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Velo Orange Crazy Bar Review: Better Than Drop Handlebars?!

I’ve been a consistent advocate of road handlebars for bicycle travel for some time. I really like the near/far/high/low hand locations, as well as the slightly different wrist angles. But a handlebar called the Velo Orange Crazy Bar recently piqued my interest – so I bought a set.

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What The?!

This weird-looking ‘alt’ handlebar is a unique combination of a bullhorn and swept-back flat bar. The 400mm wide bullhorn section offers a stretched-out, aerodynamic position similar to the brake ‘hoods’ on a drop handlebar. The centre portion replicates the ‘tops’ of a drop handlebar. And this is all mated to a 45-degree sweptback section that is both ergonomic and wide for additional steering stability.

The Crazy Bar is constructed using heat-treated aluminium which is fine for touring, but not intended for mountain bike use. That said, Velo Orange produce a steel version that is MTB-rated.

Weight is very reasonable at 450 grams. That makes these bars lighter than many alt handlebars including the Jones Loop in both titanium and aluminium. The Crazy Bars come in both black or silver and can be purchased for just US $60.

Head HERE to see all the different kinds of alt handlebar available.

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The Perfect Replacement for Drop Bars

The Crazy Bar is a little different to other ‘alt’ handlebars: it’s optimised for bikes that come with drop bars.


Ok, let me explain. Frames designed around road handlebars are ideally shorter than those with flat handlebars. This is because the distance you have to reach to access the brakes is about 50mm further on a road handlebar. Therefore, to get the same overall ‘reach’ we need shorter frames to compensate for this handlebar discrepancy. In fact, Salsa offered their Marrakesh touring frames in both a flat bar and drop bar design to make sure you achieve a comparable overall reach with your desired handlebar.

Given that the bullhorn section of the Crazy Bar matches the brake hood position of a road handlebar, these bars tend to be best fitted to a bike that currently uses road handlebars. If you’re thinking of fitting these to a bike that comes with flat handlebars, you’ll possibly need to lop 30-40mm off the length of your stem to make the bullhorns usable.

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The Crazy Bar Geometry

The total width of the Velo Orange Crazy Bar is 666mm. I’ve found this width to offer as much handlebar leverage as I need to tackle even the roughest dirt trails. The distance between the bullhorns is 400mm which feels really natural for me as a rather oversized human. They’re probably going to be on the wide side if you’re a small female, however.

The sweptback section is the same 22.2mm bar diameter as a regular flat handlebar, fitting MTB shifters, Rohloff shifters and all the standard hydro or cable brake levers. The 22.2mm bar diameter extends to the ‘tops’ where it permits you to fit Paul ‘Thumbie’ shifters that use a hinge-clamp design. The bar diameter of the bullhorn section matches that of the ‘drops’ of a road handlebar. You can fit barend shifters to the end of the bullhorns, or perhaps even inverse brake levers (like those on a time trial bike).

The handlebar clamp diameter is 25.4mm. This is the old MTB size while current stems are 31.8mm. Not a huge deal, but it did mean that I couldn’t use any of my spare 31.8mm stems.

crazy bar

Fit and Ergonomics

When I installed the Crazy Bars I found the stem position to be rather different from how I like my road handlebars.

My final position is about 50mm lower and I’ve switched the stem to a model that’s 20mm shorter. This is because I’ve opted for a bar height somewhere between the height of my ‘hoods’ and ‘drops’ of my road handlebar setup. As this lower height increases the reach to the handlebars, I’ve reduced the length of my stem to compensate.

I originally had the Crazy Bars set up to be completely horizontal. This worked out well when using the bullhorns, but the 45-degree section put too much stress on my wrists after a few hours. I rotated the handlebars back and they’re now sitting at 11-degrees from parallel. I don’t like the bullhorn position as much in this location, but my wrists don’t complain in the sweptback position.

Update: After an additional 1.5 years using the Crazy Bars, I found that the 45-degrees sweep was too much for my liking. The grips were running diagonally across my palms, which was causing some hand numbness on long paved sections. I’ve also found the bullhorns are a little bit too long, as I was often holding onto them near the bartops, rather than where they curve upwards. In late-2018, I addressed both of these things in a touring handlebar that I designed! You can read all about the KOGA Denham Bars HERE.

crazy bar

Other Good Things

Off-Road Descending
Compared to my road handlebars, the Crazy Bars offer so much more control. I’ve found I can really load up my front panniers, and be able to steer them with precision on some really rough sections of road. This can be attributed entirely to the additional width on offer.

