by Marc Basiliere
November 25, 2013
Lighter, wider, stiffer… fewer
Not to get lost in the excitement about Crank Brothers’ 2014 wheel line revamp, Crank Brothers have also done a good deal of work to bring next year’s cockpits up to date. As with the wheels, this means lighter, stiffer, and wider Cobalt and Iodine bits with fewer overlapping models and more cohesive graphics. A number of prices will come down too, which is always nice to hear.
The most lustworthy cockpit piece in the Crank Brothers collection has long been the Cobalt 11 stem. Sleek and crafted from magic plastic, the pricey stem has long had sex appeal- but as with the company’s carbon Cobalt 11 wheelset, weight wasn’t necessarily competitive and stiffness left something to be desired. For 2014, Crank Brothers went back to the CAD station and the result was not only a doubling in stiffness, but what they claim is “the lightest XC stem on the market.” How light is that, then? 109g at 100mm (80-110mm lengths are available). Even if there are road-oriented stems that come in lighter, the Cobalt 11 promises to be considerably more solid when bolted to 700mm+ bars. The only compromises are the closed 2-bolt bar clamp and the premium ($300/£240) price
Those with more constrained budgets need not worry: the aluminium Cobalt 3 has also seen some freshening up as well: a move to 6061 aluminum drops weight by 9% to 148g. Weight drops even further if the flashy red handlebar and steerer inserts are set aside: Crank Brothers say that the composite bits make little – if any – difference in stem performance or ride quality. Colour choices are narrowed to black/red and the price drops around 20% to $90/£75.
7050 aluminium Cobalt 3 handlebars remain the same as in years past but with updated graphics. The low (8mm) rise model comes in at 225g for a 680mm width while the 700mm wide mid (15mm) rise model hits the scale at 270g. As with all 3-level products, the bars are covered by a 5-year warranty from the factory.
Cobalt 11 carbon bars have shed a bit of weight while getting stiffer. As a result, prices are expected to rise slightly (to £135). In a surprise move, the cross-country oriented bars are available in 680mm and massive 780mm widths- both with integrated trim marks. At the narrower width, the low- and mid-rise bars weigh in at 155g and 185g.
In the trail-oriented Iodine range, Crank Brothers has also improved their stems’ weight, stiffness, and aesthetics. The level 2’s massive (and sharp-edged) face plate has been retired. Acknowledging the rise of long-travel 650b and 29er trail bikes, stack height has also been reduced. A more common external steerer clamp replaces the previous wedge design, contributing to a 30% increase in overall stiffness. Despite these tweaks, Iodine 3 pricing remains the same and that for the Iodine 2 will drop by roughly 10% to £65.
Under the logos, the Iodine bar range carries over unchanged. While the Iodine 3 ships at 720mm wide, both the Iodine 11 (carbon) and 2 (aluminium) are 780mm wide and hacksaw-ready. As with the Cobalt series, Iodine 11 bars come with a 2-year warranty, the Iodine 3 and 2 with 5-year warranties.