It’s been over 12 months since I took possession of our Whyte T-130 S longterm test bike, and in that time, I’ve got to know it very well indeed. In its stock form, the T-130 S is a dead brilliant trail bike that features a strong, hydroformed alloy frame, progressive geometry, and an on-trend build kit that puts the performance where it counts. It has terrific handling and suspension, which seems to work just as well in the slow-speed techy stuff, as it does on the flat-out high-speed stuff. A bike for experts only, the T-130 is most certainly not.
Throughout the test period, I’ve been chopping and changing parts on the T-130, while also using it as a test bed for various group tests such as our trail fork test from Issue #110, and more recently, the carbon wheel test in Issue #116. I’ve also been testing out changes to the cockpit, including this 785mm wide Black Ace handlebar and 35mm long Strippa Evo stem from Funn MTB.
Compared to the stock 760mm wide bar and 45mm stem, it isn’t a huge change, but seeing as UK journos love to put tiny little stems and enormously wide bars on basically every kind of mountain bike, I figured I’d try it out myself to see if wider and shorter equals better on the trail.
Funn Black Ace Carbon Handlebar Features
- High Modulus UD Carbon Fibre Construction
- Width: 785mm
- Rise: 15mm
- Upsweep: 5.5°
- Backsweep: 8°
- Diameter: 31.8mm
- Claimed weight: 196g
- RRP: £129
Made from uni-directional carbon fibre, the Black Ace handlebar hits an impressive sub-200g weight (195g confirmed) while still measuring a downhill-worthy 785mm wide. Funn had the Black Ace bars in development for a good while, as it perfected its seamless carbon fibre construction to produce a bar that is made as a solid tube from tip-to-tip. The result is a tough carbon bar that’s designed for anything from trail riding through to full-blown downhill use.
Only available in a 31.8mm diameter (that’s ok, as I’m not thrilled by the 35mm standard anyway), the Black Ace bars can be had in 7mm, 15mm and 30mm rise options. There’s a different mould for each rise, so sweep varies a touch too. On the middle-of-the-road 15mm rise bars I’ve been testing, there’s 8° of backsweep, and 5.5° of upsweep. In use, I found the Black Ace bars to feel a little square in shape, like I wanted the grips to curve back towards be a little more. However, sweep is very much personal preference, and is entirely dependent on your frame and cockpit setup.
What I did find with the Black Ace bars over the stock alloy Whyte bars was just how stiff they were. I’ve ridden some carbon bars that offer a nice amount of ‘twang and vibration absorption, which helps to neutralise smaller impacts being sent through the bike and up to your grips. Not so with the Black Ace, which feel rock solid from end-to-end. This does give a really stout feel to the cockpit, and in high-pressure scenarios where spokes are being loaded and unloaded, tyre casings are starting to fold over, and fork lowers are doing their best to stay firm, the Black Ace bars deliver a steady and sure-footed feel. On the flip-side, I did find my hands and wrists experienced fatigue a lot sooner, with less overall comfort. This difference was immediately apparent when I put the stock alloy bars back on the bike, which offered more damping.
As for the width? The extra leverage afforded by the 785mm bars was appreciated on the descents, where the wider grip placement gave me more control and stability – as you’d expect. Because the T-130 is a trail bike though, I do spend a lot of time climbing on it and riding undulating cross-country trails for hours at a time. In these situations, the extra width combined with the stiff bar resulted in less comfort and more fatigue through my upper chest and shoulder blades, which was noticeable in the evenings at home after a day out on the bike. I’m not exactly the biggest or broadest body though, so I think around a 750-760mm width generally suits me well. Your results may differ.
On the note of bar width, the Black Ace bars come with printed gradients for chopping them down all the way down to 685mm – if you feel so inclined.
Funn Strippa Evo Stem Features
- CNC AL6061 Alloy
- Length: 35mm
- Rise: 0°
- Stack Height: 40mm
- Diameter: 31.8mm
- Claimed weight: 142g
- Colours: Red / Orange / Blue / Black
- RRP: £60
To match the Black Ace bars, I’ve been running a stubby 35mm long Strippa Evo stem. CNC machined from AL6061-grade alloy, the Strippa Evo stem is a really well made piece of kit, which is available in three different colours and black. You can get 35mm or 45mm lengths with a 31.8mm clamp diameter, though Funn also offer the Strippa Evo with a 35mm clamp diameter (45mm length only). Actual weight was a bee’s dick off the claimed weight, coming in at 143g on our scales.
There isn’t a whole lot I can really say about a stem, other than the Strippa Evo did exactly what it’s meant to, and did it rather well. Using a large one-piece face plate, the stem is nice and easy to install with 4mm stainless steel hex bolts. Funn has polished the outside faces of the stem to give it a classy look, but all the other surfaces are left with a microscopic textured surface, which helps to provide just a little more friction between the necessary all the internal surfaces. As such, I never had the stem twist on the steerer, and the Strippa Evo remained silent and creak-free all throughout testing. Also nice to see is the chamfered edge for the bar clamp surfaces, which helps to avoid creating any sharp pressure points on lightweight carbon bars.
Funn Hilt Grips
- Single lock-on clamp
- Anodized alloy clamps with stainless steel hardware
- Diameter: 30mm
- Colours: Red / Orange / Blue / Black / Green
- RRP: £15
To go with the Funn bar and stem, I’ve been riding with a set of Hilt lock-on grips, which use a single locking clamp on the inboard. This allows for a completely enclosed end to the grip that is ideal for riders who run their hands as wide as possible. The Hilt grips are pretty straight and narrow in profile, using a 30mm diameter and a single rubber compound. The texture is subtle, but really nice with a smooth section that your palms immediately rest on, while a deeper treaded section on the underside gives your fingers more edges to grip onto. Overall I found them to be comfortable, grippy, and free of any weird bulges or tapers like some other grips out there. Sometimes simple is better.
The Black Ace is a tough, well-made carbon handlebar that comes in at a very impressive weight. If you’re looking to shed grams from your trail or enduro bike, upgrading from alloy to carbon is an easy way to drop 100g without too much hassle. The Black Ace bars are no doubt strong, but they are quite stiff, and lighter riders may find them a little uncompliant. For bigger, broader and more aggressive types though, I’d be putting this one on your list along with the nicely machined Strippa Evo stem.
As for the whole cockpit experiment on the Whyte T-130? Well, I think I owe the designers at Whyte an apology, because those guys have gotten both the fit and handling absolutely spot-on with that bike. Really, I didn’t need to mess with things like bar width and stem length, and given my riding style and body proportions, I think I’ve started to hone in a little more on what suits me best. But hey, it’s always good to try out new things eh?
|Product:||Black Ace Handlebar, Strippa Evo Stem & Hilt Grips|
|Price:||£129 (bars), £60 (stem), £13 (grips)|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 8 months|