April 9, 2014
Top-end bar and stem combo with impeccable performance and engineering to offset lightweight carbon nerves.
I seem to be developing rather an expensive handlebar habit.
At a penny shy of £130, Renthal’s new carbon bar is about par for the course when compared to similar, top-end bars from other brands – and at a muddy 178g (a whole 2g less than the stated 180g) it’s definitely the lightest handlebar, of any sort, I’ve ever run (the packaging weighs almost as much as the bars themselves). In fact, having had some less than positive experiences with lightweight carbon in the past, I don’t think I would have been happy fitting it, had I not been talked through the extensive R&D process Renthal undertook to get the bar to market. Listening to the testing this bar has been through under the hands of engineers and pro riders alike was confidence inspiring and went some way towards dispelling my lightweight carbon doubts instilled by previous sub-optimal experiences…
Despite the minimal weight, it’s still a decent width – 740mm is just about the sweet spot for trail riding for most normally-sized folk.
Yes, you could go wider, but Renthal claims the increased reinforcement required would add weight and detract from ride feel – and why would you want to go wider than that anywhere there are trees, anyway? I chose to run the lowest, 10mm rise, version – 20, 30 and 40mm rise versions are available too, all with the slightly esoteric 7//DEG// backsweep and 5//DEG// upsweep which will be instantly familiar and comfortable to anyone currently running a Renthal bar already, and a little bit odd to those who aren’t.Paired with Renthal’s Duo stem – for no real reason other than that it happened to need testing, and it’s a nice colour that doesn’t match any of my bikes – I suddenly seem to be in possession of one of the best performing front-end set-ups I’ve ever run. Much to my surprise.
Fitting lightweight components is always a bit of a nail-biting affair.
Even with a torque wrench between fist and wrench, the specified 5Nm torque still felt like ‘too much’ for the slender tube of plastic and string. A pair of perfectly worn-in but rather elderly lock-on grips simply would not grip securely onto the bar, though and I didn’t want to push my luck by clamping up the pinch bolts super tight, so new grips it was – and a careful check of the clamping surfaces of brake levers and gear shifter too, to make sure no sharp edges would be coming into contact with that matte grey surface.Luckily Renthal had already taken care of the stem; the Duo’s unique two-piece, six-bolt construction is impeccably tidy, with not a speck of anodising out of place or burr to be seen. At 40mm long with 10//DEG// rise, the stem is on the short side for my usual set-up, but the bar’s comfort – even with the input from a less than forgiving rigid front end – made it feel distinctly, well, normal, and nothing like the bruising encounters I’ve had on previous ‘short and stiff’ front ends. Steering response is every bit as sharp as you’d expect with a stem this short, and made more manageable by that previously mentioned 740mm wide bar.As far as longevity goes, I’ve had no problems so far with either the bar or the stem’s integrity – my sole request would be some stainless (or perhaps titanium?) bolts in the stem. The only thing that’s likely to cause problems (apart from torque wrench operator error) to the bar in the long term is stuffing it into the ground hard enough to damage it – and at least with a carbon bar that sort of damage is usually immediately visible. Not to mention, the damage to the rider…