Race Face SIXC 35 Bar and Atlas Stem - Review

Feb 26, 2015
by Mike Kazimer  
Race Face SIXC 35 bar and Atlas stem review test

Race Face was one of the early adopters of the still-emerging 35mm handlebar standard, realizing that increasing the diameter of the bar clamp area allowed them to reduce the wall thickness, which in turn led to a lighter final product without any decrease in strength. The SIXC 35 carbon bars are no exception – they're lighter than the previous 31.8mm version, weighing in at a scant 210 grams, an impressive number for a 800mm wide bar that's built for everything from all-mountain to DH usage. 10, 20, and 35mm rise options are available, with 8° rearward and 5° upward sweep. The bar can be trimmed by up to 50mm total, and guide marks are printed on each side to facilitate the process. Graphic colors for 20mm rise version: black, blue, red, green. MSRP: $169.99 USD.

Race Face SIXC 35 bar and Atlas stem review test
The SIXC 35 handlebar is constructed from unidirectional carbon fiber.
Race Face SIXC 35 bar and Atlas stem review test
Race Face has already done the measuring for you - simply select your preferred length and saw away.

A bar with a 35mm diameter needs a stem to match, and Race Face has a number of compatible options, including the Atlas 35 stem. Machined from 6061 aluminum, its four bolt face plate is shaped to wrap around as much of the bar as possible, and has degree gradients laser etched on each side. The stem is secured to the steerer tube with two opposing 5mm hex head bolts to ensure the clamping force is evenly distributed. Lengths: 35 (tested), 50, 65mm. Rise: 0°. Weight: 141 grams (35mm length). MSRP: $99.99 USD. www.raceface.com, @raceface.

Race Face SIXC 35 bar and Atlas stem review test
The four bolt face plate is laser etched, and marks on the handlebar make it easy to get everything aligned.
Race Face SIXC 35 bar and Atlas stem review test
The Atlas stem is available in three lengths - 35mm (shown), 50mm, and 60mm,


Pinkbike’s Take:
bigquotesOnce I had everything mounted up, and the bar trimmed to my preferred length of 785mm, it was time to hit the trails. Six months later, after being fed a steady diet of rugged, technical rides, the SIXC / Atlas bar and stem combo is still holding strong. There haven't been any creaks from the stem, even after being subjected to plenty of rainy, muddy conditions, and the stubby 35mm length has been absolutely flex free.

As for the bars, they've survived unscathed as well, and whether I was pushing hard into a corner, or monster trucking through a rock garden, the SIXC bar felt solid, instantly responding to every little input. Bar stiffness can be tricky to get right - while you obviously don't want a bar that feels like an overcooked noodle, bars that are too stiff can quickly leads to fatigued hands. The SIXC bars are certainly stiff, but Race Face has allowed for just enough flex and vibration absorption that they avoid feeling overly harsh, although riders switching from a set of 31.8mm (or 25.4mm for that matter) aluminum bars will certainly notice the difference. My first few rides I found myself wondering if the bars were possibly too stiff, simply because I wasn't used to the level of responsiveness they possessed, but I've since come to appreciate their precise feel on the trail. Aside from stiffness, the actual shape of a bar has an impact on how comfortable they are as well, and Race Face has everything in order on that front. The 8 degrees of back and 5 degrees of up sweep put my hands in a natural feeling position, one that remained comfortable no matter how long of a ride I embarked on.

The world of mountain bike standards can be confusing, and downright frustrating at times, but when the end result is a bar that manages to be as wide, light, and stiff as the SIXC, it's hard to deny that the 35mm standard has merit. Does that mean your 31.8mm bars are worthless? Of course not, but for riders that are in the market for a cockpit upgrade, the SIXC bar and Atlas stem combo is an excellent option for any bike. The antiquated notion still persists that wide bars and short stems are only for downhill bikes, but that's simply not the case. Why not have the cockpit of your trail bike to feel nearly identical to that of your downhill bike? Well, with this set up you can, and without the weight penalty typically associated with DH worthy products.
- Mike Kazimer



