Words and Photos by Spencer Harding
If you’ve hung around me at all in the past few years you have probably heard me wax poetic over the idea of much wider mtb bars. One day Matt from Crust called me, like an angel who had heard my drunken ramblings, to see if I wanted to test out his new swept-back bar, the Jungle Runner.
A few years ago I coaxed Matt into sending me a prototype of a similar bar with a bullmoose style stem. It was glorious; at 860mm wide it was like soaring on the wings of an albatross, but alas they weighed 3 pounds and didn’t fit through any doorway ever. Fast forward to 2018, Matt sends me the newer, and much more reasonable, version of the Jungle Runner bar. It is similar in concept to a Jones bar, but more like the old Titec J-bar. Goat, one of the owners of Crust, loved the bar so much but couldn’t find any replacements so he just made a set out of mild steel once upon a time, which I assume is how this far more high-performance beast was dreamt up. This bar measures 800mm at its widest point, about the same as the risers I typically use. The actual position of my grip does not change drastically when you factor in the longer stem/sweep of the bar, but the sweep creates a more comfortable wrist angle for longer days on tour, not to mention the added hand positions.
As I was prepping for the second DFL The Divide tour, I swapped the squishy bits off my Orbea hardtail. After running my usual riser bar setup in Baja this past winter, I knew I needed something more comfortable. Unfortunately, my rigid fork steerer isn’t super long, so to get the bars to what I considered to be a comfortable height I dug deep into my inner Fred and bought a 110mm stem with 35º rise. Dorky, yes. Comfortable. hell yes.
I really appreciated the width of the flat section of the bar for mounting various stem caddies and front bags. I could probably mount four stem caddies, two on either side of the stem, on the flat section of these bars if I wanted to (even room to kick up your feet and cruiseeeee). In addition, I was able to use the widest mounting points on my Roadrunner Bag’s Jumbo Jammer giving it the most stability on rough trails. The sweep of the grip sections did pose a bit of a harsh angle for hydraulic lines, but then again I’m a ding dong for running hydros on tour. The adequate width and less drastic sweep of the bar also made it feel right at home on the few single track sections I rode, making navigating a large heavily loaded bike easy.
The grip sections are long enough (190mm) to accommodate extra long grips, but I preferred to have a wider hand position and opted for some Ergon grips for full use of the bar’s width. Running this bar with longer grips would allow you an extra hand position sitting out wide as well as up at the levers if you so desired. The “aero” position at 480mm wide provided a position similar to riding the hoods on a road drop. I could lay my hands flat over the figurative triangle formed and let my sweaty palms dry out or dig in if I need to plow through a flat section.
The only things I would change are mostly related to my own silly tastes/problems. I honestly wish that these were a little bit wider, after having soared on the wings of an albatross I know how good it can feel. I could also see a version with a riser bar as the center bar instead of a flat, solving my need to run such a stem (or I just get a fork with a longer steerer).
In conclusion, If you have ridden Jones Bars, which I have and love, but find that they are simply not wide enough, the Crust Jungle Runner bar may be for you. The sweep is less steep and then there is no loop bar interfering with bag mounting for modern rackless bags. The Crust Jungle Runner bar is, in my opinion, the best alternative to many of the narrower swept-back bars on market today. If you want to soar on the wings of a slightly growth-stunted albatross and support one of the raddest humans in the bike industry go throw some money at Matt.