FUNN COCKPIT REVIEW
BLACK ACE MK2 CARBON BAR, EQUALIZER STEM, HOLESHOT GRIP
Review by Robert Johnston
These days there are a huge variety of cockpit options for a mountain bike, with 31.8mm and 35mm just about tied in the aftermarket world. With many complaints of harshness from the newer “improved” 35mm standard, companies are still producing their top-end products in the original Oversize 31.8mm diameter to offer lighter or more compliance-demanding riders with quality options. Funn is one of these people, releasing an updated version of their Black Ace 31.8mm carbon bar, with a funky Equalizer stem to match. Of course no cockpit is complete without a set of grips, so we put their new Holeshot model on the aforementioned bar and stem to see how the Funn trio stacks up and stands out in a crowded market.
Black Ace MK2 Carbon Handlebar
Funn wasn’t content with resting on their laurels with the Black Ace bar, and decided to release a second generation version in the Black Ace MK2. The MK2 is an evolution rather than a revolution of the original Black Ace, with updated graphics options and a slight change to the carbon laminate. They decided to test the original Black Ace further to identify the weakest spots on the UD carbon fiber bar, which they reinforced to further bolster the strength and ensure the MK2 is up to the most testing riding.
The Black Ace MK2 comes stock at 785mm wide, with cut marks all the way down to 685mm. They offer 7mm, 15mm and 30mm (tested) rise options, in stealth black as standard and with 6 colors of removable decal to add a touch of flair. The 7mm rise takes the old-school “flat bar” approach with it’s geometry, sporting a 5 ° backsweep and 2 ° upsweep, whereas the riser options feature a more conventional 8 back and 5.5 up. Grit coating is added below the grip and stem clamp areas to increase friction and reduce the chance of slipping. Funn’s Black Ace MK2 tips the scales at 224g (30mm rise tested) with a retail price of $169.
The Equalizer stem is a low stack height (34mm) option by Funn designed to give more cockpit adjustability options. This is made possible thanks to the ability to mount the stem in either orientation and make use of the 10° rise (or drop) to manipulate the bar height to your preference. The Equalizer is rated for all aggressive riding disciplines, with a forged 6061 aluminum construction. The split faceplate uses a no-gap system on one end to take some of the guesswork out of mounting and is marked to aid bar alignment. There are options to cater for both 31.8mm and 35mm bar clamps, in 35mm, 42mm or 50mm lengths. The body is black on all options, but each is offered with a choice of 6 different faceplate colors to add a touch of flair. The Equalizer retails for $85, and tips the scales at 148g (42mm length, 31.8mm clamp).
The Holeshot grip has been developed to give downhill and enduro racers a grip that offers control, safety and comfort on descents in all conditions. The 130mm long grip has a 31mm main thickness with a deep pattern that should offer grip and cushioning on the bar, and a triple-fin design gives extra purchase when tugging hard on the bars in wet conditions. The Holeshot has a single aluminum inboard clamp with an M4 bolt, and an integrated bar end on the outside made of a tougher plastic. The Holeshot grips are available in 10 colors to match your ride, and retail for $16.99.
Assembling the Funn cockpit items was relatively straightforward, but instantly gave some queries that had me keen to get on the trail to deduce whether they were issues or not in practice.
Firstly, the gritted portion on the Black Ace MK2 bar doesn’t extend far enough inwards to provide extra purchase on lever and shifter clamps, only protruding 15mm or so past an average grip inner collar. This problem would be even more apparent if the bars were cut down at all from their 785mm width. The bar felt slightly undersized outside this gritted area, which would make sense if the gritted area is designed to be exactly 22.2mm. Combined with the very smooth surface, the controls felt as if they could slip around easily unless clamped concerningly tight. From the get-go I installed them with some carbon grip paste, and it proved to be a non-issue at regular torque figures.
Similarly, the steerer clamp portion of the stem appeared to be slightly oversized. While many stems have an element of interference fit to them, requiring a bit of force to slide them down the steerer when fitting, the Equalizer slid onto the steerer with no force whatsoever and had a slight amount of “rock” until the bolts were clamped down. This was true for multiple steerer tubes that the stem was fitted to, and so the gap in the clamp area began to shrink slightly over the course of testing. I ran the steerer clamp bolts right on their maximum of 6Nm, and didn’t experience any stem-steerer slipping in regular use, but having had a nasty crash in the past when a similarly loose stem slipped on the steerer it was in the back of my mind to begin with.
The rise, or drop of the stem is interesting, as is the slightly shorter stack height when compared with many. While it theoretically opens up more possibilities to obtain the ideal cockpit height, unless you’re already pushing bar rises up to the highest highs it can leave you in an awkward spot between too high and too low. When the stem is set to drop the bars, it looks a little unsightly too in my eyes. That said, it would be very useful to those with a short steerer and nice bar who are looking for a new stem and interested in a higher or lower bar position – specific circumstances, but certainly a good economical solution for them.
Moving on from this list of quirks, you’d be forgiven for expecting more negativity when it came to putting the Funn cockpit to work on the trail. Thankfully though, this wasn’t the case. The Black Ace bar errs on the comfortable side of average, with a similar feel to the Nukeproof Horizon Carbon bars – comfortable, but not concerning. There’s enough stiffness and steering precision there to feel confident. There was never an issue with movement relative to the stem, and though the controls were certainly able to slip around the bar when impacted, they stayed firmly put through the forces of riding.
Once I had the stem and spacer setup figured out, the Equalizer proved to be surprisingly stiff and solid given its low profile appearance. I managed to knock the stem out of line with the front wheel on a couple of minor crashes, which did feel a little less solid than many other stems. But through some rowdy riding it stayed firmly put, so didn’t prove to be a justified concern. There was no creaking or unwanted flex, which often plagues stems supporting my ragging on a full-width bar, so it’s clear the design is suitably burly for hardcore riding.
Grips carry as much personal preference as anything on the bike – after all, your hands are the most sensitive of the three touch points, and they’ve got a rather important job. Even though I have large hands, the Holeshot’s 31mm main diameter, which gets even larger at the finned portions, is thicker than my preference, but this won’t be the case for every rider of course. They’re not outliers in the grip thickness world. The compound feels reasonable out on the trail – not ultra tacky, but soft enough to dull a bit of trail buzz without going to the extent of compromising control. The fins offer your fingertips some useful extra purchase that could be the difference between staying on the bike or not at the end of an enduro race when grip strength is beginning to suffer. The bar ends shrugged off the minimal abuse they saw without concern, with the hard plastic portion more likely to slide than some competitors rubber outer ends.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The Funn Cockpit items have their quirks, but offer reasonable performance out on the trail regardless, with a stem that could be a very useful ticket for specific riders looking to add or lose rise with their stem rather than their bar.
Black Ace Mk2 Handlebar -$169.99
Equalizer Stem – $85
Holeshot Grip – $16.99
Black Ace Mk2 Handlebar – 214g (30mm rise tested)
Equalizer Stem – 148g (42mm length, 31.8mm clamp)
Holeshot Grip – 118g