MTB Shifters
I have a whole series of articles on this website dedicated to mating MTB derailleurs with road bike shifters to achieve lower gear ratios. I have a page which shows you all the ways to mount a Rohloff shifter on a road handlebar. I talk about the benefits of barend/friction shifters in multiple sections too. But all of these are irrelevant workarounds when it comes to the Crazy Bar – just fit your MTB derailleurs with your MTB shifters and enjoy.

Brake Cables
Brake cable changes are a real pain on road handlebars because the brake cables run underneath your bartape. With regular v-brake levers, you can open up the brake cables for a quick lube in a matter of seconds. My brakes have never felt snappier!

Lake Hume

Crazy Bars vs. Surly Moloko Bars

The Surly Moloko looks to be a pretty similar handlebar to the Velo Orange Crazy Bar.

Both of these alt handlebars offer a ‘bullhorn’ type section out front to give a similarly extended reach. The rest of the handlebar is quite different though. In the sweptback position, the Moloko has a longer reach due to its 34-degree sweep angle. It’s also 70mm wider overall. There’s not really a ‘tops’ section on the Moloko as there is with the Crazy Bar, but the Surly has its equivalent albeit ~15cm further forward.

Otherwise, the Moloko has more space for accessories, but it won’t take a handlebar bag due to the crossbar.

Final Thoughts

A few trips ago I couldn’t imagine riding a bike without drop handlebars. But after 4000km+ on the Crazy Bars, I have zero intention of switching back. I’ve still got my aerodynamic ‘road’ position in the form of the bullhorns. The only thing I really miss about my old drop bars is the bike aesthetic, but I’m almost over that now.

The Crazy Bars have got to be the most versatile touring handlebar option. The extra steering leverage makes descending on rough roads easy, even with heavy front panniers. The narrow bullhorn section allows you to cut through the wind. The 22.2mm bar diameter takes away the need to do any workarounds when matching MTB derailleurs with road shifters.

While the handlebar sweep and bullhorn length aren’t quite to my liking, I think the VO Crazy Bar is really onto something good here.

Update: I’ve designed my own touring handlebar based on my experience with the Crazy Bar! My bars have a 34-degree backsweep as well as shorter bullhorns. I’ve also optimised the ergonomics of the bullhorn and bartop sections. It’s more aesthetically pleasing too! You can check my KOGA Denham Bar design HERE.

  1. I’ve used these for a year now. I am not changing it. For where i live (Belgium) they are ideal, using the bulhorn on long stretches along rivers (aero) while still having the swept for riding in the city. The swept put me more upright, giving me a better view of traffic, more control on steering, and the brakes in the ready.
    The ideal bar for city and country riding.

  2. Very interesting. But there is one reason why I will never get those bars, and this is precisely the lack of low position. It gives you much more stability and security in long descents, especially in mountain roads.

  3. I don’t know if I am a freak but 40cm is way too narrow for my comfort. I have 44cm bars now and considering going to 46.
    And I have never been described as broad shouldered. I just feel that having my arms splay out a litte is more comfortable.

  4. For sure, but it would be even more stable if it also allowed a wide AND low position. Like the Woodchipper 2 you mentioned in one of yours articles.

    Also (but less importantly) the wide and upright position caused by these Crazy bars is probably too wind-catching in long descents for my own taste. Unless of course, putting yourself in its aerodynamic position. Not recommended in these long descents, where keeping the brake levers close to your hands is a necessity!

    I must mention that I prefer touring in the mountains, more particularly in the French Alps, my birth place. I live in Brussels right now but I return to my mountains whenever possible.

  5. Not having brakes in the hood position seems to limit use to sweptback position anywhere there is traffic or for descents. Would you consider adding interrupter brakes?

  6. I mostly ride in the sweptback position in built-up areas so that I have access to my brakes. That said, I’ve worked out that I can have one hand on the bullhorn and the other temporarily in the sweptback position for those short periods when say, a car looks like it may pull out in front. For long descents I use the bullhorns because the amount you actually brake is very little overall. If it’s a tight, technical descent I’ll just use the sweptback position.

  7. I’ve got rather wide shoulders due to my size, and I’ve found that over the years my road handlebars are getting narrower. I really like the 40cm width – might be a personal preference thing!

