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i've only ever ridden straight bars, what are the performance benefits, if any to riser bars? Or is it just personal comfort/preference? Thanks.
 

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It is more personal preference as well as trends in looks. The goal with riser bars and angled stems is the same, get the bars at the right height and right reach for you and how you ride.
 

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No good in rock gardens..
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Risers also tend to be wider than most flats, and have a different sweep - the angle of the bar as it bends back towards the rider. Some people find a bit more sweep makes their wrists sit at a more natural angle as they hold the bar.

The extra width gives more leverage over big forks and big tyres.
 

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on my 3rd wind...
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I dunno the answer to this but given the same width, material, and tubing thickness, one stiffer than the other? If one is stiffer, is it that a good quality to have on the handlebar?
 

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the bends in the bar add up to additional flex. So yes, all other things being equal, the riser would be more flexible. Now, if you were add a cross-member....

Good quality? depends on what you like... Do you want a forgivable ride? Do you want extremely accurate handling (and less chatter absorption)? personal preference things.
 

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No good in rock gardens..
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Risers are typically heavier too, by virtue of the extra width and that there are also lighter XC models and downhill / freeride bars too.

The stiffness thing is a moot point in most cases as they are mounted on top of a suspension fork that bobs up and down and that in turn has a low pressure, high volume tyre wallowing and flexing around underneath.

Riser bars can be problematic for short folks, who have trouble getting the bars low enough so that the front end doesn't want to lift on climbs.

It's the opposite for tall people - who need extra height in the bars so their bars are not too low.
 

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local trails rider
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Mainly, it is about getting your hands where you want them to be.

I am using low riser bars just because I could only find risers in the width I wanted, locally. Then I have my stems inverted to get the height right...
 

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Live 2 Ride
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I'm adding a riser so I sit up more on the bike. Leaning down kills the back on long rides.
 

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Doesntplaywellwithmorons!
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To add to what's been mentioned, risers came back into fashion (its what was normal on mtbr from the late 70s thru mid 80s) as XC riding/racing lost appeal and gave way to more freeride/DH type racing in the mid-90s (after XC's peak in popularity in the late 80s thru early 90s period). As a result of that peak in XC racing, we ended up with all mtbs being equipped with narrow flat bars and often low stem rises to keep the bar height and grip position tight and low (kinda like road bikes) because XC races are won and lost in the climbs, and a low bar as mentioned helps keep the front end from lifting and wandering. The narrow bars were also lighter and more easily negotiated around trees on tight singletrack sections thru forests that most race courses had back then. Unfortunately the loss of leverage cost climbing power which is how we ended up with bar ends being invented and adopted by almost every rider.

Riser bars came back with the move to faster and more technical DH courses and dual slalom racing where you had jumps and berms and wide open terrain. The width gave the leverage you needed for sprinting, the increased bar sweep made them more comfortable and the front end height increase kept you in better control when pointed downhill. As bike fashions at the retail level tend to follow whatever trend is popular among racers, riser bars began replacing flat bars on practically every bike being sold and since they just don't look "right" with bar-ends attached... the sales of those aftermarket accessories also plummeted along with flat bars.

Skip ahead a few years and with XC bikes now having fork travel comparable to DH bikes in the mid-90s, not to mention 650B and 29er wheelsizes also lifting the front headtube higher, we have flat bars coming back into fashion albeit in widths and sweep angles similar to what riser bars are offered in.

I myself had not used a flat bar on any of my own bikes in probably decade... not till I bought my Salsa Dos Niner which with a 100mm travel Reba fork required not just a flat bar but also a negative rise stem to put the bar height where i wanted it.
 

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I'm SUCH a square....
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Dugg-E said:
the bends in the bar add up to additional flex. So yes, all other things being equal, the riser would be more flexible. Now, if you were add a cross-member....

Good quality? depends on what you like... Do you want a forgivable ride? Do you want extremely accurate handling (and less chatter absorption)? personal preference things.
Not calling BS on the flex issue, but it's not been my experience. I've ridden nothing but risers since early '01, and the flat bar I had before that was so crappy, it's not worthy of comparison. The most flexible bar I ever had was a carbon low riser, and in addition to that, it transmitted more road buzz.

The 31.8 stem/bar interface makes a difference, too. My present bike has that setup, and it's golden.
 

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Sideknob said:
Risers also tend to be wider than most flats, and have a different sweep - the angle of the bar as it bends back towards the rider. Some people find a bit more sweep makes their wrists sit at a more natural angle as they hold the bar.

The extra width gives more leverage over big forks and big tyres.
There are several flat bars with lots of sweep and width. Check out the Surly Torsion Bar, the Niner, or the Salsa Pro Moto or Moto Ace flat bars. Very wide and with sweep from 9 to 15 degrees.

For 29ers, a flat bar is usually best to keep the handlebar height down. On my singlespeed 29er I run a Salsa flat bar with Cane Creek bar ends and an upside down Thomson stem. Risers would make the bar too high and would look weird with the bar ends (which are really, really nice when climbing out of the saddle).
 
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