Of all the new "standards" that have come our way of late, it feels as if the advance of 35mm diameter bars and stems has been one of the slowest and quite possibly, the quietest of them all. We first saw 35mm cockpit components back in 2013, albeit with the majority of the established brands at the time dismissing it as unnecessary and unneeded. Yet slowly and surely, over the years that followed, brand after brand added this new standard to their respective ranges.
But there was one brand in particular who seemed to hold out longer than most - Renthal. Famed for their neutral feeling bars in their now iconic gold finish, they too have now joined this ever-growing 35mm club. They have no plans to stop producing 31.8mm components anytime soon, though. So what's behind their late arrival, and why even adopt it at all?
FatBar 35 Details:
• Backsweep: 7º / Upsweep: 5º
• Sizes: 10, 20, 30 and 40mm rises
• FatBar Carbon 35: 800mm wide
• Weight: 225g
• MSRP: $164.96 USD / £69.95 GBP
• FatBar 35: 7050 Alloy, 800mm wide
• Weight: 305g
• MSRP: $84.96 USD / £69.95 GBP
• FatBar Lite Carbon 35: 760mm wide
• Weight: 190g
• MSRP: $164.96 USD / £134.95 GBP
• FatBar Lite 35: 7050 Alloy, 760mm wide
• Weight: 270g
• MSRP: $84.96 USD / £69.95 GBP
Apex 35 Stem Details:
• Material: 7075/2014 Aluminium
• Rise: 6º / - 6º
• 240º Clamping System
Lengths and Weights:
• 33mm | 112g
• 40mm | 122g
• 50mm | 136g
• 60mm | 147g
• Average weight Increase over 31.8mm option: 7g
• MSRP: $109.95 USD / £89.95
Integra 35 Stem Details:
• 7075/6082 Aluminium
• 240º Clamping SystemLengths, Weights and Rises
• 45mm length, 0mm rise - 133g
• 45mm length, 10mm rise - 156g
• 50mm length, 0mm rise - 157g
• 50mm length, 10mm rise - 177g
• Average weight Increase over 31.8mm option: 1.5g
• MSRP: $109.95 USD / £99.95
• For more: renthal.com
With a rich history in motorsports, Renthal joined the mountain bike market, as we know them today, with little fanfare and noise. That was until they signed the loudest and arguably the most stylish team on the circuit at the time, the Monster Energy Specialized team, back in 2010. From then, it didn't take long for their gold colored bars to become a familiar sight on the trails and downhill race tracks around the world. But away from the World Cup circuit, Renthal's products have done more than their fair share of shouting too, winning countless fans for their bombproof construction, but more importantly, their neutral feel.
31.8 vs. 35
|The position of the first and second bends relative to each other and the central clamping section is crucial. The ideal positioning is defined with the handlebar in its neutral position, i.e.; orientated with 5 degrees of up sweep and 7 degrees of back sweep. In this position, the first and second bends should be in line, in the vertical plane, with the center line of the stem clamp section. This results in a handlebar that has a very neutral feel if you roll your bars forward or, more commonly, backward. - Ian Collins - Cycle Products Manager, Renthal.|
For Renthal, adopting the 35mm diameter standard represented a unique set of challenges, primarily maintaining the strength, stiffness, and durability of the larger 35mm diameter while retaining the weight of the 31.8mm equivalent. To see what the difference was, we whipped out the scales and compared two identical set-ups, one in 31.8mm and the other, 35mm.
Renthal offer two distinctly different stems in both 31.8 and 35mm; the standard steerer mounted Apex and the direct mounted Integra. While the new 35mm iterations look almost identical to the 31.8mm offerings we've all seen before, even sharing the same 240-degree clamping system, the engineers at Renthal had to redesign each stem in every configuration to take the new bar diameter.
