Well it's interesting that back in the hey day of mountain bike innovation there was one thing that never truly was tackled well, the dirt drop. Chucky Cunningham and the boys at WTB (Wilderness Trail Bikes, pre-Global empire) offered the much loved and sought after, WTB Dirt Drop. $50 for the handlebar in a day when handlebars didn't cost $50. Yet they figured out special stems and shifter pods to slap your thumbies on for them. Can't hardly find a pic of a Cunningham bike without a dirt drop on it. However, it never really caught on. Granted, Specialized offered the RockCombo for a few years, but it was never a seller or even a collector piece.
Not really sure what happened in 2004 but I'll blame Shiggy for it, around this time is when we first started to see the now infamous, On-One Midge bar pop up on the scene. 29ers were becoming the fad of the day, and with them everyone thought we had to have 29er specific everything including handlebars. On-One (at that time it's chief designer was was Brant Richards, now Shedfire/Ragley/Nuke Proof) introduced the Midge, a handlebar designed with input from Shiggy who's been a drop bar convert since the late 80s. Forward thinking on On-One's side, not sure how that all happened, but it was a hit.
After that you saw copycat-ish bars pop up form Origin 8 (Gary) and Soma (Junebug) which were oh so close to the original Midge. Drop bars seem to be coming back. Then Salsa came a long and pulled out the stops, not only creating the very expensive to make WoodChipper bar, but building a whole bike frame designed for dirt drops and adventure touring.
It was a hit.
WTB would bring back it's own handlebar, but oddly not in the same original glorious shape....yet it found spec on a Novara touring/commuter bike to be sold at REI. It's been known to be the original favorite of Singular Cycles own Sam Allison, who's company has both the Swift and Gyrphon designed for dirt drop duty. However it's from poking around Sam's blog that I found out about Ragley's new dirt drop....the Luxy
Some may be wondering...why is Brant designing yet another dirt drop? Is this some sort of bad blood between him and On-One? From reading posts on the bar since, not at all. Brant has gracefully stopped all who say "Will this be better than the Midge?" diplomatically and even insinuating it's wrong to say such, but always saying "Not better....different".
So this is where we are at. I agree with the thinking that not one of these bars is "better" than the other....but each different in it's own way. Talked with a friend at a local dirt drop friendly shop, The Hub, and we discussed this at length. None of these bars is "bad" but just has a different feel for different preferences of bike setup, handling, and purpose. To say one is better than the other is like saying barends don't work unless they are set at "exactly ten degrees up". Bullsh*t. Ride 'em how you like. Ride what you like. We've got time on everything but the new WTB and will soon have the new Ragley Luxy bar to try out. Don't think we'll sell the others just yet.
Copyright 2011, Monstercrosser.com (/monstercrosser on FB and @monstercrosser on Twitter)