  8. I also use a 46 and would probably use a 48 if a Cowbell came in that size. I would try these in a heartbeat if they were wider in the hood position. I agree the aesthetics of a drop bar can’t be beat.

  9. yeah crazy bars! even using these for commuting and touring for a year or so now. i actually started by swapping out my drops for flats (as i wanted the control of a wide bar and i was getting a lot of cervical spine discomfort which i felt was due to my frame’s reach being too long for me, so thought flags might help with this) but i did really did miss the hoods position with a normal flat bar + bar ends

    i’ve run them with a secondary lever (for the front brake) on one of the bull horns. initially this was an interrupter lever with an inelegant loop of cable coming out of it (a bit like old road bike levers) – this actually really well, it looked horrific and i soon got a j-tek brake doubler (sjs cycles) which allowed more elegant cable solution. recently i’ve switched this to a bar end time-trial style lever, as my interrupter lever got in the way a bit on my bullhorn. this allows for even more elegant cabling (under the bar tape) and more freedom of hand position along the bullhorn. comparing the bar end lever to the interrupter one (which was around the middle of the bullhorn, mounted on the underside) the bar end one is easier to grab from the more distal part of the bar but less so from the proximal portion of the horn (which is actually where i hold them most often)

    i have ergon grips on the wide position and id really recommend these for this bar as they allows me to comfortably rest my elbows them whilst holding the ends of the bullhorns for a low areo-ish position which arms in a sort of triangle. i found this really great on long flat beadwinds along the danube, and importantly very comfy too, allowing me to
    stretch out my bike and much easier than trying to hold them with my arms more parallel to the bullhorns. there’s not as much control as being in the drops though; i wouldn’t descend in this position unless it was a very straight, smooth empty road (descending in the wide position is awesome though, unless you are super concerned about being areo when you descend, which i’m not). when using a bar bag i sometimes rest my hands on the bag instead of holding the ends of the bars when in an areo position.

    i run microshift thumbies which i’ve actually got them mounted m under the bars, as they got in the way of my areo position on top. this is a shame in some ways when they were on top i was able to operate them with my 4th/5th fingers whilst holding the proximal part of the bullhorns (the ‘hoods’ equivalent position). putting them underneath means that i now have the front/rear the other way round to usual but i’ve got used to this! being underneath actually makes them easier to operate with my rhinbies from the wide position.

    i actually started out with the bars at a bit of a downward angle, as the author describes here, but moved on to having them flat (parallel to the ground) – i find this provides the fairly upright position i need to give my neck a rest, and i haven’t found it bad on my wrists, perhaps because of the other positions i use too and he support the ergon grips provide.i think the bars look (a little) less awful when horizontal too.

    i use the wide position most but particularly when descending, in traffic or on rough or technical ground. it is SUCH a fun position for bombing through a bit of woodland or gravel, but then swept blackness makes it relaxed too.

    second most i use the proximal part of the horns, as if i’m riding on the drops, and this is my default attack/sprint position. it’s also a good out of the saddle

    i hold the distal ends of the bullhorns when i want to stretch out my back, go into the areo position i described, or (probably
    most usefully) when climbing seated. they are AMAZING for this. i feel that i can really transfer power on climbs and am
    out of the saddle much less.

    i also occasionally hold the top/flat section of the bar, like you would on the top of a drops.

    another use i’ve found is that the horns are great for hanging things off – my helmet stays there if i take it off for a bit whilst riding, and i’ve also hung her gloves, booties and my towel from them to dry whilst i cycle .

    the obvious and massive drawback to these bars is that they are horrifically ugly. despite the pleasure i get from riding with them, i really struggle with this, particularly when i’m off the bike. just so inelegant. but i haven’t gone back yet. they are a rad, if crazy, ride.

  10. you can run a secondary lever on these if you get creative – see my (very long) comment below.

    i sort of have the same worry but the other way round – if like to run the wood chipper or a flared drop bar, but i worry that when descending anything a bit technical and wanting the control of holding the ends of the bar, which are the wisest part, i’m not going to be able to reach the brake levers, and also be in quite a low position, which seems far from ideal.

    equally, if low, areo descending is important for you, i don’t think the crazy bar is for you. even if you ignor the brake issue, when you’re holding the bars right at the far ends the steering is much twitchier and i wouldn’t want to be cornering fast in that position, particularly on a loaded bike

  11. i’m away from home (without bike) for the next week but will do when i get home!

