I just put albastache bars on my new hillborne, after using noodles on all my 
other bikes.  I set the brake levers quite a bit below horizontal, and find 
that position much more ergonomic when grabbing the brakes.   My wrist is in a 
nice straight position, and my fingers are lined up nicely with the levers.  
What I lost is the extended position you described, with the hands gripping the 
levers in front of the bars.  However, that position is unsafe in my book, as 
your hands aren't prevented from being bounced off the levers if you hit a good 
bump.  I like my hands wrapped around the bars for safety, much like being in 
the drops on noodles as opposed to on the hoods.  That said, I really enjoy the 
bars on my hill borne, the upright position at the back is great for cruising, 
and being in the bends is quite comfortable, too.  Mine are set lightly higher 
that the seat, and I may drop them down to seat level.

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