Wide bars. Just a fad? I jump on the band wagon to see if the latest crop of wide bars are fashion over function. Wide curious? Check it out and make your own mind up!
The old school riders out there will remember proper wide bars on 'clunker' bikes of the 80's. Huge things, wider than your Mum's shoulder pads. A fair reach for the average 12 year old. Raleigh Bomber anyone?
By the mid 90's, mountain biking was defining it's own (dubious) style - time to bust out the hacksaw as bars were going super-narrow. I used to run a Pace Sub-130 bar which was 21.75" wide, or 550mm for the metric generation. A certain local racer by the name of Peat also ran bars around 21" wide for the Nationals!
Progression! 650mm, 685mm, 710mm, 760mm...
20 years later and we seem to have come full circle! Bars are getting wider again and the fashion for super-wide is last years next years must have. Fashion or not, wide bars are cropping up. Sam likes 'em wide, so do Peaty and Rennie. Burgtec, FSA Gravity and Reverse are all in on the act.
My latest bike build is all about mixing it up and trying new things so I decided to check out one of the new wide bars for myself, to see if they really are function over fashion.
As well as importing Reverse components into the UK, FLi Distribution also manage several race teams. The DH bar from Reverse is a reasonably wide 710mm already but the young guns on the World Cup scene were going wider - either running extensions in their bars or just overhanging their grips (not recommended)!
A true 760mm tip to tip
To answer this demand, FLi worked with Reverse to spec a super wide front end for their World Cup teams and the XXL bar was born. It comes in at a whopping 760mm wide and has a low 20mm rise to keep that front end weighted in the turns. The weight is a reasonable 279g so no real penalty there.
When I first saw them fitted on my bike, I was a real sceptic, a die-hard bar cutter. I resisted my urges and rode them anyway.
When I first hit the tracks, there was no doubt wider bars give more authority over the front wheel due to increased leverage. Also, the wider the bar, the more you need to move your hands to get the same wheel movement, making turning slightly slower - but more precise. This gives added stability on high speed wide open sections and makes holding drifts smooth and controllable. The increased leverage also means the bike is easier to crank over into turns.
On the flip side, whipping the bike around needs a bit more hand/shoulder movement and of course those tight tree gaps get the little finger knuckles twitching! If you race 4X no-one is passing these, but you'd better get your snap on as you'll struggle to gain places too!
I'm still getting used to them but first impressions are positive. I'll be leaving the pipe cutter on the shelf yet a while. If I do change my mind, the ends are marked up for easy trimming.
Check out the perspective on these!
Of course, wide bars are not for everyone. They suit some riders and riding styles more than others - no doubt suiting taller downhillers better than short trail riders. I'm 6 foot, with a good 'ape index' (climber talk for long arms!) so these actually feel pretty comfy.