Handlebar width – how wide?
So back here https://mountainbikingzane.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/wide-handlebars-good/ I ended up with a set of 750mm wide handlebars on my 5 Spot. I really like this width for riding technical trails as the extra leverage of wider bars gives great control of the front wheel through rough terrain. I find this width works really well on purpose built mountain bike tracks or tracks that are out in the open, but if you get onto trails in forest that were not specifically built for mountain bikes there are often squeeze points between trees and this is when the wide bars become a liability. These sort of trails are my favourite as they often provide many good technical riding challenges simply because they were never designed with a mountain bike in mind. With the 750mm bars I was finding I was having to slow down too much for some gaps, and there were other pinch points that I was unable to ride and so I decided to go back down to a 711mm bar. I bought a new set of the Easton Haven alloy bars and put them on my bike. 711mm seems to be a good compromise between having bars wide enough for good control and being able to thread through the trees on the tracks I love.
The 750mm bars were absolutely fine on the purpose built mountain bike tracks through forest, as purpose built tracks clear the vegetation back on either side of the track to allow bikes to pass easily. I do really like 750mm as a handlebar width, but because of where I ride I have gone to the slightly narrower 711 mm to get through the trees.
If the terrain allows you can actually “slalom” wide handlebars through gaps in trees that the bars would not fit front on. To do this you basically ride up to the gap and quickly push one side of the handlebar through, and then quickly lean the bike over to the side you just pushed through allowing the other side of the bar to fit through the gap. This technique works fine when the terrain is reasonably flat and there is not a tight switchback on the approach to the gap, but with many of the squeeze points I was trying to fit through being in the middle of a steep drop or halfway through a tight switchback I was not always able to use this technique.
Another technique that can be used is to manual or wheelie through the gap and simply turn the bars enough that they will fit through (dont turn the bars so much that the wheel wont fit tho!!). Again, this technique works in places that the terrain allows and if you have good skills!!
I really like the feel of the Easton Haven alloy bars. The 9 Deg bend and 5 deg upsweep feel good and the 20mm rise is what I wanted for my riding position. I considered going for the Easton Haven Carbon bar, but my budget and my slight fear of carbon handlebar failure made me decide on the alloy bar. My only complaint with the Haven bars is that I got them in the Magnesium colour, and man are they shiny!! If it is sunny out you definitely need sun glasses on to keep the glare off your bars out of your eyes!!