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90 Comments

  • + 41
 Have this combo on my YT Capra - the stem came on it as standard and I added the bars. I've left them at 800, and I can honestly say this is the best cockpit I have ridden, even trumping my previous which was Renthal Fatbar Carbon on a Thomson stem. Switching bikes back to the Renthal, these now feel a tiny little bit too stiff in comparison - I think Race Face has got the control vs comfort ratio spot on with these bars.
  • + 3
 Ditto here on same bike. Am about to swap the 50mm stem for a 35mm reach Atlas. Love-em.
  • + 4
 Got the 50mm stem and 35mm rise bars cut to 780mm. Couldn't agree more, great bar and stem combo.
  • + 2
 I'm on the exact same combo as tested, I can only confirm pinkbikes words
  • + 24
 Same combo here. 35mm length stem, 35mm rise bars, 35mm clamp diameter. Not only does it feel great, but anyone with OCD can look at those numbers and smile contentedly.
  • + 1
 im on the same setup shown here aswell. had them for 9months now on an sb66c, this review is on point. every word.
  • + 1
 @dukeynz wanna trade yr Atlas 50mm for my Atlas 35mm? Smile
  • + 1
 I have the same setup on my Sanction. I was initially afraid that using the bigger clamping diameter + carbon would lead to too much stiffness. A few rock gardens later and I actually prefer this over my old Truvativ cockpit; my arms are not as worn out.
  • + 35
 Am I alone in thinking that most reviews for stull like bars and stems could be summed up with:
1) It worked, 2) it didn't work, 3) it worked, but I picked the wrong configuration
?
  • + 4
 I tried carbon bars on my road and XC bikes a couple of years ago. I ended up going back to alloy because the carbon bars were too stiff. There was almost no flex compared to an alloy bar and high frequency hits like braking bumps were a lot harsher with the carbon bars. This was most noticeable on my road bike without suspension (most of my "road" rides are at least half gravel road/trail).

This is the stuff I would like to hear about in a handlebar review. Have they fixed that problem, are these carbon bars more forgiving? 35mm is supposed to be stiffer too, which might reintroduce the problem. From the review it sounds like these bars are significantly stiffer and probably not for me.
  • - 15
flag WAKIdesigns (Feb 26, 2015 at 12:23) (Below Threshold)
 You are a hater man!
  • + 4
 dthomp325, i too have noticed some 35mm bars being incredibly stiff. My carbon havoc are ridiculously stiff, perhaps too stiff. My Next SL and SixC bars are just right.
  • + 6
 just makes your arms more burly.. i love my havoc 35's
  • + 5
 Stiffness is one thing, but the sheer dampening of reverb and vibration in carbon vs. alum, is bar-none. What you say is ridiculous.
  • + 3
 @dthomp325 if carbon bars feel to stiff for you i can recommend Crank Brothers iodine 11 carbon bars. I got these super light xc bars for cheap and figured i give them a try even thoug i do everything but XC.
There is a 780mm version which i rode for 2 years (we don't have seasons in Cally but ride all year long in shorts) now and to my total surprise the still hold up on my Yeti SB66C.
I honestly thought i ride them for a few weeks or month till my wallet fills up again and then replace them with something sturdier but even the 2 summers of excessive of bike-park and DH-track use and some occasional races couldn't break them.
Anyway these bars are so soft you basically get another inch of travel out of them Smile that might not be for everyone but somehow found myself liking it...
  • + 4
 @dthomp325

I run S-Works carbon drop bars on my road bike and they have added a noticeable (and visible) level of comfort to the front end of my road bike, which felt harsh with the stock aluminium alloy bars. If you get on the drops and push down hard, you can cause the bar to flex, which feels great on rough roads or pave (cobbles).

I also use a S-Works carbon flat bar on my hardtail MTB, which replaced Easton Havoc aluminium DH bar. The carbon bar is half the weight and feels great to ride, its obviously harder to gauge "comfort" as the MTB has a suspension fork and tubeless tires at 25psi which gives a different ride feel to a road bike!
  • + 1
 @dthomp325 I think he actually spent a fair bit of time in the review going over these issues. I can say that I personally get less hand fatigue with this exact setup than I get on either my previous Enve DH bars and Easton Havoc Stem or my current hardtail which has Chromag Fubars Cutlass and Ranger stem. I can't say whether that is due to the bars alone, but I do notice it.
  • + 1
 @hampsteadbandit I had the exact opposite experience. The lightweight alloy drop bars I've used visibly flex and provide a lot of comfort. I put on a set of FSA K-Wing bars, and they had 0 flex over even the roughest stuff, which was extremely uncomfortable on a skinny tire bike with no give anywhere else either. The MTB bars I tried were Salsa Pro Moto XC bars. These were noticeably stiffer over braking bumps.

I only really ride the road when I'm commuting, the trails are too muddy, or I'm injured, so it doesn't really matter what I use, but I'm picky about my MTB parts. I'm currently running Giant's 800mm alloy bar on my trail and DH bikes and I have a RaceFace Turbine alloy on my XC bike. Both have a nice amount of give, and it sounds like the 35/Carbon combo is probably not for me.

