Scoox

Handlebar upsweep and backsweep

17 posts in this topic

Hi people, I'm looking to get a new handlebar with a higher rise mainly to act as an extension to my stem, currently running Echo SL alu bars that shipped with the bike. I've searched high and low and couldn't find much about this whole "upsweep" and "backsweep" business.

I install my bars so that they feel most comfortable on the rear wheel. In that position I find the backsweep angle basically follows the natural grip angle of my hands, more or less. Currently most trials bars have a backsweep angle between 8° and 11°, with 10° being the most popular backsweep angle (8 out of 15 bars I'm comparing had a 10° backsweep). Due to geometrical considerations, longer bars require more backsweep (just imagine how awkward it would be holding a 1500mm-long completely straight bar). The effect of the backsweep is pretty obvious.

And then we have upsweep. Unlike backsweep, upsweep angle values vary wildly across different handlebar models: out of 15 trials bars I'm comparing, upsweep ranges from 4° to 14°, and there is no clear popular upsweep value. It seems manufacturers haven't yet figured out what riders need? Is upsweep needed if you have a very long stem or a very high rise?

I can see how the upsweep makes the bars feel nicer on two wheels, but I don't understand why the upsweep angle is different from, and in many cases greater than, the backsweep angle. The human hand has a particular neutral position. Associated with this neutral position is a particular neutral position grip angle, which is unique to each person and fixed (in other words you'd need some kind of surgery to change that), therefore it doesn't make sense using different values for upsweep and backsweep, since there can only be one optimal grip angle, not two, that will suit the anatomy of a particular hand, therefore both upsweep and backsweep should follow the neutral angle. The neutral grip angle and is actually very easy to measure, just grab a broomstick and see which way it points, then measure the angle using a protractor. In my case this angle is 20° (long arms here), measured to a line perpendicular to the length of the bike frame, with elbows bent at 90°. So the popular 11° backsweep is a bit shy for me, but tolerable.

My problem with the upsweep is that, on the rear wheel, it forces unnatural wrist pronation, rather than letting the wrists sit nice and horizontal in the neutral position which is mechanically more efficient and therefore comfortable. Here's what pronation looks like (the opposite is called supination):

(Link)

fullpronationhandposition.jpg

So basically it's like grabbing a bull by the horns, you get the idea. In fact, on the rear a slight "downsweep" would probably offer more comfort on the rear wheel. I remember watching a video where one of the riders ran his bars with a controversial negative upsweep (his bars were effectively flipped around), maybe this is the reason? Is it possible that front-wheel moves benefit from an upsweep, while rear-wheel moves from the backsweep? I'm only beginning to learn front wheel landings so I'm not sure if that's where the upsweep would come in handy, and in that case, wouldn't it make more sense to make both angles equal?

Maybe I'm overthinking this. What's your experience with different bar geometries? Cheers

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I've been having a lot of trouble lately because of this. I've settled on a trialtech high riser tipped way back. I found that a lot of bars cause pain on the inside of my wrist in behind the thumb, and pain from too much pressure on the thumb side of my palm. This was caused by running a bar that had not enough sweep. My wrist is bent in to hold the straight bar, which crushed the joints on the inside, and leaves the outer hand unused. Switching to the trial-tech bar immediately removed this pain.

I think the problem is that everyone is following trends made by "elite" riders that may be physically odd, or they may just have no idea what they are doing. Riding a bar tipped so far forwards that it's almost upside down is not the best position for a bar, unless the sweep is also inverted.

Because of the wild bar positions people are riding, trials companies can't make a bar with a sweep that will fit most people. Look at MTB bars for example. All of them are within a few degrees of each other because most mtb riders ride the bar in the same position. Basically, there is no easy solution, especially for comp riders who prefer specific bar angles.

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Jamesb, what I've noticed is that a lot of stems are now only 150mm in length, so a lot of riders tilt their bars forwards to add a bit of length and hence leverage, which makes hopping on the rear wheel less strenuous. This is especially a problem on mods. I don't know what stem you are using, but recently I switched from 150mm 30° to 175mm 35° and it's night and day. With the longer stem I can turn my bars to a comfortable angle while still having plenty of leverage.

You may also want to try thicker grips if you are getting wrist pain it may, again a lot of people go for super thin and in my case my hand pain went away with thicker grips. It's not always a good idea to "follow the elite".

For bars, the only real solution would be to make several geometries available. As you say, there's no such think as a perfect handlebar for everybody, what works for me may not work for you.

Two days ago I rounded up all the models I could buy easily this side of the planet (China) and made a little comparison chart, see attachment. Some values are not complete but the geo values are mostly all in. I really wanted to try something with more rise and less upsweep, and install the bars tilted forward to effectively have the same effect as a very long stem and give me more leverage, hopefully encouraging a more relaxed posture when on the rear wheel. Eventually I ordered myself a "SAW Riser 7075" bar, rise is a notch more than my Echo SL bars but with the lesser upsweep the hand should be positioned a bit higher. Since I plan to install them tilted forward it (following the direction of the stem), the reduced upsweep in theory should ease off some strain at the base of the pinky which is where I get the biggest callus at the moment, while the backsweep should feel rather sweet on the rear wheel. Will report back my impressions once I get them.

Bars comparison.png

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18 hours ago, jamesb said:

I've been having a lot of trouble lately because of this. I've settled on a trialtech high riser tipped way back. I found that a lot of bars cause pain on the inside of my wrist in behind the thumb, and pain from too much pressure on the thumb side of my palm. This was caused by running a bar that had not enough sweep. My wrist is bent in to hold the straight bar, which crushed the joints on the inside, and leaves the outer hand unused. Switching to the trial-tech bar immediately removed this pain.

