The bar and stem combo is the centrepiece of a bike’s adjustability, the biggest part of a bike’s control is in your hands. No surprise then that even subtle changes to width, length, sweep and rise will affect handling, weight placement and all–round control.
DIRT ISSUE 132 – FEBRUARY 2013
Words by Ali Todd. Photo by Steve Jones
The dawn of new wheel sizes exaggerates the issues of bike management even more than the 26” wheel. Not just because more leverage is needed to get those hoops leaning over, but because they offer more stability all round, we’ve found the shorter Easton 35mm stem a revelation. What feels good to one person may feel bad to another, but it’s one of those things that’s definitely not ‘one size fits all’. The options here aren’t the off–the-peg combinations you’ll find – they’re the bespoke combos that have been discovered over time, that are immediately recognisable, and immediately comfortable.EASTON HAVOC CARBON BAR AND THOMSON STEM
Both Easton and Thomson have been around seemingly forever, producing beautifully made bike bits. Put together, they’re a winning combination – a 50mm stem paired with a bar which is as aesthetically pleasing as they come. It’s light (402g for the pair) and stiff thanks to the carbon bar. Searching desperately for the flaws in this combination, Big Mike (the Editor) came out with “well, it’s practically perfect”. A lot of use that was!DEITY BLACKLABEL BAR AND EASTON 35MM STEM
Deity’s name is biggest in the dirt jump world, but their downhill bars really are something to write home about. The bar has the same angles as the Easton Havoc, but is nearly 40mm wider – enough to be cut down by all but the widest shouldered people. The 35mm long stem is as direct as you can get in terms of control, so much so we’ve found this the ultimate for 29” wheel control. With the wider bar, you need this shorter stem, or you’ll end up with all your weight on the front wheel, so the combination sits well. It’s a bit heavier than the Easton/Thomson combo at 443g for the pair, but you don’t pay the premium price for a carbon bar. Deity are even releasing the bars in multiple colours – the final touch for any colour–coding maniacs out there.RENTHAL FATBAR BAR AND DUO STEM
Renthal has an almost cult–like following in mountain bikes born out of its huge presence in motocross…and for good reason. The Fatbar is wide and solid (although the heaviest here), and the stem’s unique clamping design is as stiff as they come, protecting the bars from the kind of stress that causes failure. The shot–peening means the finish won’t scratch, and they’ll look good as new for years. The only downside to the stem is that it’s a bit of a fiddle to get on, but once it’s on it’s not going anywhere. While the weight of the bars makes this pair the heaviest on test, but it’s one of the cheapest – good enough reason to hold it in high esteem.ANSWER PROTAPER BAR AND HOPE STEM
As product finish goes, Hope are on the money with their stems. CNC’d to perfection and produced in a huge amount of colours, it still turns heads after years of production. The Answer bars match the aesthetic qualities of the stem, and even co–ordinate colours. It shouldn’t matter, but it does to some. It’s a serious short stem/wide bar combination, and while the bars still aren’t as light as the Deity’s, they’re by no means heavy. The stem is the lightest here though, coming out at a reasonable 468g total.
|Easton Havoc Carbon||5º||9º||750mm||235g||£119.99|
|Deity Black Label||5º||9º||787mm||295g||£59.99|
|Thomson Elite X4||50mm||0º||167g||£79.99|