Renthal finally entered the 35mm clamp handlebar market recently with both the aluminum Fatbar and carbon Fatbar in 10,20,30 and 40mm rises. The 35mm clamp standard has been around for a few years and we’ve tested a variety of different bars over time, so it was an important moment when Renthal broadened their lineup with 35mm offerings. With Renthal’s reputation for quality and excellence, we were excited to finally to try the different materials back to back at our Punta Ala Test Center in this larger clamp width hoping to find some conclusions on what the real world experiences are with these materials.
Renthal had a simple aim:-
“We wanted the characteristics of the 35mm clamp size to be comparable to our current 31.8mm equivalent bars.”
On paper its clear that both bars are identical when it comes to features, shape and measurements. The carbon bar weighs in at 80 grams less than the aluminum but it will set you back almost twice as much money as well.
UD Carbon Construction – Placement of the fibres maximises strength.
Ride Tuned – Incredible control and comfort.
Clamping Section – Abrasive surface finish for torsional security.
DH Race Ready – Geometry perfect for DH racing.
Ultra Durable – Impact strength tested.
Set-up Markings – Line it up perfectly.
Price – €165
7 Series Aluminium – ultimate in strength and durability.
Shot Peened – This process vastly increases the fatigue life and durability.
Positioning Grid – Line it up perfectly.
Hard Anodised – Resists wearing.
Graphics – Oven cured and permanent.
Price – €84,90
It was a simple test, take our Transition Patrol Carbon, grab a pickup, choose a trail (Quercia Numerata is an Enduro Race trail), shuttle/ride it a number of times, switch bars: repeat.
We set our bars up each time exactly the same way with all components lined up the same as previously.
On The Trail
The fact that we chose to make our test as repeatable as possible was a good thing, Renthal have a reputation of producing some of the best bars out there, so we needed to make sure we left the handlebar as the main focus. We rode similar lines at similar speeds on a trail we know well. We pushed hard into corners, chose rocky lines and crashed a few times. Our aim was to know as much as we could about how the bars felt.
These were our observations :
Carbon: Compliant in all trail conditions, a quiet ride. Steering felt positive and immediate. A smooth ride feel on the hands.
Aluminum: More direct on the flat sections. There are more oscillations in the bar. By the end of the trail runs, our hands were slightly more tired with aluminum bar. We noted that rocky trails produced more fatigue mainly due to the need to grip the bar harder we noticed we had added feedback and a bit less damping.
Our initial observations after the first runs started to become clearer. Renthal have equalized performance between the two materials fairly closely, although we can feel a difference with the carbon bar; it’s just easier on the hands. The weight advantage with the carbon bar, although not noticeable straight away, is a factor if you are trying to build a super light bike.
After our first runs we would say that the Carbon 35mm clamp Fatbar has a slightly softer feeling. In all of our runs we preferred the carbon bar, however it is more expensive. If price is a concern then aluminum will serve you very well. The technical gains of carbon will be marginal if other components in the group set don’t match the build of the bike.
The best part about a Renthal bar is its geometry. The rise/sweep combination is just right for the mass majority of riders. It’s very rare that someone jumps on a bike with a Renthal bar and doesn’t feel comfortable right away.
The carbon bar gave a very precise ride, by using carbon some of the perceived disadvantages of the 35mm standard can be mitigated by being able to maintain the right amount of stiffness/flex in the bar.
The aluminum bar was not a second-rate product in anyway. We actually found ourselves riding differently with it, in some instances being more aggressive as we gripped the bar more firmly in tougher trail sections, the result was a little bit of extra speed. There was no doubt the aluminum bar/carbon bar debate is not completely clear cut.
Trying to boil down our experiences was hard so we came up with these clear ideas :
If you want precise control and reliability at a competitive price, go aluminum. If you need a bit more comfort and you are worried about bike weight and/or want a lighter weight steering experience then a carbon bar should be on your shopping list.
If price/performance is what’s important for you, aluminum would be a solid option. If you are not sure if you need a 35mm bar clamp, then that is another article…but be clear that Renthal have made a complete line up of bars that standout and offer a level of quality that won’t leave anyone disappointed.