Unlike other areas of your bike where spending more money will buy you greater performance advantages spending a lot on a bar and stem will arguably offer very little in the way of performance returns. You might lose a bit of weight, get fancier materials or a sexier logo but essentially one 800mm bar will work just like another and a stem from Brand A will likely offer naff-all performance advantages over one from Brand B. That’s not to say it’s not worth spending a bit more on a high-end bar and stem combo though, or upgrading your current set-up, you’ve just got to realise you’re paying for details rather than clear advantages.
RaceFace’s SixC 35 carbon bars measure up at 800mm wide with a 8º rearward sweep and 5º upward sweep and in this case a 20mm rise, 10mm and 35mm also available. Nothing exactly revolutionary but what is a bit different is their 35mm diameter at the point that they connect with the stem. Your common or garden riser bar is typical 31.8mm in diameter so the SixC 35s are significantly chunkier in the middle before sweeping out to a normal bar diameter towards the ends. The claims made are that not only will a 35mm system offer increased stiffness it’ll also be lighter than an equivalent 31.8mm set-up.
RaceFace pitch their SixC components at those looking for DH strength with trail weight, their NEXT series being for those looking to save even more grammage. As such the SixC weigh in at 220g, impressively light for such a big bar. Of course being light and strong means they aren’t cheap but the words cheap and carbon shouldn’t be seen together so the SixC’s price can be seen as reassuring rather than extravagant. I’ve been running this pair for a year and a half on various bikes and the lacquer is chipped in places from crashes and there are a few marks where brake levers have been torqued a little too high but I’m not overly concerned.
Bar width is a personal thing, one man’s roomy 800mm bar is another’s crucifix. The trails you ride and the proximity of trees to said trails will probably also have more than a little bearing on how wide you decide to run your bars. The SixC’s can be trimmed down to 750mm if the full-bore 800mm width is too much for your shoulders or knuckles to bear – there are even neat trim lines on the end of the bar telling you how little weight your saving when you take a saw to them.
Bar diameter isn’t one of those things we’ve had to think about too much, the transition from 25.4mm to 31.8mm was a relatively painfree step change, one that helped bring our desire for increased stiffness to the bar department. 35mm bar diameter is still a bit of an anomaly in the handlebar world but if you’re looking for stiffness that 31.8mm can’t offer then here it is.
Some people will be doubting whether the increased stiffness is actually discernable, after all there’s so much going on between the palm of your hands and the tread touching the ground a slightly fatter bar surely isn’t going to make that much notice. To my wrists there is a difference, however whether everyone will like the difference is open to some argument. All bars flex, dampening trail vibration, it’s the degree of flex that varies from bar to bar. The fat carbon SixCs flex, seemingly, very little. This can feel harsh initially, especially coming from an aluminium 31.8mm bar, to the point where some tyre pressure and suspension twiddling was required to counteract some of the buzz coming through to my wrists. If you’re running carbon rims you might find the combination of stiff wheels and bars too much, especially on long, rough trails where arm fatigue starts to become more noticeable.
Of course, if you’re running a 35mm diameter bar you’ll need a 35mm compatible stem, RaceFace offer the Atlas 35 stem to match the SixC 35 bars. A dinky chunk of aluminium that weighs in at 142g in this 35mm length, it does exactly what a stem should do and looks good doing it. Collars and cuffs and all that. The four bolt faceplate has a neat interlocking lip to help with keeping stresses on the bar to a minimum but it would have been nice if both the faceplate bolts and the steerer bolts were the same size to save Allen key faffage. The fact that this is the only criticism I can come up with says it all really.
RaceFace’s SixC 35 bars and Atlas 35 stem make a light and stiff pairing. The weight is definitely a plus but the stiffness might be too much for some.
|Product:||Six C 35mm bar, Atlas 35 stem|
|Price:||Bars £129, Stem £79.95|
|Tested:||by Sim for 18 months|