Only posterity will tell if I am ahead of my time…or if you are a Luddite dinosaur, JM!
I had the great good fortune to ride, as a beginner, with Jamie Mossengren (level 10 rider, professional (without the quotes) unicyclist). He urged me to get short bar ends and to work towards getting both hands on the bar ends.
Another “expert” told me that when you examine the riding styles of different unicyclists, you see a lot of variation. The reason for this, he said, was that unicycling is an immature sport. Best practices for a more mature, developed sport, like bicycling, are more well defined.
As far as riders go, I am fairly tall and heavy. My weight distribution is top-heavy. I have wider hips and sit bones, and I suffer when putting too much weight in the seat for too long. Maybe all these factors, including the very steep hills in my neighborhood, make riding with handlebars a better fit for me.
I have to address Slamdance’s concerns. Handlebars constrained his ability to balance. This was the case for me, until I learned to use the side-to-side motion of my hips for balance. But I had to get both hands on bar ends before this started happening. I can see how leaning forward might cause more forward UPDs. However, the stability of “four points” on the seat/handle prevents the unicycle from being kicked out behind me. I have drastically reduced the frequency of forward UPDs since riding with both hands on the bar ends. Regarding the notion that you need better balance to ride with hands on the bar ends: I think it only “looks” that way. If you were only accustomed to watching bicyclists riding no-handed, you might think that putting hands on the handlebars required better balance. But the control gained by putting the hands on the steering is greater than the control gained by holding hands out in the air. That is for a bicycle. I think it applies somewhat to a unicycle. Finally, regarding having a UPD with a horn between you and the ground: You have to practice keeping one hand on the bar for long enough to clear the bar during a UPD. Once I learned that, the bar was no longer a nuisance.
I’m not saying anyone needs to use bar ends. But I have to push back against some concerns about them. Don’t expect to like them at first. Spend time adjusting them. Learning SIF techniques on a 20" helped me learn to ride with handlebars.