Check Out: Futuristic Handlebars, New Saddles, Back Protection, & More

Jul 20, 2021 at 9:30
by Mike Kazimer  

A lot of gear comes across our desks here at Pinkbike. Check Out is an occasional round up of everything our tech editors have gotten their hands on. Sometimes it's products we're doing long-term tests on, other times it's stuff we're stoked on but don't have time to fully review. And, sometimes it's crazy shit someone sent us unsolicited and we're having a laugh.

Bontrager RSL Handlebar / Stem


750mm XC Bar/Stem Details
• -13° degree rise
• 8° backsweep, 5° upsweep
• 70, 80, or 90mm effective stem lengths
• Weight: 214 grams (claimed, 70mm version)
820mm Trail Bar/Stem Details
• 0° rise, 7° backsweep, 6° upsweep
• 35 or 45mm effective stem lengths
• Titanium bolts
• Weight: 274 grams (actual)
• MSRP: $350 USD

bigquotesBontrager's new RSL carbon handlebar / stem combo is a guaranteed conversation starter, and it also adds some space-age flair to any bike. I'd even go so far as to say these are some of the best looking bars currently on the market. While the concept isn't exactly new, it's still a polarizing design due to the fact that adjusting handlebar roll isn't possible, and there's no easy stem switching. On the flip side, the integration allows for fairly significant weight savings, somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 grams compared to a high-end carbon bar and aluminum stem combo.

The $350 price tag also isn't exactly budget friendly, but there are also carbon bars and stems out there that, when purchased together, would have a similar final price. Bontrager offers two versions – the 750mm XC-oriented model with a 13-degree stem drop, and the trail-oriented version that comes in an 820mm length and a 0-degree rise stem.

I've been using trail version, trimmed down to 780mm. Installation was straightforward, just don't forget to use the included aluminum spacer that sits on the inside of the stem to help cinch everything down. On my scale the bars weigh 274 grams, or 24-grams more than Bontrager's stated weight. (I have a feeling their weight is without the aluminum spacer, but I included it since it's a necessary part.)

Out on the trail, the bars feel, well, normal. They're stiff without feeling uncomfortably harsh, and the rise and sweep isn't that far off from what I prefer. However, they also don't exactly match my current preference, and that's what's ultimately going to be the deciding factor when it comes to who purchases these. For me, they're very close, but not quite in line with what I'm looking for - I'd love to see a higher rise version added into the lineup, and maybe one with a little more backsweep and a 40mm stem length.

If the 45mm or 35mm stem length, 27.5mm rise, 7-degree backsweep and 6-degree upsweep match the numbers you're after, then the RSL bars could be a good weight saving option.

7Mesh Elevate Long Sleeve Bike Tech T-Shirt


• 86% polyester / 14% lyocell
• $60 USD
• Sizes: XS to XXL
• Colors: pebble grey, lichen
• Lightweight, antibacterial fabric

bigquotesI know, I know, $60 is a lot of money for a long sleeve t-shirt, especially one that's a relatively boring grey like this one. However, most long sleeve shirts simply aren't this comfortable. 7Mesh's Elevate shirt uses a polyester / lyocell fabric that gives it a perfectly-broken-in feel right out of the box, with a fit that provides plenty of room for movement without being too baggy.

It compresses small enough to fit into a hip pack or jersey pocket, and I brought it with me on dozens of spring rides when it was nice to have an extra layer for the descents. It's held up well, especially considering the number of blackberry bushes I've brushed past. The grey fabric is looking a little dingy in spots, but that might have more to do with my sub-par laundry skills than anything else. Overall, this is a great, low-key layer that works well on and off the bike.

Specialized Bridge Comp & Power Pro with Mimic

Specialized Power Pro
Specialized Bridge Comp


Power Pro Details
• 143 or 155mm widths
• Hollow titanium rails
• Elaston foam, carbon fiber shell
• Weight: 236 grams
• Price: $275 USD
Bridge Comp Details
• 143, 155, 168mm widths
• Chromoly rails
• Weight: 316 grams
• Price: $130 USD

bigquotesSpecialized have brought their 'Mimic' technology to more saddles this season, including the Bridge Comp and the Power Pro Elaston. Originally developed for Specialized's women's-specific saddles as a way to eliminate the firmer edges that can be present on saddles with cut-outs, Mimic uses a layer of soft foam with another layer of memory foam on top to allow the saddle to conform to riders' soft tissue

I've been using both the Bridge Comp and the Power Pro Elaston over the last few months. The Bridge didn't work as well as I'd hoped – I like the shape, but the padding was a little too soft, and the overall level of comfort wasn't enough to unseat Ergon's SM Enduro as my current favorite.