  12. in the meantime this is the little gadget i use: https://www.sjscycles.co.uk/cables/jtek-doublecontrol-l/

    it works on the same principle as interrupter levers. it’s tiny, much smaller than the smaller and lighter than a similar gadget made by problem solvers

    they make two, this one is actually marketed for use using two sets of gear shifters (for tri/timetrial bike purposes) but the only difference is it has a liger travel which i found worked better than the brake specific one which didn’t have enough travel for my brakes (TRP HyRds which are notorious for requiring long lever travel)


  13. Alee, Have you tried the Ergon GC1 grips? I bought them to use on the same bars because of similar concerns between swept back versus bullhorn comfort.

  14. Nice setup and write-up! I’m also running the (MTB) crazy bars right now on my hardtail mountain bike set up for touring with a fairly short stem (80 mm). I like them both for off-road and on-road for the same reasons you do (descending, bullhorns, hand positions, ease of set-up). See attached pictures.

    However, one thing I’ve thought about doing is raising the bars higher — I have mine at about the same height as the seat level, and while the bullhorns work there, the swept-back handles still feel too low. Thinking about a Velo Orange Cigne stem to raise them up to at least 1″ above the seat, and open up my riding and hand position.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/31f980e3ac9ac6ae697458e41d9cb0ef090e228abb3699e829707d26b89ab698.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eeb8475091f1248764be70ea0020e8c1f6354469368ac4fff53533335d9f9960.jpg

  15. I created a disqus account just so I could say how much I love my crazy bars. I run mine on an AWOL with ergon grips and sram mtb shifters and brake levers. I prefer a slight tilt like the author.

    I recently bought a carbon cross/gravel bike (Pinnarello fcx) that really enjoy, but the drop bars are just not functional for truly rough and steep descents. If you grab the hoods, braking isn’t strong enough and the bars feel like they’re going to get ripped out of your hands. If you grab the drops, braking is strong, but it’s terribly uncomfortable (for me, anyway, who has always been a flat bar mountain biker) to be getting bounced around in the aero position for more than a minute or two. 2000 feet of rocky descending like that is excruciating.

    I know it’s probably anathema to many, but I’m seriously thinking about putting crazy bars on my FCX. Running across this article has given me strength to push past the inevitable aesthetic concerns. There are some challenges in making the drivetrain work, but I think it will be worth it to make the bike truly functional on mountain roads. For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would want a “drop bar mountain bike”.

    Anyway, in case Orange Velo is listening, Crazy Bars are awesome!

  16. Thanks for signing up to Disqus just to comment, and for the comment itself! It sounds like the Pinarello FCX is ready for some Crazy Bars – post a pic when it’s all dialled in. What derailleurs and brakes are you running? I might be able to help select any new parts you’ll need. 🙂

  17. Hey Alee – I picked some of these up around a month ago for a rebuild I am currently working on. They look great and can’t wait to give them ago when the bike’s ready. Thanks for this useful post it really helped decide on what I ended up getting. Yeah they look a bit wierd as you say but I think I’m gonna love the many hand positions on offer. Plus the upright position is great when having the leisurely Sunday ride with family. I have been checking out as well friction shifters and started looking at theDia-Compe Bar End Shifters which seem pretty good value. From what I understand this would allow me to change rear cassette in the future when needed without having to get a new shifters plus be able to fine tune gears when needed. How do you think these would work with these Crazy bars? I kind of figured putty them on the bull horns since they’d be handy when speeding as opposed to having to reach out from the downward position. Any thoughts or theories on how well or not this might work ?
    It then got me think what would be suitable brakes levers to have up front as well…..

  18. I love the look of these and the many hand positions. Unfortunately I just bought some loop touring handle bars which I want to try. I am coming from a flat handlebar an Easton MonkeyBar with Ergon grips and bar ends. Also this Crazy Bar does not have a 31.8mm thickness to mount to stem which is a bummer. I am not buying anymore stems having spent a fortune recently on buying several (31.8mm) just to get the perfect set up for my handle bars. So unless they bring out a 31.8mm version then I shall sadly have to give them a miss. A pity as they look good.

  19. They do sound awesome. I’m a little worried the 45 degree sweep might be a but much. I’d buy one immediately with 30 degree sweep…

  20. If your front end is pretty tall (ie. saddle and bars at an equal height), the 45 degree sweep feels quite natural. I didn’t like it at first, but I’ve found it’s not too much of a hindrance either. Perhaps take a look at the Surly Moloko otherwise.

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