The Spike 800 Race Vibrocore may look like a standard aluminum bar but its name should hint that there's something else going on here, and that something else is a special low density, two-part foam that's been injected into its core. Spank says that this helps to dissipate the high frequency vibrations that are usually passed through the bike and straight into the riders' hands. Spank offers two handlebars with the same Vibrocore technology: the 235 gram, 760mm wide Oozy; and the 325 gram, 800mm wide Spike 800 Race Vibrocore reviewed below. There are 15mm and 30mm rise options for the Spike handlebar, with both sporting an eight degree back sweep and a four degree up up sweep. MSRP $99.90 USD www.spank-ind.com
How does Vibrocore work? Spank says that the low density foam is able to ''reduce the frequency, amplitude, and duration of energy waves traveling through the handlebar. Not only does the low density of the Vibrocore impede the transfer of energy, but as energy waves cross material boundaries from high density to low density within the bar, they are refracted and reflected, reducing their ability to build on one another or sustain vibrational frequencies.
'' It's all about dealing with energy transfer, which is something that motorbike riders have know for years and are able to somewhat remedy by using weighted bar plugs or other devices to dissipate the buzz of their motor and the terrain. However, those methods are obviously not suitable on a mountain bike that only weighs thirty some odd pounds, which is why the 25 gram weight penalty of the Vibrocore foam over a standard Spike handlebar is so appealing - can it do a similar job while basically weighing next to nothing? Let's also keep in mind that we don't have to deal with high RPM motors, only the terrain under us, so is it really needed?
Spank starts with a standard Spike handlebar which is then filled with low density foam, a job that they say is actually quite tricky due to multiple elements needing to be added together at the same time in order to create the green coloured foam, as well as temperature and time constraints during the process that have to be met. Small closed-cell foam plugs are then installed into each side of the bar in order to keep contaminates out, and the finished product looks exactly like a standard Spike handlebar save for the matte shot-peen finish.
Spank says that the Spike 800 Race Vibrocore bar is as flex free as anything else out there, but also able to reduce the amount of buzz that would otherwise be transferred to a rider's hands. And what about the new 35mm clamp diameter bars that many companies are saying allows them to tune flex? Mike Dutton, Spank Brand Manager, shares Spank's view on the subject: ''We really just couldn't buy into other brands marketing more flexible bars to make 35mm acceptable after the last 20 years of bar development and marketing toward stiffer, light weight bars. It seemed crazy. We insisted on a solution that improved comfort and performance.
'' It's also worth mentioning that while Spank might have been able to come up with a similar result using carbon fiber, the company cites both environmental and affordability reasons as being enough for them to pursue aluminum instead, which is good news for anyone who might shy away from using a carbon bar.
Dutton explained the company's thoughts on using carbon fiber in an earlier review of their Oozy Trail295 wheelset
: Spank has taken a stance in our manufacturing facilities and product range against the use of carbon for components that take a lot of abuse and may require more frequent replacement. We feel that handlebars and rims, for example, are not suitable products for materials which are not recyclable. The abundance of mass produced carbon components in the market lately has also brought down standards, and is starting to pose a safety threat to consumers. Spank has invested heavily into the development of production processes, materials, and product design, with the goal of offering consumers a safe, environmentally responsible affordable solution to carbon without compromises. We aim to offer World Cup level components at a competitive weight and performance compared to carbon ones many times their price.
The Spike's ''Dual Extreme Gradual Taper'' graphics might have you scratching your head given that it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, but the name makes more sense you see what Spank is doing with their aluminum manufacturing
. Adding tapers, which is where the wall thickness of the bar changes, allows manufacturers to leave material where it's needed in the name of strength, like the bends in a riser bar, while allowing it to be thinner where that material isn't required. This isn't a new thing, of course, but Spank's approach, which they say utilizes proprietary technology, allows for much more gradual taper zones in the aluminum. The shorter and more abrupt the taper zone, the more likely it is to act as a stress riser that might possibly lead to a failure, so they've worked to make the Spike's tapers as long as possible. This, combined with their ''CNC Bending'' technique, means that they don't end up having to literally grind external material off of the bends, and that the finished product has basically zero inconsistencies throughout.
All of the above is hidden from view, and you wouldn't know otherwise if it wasn't for the rather loud graphics that get hidden by your grips, but there's something else that's also impossible to spot: Spank's Impact Ends. This refers to the additional wall thickness at the very end of each bar that, as the name suggests, adds some strength to each end. The length of the Impact Ends has been increased on the Spike 800 Race Vibrocore compared to their other offerings, with it now running 60mm in from each side so that the rider has the option of trimming down the bar's width without sacrificing the Impact Ends. Pinkbike's Take
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|Can a handlebar actually be too stiff? Of course, but it doesn't come through to the rider as you might expect... rather than it feeling like it's simply too rigid, you'll likely pick up a sensation of it passing too much vibration through to the hands. I've felt exactly this with a number of the new 35mm clamp diameter handlebars on the market, and it's one of the reasons that I'm not a real big fan of the new, larger size. Now, it's obviously not just the bar's clamp diameter that is having this effect, but the few oversized options that I've tried have all felt too harsh for my liking. I could say the same thing about a 31.8mm carbon bar that I've had on my personal bike for some time now, and while I knew that said bar was a touch unforgiving, it wasn't clear just how unforgiving it actually was until I swapped it out for the Spike Vibrocore.|
I'll certainly admit to being a bit skeptical about how much a handlebar filled with foam would help matters, which is surely a valid doubt to have, but there is a definite contrast in feel between the Vibrocore, the carbon bar it replaced, and a standard aluminum bar, all of which I've had on the same bike recently. It's not a night and day difference, however, but it's there, and I'd say that it's much more subtle than going from a small to a high-volume tire. That's on the same bike, with the same set of grips and wearing the same gloves. Is it going to make you faster? That's a tough question to answer, but I can see the added comfort meaning less hand and arm fatigue over a long day, which would certainly make you more comfortable, and therefore possibly quicker. I can also say that my hands felt better after using the Vibrocore than with other options, which proves to me that Spank's idea of filling the bar with foam is valid.
I tested the Spike 800 Race Vibrocore bar on a short-travel bike after cutting 10mm off of each side, and while Spank touts the bar's vibration damping abilities as an asset to the downhill racer, I think that trail riders and enduro racers will actually benefit more from the technology. Yes, a downhill bike is ridden at faster speeds and on rougher terrain, but your trail bike has less travel, likely smaller volume tires, and there's simply less between you and the ground to take in and absorb the chatter. This is where the Vibrocore should be an asset, not to say that it wouldn't help your hands during a long day in the bike park on your DH machine as well, because it clearly would do exactly that. The 325 gram, 800mm wide Spike 800 Race Vibrocore is likely too much handlebar for a lot of trail riders, and while there is a lighter, 235 gram Oozy Vibrocore model, it measures in at 760mm. That means that you'll have to go with the heavier 800mm wide model and cut it down (or not) if you want to go wider than 760mm. - Mike Levy