It was a different story with the Power Pro, though. I've been thoroughly impressed with this saddle – the short profile may look strange at first, but it's been working very well for me. The padding is comfortable without being overly squishy, and on a recent 7-hour, chamois-free ride I didn't have any discomfort at all.

Of course, saddles are a matter of personal preference, which is why Specialized offers a 30-day money back guarantee.

Bluegrass Seamless B&S D3O


• Removable D3O back and shoulder padding
• EN 1621-2:2014 certified
• $300 USD
• Dryarn microfiber fabric
• Mesh panels for improved ventilation
• Sizes: S/M, L/XL

bigquotesIt's bike park and racing season in the Northern Hemisphere, which means lots of riders are going faster and higher than ever. Bluegrass' Seamless back protector ($300 USD) is designed to provide back and shoulder protection for those moments when things don't go exactly as planned. The bulk of the protection is provided by a D3O back pad that's removable for washing. Additional D3O padding is located at each shoulder; Bluegrass also offers a version of this without shoulder protection that retails for $225 USD.

The word 'seamless' in the product name is a little misleading, because technically there are seams where the arms and the pocket for the back protector is sewn on, but I understand what Bluegrass was going for – the well ventilated chest, side, and back panels are all seam-free. The cut of the lower hem is longer than usual to make sure it stays tucked into your pants or riding shorts.

When it comes to sizing, there are only two options – S/M or L/XL. I'm wearing the L/XL in the above photos, which fits decently, although I think the S/M would have been a better choice for my skinny, 5'11” height. On the trail, the range of motion is excellent, and the back and shoulder pads are barely noticeable when riding. It's not bulky either, which makes it easier to decide to put it on for bike park or shuttle laps. Technically you could pedal with it on too, although that back pad does make things warmer than they would be with just a regular t-shirt jersey on – it all comes down to assessing what type of ride you're embarking on and how much protection you want.


  • 97 3
 That mesh is sussss I can get a mesh tanktop for a lot less than $300 and it will look just as shitty on me
  • 80 0
 but you need the back plate for a cautious start to your male stripper career
  • 17 0
 Side benefit: taking a photo in the back protector will make you want to do more abs exercises.
  • 31 0
 It would double as a sweet S&M club shirt. You could get whipped all night and still feel good in the morning.
  • 6 0
 @cedric-eveleigh: Also good for backspins if you want those tips.
  • 6 1
 @92hokie: Kaz is totally sucking it in
  • 4 0
 @laksboy: The downvote was from Kaz
  • 55 8
 I still don't understand the draw on a combo bar/stem for anything other than high level racing XC. The weight savings is not enough to eliminate the ability to adjust or upgrade. And they look like some crazy sci-fi bug head. Some things are just not meant to be integrated.
  • 34 6
 I realize: I want one so I will never have to wonder if I got my handlebar roll / slide just right in the stem! Only one option haha. I hate wondering if I should roll them just a little forward or if maybe they aren't exactly centered.

