("you can skip this first part if you just want what I think of Midge without any perspective)
just a little background to put my two cents in perspective.
up until a few months ago, I hadn't ridden a bike with drop bars since I was in high school (about twenty yrs ago). I've ridden bikes with flats, cruisers, schwinn 3 spds, etc. but nothing like a cross bike. Neither had I done much mtn biking or road biking for that matter except for the occasional fire road on borrowed or crappy hard tail mtn bike. So what I am getting at is, I'm no expert here either as Mtn bike or Road rider but that might also help as it means I don't have any preference in bar choice.
A few months ago I decided that it was time to get a bike with more than 3 gears and after doing a bit of research I decided a cross bike was what I wanted. I also realized I knew next to nothing about bikes so I started reading the forums (this one in particular). I then decided that I would build up my own bike and ordered a Nashbar frame and carbon fork as a learning experience but a few days after ordering both of these I found a JTS locally on ebay so I couldn't wait and decided that I had to win it and I did. I've been riding that bike for several months now while finishing up my Nahsbar build (Nashbar build - FINALLY complete). I haven't done any extensive road biking on it - just ride across town, etc but I have taken it on some fire roads and some fun single tracks so I do have a feel of how I like that bike off road. The JTS is a nice bike - solid frame with steel fork, good component set, and fun to take off road. That being said, I didn't particularly like riding in the drops on it and found myself on the hoods the majority of the time. I can't quite put my finger on it what I didn't like about those drops but they just didn't feel right and so I started looking into other options and hence...
The On One Midge bars that were highly touted here and by a few other enthusiasts on the net. I just took them for their first test which was a trip to Nisene Marks. The ride was very much the same as one I have done on the JTS a few times. It involves a 1600 ft climb up a fire road before descending on a windy single track that is mainly downhill but does offer a few climbs, lots of roots, some logs and other obstacles and ravines to be avoided. This isn't a completely fair comparison because the Nashbar build had some cheapie 40 mm tires and the JTS had only 35 mm's on there (but better quality ones), but anyhow...I'm mainly trying to compare the drops here.
First and most importantly I love the flare of the Midge bars. It makes it way more comfie to ride in drops. I find this to be it's best attribute. I found myself climbing in the drops a lot more and definitely using them more on the descents (more on that later). The hand positioning made it pretty easy to even use one finger to apply the brakes. Like other drops the Midges offered more hand positions than a flat bar and that is also nice. Their extra width was a positive too as I felt very much in control on most of my riding. Probably due more to my improvement in my riding (remember I am a newb) than these bars, but I was able to get over more obstacles without stopping than I had in my prior rides with JTS. I definitely recommend people try these bars if you don't feel like you are completely satisfied with your current bars. Remember, you can always ebay or CL them and get next to what you paid for them.
That being said, I still think these things can be improved upon. What is their main strength to me also seems like one of their weaknesses - the flaring. IMO the flaring is a bit too much, not because your hand position isn't super comfie but because I don't particularly like the angle the brifters must be in to account for the flaring. It makes riding on the hoods uncomfortable in comparison to more traditional bars. I have Ultegra STI's on this bike and they are set up to be on the same plane as the bars so you can break and shift properly from the drops. The trade off is that on the hoods it's a bit harder to do so. I guess it's not just the flaring but the combo with short drops that makes the angles so acute. I found that I HAD to ride on the drops for most of my descent because riding on the hoods wasn't very good - harder to brake and shift and also less control than riding on drops or flats. I kept wanting to rest my hands on flats, which is why I plan on adding some cross levers to this rig. I'll bet some Midge users are thinking then stick to the drops, well I tried, however when you want to stand up to stay off the seat because of obstacles, bumps, rough trails etc, it makes it weird to stay on the drops - again this might be fixed by cross levers. The other issue that has been mentioned by most Midge users is that the drops are too short. I have to agree though it just made me push my hands fwd slightly.
I've not tried any of the other "dirt drops" on the market but I might. It does look like a few of them have less flaring and may suit my tastes a bit better. Ideally, I would think that bars similar to the Midges but with the flaring being less pronounced "above" the postion of your brakes/shifters would be perfect. In fact, I may just get a cheap pair of bars with a shallow drop and try shaping them to the angles I want. Will report back on how that works if I do.