I think the problem is that everyone is following trends made by "elite" riders that may be physically odd, or they may just have no idea what they are doing. Riding a bar tipped so far forwards that it's almost upside down is not the best position for a bar, unless the sweep is also inverted.

Because of the wild bar positions people are riding, trials companies can't make a bar with a sweep that will fit most people. Look at MTB bars for example. All of them are within a few degrees of each other because most mtb riders ride the bar in the same position. Basically, there is no easy solution, especially for comp riders who prefer specific bar angles.

 

 

Aaaaaand cue Trialtech high rise rise bar flying off shelves...

 

quite into the arcade bars feeling myself, but this year I'm going lower longer on most of my bikes for a tester... just with stems though, arcade bar and tt carbon..

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1 hour ago, AndyT said:

 

 

Aaaaaand cue Trialtech high rise rise bar flying off shelves...

 

quite into the arcade bars feeling myself, but this year I'm going lower longer on most of my bikes for a tester... just with stems though, arcade bar and tt carbon..

They've been flying off shelves for years, best bars ever made! The carbons are a smidge (4mm I believe) lower rise

Edited by Herbertlemon102
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5 hours ago, AndyT said:

quite into the arcade bars feeling myself, but this year I'm going lower longer on most of my bikes for a tester... just with stems though, arcade bar and tt carbon..

Somewhat off topic, which of your bikes get longer and lower stems, and which don't change?

I'm quite ignorant on this as a 3-month trials newbie (all indoors so far, winter is icy snowy cold here.) Although I do already have 2 trials bikes, a lower end 24" street (Flow Plus), and a low end 24" comp (Echo.) Steep learning curve, both the riding and hardware. Especially the riding!

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Just noticed on the Arcade bars product page on Tarty:

"Similar total rise to other handlebars - the difference is in the upsweep! More "rise" and less upsweep makes the "shoulders" of the handlebars much higher, which makes the part that most of you hands actually grip notably higher than bars with less "rise" and more sweep. This makes the bars feel much higher rise. (See extra picture for visual comparison to the ever-popular Trialtech High Rise bars.)"

That's exactly my theory! I get the biggest callus at the base of my pinkies, because the pinkies are trying to do the work that the middle & ring fingers should be doing. The middle finger is way under-used with v-shaped bars. My new bars are not here yet though, can't wait to test and confirm <_<

Edited by Scoox

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The neutral grip position on two wheels doesn't really hold true when you're spending most of your time not on two wheels though?  That's why comp bikes tend to have weird sweeps simply because the bars feeling comfortable on two wheels is irrelevant.  Rolling your bars into different positions will change the feel/ride of your bike, and that's why people typically do it.  I believe Carthy initially rolled his that far forwards to try and counteract some bar height, but typically having your bars further forwards will give some positives for being on back wheel or doing front wheel moves.

It's not necessarily just the bars causing your different callous placements.  When I used brakes I used a single finger on each lever and got no callouses on my palm by my index fingers, and only lighter ones on my middle finger as your hand wrap is different around the bar by not having your index finger there too.  When I ride brakeless I get much more even callouses.

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Is it possible that the Carthy angle can f**k up your wrists in the long run? I remember being able to hop on the rear wheel with a broken wrist without much trouble on a normal setup, but the Carthy angle was a compete no-go. This suggests it forces the wrists into a very unnatural position?

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Carthy's subsequently rolled his bars back after getting some wrist pain, and a lot of the new random stem geos are to counteract it so you can get your bars in an equivalent position without having to deform yourself in the process.  

 

To be fair, there's rolling them forwards, there's Carthy bars, then there's Carthy-wannabe bars.  Some people went way over the top with it.

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11 hours ago, Mark W said:

Some people went way over the top with it.

Would be funny to see this on a street bike with the Arcade bars. :D

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I thought about this more yesterday and came up with two simple rules:

For a fixed amount of backsweep,

  • more upsweep => Rotate bars further backwards (towards the rider) for wrist comfort
  • less upsweep => You'll be able to run your bars rotated further forward without compromising on wrist comfort.

There.

Upsweep and backsweep are actually just a single angle if you think in 3D, if you take flatbars, when you rotate them backwards the upsweep becomes backsweep. A slight downward angle would actually feel better on the rear wheel. Currently this could be achieved with flatbars rotated so they are pointing slightly downwards instead of upwards, but that would look way too wank. Would be interesting to see some bars where the bar has an overall rise to it while the ends are slightly bent down to follow the wrists neutral position (slight supination). This is the same as ergonomic typing keyboards which are "tented".

Edited by Scoox

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On 3/21/2017 at 1:00 PM, DeersSlayer said:

Somewhat off topic, which of your bikes get longer and lower stems, and which don't change?

I'm quite ignorant on this as a 3-month trials newbie (all indoors so far, winter is icy snowy cold here.) Although I do already have 2 trials bikes, a lower end 24" street (Flow Plus), and a low end 24" comp (Echo.) Steep learning curve, both the riding and hardware. Especially the riding!

My hex went from 80x40 for a long time (loved that) to a 90x17 in a attempt to get a little more pure trials while still having decent manuals, late 90sbiie style.

and my comp bike from a 150x30 and lots of spacers , to RN a 150x30 and tiny spacer, may be going 145x25...

alao my touring bike went from 80x40 to 70x30, not too much but definitely lower.

 

the stem comparison tool web site is a godsend.

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5 hours ago, AndyT said:

the stem comparison tool web site is a godsend.

Found it! Thanks for that hint.

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5 hours ago, jeff costello said:

isn't that more a question of elbow / shoulder positioning?

Absolutely. When the elbows are close to the torso, the hands are almost completely vertical (say,  85 degree downsweep). An upsweep would be needed only if the elbows were above the shoulders. 

Edited by Scoox

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