While we are at it I super wish that fork steerers were keyed after being pressed in with a slot in my stem to always make it perfectly straight.
  • 26 1
 @davemays: But what head angle were they assuming when these designed these things? Unless that matches your bike exactly, your roll will still be off Smile
  • 4 0
 I probably adjust that parameter once, when install new bar;
Would consider buying combo as an upgrade to current set up;
  • 9 14
flag SJP (Jul 21, 2021 at 11:46) (Below Threshold)
Bar position only needs to be as accurate as your hand placement when you grab the bars. Nobody gets that the same to 1 mm or 1 deg. every time, so why worry about 1 mm or 1 deg. on the bar position?
  • 5 3
 @SJP: What you said just doesn't make any sense. Bar roll/sweep/angles affect your hand position and feel regardless or where/how you place your hands
  • 11 12
You probably overestimate how sensitive you are to those angles. How many times have you seen someone crash, get back up, and ride on, and then notice at the end of the ride that the crash knocked their bars askew? It happens all the time.
  • 7 0
 There's no advantage to it, other than maybe perceived stiffness - although, it's not something I've ever worried about with a "traditional" bar and stem combo, anyway.
As many pointed out already, the lack of bar roll adjustment and the fact that the stem and bar sweep angles/position will be different on every bike, makes it a non-starter for me or anyone who likes to fine-tune the fit of their cockpit.
Add to that the fact that the XC version is not really XC-light - trail bar tested above was 24g overweight, so I think it would be safe to assume their supposed 228g XC version with 90mm stem is closer to 245-250g on actual scale...
And for $350 USD? My 760mm carbon bar / 90mm aluminum stem combo weighs in at 215g, at under $250 CAD or about $200 USD. And if I wreck and damage the bar, I'm not scrapping the stem with it.
  • 3 0
 @davemays: This actually would be a way better innovation.
  • 4 0
 @Segamethod: another reason the OneUp Carbon bar is so great... they have head angle markings on the bar so that you can get it aligned to work as intended as best as possible.
  • 1 0
 haha.... your post made me envision integrated lights in the bar. totally bug eyed.
  • 4 1
 @arek: really? Please tell me what bar and stem you are using that have combined weight of 215 g.
  • 1 1
 @warrenmtb: my thought also..
  • 1 1
 I know right?!! I can't imagine paying for something like that, and then not liking how it feels because I can't adjust the bar roll.... Horrible.
  • 2 2
 @SJP: Been riding racing bikes since 9 years old with BMX thru MTB's till now (I am 40). I am hyper sensitive to it and can tell instantly if my bars rolled forwards or backwards or if they are not straight. Be willing to bet most on this site fell the same. Maybe you are not sensitive at all or don't ride at a level matters. Good on you then, have fun,
  • 3 0
 @davemays: only one option means you can be confident they will always be wrong. No thanks.
  • 3 0
 I scored a second hand synchros one.. i like how much weight it saved (actually noticeable noting I had a fairly heavy 45mm stem and renthyl bars), where it is genuinely easier to loft the front of the bike.

I cant say that I didnt get along with the roll or sweep of it but I understand that if I didnt like it, I'd be stuck with it (so get that point).

Their "virtual" 40mm stem is closer to a 30mm stem FWIW.. I'll keep running it for the time being... that being said I wouldnt spend the 450 AUD that you would for a new one (got mine second hand for 100 bucks from a bloke that didnt like the feel).
  • 2 0
 I load my bike into a EVOC bag and fly with it 6-8 times a year. these bars would make that super difficult and cumbersome.

so to recap: not any lighter that stem/bar combo, more expensive, less adjustable, and to put your bike in a bike bag, you'd have to clamp a traditional stem on the steerer so your front end didn't wobble apart in transit.

