Truvativ is now offering 35mm handlebars. What exciting times we live in.
I have limited experience on 35mm handlebars. I spent a season on Gravity’s 35mm Grid aluminum bar on my trail bike, and while the bar did feel a little like a broomstick compared to the normal (and more expensive) Gravity Light bar I’ve ridden for years, the Grid bar wasn’t unrideable. I didn’t love the straighter, flatter angles of the new bar, and it was a little rougher than the 31.8 bar, but the additional stiffness wasn’t a love it or hate it thing, it was just kinda there. Blind test, I’m not sure I would have noticed the additional stiffness. Maybe?
Apparently though, alloy bars aren’t really the point of the new interface, just a bonus option and a way to sell more NewCoolShit. TEAM ROBOT might be irrelevant and half-dead, but we’ve still got people, and our people indicated that the real reason 35mm exists is to create a safer BCD for plastic bars to save ham-fisted home mechanics. The previous pattern was apparently:
- Home mechanic over-tightens stem on new carbon bars.
- Breaks their face off when their new 800mm handlebar turns into two 400mm handlebars.
- Home mechanic then funnels cash to the dentists of the world to fix his shit.
- Dentists spend that cool facial reconstruction cash on carbon bars and other lightweight components for themselves in a nasty pattern known as ‘The Dentist Cycle,’ to be covered more extensively in a later post.
So plastic handlebar safety is the first argument, which is valid, and the second argument typically revolves around plastic handlebar stiffness. This also seems valid, because I’ve personally felt some ridiculously flexy 31.8 carbon bars. During a parking lot test on one of the first generation Enve DH Bars, I got the bars to make a frowny face. I did the same with a set of Crankbrothers 710mm plastic bars while standing over the bike with both feet on the ground. I don’t have stiffness test values for those bars, but I’d guess they’re somewhere in the zero to shitty range.
[Editor’s Note: Sure, I guess the third argument for carbon bars would be vibration damping, as noted by one of our commenters. But that idea is stupid on many levels, so I didn’t mention it. To be addressed in a future article)
But it’s worth asking: what would drive someone to run carbon handlebars in the first place? Why does this seem like the place to save weight? I can’t think of any component that’s worse to break, and I can’t think of a single 800mm bar that weighs more than 400g, meaning your max *potential* weight savings is less than half a pound. to review, the cost to save less than a half a pound with carbon handlebars is:
- Maybe your face
Sure, I can justify the $130. Even on the high side, you can still rationalize $225 to save half a pound, especially compared to a fancy set of wheels or Ti spring. But maybe your face seems like a pretty steep price for a marginally lighter cockpit. A friend of mine makes a practice of taking off his old bars every two years and sawing them in half so no one ever rides them again, and while that’s a little dramatic, it illustrates a point- handlebars will not be friendly if they break.
And you thought those bars were expensive.
Of course, from a materials standpoint, carbon can be stronger than aluminum. As long as you don’t over-tighten your clamps, score the interface with twisting brake levers or controls on the bar, allow your bike to bump into others during transport, take your bars off and on repeatedly, accidentally hit the surface with sharp tools or rocks, drop your bike, or crash. As long as you don’t do that, you’re fine.