )
[photo shows my old bars placed over my re-installed new bars]
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