That's going to be a no from be, dawg.
  • 1 0
 @warrenmtb: Sure thing, here you go: Reverse Components Tracer XC bar, 760mm, actual weight 121g. Procraft PRC ST2 stem 17° x 90mm, actual weight 94g.
  • 1 0
 @Segamethod: haha nooo! You're right. But at least I only get one option so I won't mess trying other things = more time to ride. Honestly I don't see myself buying an integrated bar stem combo.
  • 1 0
 @privateer-wheels: haha you're exactly right.
  • 19 0
 But do the integrated stem/ bars come with knockblock?
  • 12 0
 They come with a aluminum spacer that allows them to work with a Knock Block headset.
  • 9 1
 @mikekazimer: aluminium ? It’s so 2020…
  • 5 3
 I'm surprised no one has made a super short 5mm-10mm length stem/bar combo yet using the same design concept. since it's all in one piece it should be doable. That would give me more of a reason to try this out. It may be useful to offset the ridiculously long reach of some of the newer enduro bikes as of late.
  • 6 0
 @dirtdiggler: if they are too long… buy a smaller size maybe? That sounds like a non problem to me.
  • 17 0
 @EnduroManiac: Aluminium? It's so 7075
  • 1 0
 @EnduroManiac: It's not that easy for everyone. Sometimes you're in between sizes.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: Those one piece bars worry me because you can't adjust the roll of the bar. Did you think it was very off from how you like to roll your bars? I know that's so personal....
  • 1 0
 @dirtdiggler: Gemini bars start at 10mm
  • 1 0
 @DatCurryGuy: Ok, those are cool! I probably wouldn't shell out the cash for any of these bars/stem combos but it's nice to have options.
  • 1 0
 @kazwei: don't exaggerate. I'd say it's more like 6061
  • 1 0
 @dirtdiggler: pretty much everyone is between sizes (except if you’re very short or very tall). It‘s always a choice between more agile or more stable. It’s usually 25mm sizes. That means worst case, you’re exactly 12.5mm what away from your ideal size. Deal breaker really? I don’t think so.
  • 1 0
 @EnduroManiac: I generally agree. But for some people like myself it CAN be a deal breaker when you want a slightly longer wheelbase but don't want the longer reach. The shortest aluminum stems are usually 30mm for a reason: they are limited by the steerer tube intersecting the bars. Pencenti made a 20mm bar system using aluminum to get around this limitation but is was a little sketchy with the dimpled handlebar, IMO.
Anything shorter than 25-30mm is difficult to engineer in aluminum, period. But with carbon it's not. I like the idea of having some of these shorter stem/bar options in 5mm-25mm to dial in your reach below the usual 30mm limitation. Not everyone has perfect arm length in proportion to the rest of their body and more options are good to have.
  • 1 0
 @dirtdiggler: then in that case it’s just the wrong bike and you better look elsewhere unless you can fit an angleset and take the sorter size?
I guess, like myself, you have the "perfect " numbers in mind, but no one is making that bike. I know I know. It will come close at some point.
  • 1 0
 @EnduroManiac: Nah, I think you're maybe not getting the point of my original comment. Having stem lengths that go from 5mm-50mm is just giving a rider more options to get to their ideal setup. The frame alone can't solve all the problems with geometry. That's just common sense. Having more stem lengths is not that much different from having different crank arm lengths, handle bar width's, seatpost lengths, saddle rail adjustability, stem height adjustability or having some adjustability on your frame (flip chips, adjustable dropouts). Having more options to dial in fit is a good thing. To your comment "Everyone is between sizes". Yes - I agree. And this is why having more options for stem lengths would be useful for some people.
  • 16 0
 Pass. Waiting for a frame/stem/bar combo.
  • 19 10
 If you really want an integrated stem/bar combo, in carbon AND you want it to be compliant, just buy one off aliexpress for $20. They will be light, comfortable, and compliant.
  • 64 0
 Pro tip: if you weigh more than 50 pounds, don't do this
  • 7 0
 @hamncheez: unless you wanna make a career on friday fails !!!
  • 20 0
 FWIW, I have done this. It showed up broken in a bag. I'd recommend against this.
  • 17 0
 @panchocampbell: It will be super complaint... but just once.
  • 2 0
 Amen. I have two from Aliexpress. Both are lift, stiff and were only around $50 each.
  • 3 0
 @hamncheez: the complaint will be epic
  • 1 0
 @ultimatist: crap good catch haha
  • 11 0
 It's okay Kaz. Armour isn't flattering on anyone and that's the way it is
  • 14 0
 Quit body shaming! He looks stunning in that Camila Cabello bodysuit!
  • 8 0
 Anyone got a link to Kaz’s only fans page? Smile
  • 3 0
 @Eatsdirt: some serious nip rash potential
  • 2 0
 a super smart scientist in a hot mesh tank top
  • 7 0
 For some reason customers seem to love products that are more expensive, eliminate all adjustability, and have no cylindrical surfaces for mounting anything other than grips. The integrated bar/stem combos are cool for really specific dedicated builds that want to maximize aesthetics and cleanliness at the expense of everything else, but philosophically they just irritate me. Options? Great. Standard equipment? Hard pass.
  • 1 0
 Great for weight weenies. 200g is nothing to sneeze at. Otherwise, its worse than a separate bar/stem combo.
  • 8 0
 Futuristic? Did we already forget about the Klein Mission Control bars?
  • 1 0
 What about the old bull moose bars from way back when
  • 1 0
 @CM999: you mean the Zoom Brahma bar / bar end one piece combo? I had one… they were a bit narrow for your grips due to the amount of space the bend needed, but I swear those would be great on a modern gravel bike. Tons of comfy hand positions, without needing a drop section.
  • 7 0
 The mesh shirt is looks like some fetish item.
  • 5 0
 Did you say flüggåәnkб€čhiœßølįên?
  • 4 0
Eurotrip, watched that movie countless times. Thanks for bringing up some memories.
  • 1 0
 I'm recovering from my first "real" crash on a bike (couple ribs, and a 4 fractures in my big toe), so I've been looking into more protection. And specifically, protection that I can wear without thinking about it, because its minimally intrusive/super comfortable, even if that means its not the highest level of protection.

Bluegrasses back/shoulder protectors look like the best product out there for that... you just can't seem to buy them in the US yet. I read recently that they're finally going to be distributing them to the US sometime early next year, but until then, I don't think you can buy one if you're stateside.

Just as an FYI.