@katmai I thought the review was good too, just pointing out that there is more to handlebar reviews than "does it work?"
  • + 1
 @dthomp325

Thanks for your comment - like bike frames it depends on the intended design use of the product, rather than the material itself?

The way you can make a titanium hardtail frame super rigid, or make one that is very comfortable. Same with aluminium alloy, and carbon fibre.

The stock aluminium bar I had were Giant's own drop bar model. I've also tried a Giant Propel aero road bike with their own brand carbon fibre drop bars and that bar was bomber solid, no flex at all, ideal for sprinting but horrible for rough roads.
  • + 0
 The question is whether one can make a flexible carbon product for MTB application due to thickness necessary to make it hit resistent. I have never experimented with making carbon bars myself so I don't know. One thing is sure, it's hard to find a stiffer mother Effer than Renthal Fatbar
  • + 1
 To answer your question WAKI, yes carbon can be comfortably flexy and durable. People have been using products that match that description for many years. While carbon has just recently hit the mainstream, it is not new. At this point the strength of carbon is well understood by engineers and the bicycle industry. It will just take a while for everyone to become aware.
  • + 1
 in fact compound materials using carbon fibers or a mix of different fibers are better suited to produce a product that is "flexible and comfortable" than metals. By bringing different fibers like aramid (keflar) into the mix you could achieve extremely impact resistant products but of course this would come with a weight penalty and a higher price and as most cyclists are weight weenies it would be hard to argue these kind of construction methods from a marketing point of view. Also the cost would not be worth it as the risk is considerably low compared to aeronautic applications for example.

Making things thicker does not necessarily make them stronger. A thicker part would be less flexible and so less of the energy of an potential impact would be "used up" by flexible deformation of a part and therefore can cause it to break earlier.
@Waki: Its the same like in buildings where less flexible structures are more likely to collapse in an earthquake than flexible ones.
  • + 23
 Am I going to lose my next race, I've got 25.4mm bars!
  • + 3
 LOL
  • + 1
 If your bar is as old as the 25.4mm standard, you can have some issues some day with your teeth. (Not because 25.4, but because an old bar isn't as strong as a new one.)
  • + 6
 Maybe. But they are some Funn handlebars, that if they could last even a year under Sam Hill, they'll last a lifetime under me. I understand the fundamentals of fatigue, so I know what to look for.
  • + 1
 @faul I agree with your point, but keep in mind that companies like Deity and Spank still produce 25.4mm bars for thing like DJ/Slopestyle and Street riding. They may not be as old as one would think.
  • + 12
 "Why not have the cockpit of your trail bike to feel nearly identical to that of your downhill bike? Well, with this set up you can, and without the weight penalty typically associated with DH worthy products."

Hmmm...your downhill bike should be different because you actually pedal your trail/xc bike.

Don't get me wrong, I run a 50mm stem and a 780mm bar on my Spec Enduro. However, if you have a short reach/short TT geo bike it may not make sense to run these numbers. Perhaps a 60mm/720mm combo puts that rider in a more comfortable position and running 35mm/780mm would make them feel like they are on a pogo stick?

My point is, proper bike fit is often overlooked by trends. Do what makes sense for your respective bike, geometry and riding style.
  • + 8
 I'd say get a bike with the right size top tube/reach for your given stem length/bar width choice. Stems are not just for fit, they are for steering preference. Going to a long stem because your bike is too small isn't the best choice.
  • + 2
 @rattpoison Agreed. Handling is the most important thing. Bar and stem length has a much bigger effect on handling than it does on fit, although you can fine tune fit (i.e. 35-60 stems and 740-780 bars) without a significant negative handling impact. Also, riding any bike from a trail bike to DH bike is an incredibly dynamic activity. This is unlike a road bike or XC hardtail where a bike fitter will dial in the fit to the millimeter to create an optimal position for pedaling.
  • + 13
 Don't you just hate riding with an over-cooked noodle?
  • + 21
 My noodle usually ends up al dente but a bit salty after a ride.
  • + 10
 at my age, you will never hear me complain about "too stiff".
  • + 3
 I'm sure there are variances in stiffness between the two diameters as well as the materials, but wouldn't bar width and suspension have more to do with what can really be felt? Can an engineer comment on this? I went from an a 750mm alu bar to a 760 mm carbon bar and really can't tell a difference.
  • + 2
 I've been very happy with this combo as well. I left the bar at 800mm and it hasn't been as cumbersome as some think. I'm a fairly big guy, though. I've been using a 50mm stem and might try the 35 length just to see. But it's an indestructible combo for sure.
  • + 2
 This cockpit is sorted, well done RF. I rode the first generation sixc 730mm for a few months, but deep nics from various wrecks were a little nerve racking so I went with a longer Chromag osx. Carbon did seem to soak up the vibration better, I'm not sure how or why... because they were also more responsive.

