One word consistently comes up when the topic of Jones Bikes Loop H-Bars arises: unconventional. For good reason, they are. At first glance, with their 45 degree sweep, it might appear that the bars would be more at home on a cruiser beach bike than a sophisticated upgrade for mountain bikers, gravel grinder riders, or the bikepacking crowd. Jeff Jones, the man behind the bar’s concept and a long-time industry icon, is also a bit like his handlebars in that neither is particularly mainstream. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a cult following around his bike fit philosophy that his unique bars (and custom frames) are designed around.

The impetus for a new handlebar design came from Jeff’s desire to find a way to bring his hands into a more natural riding position. In the process, he tossed out some of the conventional industry bike-fit standards that have been the norm for the past decade or two. Using different tubing materials and various bends, he finally settled on the 45 degree sweep that has been the one constant that hasn’t changed as the bars evolved over the years.

With the various hand positions the Loop H-Bar offers (including having a more upright option), it wasn’t long before road riders – especially those with back or neck health issues that had forced them off their drop-bar bikes – took note. Recumbents had been one of the few choices for these riders before the availability of the Loop H-Bars.

In particular, the H-Bar offers a far more upright position than traditional drop bars when using the ends of the bar’s ‘sweep’. Having broken my neck several summers ago, and having the C1-3 vertebrae fused, the Jones bars offered me the potential of a game-changer in being able to get back on a road bike. But I would have to first re-think all of my ingrained bike fitting and positioning knowledge gathered over 45-plus years of racing, commuting, and adventure touring. More on that later.

A More Natural Riding Position

After thousands of miles on their double-butted aluminum model ($119) and the new-for-2018 SG 2.5 model ($79) – offering a bit more rise/drop than the 13mm found on the rest of the line, I’m an impressed convert. Jones Bicycles also makes the bars in titanium and carbon fiber in the $300 to $400 price range.

It didn’t take many test miles for me to understand why the bars have been become so popular with off-road and adventure enthusiasts. The range of riding positions is significantly increased over standard mountain or road bike handlebars. I found that having better hand and body positions allows for more power, control, and, particularly important in my situation, comfort. The bottom line is that I found it easier to cover longer distances with less strain and fatigue on my neck and back – I won’t be road racing or doing ultra events like solo RAAM again but at least I can get back on a road bike and complete 50 or 60 miles (if slowly). If you want to climb seated, you can grip the middle crossbar much like you would on a road or mountain bike.

When you get out of the saddle to climb – especially on aggressive terrain – you’ll appreciate the leverage provided using the back portions of the bars. On the downhills, I gained a bit more control and stability with the wider hand placement using this part of the bar.  If you start to get fatigued near the end of a long, epic ride you can also use these same ends of the bar, while seated, to gain a more upright position on the bike to take a break.   I didn’t miss having ‘drops’ on the bars since I rarely used that position on my former road set-up, finding it uncomfortable for long periods of time as I got older.

When you want to cheat the wind you can extend your arms and place your hands on the front of the loop bar section (much like a regular aero bar but without any ‘cups’ for your forearms). If needed, you can rest your forearms on the middle crossbar section for extra support in this aero tuck. Because of my fusion I wasn’t able to take full advantage of this lower aero position for long periods of time.

Riders won’t have any issues with finding places to hang all their bike toys like GPS units or lighting systems. Bikepackers will appreciate the ability to attach a custom Jones front handlebar bag ($98) using the middle crossbar as one of the attachment points – and several aftermarket bags are now available on the market including Revelate and Ortlieb models. I can guarantee you won’t find any other handlebar allowing this range of flexibility or hand positions. Now comes the challenging part.

Set It and Forget It

Proper set-up of the bars is critical to maximizing their potential benefits. To take full advantage of the multiple hand positions offered, not only will you need to raise your handlebars up (either with a stem riser or a stem with a good bit of rise), you’ll need to switch out your stem to a much shorter length. The shorter stem will allow you to be comfortable in the extreme positions between ‘aero’ (front) and ‘comfort’ (rear) positions of the handlebar. I used a Pauls Components Boxcar stem ($95) with their cool polish finish option for its stiffness, strength, and lightweight that enhances the H-Loop bar performance.   

After so many years of road riding using all the conventional fit parameters, these changes were a challenge for me to accept. But if you just slap the bars on your current ride without any modifications you’ll never come close to taking full advantage of what the bars have to offer.The new 2018 SG 2.5 Loop model with its extra rise (matched to a shorter stem with substantial rise) should be enough to avoid needing a stem riser. I wanted the ability to be a bit more upright when needed to give my neck and back some relief (few riders will have this requirement hopefully!), so I installed a stem riser with my SG 2.5 test bars. All H-bars use a 31.8 stem.

Even subtle aspects of proper installation like having the bars angled slightly downward makes a difference in comfort and performance as the miles add up. Following the instructions in the manual meticulously and/or watching the various instructional videos on the Jones Bikes You Tube ‘channel’ will easily get you to the correct set-up.

There are several variations of the H-Bars, including the original design, but the “Loop” configuration is the most popular. The bars come in 710mm or 660mm width, with the 710mm versions laser marked where you would want to cut them later, if needed, down to the 660mm width. I’ve been using the 710mm width bars which tend to be more popular with bikepackers, gravel riders, or former roadies like myself wanting the option of a more upright position for health issues. Mountain bikers accustomed to bombing down narrow single track trails generally opt for the narrower 660mm handlebar width for clearance issues.

There are several variations of the H-Bars, including the original design, but the “Loop” configuration is the most popular. The bars come in 710mm or 660mm width, with the 710mm versions laser marked where you would want to cut them later, if needed, down to the 660mm width. I’ve been using the 710mm width bars which tend to be more popular with bikepackers, gravel riders, or former roadies like myself wanting the option of a more upright position for health issues. Mountain bikers accustomed to bombing down narrow single track trails generally opt for the narrower 660mm handlebar width for clearance issues.