PNW COMPONENTS LOAM CARBON HANDLEBAR REVIEW
A DH-RATED BAR WITH XC COMPLIANCE?
Words & Photos by Nic Hall
As the industry has moved to the 35mm bar diameter standard, we have noticed our hands paying the price. Increased stiffness does improve feedback and precision while riding, but stiff carbon bars put all that vibration and feedback directly to the rider causing arm pump and hand fatigue quicker than ever before. PNW components sent us their new Loam Carbon Handlebar that was designed specifically to address those issues, so we set about to see if their claims of comfort are true.
PNW Components realized the same things we did about modern bars; they are overly stiff and the pendulum has swung away from comfort and optimized ride feel. They addressed this in their new carbon fiber Loam Bar by starting the build with what they are calling Compliant Bore Design (CBD); in simple terms, they optimized the internal bore of the bar with strategic thicknesses in the laminate to improve vertical compliance, while maintaining enough horizontal stiffness for precise handling.
The Loam Bar comes in 25mm or 38mm rise options, with 5 degrees upsweep and 10 degrees backsweep. I tend to prefer a lower cockpit, so we asked for the 25mm rise, and the sweep seems to be just about perfect when mounted up. With an 800mm width and DH certification, this bar can pull duty on any bike, especially with its reasonable 233g weight. I cut mine down to 780mm for general trail riding, but marks are supplied to get them down as short as you want. You can choose any color of base bar as long as it’s black – as it should be, but several color choices are available for the PNW decals for $5 extra to add some bling.
I was able to get the PNW Loam Bar out for several rides on our local test tracks right after a week of rain, which let me push it a bit harder than possible in our typical Bend moon dust. I initially ran a thick grip – as I normally do to decrease hand pump – but switched out to standard grips quite soon into testing due to how compliant and comfortable the bar is. I left all my suspension settings the same from my previous aluminum 31.8mm bar and had a noticeable improvement in vibrations through my hands, even with the smaller diameter grip. Whatever engineering magic PNW put into this bar, it works. I did not have any decrease in steering precision like I have noticed on very soft XC bars, so it’s really the best of both worlds.
Fit and finish is top of class for PNW with these bars, and the price seems quite reasonable for the performance and quality on show. The mix of flat pre-preg carbon and gloss decals really contrast nicely for a top-shelf finish. The rotational indexing let me set up the bar perfectly every time, and the cut measurements are always nice to get the bar set up for your liking quickly. The sweep may be on the extreme end of what is considered “normal” these days, but it provided a comfortable position that required minimal adjustment period.
The Wolf’s Last Word
After a few rides, I knew the PNW Loam Bar was staying on my test bike for the foreseeable future. It hits the sweet spot of compliance and control perfectly and has enough decal color options to fit any build. Get your hands on one and get rid of that arm pump, it really works.