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.
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.
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