Robot’s Useless Reviews – Bar Ends

If you are sitting at the bar end, you are probably in the way. That tends to be where the bartender puts the drinks going to the folks not sitting at the bar. If you’re the sort who sets up camp there, you might be Mickey Rourke, and it’s possible you’re trapped in the 1987 cinema tragedy Bar Fly. If you regularly run into Faye Dunaway at your favorite hangout, this could be you.

The first time I saw a pair of bar ends on a bike, they were freshly installed on a friend’s brand new 26″ dream machine. The whole thing looked like an ex-urban assault vehicle to me, bits of anodized this and that glinting in the mid-morning sunlight, and the bar ends like a pair of horns. That bike seethed. I had to have some bar ends of my own.

Barfly, aka Scared Straight

But bar ends have gone the way of the mountain triple, consigned to the deepest recesses of the parts bin, a vestigial reminder of a different time, when we couldn’t conceive of climbing a steep stretch of dirt without cantilevering ourselves out over the front wheel via two stubs of hollow-core aluminum. They are gone from the landscape entirely now, unless you’re a man (why always a man?) of a certain age, who has contrived to adjust his bar ends into a sheer, vertical position so as to eliminate the need to lean forward and touch the actual handlebar.

This is fine, if not a little dangerous, and who doesn’t love a well-placed handle anyway? They keep you from falling over on the subway, from burning your hands on a pot or pan. When we get control of something we say, “I have a handle on it.” Handles are good. That’s why we have bars, called handlebars, for handling all our steering problems.

So why did bar ends disappear? A few reasons really. The first and most obvious one is that people don’t ride mountain bikes uphill anymore. That’s what helicopters and chairlifts are for. The second reason is that, if you’re zooming down a narrow trail at the edge of your ability, you probably don’t want a tree hook mounted on the outer edge of your handlebars. Also, mountain bike handlebars are now 9 feet wide.

Aerobars are bar ends for triathletes. There. I said it.

I wonder if one day someone will organize a mountain bike race similar to L’Eroica for ’80s MTBs, and you’ll get all these retro nerds wending their way through the woods on bar-ended hardtails. I hope so. Cantilever madness. Mountain triples. Hot pink ano nonsense. It could be called “The Tomac-geddon,” or “Ned Overend Over End.”

I’m just spitballin.’

The bar end is dead. Long live the bar end. But know that the bike industry is a Tilt-a-Whirl of about ten ideas. Bar ends will be back. They’ll be carbon fiber. They’ll attach in a way that keeps them from getting caught on trees, OR getting caught on trees will be the new not-getting-caught-on-trees. It doesn’t matter. Where there’s a will, there’s new marketing campaign, and a gamble on the basic premise that you’re really dying to spend your money on some more bike shit.

Please consider subscribing to The Cycling Independent. We’re worth it. And we’ll keep bugging you until you do it anyway.

Join the conversation
  1. schlem says

    I feel like you must know these exist:
    Waiting on a pair!

  2. Barry Johnson says

    BarLoops….CantiLoops? (oh that’s too much US3)

  3. khal spencer says

    FFS. Yep, its all about selling more shit. I have a 2005 or so Stumpjumper Expert (I am not an expert, and the name of the bike is all about marketing) with a mountain triple and bar ends. Know what? It works for me just fine. I still ride uphill, crash into trees, wear high heels, try on women’s clothing, and hang around in bars….

  4. gbyrne says

    Now maybe on a gravel bike with flat bars. maybe front suspension. and wide tires… I feel like we’re on to something here

    I held out late, keeping my bar ends on race bikes until the late 2000’s. A few years ago I threw an old pair on my modern hardtail single speed. – Holy-crap, I’d forgotten how good they were at their actual job of helping you grunt up climbs. But.. it’ looked really silly on the end of the crazy wide modern bars and kinda felt like they were in the way. Back to the parts bin.

Leave A Reply

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More