And even though they're larger and consequentially have more material, Renthal managed to keep any increases in weight to a minimum. Take an Integra stem with a 50mm length and a 0mm rise for example. Going up to the 35mm option carries a mere 15g weight penalty. If you want to know how little that is, find something comparable and see for yourself just how little 15g really is.
|35mm diameter has seen a significant increase in use as an OE fitment over the last couple of years, which has subsequently lead to an aftermarket demand for product upgrades. Our philosophy is always to offer as much choice as possible, so it was a natural step to offer a 35mm option. - Renthal.|
Adopting the 35mm diameter standard can, if done correctly, deliver an increased level of strength, durability and in some cases, significantly boost stiffness. Refreshingly Renthal understands that an overly stiff bar and stem can do more harm than good in the real world and firmly believe that the attributes of their existing 31.8mm products delivered the optimum ride feel and durability. With that in mind, they then had a benchmark to work to... Now, I know what you're thinking. Why bother going through all this hassle adopting this new standard when you're more than happy with the existing product line?
That's a good question and the honest answer from Renthal, is that the 35mm diameter standard will be on more complete bikes than you can shake a stick at next year and of all the things to upgrade on a brand new bike covered in un-exciting OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) product, bars are a popular first call. Renthal simply didn't want to loose sales being the last major handlebar brand who didn't offer a 35mm bar range. They similarly didn't want to give people needlessly stiff and overly engineered products which, and let's face facts, is pretty awesome if you're already familiar with their bars. But as they embarked on creating their 35mm bar range, they say that they did make some improvements along the way.
While their carbon bar range has gained a few grams along with the stems, Renthal managed to save weight with their alloy FatBars. They've done this, thanks to improved manufacturing techniques, by improving the allocation of material throughout the bar - remember that the original 31.8mm FatBar has remained pretty much the same now for over six years, including the way it is manufactured. Renthal claim to have retained their popular ride feel, strength and durability too and with that in mind, we fired the new 35mm bars and stems on some bikes and headed to the trails to see for ourselves.Performance
Having intermittently used Renthal bars and stems over the years, and tested every iteration of every bar, stem and indeed grip they've released, I felt pretty confident that I'd notice any difference between the old 31.8mm bars and stems, and the new 35mm numbers. On top of that, I've exclusively spent the last six months crunching miles on two 31.8mm Renthal set-ups on two different bikes. This proved to be the perfect testing scenario, swapping them both over, retaining bar rises and stem lengths, to the new 35mm diameter option.
Opting for the burlier FatBar Carbon with a 20mm rise and 800mm width - 20mm more than the 31.8mm option - there was a distinctly different feel, especially in the corners. So out came the hacksaw to carefully level the playing field and get the bars to the same width, as 800mm is too much for my height and build with relation to the bike size they were bolted to. It's also worth noting here that the FatBar Lite bars have also gained 20mm in length, from 740 to 760mm, and are strong enough for anything other than DH duties where triple clamp forks are used.
With the bars cut to 780mm and mated to a 50mm Apex stem - once again, the exact same size as the one it superseded - there was, no difference in ride feel. None what so ever. Similarly with the DH bike, I swapped the 31.8mm Renthal set-up for a like-for-like 35mm configuration, except this time opting for the alloy option over the Carbon FatBar that was originally on there. Before embarking on this, I did ask Ian from Renthal why some of his athletes prefer one material option over the other - Aaron Gwin
and Laurie Greenland
for example, who both love the feel of the carbon bar over Rémi Thirion
and Troy Brosnan
who prefer the alloy. The simple answer is that alloy gives a little more than carbon thanks to the way it handles the frequency of vibrations.
Cranking out the runs on the DH bike, there was a noticeable difference between the alloy and carbon - even a 31.8mm carbon bar and a 35mm alloy bar, with the latter dishing out a marginally more forgiving ride feel. At the end of the day, what pro athletes run is based on extensive off-season testing at speeds that are hard to fathom for anyone but world class riders.
|It goes without saying that Renthal's decision to go down the 35mm diameter route is simply because it's unavoidable given the way the marketplace is going. You could even argue that it's commercial suicide to avoid it, even if the performance benefits don't necessarily warrant it. Yet it says a lot that Renthal has gone to a great deal of effort to retain the feel and performance of their existing 31.8mm range, which you'll still be able to buy. If you're looking to invest in a completely new bar and stem, it would probably pay to go 35mm and embrace it, but if you're happy with your 31.8mm Renthal set-up, there's probably no reason to make the change until you have to. - Olly Forster|
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