[Tested] Bontrager RSL MTB Handlebar/Stem

A few months back, Bontrager sent us a rather interesting Race Shop Limited one-piece cockpit for testing. Made from carbon fiber, the setup integrates a handlebar and stem into one sleek package with titanium hardware, an accessory mount and Knock Block compatibility. Read on to see how the RSL handlebar/stem combo has been working out for us…


  • OCLV Carbon fiber
  • 820mm width X 45mm length X 27.5mm rise – *other sizes available, see below…
  • Titanium hardware
  • Knock Block and standard headset compatible
  • Trail / Enduro rated
  • ~270 grams
  • $366.99


An interesting aspect to the RSL bar/stem is just how broad the handlebar section is as it nears the stem area. The upsweep and backsweep are not listed and therefore hard to gauge, but I found both to be quite comfortable. Unsurprisingly, they felt a lot like a standard (read: standalone) handlebar offerings from Bontrager that I’ve ridden in the past.

You can use the “Blendr” integration at the front to mount a light, computer, GoPro, etc. I appreciated that when not in use, you can barely see the tiny little grub screw…Slick!

In addition to the 45mm length, the trail version is also available in the same width, but with a shorter 35mm length stem. As you can see above, there are three XC versions also available as well.

The RSL bar/stem has titanium hardware and metal inserts with the torque specs displayed clearly at the back of the stem.

An aluminum insert fills in negative space at the front of the steerer tube. You can also see the Knock Block sections ready for use with that system on Treks. The setup ships with an additional special spacer that mates to the Knock Block insert while also filling that forward space just like the aluminum spacer pictured above..

The specs are clearly indicated and there are nice little hash marks for trimming the width should you choose. I knocked my setup down to my go-to width of 800mm.

This setup was about 270 grams before I knocked 5mm off of each end. For a frame of reference this is about a half pound lighter than a similarly sized and decent grade aluminum bar/stem combo that I weighed at home.

On the trail

Starting with setup, the first thing I noticed is that this little unit is a breeze to install as it doesn’t require tightening a stem faceplate or setting your handlebar roll. The downside to this is that you *can’t set your bar roll – however, I found that it felt very comfortable right out of the gate and I wouldn’t change a thing in terms of upsweep or backsweep angles. Props to Bontrager for going with an 820mm width as I’m sure there are some riders out there who will appreciate it. As someone who is fairly happy with standard 800mm width bars I gave these a quick trim and was pleased to take advantage of the hash marks which assisted with that process. The bronze-ish graphics played very nicely with the TRP brakes and SRAM Eagle bits on my bike without being over the top or garish, so props on that as well.

On trail I found the RSL handlebar/stem combo to be quite comfortable. It didn’t strike me as overly stiff, nor freakishly compliant. Rather, it was simply an afterthought – which is fine by me as that meant I was comfortable and focused on the trail ahead. Interestingly enough at the time that this unit arrived I wasn’t feeling all that happy with a 40mm or 50mm stem on the bike I mounted it to, so the 45mm length was warmly welcomed. I think it was a safe call on Bontrager’s part to offer 35mm and 45mm as their single two options. That should cover a lot of ground for most riders in the Trail to Enduro segment that the RSL combo is rated for. So far I haven’t had any devastatingly bad crashes, but I have had a few get offs and OTBs with no damage and no slipping going on either. With all of that in mind, if you’re super hung up on getting a very tight clamp on your steerer and avoiding slipping at all costs, you’ll likely want to stick with an aluminum stem that offers higher torque figures compared to this and other carbon setups.


All in all, this is a cool one piece cockpit for those who don’t mind dropping a decent chunk of coin to shed some grams and streamline their front end at the same time. While the weight savings is substantial – certainly nothing to scoff at – the price is fairly steep. It’s worth considering that a high end two piece carbon fiber bar and aluminum stem combo would come in at roughly $50-$100 more. However, it wouldn’t provide as much weight savings. In any case, this is a sweet piece of kit. That it nicely integrates with Knock Block and has a clean accessory mount are also bonuses.


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