I usually replace Al bars every 18 months, what is the recommended run time on these/with regular year round coastal abuse? If these bars are lighter and thinner, do nics and scratches significantly alter integrity?
  • + 1
 18 months, wow! Send those 'worn out' bars my way; my main pair is going strong at 6 years old.
  • + 2
 Have to admit they look awesome and considering them for my SJ. Honestly after 10 years of DH riding and 35 of cycling in total I fail to feel the difference between "soft" and "hard" bars. I find 35mil bars are like 10 speed for downhill. I don't need more than 5 gears for DH (15-11).
  • + 1
 35mm are for large carbon bars. Stiffer/stronger to carry the extra lenght, and bigger clamping area because carbon.
If you don't look at the weight of your bar, if you don't have a 800mm wide bar, or if you don't have a carbon bar, you don't need 35 mm bar.
(I have a 6sp 11-24 cassette for downhill and I think it's enough, 5 sp is may be too narrow)
  • + 2
 I am riding at sixC 31.8mm bar for into my third year. It is uncut and seems to have the right amount of flex. I ride an chromag BSX on my Aurum and it makes the ride a bit too harsh. Mind you I may be holding on a bit too tight. Having enough bank, makes these issues so much fun. I ride an stem that fits the stretch of my body. I find the short stem is not always awesome up the steep technical climbs. Flexy makes my wrists, elbows and shoulders happy.
  • + 3
 I have the 32mm version. The instructions say do NOT cut any Raceface carbon bars but the bars have guide marks on them. Hows that for logic
  • + 1
 Moved to these bars just recently on my dh and xc bike. For me the sweep makes a huge difference in hand/wrist comfort. The 8 degree backsweep is spot on after trying those with 9(enve and sunline). Also, I clipped a tree at high speed through a rock garden and thought for sure they would be bent...completely straight.
  • + 7
 Your link is not working.
  • + 2
 I don't get it. Are 31.8in bars too flexy? And if 35in bars are too stiff without deliberate engineering to introduce some give into them, then why not stick with the old 31.8 standard?
  • + 1
 the mountain bike industry is funny. If 35 bars arent an example of a gimmick i dont know what is. Why in the world would you want to make a handlebar stiffer just for the sake of it.Tell me whens the last time you were using a "skinny' 31.8 bar and thought, "this bars simply isnt stiff enough to handle my bad ass skills" We have this weird obssesion with wanting everything stiffer. Not really for any performance aspect simply because its COOLER. And not to mention the reviewer was basically about to say the bars were unnecissarily stiff, before remembering that would make less trend hungry bikers want to buy the things. Im actually surprised the mountain bike forum thats famous for being skeptical, if not overly skeptical sometimes regarding many of the new shiny components that get put in front of us didnt call it out.
  • + 3
 35mm bars are lighter and stronger than 31.8mm bars. I bought this combo when building my new whip because if I went 31.8 on Sixc, I'd pay the same amount, and have a heavier, narrower bar.
  • + 1
 We all want wide bars right? of course we do they're great.
But here's the problem making stuff bigger (longer in this case) should make them heavier.
Heavy stuff kind of sucks.
35mm bars and stems make it possible for me to have a 800mm bar which is lighter than my old 750mm bar without it being more flexible (the stem is a little lighter too but let's not get off track.)
I don't feel any change in stiffness and that's great too.
  • + 1
 I ride a 760mil bar on all my bikes. It suites me well. Most WC DH riders ride somewhere around 760/750 except maybe some tall riders like Minaar or Needles. I find that super light DH bikes tend to become very nervous on rough terrain (especially light rim/tire/tube combinations). Just think of Hill's NukeProof frame and you'll see DH bike weight is not as much of a problem as the industry wants us to believe. (17Kg is a great weight for a Alu rig).
  • + 5
 Why get those when I could get a single Enve stem for the price of both?
  • + 3
 have the atlas 50mm paired with the next 760mm and numb hands and fatigued wrists are gone now. defenitly a big difference in weight compared to stock 31.8mm
  • + 1
 I'm running the same as tested on my newmad and it's amazing just took a few rides to get use to how long they are, don't think I have the heart to cut them down now. loving it
  • + 1
 I was planning on running the 35mm diameter Atlas alloy bar and direct mount stem this year on my DH bike. Should I be worried that the 35mm might be too stiff? Especially in the aluminum version?
  • + 3
 nope, they are perfect. Easton havoc stem has a 45-50mm option though, but raceface bars have 10-20-35mm rise options.
  • + 0
 As much as I am a hater of all things carbon fibre I have to say fair play to RaceFace for making a carbon bar at 800mm wide. That takes some balls!! Also nice 35mm stem too. I've got a 35mm stem and will never go back to anything shorter. It's certainly a combo I would seriously consider purchasing.
  • - 1
 Personally I prefer aluminium handlebars.

