ONEUP COMPONENTS CARBON HANDLEBAR REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Adam Lievesley
The need for the introduction of the 35mm handlebar standard has been questioned by many, but regardless of its necessity it’s firmly here to stay. Many solutions simply increased the bar diameter and reduced the wall thickness a touch to compensate, but it led to many bars increasing in stiffness compared to their thinner-profile predecessors. The industry has been focusing on rider comfort and fatigue management to increasing degrees over the past few years, so OneUp Components looked to see what they could bring to the table with the 35mm standard to produce a bar that has stiffness and compliance in the right places. The result is their simply named Carbon Handlebar, which features a unique shape and is claimed to combine the “best ride characteristics of 31.8mm and 35mm bar standards into one package”. The Eurowolf was excited to put them to the test on the front end of his test rigs for a few months of hard charging.
OneUp Components decided to make full use of the advantages of the carbon fiber production process to develop a heavily formed bar profile that minimizes the vertical height of the section and adds it to the horizontal plane. This should reduce the stiffness that causes discomfort and fatigue whilst adding stiffness to the steering input to offer the most control. The results are a claimed 21% increase in vertical compliance and a 28% increase in steering stiffness compared with the industry average, which are far from insignificant numbers.
The OneUp Components Carbon handlebar is only available with a 35mm clamp area, with rise options of 20mm or 35mm and a stock 800mm width. The sweep is a fairly typical 8° Back 5° Up, which should place the majority of riders in a comfortable position on the bike. The bars come with stealthy black markings to set up the bar roll to different head angles, brake positions as well as cut lines down to 740mm. The standard graphics on the bar are black on top of the raw carbon, but OneUp Components allows for riders to customize the look with decal kits that can be stuck over the top of the stealth black branding to give them some pizzazz. The weight comes in at a competitive 232g for our uncut 35mm rise bar with decals fitted, and they’re rated for any rider weight and use including downhill racing. A set will run you £126 /$139.50 /€139.50, which is a touch cheaper than some premium Carbon offerings but certainly still more than a good quality aluminum bar.
The unique shaping of the OneUp Components Carbon handlebar is very apparent up close, but once fitted to the bike it blends in and looks quite normal from most angles. The stem area markings to suggest their ideal sweep with certain head angles could be quite handy with a 180-degree clamping stem, but on the Renthal apex stem they were tested on featuring a 240-degree stem clamp they don’t make any sense. They’re also difficult to see in some lighting as their black-on-black stealthy nature can lead them to disappear, but thankfully it didn’t take long to find a comfortable roll position manually anyway. The stem clamp mounted up without issue, but the brake clamps felt a little loose when torqued up to the 5Nm max spec, leading me to applying some carbon grip paste in order to increase the friction. This still led to a looser than usual brake on the bar but was just enough to keep them in position on the trail and of course comes with the benefit of the lever being less likely to get damaged in a crash.
Once everything was set up, it was time to hit the trail. Straight out the gate on the first ride I hit a technical climb, and the flex was immediately noticeable and profound. But perhaps not in the most positive of ways – ripping on the bars hard out the saddle to navigate my way through some chunky rocks, there was a touch of vagueness in the handling that had me feeling as if my tire was a bit deflated or my stem faceplate loose. Not to the point that I was unable to handle the bike by any means, but certainly less precision than the Race Face SixC bar they had replaced. I’m a big guy and there’s a lot of ragging on the bars required to navigate the climb in question, so it had me intrigued but not concerned for the descent ahead.
Onto the descent, the flex in the bars began to repay its drawback on the climb, albeit to a slightly lesser extent than the feedback I’d received from some fellow riders. Over the stiff Race Face bar, it felt as if there was a psi or two less in my front tire for the mid-sized rock and root edges and compressions on the trail, which should of course reduce fatigue but does also remove a slight touch of your trail feel. I wouldn’t say the high-frequency vibrations were dealt with quite as much as I’d hoped, falling short of the likes of Spank’s Vibrocore technology, but there were small improvements over the Race Face that manifested ever-so-slightly fresher hands at the end of longer descents. A couple of heavy g-out compressions gave a slightly concerning level of flex to my senses that are tuned into conventionally stiffer bars, which in the moment didn’t feel overly positive but in hindsight likely improved the comfort of the impact. On a few sustained off camber sections I found my feeling of the tire side knobs was reduced a little because of the way the flex affects the feeling, leading to a bit more mindless commitment opposed to calculated and controlled riding. Steering precision is hard to quantify, but in terms of improvements over the SixC bar with the Rock Shox Pike it’s pretty minimal, with the level of fork twist and tire squirm a considerably larger contributor. I’d have liked to try them on a stiffer fork, and I may well do in the future in which case I’ll update my thoughts.
It didn’t take long for the silver decal to peel off the back of the bar with the strap of a goggle bag resting against it, which was a touch disappointing but is just a potential drawback of replaceable decals on a matte finished bar. The front facing decal fared better though, maintaining its classy yet bling chrome touch just fine. The rest of the bar held up quite well to scuffs and scrapes, with only a few minor rub marks to show from a good amount of abuse. Under the controls there’s clear evidence of the clamps rotating around the bars with some marking to the clearcoat, but nothing to create any concerns for strength in the long run. At £126 their price undercuts many premium Carbon bars, so with their potential performance gains they seem like a solid option to shave some cockpit weight.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The OneUp Components Carbon handlebars were surprisingly polarizing for me. There’s no denying their reduced vertical stiffness, which can lead to improvements in comfort in certain trail situations, however it’s not without possible drawbacks. Those who like to push the bars hard on a technical climb or are looking for more trail feel may be better served by a stiffer option, especially in the higher weight classes.
Price: £126 /$139.50 / €139.50
Weight: 232g (35mm rise, uncut)
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