Note: Alternative or alt handlebars were developed to make mountain biking more comfortable for long-distance and endurance rides, and with a large sweep and rise they resemble the old Ritchey Bullmoose bars — Answer’s 20/20 carbon alt bars have a 20º back sweep and 20mm rise. Iditabike champ Mike Curiak has been using them for months and this is what he found. — Ed.
I’ve tried many other alt bars (Jones, Mary, Mungo, Black Sheep) in the past, even had several sets of custom ti Moots and Black Sheep bars made when none of the above scratched my itch.
I was very surprised when the Answer bars hit the market — this just seemed to be the domain of smaller boutique builders. I saw immediately that the overall dimensions were very, very, very close to a few pairs of custom ti bars I’d had made and been riding the past two-plus years. But the Answer bars were both lighter and less expensive, so I bought a pair to try out.
Overall, they are fantastic. The neutral feel of that 20º sweep just ticks all my boxes — comfy for hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. The amount of abuse my body endured during my racing days is difficult to explain, but summed up succinctly by stating that I simply cannot ride “normal” flat or riser bars without significant discomfort — mostly hand soreness and numbness.
I expected that I might have trouble adapting to the 20/20′ for full-on tech rides, and others have expressed a similar sentiment. Happy to report no such difficulty — I am every bit as competent with them as without. And I no longer notice a difference when switching back and forth between bikes with different bars. In other words I can re-adapt to normal riser bars if needed (like on my DH bike) but greatly prefer the position of the 20/20s for longer days, bikepacking, etc.
It’s nice that at 220 grams they are so stinkin’ light, too.
If Answer were to make a slightly wider set that happened to be DH/FR rated, but otherwise identical in rise/sweep, I’d have them on all of my bikes. But that’s a niche of a niche, and I’d be shocked to see it filled — ever.
Gripes? I’d love to see them a titch wider — 10 or even 20mm would be nice.
A small detail, but worth mentioning, is that you may have to swap stems to keep your overall position the same. I was able to keep the same stem on one bike, but had to swap stems on another to get the 20/20s where they needed to be. Overall not a big deal — the gain in all-day comfort was well worth it.
Finally, several of my riding partners have expressed instant disdain upon seeing these “Mary Poppins” bars on my bikes. Of these people, three out of four have gone out to buy themselves a set shortly after demoing mine. The fourth is a dirtbag who only gets “new” bike parts if they are hand-me-downs. Fat chance of that.
Read more of Mike Curiak’s thoughts at Big Wheel Building. Photos by Curiak.