For the same reason as most of the Tour de france pro teams.
www.globalcyclingnetwork.com/videos/sec-features/carbon-fiber-or-aluminium-handlebars-tour-de-france-2014

Fatigue inspection is a great issue with carbon. And handlebars are a very stressed part especially on MTBs. I am not willing to buy new bars after every crash.
  • + 2
 I think it's treated a bit differently for mountain biking. And even more so a company like Race Face, who make some very burly gear. And then further that SixC is their designated 'heavy' carbon line. Where so much of the road stuff is built to be light above all other considerations, the SixC stuff is designed to be tough.

tl;dr: don't hate carbon hate the way it was applied
  • - 2
 You got it completly wrong. Have you seen the video? Actually on road bikes the stems and handlebars are built to be extra stiff and usually weight is not such a concern. There is a weight limit of at least 6.8kg but the bikes could get much lower so they are optimised for stiffness (especially bars and stems).

On the other hand the there is no minimum weight for MTBs (or the UCI 6.8kg seems unreachable). So the weight of every component is pushed as low as possible.

But I am not concerned about fatigue itself. I believe Raceface is a reputable brand and would not come up with unreliable components.
The problem is the inspection of cracks in carbon. It is much harder to spot them in comparison to auminium.
  • - 2
 All road bars are 3 piece or more and bonded . Mountain bars are one piece.
  • + 2
 Just ordered myself three of these bars and two 35mm stems. I cannot wait to test them out Big Grin
  • + 2
 I understand that longer bars are more expensive but why short stems cost more?
  • + 1
 Well, lots of complaining, I have the exact set up on my Spartan.....and for me it's right on the money !! Whatever floats your boat ....
  • - 2
 thinner walls and larger diameters may be as strong from a flex/torsion standpoint, but that has to make it weaker for impact/puncture. The larger diameter means that a rock is more likely to hit at a point where it's close to perpendicular to the bar surface instead of to the side where it will glance off.
  • + 11
 I'm not sure that a 3.2mm difference is going to make that much of a difference as far as impact vulnerability. If you're smashing into rocks that hard, more than likely something is going to give.
  • + 7
 In theory yes. In real life it isn't an issue.
  • + 5
 You're way overthinking it
  • + 1
 And the diameter is only smaller near the clamp area so the chances are freakin low that you'll get a rock strike right there. Pretty much ain't gonna happen. If you cartwheel your bike in a rock garden and strike the carbon then your bar is done either way.
  • + 2
 these will match perfectly with my redalp!
  • + 1
 my next bar and stem combo exactly , currently running a black 50mm Atlas with 1 1/4 rise gold Kash $$ bars cut to 740mm
  • + 1
 I have the raceface atlas 50mm 35 combo with Easton Have Carbon 35. Better than my previous setup.
  • + 1
 Another bar, another stem. Bet there's a real big difference from the last ones & the next ones you'll "review". :/
  • + 2
 This stem or a Rhythm Pro?
  • + 1
 Another good option is easton for 35dia stems in 40/50.. Same parent company if I remember right.
  • + 1
 The Easton havoc 35 stem is quite a bit heavier than atlas
  • + 1
 I have the haven on my norco range. Pretty dang light/strong. Compare to turbine.
  • + 2
 How many MTB vacations/trips do you take a year on average?
  • + 2
 can RF make a carbon stem?
  • + 1
 I am holding out for the 36.8mm coming out next year. :-).
  • + 0
 "and the stubby 35mm length has been absolutely flex free"

flex in a stem? really?
  • + 2
 Most surely. Going from the Renthal 50mm split design to a 35mm Easton it was immediately noticeably stiffer. Same bar. Try it. You'll see.
  • + 3
 that's some questionable stem design. form before purpose
  • + 2
 Can you really feel the flex in a renthal stem? Or maybe you spen too much time talking about bike components and not enough time riding?
  • + 1
 pfffft.
  • + 1
 still waiting for the carbon stems...
  • + 1
 How stiff is too stiff??
  • + 1
 I like handlebars !!!!
  • - 2
 wow !! ... a bar and stem review, keep up the good work PB
  • + 2
 yeah they keep on the lookout for flexy stems for us.
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