I know that bars like the Jones loop have been around for a long time, but I had never really given one a chance. I ride flat or low rise bars with 9/10 degree sweep for fat/mountain biking, but my current routine includes a lot of asphalt, gravel, and dirt. I live on the Glacial Drumlin Trail, so vanilla gravel miles are always there for the taking. I’ve got a black Surly Krampus with a 1×10 XT drivetrain that’s really well suited for that sort of mixed bag of ‘road to trail’ that I ride from my front door. This is the bike that’s served as my summer season “mountain bike” for the last couple of summers. I’m riding a Fatback Corvus FLT set up with 27.5 x 3.8″ tires set up on a 50mm wide set of Borealis carbon wheels as my “MTB” this summer, so the Krampus has become the “Jack of all trades” bike.
My only experience with this category of handlebar was last winter when I was testing the new Pugsley and it came equipped with a Surly Moloko. The Moloko Bar was one of the bright spots of the time spent on Pug 2.0. That loaded ride experience planted the seed to conduct this experiment with a set of Jones Loop bars. The idea of multiple hand positions on longer bland gravel rides made sense and I found that I could handle some easy singletrack when I choked up on the grip.
With plans for some gravel bivvy action I called my amigo Adam Blake down at Gravel City Adventure, out in Emporia Kansas and he set us up with a 710 mm Aluminum Jones Loop Bar, some velvety Salsa Bar Tape and a set of Ergon GC 1 grips. We bought the $119 aluminum bar because the Carbon loop is $315 and the Titanium one is $425. I’m not even sure that the Jones bar is the ultimate set-up that I’ll be happy with, in the long run, so it made sense to try to be fiscally responsible.
I kept the same stem and mounted up the new bar. At first I ran the levers and shifter out towards the Ergon grips. Then I read the instructions and moved those controls nearest to the loop. I added a trimmed set of good and evil grips to cushion the space between the Ergons and the levers. This meant that I didn’t have to lengthen the brake and shifter housing (bonus!). The idea is that when things get rough, your hand position would move off of the comfy bar ends and to a more aggressive position on the bar, right where the brakes and shifter are positioned.
The loop bars play well with a number of different bag set-ups. In the photo (above) the Jones Bar is hanging out with Gnomie Award Winner – The Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbags and the Surly Moloko Bar Bag. The Surly bag seems to get in the way of utilizing the loop section of the bar for extra stretched out hand positions and the zippered access to the main compartment is cumbersome to get things in and out. I like the functionality of the shock cord attachment on the top of the Surly bag, but when you cinch that cord down, it makes it even harder to access the main compartment. I like the added hand positions that the loop offers, so the Surly bag is getting traded to Cleveland.
The Jones Loop Bar works exceptionally well with my Oveja Negra Front End Loader. The front end loader holds a dry bag in place below the handlebars and the additional front loop section of the bar stabilizes the load and keeps it from rubbing on the front tire easier than on a flat or riser bar. It also offers a spot to attach a light at the front of the loop. With all of this extra bar real estate, I still haven’t mounted a bell, but I think I see a spot near the left brake lever that I can wedge one in.
I still don’t think that I’ve got this set-up perfectly dialed. The new bar and grips are comfortable for a couple hours and then my hands start to hurt. I don’t know if it’s the angle of the bar or the angle of the grips that need tweaking…or if I just need to adhere closer to rule #5 and HTFU. Either way, at least I have a couple different hand positions to switch out the pressure points with this new set-up. If you have tips on how you’ve set up the grippage on your loop bars, please let us know in the comments or send us an email with a photo of your set-up to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m going to continue to make adjustments and hopefully negotiate a compromise agreement between comfort and rule #5 somewhere out on Wisconsin’s dusty gravel and trails!