If you look at the current crop of purpose-built gravel bikes, you’d be hard pressed to find one that’s not equipped with drop-style handlebars. Since the gravel bike evolved from its ‘cross and road predecessors, it’s no surprise that drop bars would be the handlebar-of-choice. But what if you don’t actually like drops? Fear not, because Jeff Jones‘ Loop bar offers a viable alternative to the ubiquitous drop handlebar.
Since welding his first bar back in 2002 (which he dubbed the H-bar), Jones has expanded his handlebar offerings to include three models in two materials. In the summer of 2013, the Oregon-based inventor announced the release of an updated version of his popular Loop H-Bar. According to Jones, this wider bar (710mm vs 660mm) came about when Surly requested a custom bar for some of their 2014 bikes.
The updated bar retains the same hand, stem and brake lever positions as the original H-Bar, but the cross bar now sweeps forward to allow the controls to be mounted behind the cross bar. This forward sweep–combined with the additional width–creates more room for the rider’s hands, as well as improving compatibility with trigger, twist, and thumb shifters. Under the covers, the Loop bar features butted grip tubes, and the cross bar is both tapered and butted. All Jones H-Bars exceed the Europe EN 14755 safety standards for mountain bikes.
For GRAVELBIKE’s testing, the Loop bar was paired with Thomson’s Elite X4 stem (90mm x 10°). On Jones’ recommendation, the bars were with equipped with ESI‘s extra chunky silicone grips (6.75″ length). Brake levers used during the review period included Avid Elixir, FSA Afterburner, and TRP Carbon Dash (all paired with their respective hydraulic calipers). Shifting duties were divided between microSHIFT and SRAM triggers.
Having logged many on- and off-road miles on the Titec-licensed version of Jones’ original bar, I was really looking forward to see how the updated Loop bar would perform. The new Loop-Bars’ uninterrupted real estate made positioning the controls much easier. With the original model, balancing stem length with the brake and shifter positions always felt like a compromise. The updated Loop H-Bar, by comparison, felt more integrated with the bike’s controls.
With a drop of only 13mm, how does the Loop bar compare to a conventional road handlebar (with a drop of 130mm)? While Jones’ H-Bar doesn’t offer the variable height of a drop handlebar, the generous fore/aft range proved very comfortable for paved and gravel riding. Despite having a radically different appearance, many of the Loop bars’ hand positions are quite similar to those offered by drop handlebars. For technical, off-road riding, the H-Bar easily outperformed drops. The Loop bars’ 45° angle felt extremely natural when descending, but also worked well for climbing steep, rocky pitches.
The Loop H-Bar is available in 660mm and 710mm widths, and comes in silver or black anodized finishes ($120 MSRP). A titanium 660mm version is also available ($380 MSRP).
Disclosure: Jeff Jones Bicycles provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.