And... I'd love to be wrong. So if anyone knows different, please let me know Smile .
  • 4 0
 Leatt make some sweet light weight body armour
  • 2 0
 Leatt doesn’t make the greatest quality stuff. Ive been using the new 100% back/chest protector for aggressive trail rides and it’s pretty good. Still warm AF, but good for what it is. I think it’s called the Targa or something? Also much cheaper — $150 if I recall.
  • 4 0
 I got the fox baseframe pro ss. It looks very similar, except it has a rated chest protector as well (that can be removed) and is about half the price. I did a fair amount o pedaling and it’s not too bad. Also it looked alot nicer in person that the leatt stealth.
Only thing I wish for is a zipper.
  • 1 0
 I choose Least over bluegrass, based on sizing, options for different protection levels and neck brace integration;
also US. availability and 1 day amp shipping
  • 1 0

Thanks for the info/recommendation guys.

I haven't looked at the 100% stuff, I'll take a look at them now though. And I'd looked at the fox Baseframe pro, but its almost impossible to find reviews on that for some reason. Hearing that the chest protector is removable is good. Maybe I'll take a look at it again.

I have some Leatt Airflex elbow pads that fit this mantra of "not the highest protection level, but I literally forget I'm wearing them", so I wear them every ride.

Because of that, I've looked at the Leatt Airflex Stealth tee, as well as the Ion Protection Scrub amp vest, and one of the POC vests as well. And they all have certain things that appeal to me. The Bluegrass seamless seems to have all the checkboxes ticked, its just not available now.
  • 1 0
 This one has been serving me well. You can remove the arms/elbow pads as you like, and you can put a water bladder behind the back pad too. And side zipper, which is worth its weight in gold when you're trying to get out of one of these things after sweating like a pig. You can get on Ebay shipped to the US.
  • 1 0
 Raceface flankcore has been an option for a while now. I believe they still make it
  • 1 0

The poc blows. Hot AF. The IXS version is better but not by much. The bluegrass looks like a winner but just 2 sizes is kinda BS
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer How do you feel about the durability of the Spec saddles? I’ve got a Power expert w/ mimic on my gravel bike and I love it, but the shell feels like it’d be too fragile to replace the SDG Bel Air on my enduro bike. How have yours held up?
  • 3 0
 I've had one for a year on my mountain bike and it's holding up well, the nose has some wear spots but not too bad.

Also, my $0.02 is that the mimic saddles aren't worth it for dudes. I got talked into one and it's not as good as the normal power saddles with the cutout for dudes. Or this dude at any rate! The mimic is now on the peloton and a region power expert on my gravel bike.
  • 2 0
 I’m slightly perplexed by the back and shoulder only protection. Surely people also want some chest and stomach protection whilst they’re at it? Or is my mindset different to most riders?
  • 3 0
 That awkward moment when you're standing there with the boys in the car park and pull off your jersey and stand there looking like a leather daddy.
  • 7 5
 I would love to see carbon bar stem combo's a thing in the future. I think they look truly modern and badass.
  • 2 0
 Mesh bondage top-with integrated back pad so only your starfish gets sore from missionary pegging sessions.
  • 4 1
 Is it just me or is that handlebar one fugly looking item?
  • 2 0
 There is nothing futuristic about and handle bar with zero adjustment. That is in fact going backwards!
  • 3 0
 oh look another made in china GEMINI Kästor knock off
  • 6 6
 That hideous bar/stem reminds me of something out of star trek.
Its either part of a ship or some strange aliens head.

Either way, it sucks
  • 2 0
 nice...but how is any of these futuristic when it is already here????
  • 3 1
 "Futuristic handlebars" have been a thing for at least 4 years now.
  • 3 0
 @arek: So futuristic it came on 1993 Klein bikes.
Google Klein Mission Control.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer just to be pedantic here - it is D3O and not D30...
  • 1 0
 Is it really futuristic if Scott has already been doing it for a long time?
  • 1 0
 Soooooooo did the big bad corporate overlords kill the PB Podcast???

Or is it just behind a paywall now?
  • 1 0
 Ugly seat... ugly protection... ugly bars... but then again I can vote with my dollar!
  • 2 0
 wow check these out
  • 1 0
 I needed to put a 10mm longer stem on my new bike.
  • 8 1
 My stem grew by 80mm just by seeing the photo of the mesh
  • 2 0
 I like lyocell
  • 2 0
 Bring out the gimp
  • 1 0
 Bondage Mesh for the win.
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