When I started working at Rivendell the main upright bar was the Albatross. We had the Dove bar, but it wasn’t trail-worthy and we eventually stopped carrying it. The Bosco had arrived, but didn’t have the traction it does now. If you wanted to ride trails and be upright, you got an Albatross.
Those were in the half-drop half-upright days and over the years we’ve happily slid into an 85% upright 15% drop zone, so naturally we’ve introduced some new uprights which may look confusingly similar to an Albatross unless you’re really into this stuff. I’ll explain the differences (some are admittedly slight) to make selection easier. If you’re buying from our selection, you’re going to get something good, but it’s fun to think about bars and you might as well try to nail it. So, chronologically:
The Albatross Bar (Nitto calls it the B352)
This is our longest running upright. I like them so much at one point all four of my bikes had Albatross bars. They have about two inches of rise and sweep back 6 and ¾ inches from the stem clamp. They flare out 16 degrees from coming straight back at you (let’s call this outsweep, since we’re not talking about almost straight flat bars) and have two great hand positions and one pretty good one.
Set them up with bar end shifters and place the brake lever in a spot where it won’t block your hand from gripping in front of it; both behind and directly in front of the lever are great spots for hands. The grip in the hooks is pretty good, not great. It’s a little tight there but it’s handy if you ever find yourself riding into the wind for long distances. It works well on any of our bikes; we’ve even had one on a Roadeo and it felt great. Generally we use an 8 to 10cm stem depending on the bike and PBH to overall height ratio. If you’re coming from drop bars you’ll want the 10cm.
Available in heat treated aluminum and Crmo, both with bulged clamps and a 55cm width.
The Bosco Bar (B353)
The Bosco (almost called the “Back-up Bar”) sits at the most upright end of our bar spectrum. It has a luxurious 4 inches of rise and sweeps back a little under 10 inches. It has a 10 degree outsweep and three useable hand positions: the grip, ahead of the lever, and the flats. I doubt many people use the flats, maybe in a headwind but I’d rather just bend my elbows. The grip length before the bar dives is 6 ½ inches, but you can use the downward part also.
If you have a stem length in mind, go one centimeter shorter than you were thinking and angle the bars down instead of straight back. They’re super ergonomic that way and your hands won’t creep forward on trails. If you get it right the main grip will be supremely comfortable and you’ll be sitting close to 90 degrees upright. We usually use 11 and 12cm stems and since they sweep back so much we mostly use thumbshifters, but bar-ends will work fine.
On our bikes it works best on our All-rounders, like the Atlantis and Platypus. There are plenty of Sams and Homers out there with them too, but you may want to chop them an inch or so. If you want to put one on a Roadini… we’ll probably talk you into a different frame.
It’s also a great bar for making old MTBs or too-small vintage bikes comfortable.
There’s a 52 and 58cm in heat treated aluminum and a 55cm in Cromo. There are also two Bullmoose variations (where the stem is welded to the bar) in 54 and 58cm. Bullmoose bars are always Cromo.
The stand-alone bars allow you to adjust the angle, which is important, so I usually recommend those. If you’re heavy and ride rough trails consider the Moose, or learn to go light handed on the bumps. The Bosco is such a long lever that it can slip inside Tallux stems on rough stuff; the Fillet Faceplate stems should be your first choice if you want to use the Bosco.
The Choco Bar (B357)
The Choco bar can be thought of as a flat, slightly shorter version of the Bosco. It has the same 10 degree outsweep, but only rises (or drops) 1.4 cm. It comes back a little over 8 inches (as opposed to the Bosco’s 10) from the stem clamp and is only available in heat treated aluminum. It’s 54cm wide and the grip length is 8.5 inches.
If getting your saddle level with the bars is no problem, but you have a long top tube, or just want them close, get this one. It has the same three usable hand positions as the Bosco, but the flats are easier to grab, because they’ll be in the same vertical plane as the grips. Chocos work well on all of our Country bikes (frames that fit 38 to 45mm tires) and All-rounders. We usually use 10 and 11cm stems with thumbies mounted inboard, or bar ends. If you want to use this on a too-small bike, get our Hi-Riser stem. Tilt the bars downward a couple of degrees for a better wrist position.
The Billie Bar (RBW31)
In 2017 we decided we wanted Riv exclusive bars and took the opportunity to redesign the Albatross bar, our previously favorite bar, to make it even better.
The Billie is like an Albatross but has an outsweep of 20 degrees (as opposed to Alba’s 16), rises 3.5cm, is 58cm wide and comes back from the stem clamp about 8.5 inches. The main difference is the grip length. There’s about 9 ½ inches of bar to put on grips, levers, shifters, bells, whistles etc. Billies work well on all of our Country and All-Rounder bikes and is now our go-to upright bar. Our showroom is filled with Billie’d bikes. They’d be great on most other non-Riv bikes too. Only available in heat treated aluminum.
The Baby Bosco (B602AA)
This is a perfect bar for smaller stokers on our HubbuHubbuH tandems. I haven't recommended it anybody on our single bikes, but I suppose it wouldn't be bad for a smaller person. Nitto says not to use the Baby Bosco on trails, so if you want a narrower bar but also want to ride off-road, get the 48cm Losco instead.
Spencer has had this bar on a Peugeot commuter for well over a decade, so it must be pretty good.
The Losco Bar (B614)
Blue Lug designed this bar - It's called the Losco because it was designed as a "low Bosco". It has the same wrist angle (10 degree outsweep) as a Bosco, but with only 50mm of rise. This is my favorite looking handlebar, but because the bar drops after the main grip area, the housing from the brake levers can be knuckle-brushingly close when you're grabbing in front of the levers. If that sounds like a deal breaker but you want a bar like this, get the Choco. Loscos are available in heat treated aluminum in 48 and 54cm. We'll likely have a wider one sometime in the future, but it's still way, way out at the time of this writing.
The Tosco Bar (KJBAR-13)
This is now one of our most popular bars.
It's short for Taiwanese Bosco - We originally wanted Nitto to make it, but at the time they had such frustratingly long lead times that we decided to have them made in Taiwan instead, and maybe stop putting all our h-bar eggs in one basket.
Rather than just re-make the Bosco, we tweaked it a little bit; these have 5 degrees more outsweep than the Bosco (15 degrees instead of 10), and a slightly longer grip area at 7 inches. These have a little bit less rise than a Bosco, so the downward dive towards the stem is easier to rest your hands on. Most people will be happy just using the main grip area and the grip right in front of the brake levers. It's available in cromoly only, and in sizes 55, 60, and 65cm.
Our upright spectrum is, from least upright to most upright: Albatross, Choco, Losco, Billie, Tosco, Bosco. All great, super strong, and beautifully made.