FIRST RIDE REPORT
RACE FACE NEXT SL HANDLEBAR
Words & Photos by Nic Hall
Even though I am a full eMTB convert, I cannot shake my roots of riding short travel XC machines at any opportunity. This year, I have suffered up many climbs aboard the Specialized Epic Evo and the BMC FourStroke. One thing I have noticed on both bikes is that they sacrificed cockpit comfort for pure speed and weight reduction. While modern XC bars are a far cry from the 600mm set ups of years past, they still could use some help.
RaceFace saw this oversight and put out an ultra-lightweight 35mm bar, the Next SL. With a 167g claimed weight, 10mm rise, and 740mm width, we were looking forward to getting the new RaceFace Next SL bars on our XC sleds. RaceFace claims that they laid up the carbon to increase vertical flex while limiting horizontal flex to increase steering control. The promise of a snappy handling bar that improves hand comfort and reduces fatigue and arm pump is one we couldn’t wait to test out.
The Race Face Next SL is very reminiscent of its big brother, the Next R, just much lighter and a bit narrower. Graphics are a nicely subdued silver/white and the bar has cut markings in case you think 740mm is just too wild for your lycra covered body. Once we got the bar mounted, the 35mm diameter dwarfs the previous bars and increases clamping force around the bar, hopefully limiting any issues with slipping.
There is a noticeable reduction in chatter feedback to the hands while riding the Next SL. Whatever carbon magic RaceFace is using, does seem to work. With the shorter travel forks on these bikes, hand feedback is a real issue and can end my day early, especially when taking these bikes into terrain a little gnarlier than they were designed for. While 740mm is a bit narrower than I prefer, it does the job and doesn’t feel too narrow when coupled with short travel bikes. So far, there has been no reduction in steering precision or issues with unwanted flex.
THE WOLF’S FIRST IMPRESSION
If you still like to go for short travel acoustic rides or are looking for the ultimate lightweight build, the Next SL is the bar for you. It hits the sweet spot of weight, flex, and strength in a fairly affordable package. We are looking forward to getting it out for several more rides.
Weight: 296 grams (Bar and Stem Combo)