But if your commute or errands are much further than that, your body position affects your comfort quite a bit, most notably at the handlebars and the saddle. I'll talk about saddles in a day or two, but right now I'd like to talk about handebars.
Where your hands are has a lot of affect on your riding comfort. Handlebar height affects how far you lean over the bike, how much weight goes onto your hands and how much you have to flex your lower back. The "sweep," how much the handlebar grips are angled back, affects the angle your hands rest on the grips, which in turn affects your wrists and shoulders. Because there are a wide variety of preferences and requirements, there is quite a bit of variety in handlebar designs. Road and touring bikes usually have drop bars, whose distinctive "ram's horn" shape offers the chance to change grip positions over the course of long rides. City and commuting bikes, on the other hand, usually go for a single, fairly comfortable hand position, usually with swept back handlebars to put the shoulders in a relaxed stance.
|Swept-back handlebars with no rise. Many commuter bikes have bars that come up before sweeping back towards the rider.|
While road and city bike handlebars offer the chance to position your arms at a comfortable angle, the most common mountain bike bars are either completely straight across or nearly so. This gives the rider great control over rocky ground, but is not actually all that ergonomically efficient. The hands are held at a fairly unnatural angle which many riders find uncomfortable on long rides.
A fairly simple solution is to install bar ends, which are attachments that bolt to the ends of the handlebars (hence the name) and give an additional hand position, or often, a couple different hand positions. This works pretty well, so long as you don't mount the bar ends at too steep an angle. They should be facing forward on the bike, at about the same angle as the handlebar stem. However, there's a tendency among those looking for a more upright riding position (usually on a bike that's way too small for them) to aim them straight up, or even face them backwards a bit to shorten the reach.
|They're like antlers!|
The third, and most dangerous problem, to my eye, comes when you're riding on the handlebars using the controls.
|Size, angle and hairiness of arms may vary by rider.|
In short, while sticking a pair of upright-facing bar ends on a bike might seem a quick way to counter too-low handlebars, it's actually kind of stupid.
If you just need more height, there are a couple of options you can look at, which are not much more expensive than the above. First off, a taller stem can make a big difference, and handlebars with a built in rise also help (although if you make too dramatic of a change, you may have to swap out some cables, which if you're paying a shop to do it, might start to add up).
|One of my own projects, a folding mountain bike. It's a bit small for me, so I added a longer seatpost and swapped the straight handlebars for a pair with a 3" rise.|
This isn't a stickup. When it comes to bar ends, you don't have to "reach for the sky!"