When Renthal first entered the MTB stage with the original Fatbar, it seemed like a fairly innocuous, but logical move coming from the Moto spectrum. Between an endorsement from Sam Hill during the peak of his astonishing career, and flat out having a broadly relatable feel, the Fatbar took the downhill world by storm. Within a year of being released, it was THE handlebar to have on your bike. Riders didn’t if the shot peened gold finish matched their bikes or not, they just had to have it. As things progressed, Renthal followed up with trail duty handlebars, carbon fiber offerings and stems. Last year Renthal made the jump into the 35mm world; but not necessarily because they think it’s the only way to engineer a handlebar. Basically, if someone buys a bike with a 35mm stem, Renthal wants to have an option for that rider. We’ve been riding with one of their new 35mm cockpits on our DH rig for a few months now and wanted to share our thoughts on the setup.
Fatbar Carbon35 Handlebar
- 800mm Width
- 225g Weight
- 7 Degree backsweep
- 5 Degree upsweep
- 35mm clamping diameter
- 10mm / 20mm / 30mm (tested) / 40mm rise
Integra 35 Stem
- CNC machined 6082 aluminium body 7075 aluminum clamps
- Unique 240deg C-shape clamps
- Minimal 6-bolt design
- U-shape cradle clamp eliminates handlebar stress raisers found with traditional stems
- Ultra-wide 64mm clamp width
- 35mm handlebar clamp
- IS mount
- 45mm X 0mm rise / 45mm X 10mm rise / 50mm X 0mm rise / 50mm X 10mm rise (tested)
- 159g (including all mount hardware)
- $109.95 (USD)
The original Fatbar carbon was already freakishly light at 225 grams with a 31.8 bulge and 780mm width. Somehow, the new bar is a full 800mm wide and the same weight (verified). Most everything about the Fatbar Carbon 35 is what you’d expect from Renthal. It has a smooth finish and nice graphics for indicating bar roll. One unique design element that you’ll notice right away is the rough center section. It helps the stem bite in and prevents the handlebar from slipping. If you look closely, you can see it in the pic below, between the two clamps. Speaking of clamps, let’s talk about the stem.
The new Integra 35 isn’t much different than the Integra 2 (31.8). The Integra 2 however was a massive upgrade from its predecessor. Anyhow, if you aren’t familiar, Renthal took a unique approach from a mounting standpoint. Rather than a traditional 4 bolt bar clamp mated to a 4 bolt stem mount, Renthal integrated the two separate interfaces with a 6 bolt design. This was partly made possible by utilizing 240º clamps. It makes the process of taking the handlebar off a bit more tedious as you have basically take it all apart to do so. However, by only having one set of clamps doing the clamping, the Integra stem reduces stress risers. Anyhow, let’s see how this combination actually rode.
On The Trail
Our test rider tends to prefer his handlebar widths in the 790-800mm range (depending on grips) so we were stoked to see Renthal dive into a full 800mm width handlebar. Their Fatbar Lite series also grew a bit in width, from 740mm to 760mm. At 800mm we didn’t really feel the need to trim our handlebar, but there are handy guides if you should choose to do so. Just make sure you use a saw blade that’s meant for carbon fiber.
Straight away we were impressed with the overall stiffness of this setup. It didn’t flinch when we stuffed the bike into tight, squared off turns like the one shown below. Compared to an aluminum handlebar, carbon fiber will always dampen a bit more chatter and be easier on your hands, albeit at a higher cost. Some riders think this is a big deal and some could care less. Our test rider notices and much prefers the feel of carbon fiber. Having ridden the full spectrum of handlebars with some being a bit flexy and some being a bit rough on the hands, we think the Fatbar Carbon 35 feels “just right” and strikes the perfect balance between stiffness and damping.
As far as the Integra 2 stem goes, we found it to simply be a solid piece of kit. It was quiet as could be and never made a peep; something that some other direct mount stems could take note of. Handlebar roll adjustments were almost easier with the 6 bolt design as you only have to fuss with torquing two bolts. As mentioned prior, the indicators are nice as well; in the event you tear your bike apart it’s nice having a reference point for your go-to roll angle. We also noticed that the clamps feature a radius around the edges as well. While that is unlikely this affect the feel, that radius should extend handlebar life, because it gets rid of two harsh square edged stress risers. As far as design goes, we played around with a 45mm length/10mm rise Integra 2 stem for a bit but ultimately settled with the 50mm length. That brings us to our last point, hats off to Renthal for making 4 different combinations of length/height; it’s a greater effort than most manufacturers make. Adjustable length (slotted) stems are cool but they’re harder to line up and they tend to twist more in the event of a crash, so we prefer fixed length.
We think the updated width for Renthal’s new 35mm lineup is pretty spot on with both Fatbar and Fatbar Lite for DH and trail applications respectively. They’ve added width but kept that perfect 7º backsweep/5º upsweep combo that has such a broad appeal. It’s difficult to find a rider who doesn’t describe it as feeling “just right”. The fact that it’s available in 16 combinations (2 materials, 2 widths and 4 heights) is pretty really cool as well. As far as value goes, $164.95 isn’t exactly cheap, but “cheap” and carbon fiber don’t mesh. If you’re on a budget, the aluminum Fatbar 35 is and about half the price but it will be just a touch rougher on your hands while still having the same comfortable dimensions.
As far as the Integra 2 goes, it’s quiet, looks incredible and comes in the perfect length/height combos. The hardware and finish are high quality and it comes in at a solid value for the price. If we had to nitpick, one minor gripe would be the slightly tedious full disassembly. That however is a result of the 6 bolt system which is simply trying to save grams and lower stress risers which, in the downhill world are worth a couple extra seconds when you’re working on your steed. All in all, excellent updates to an already high quality cockpit lineup.
Action Photos: Luca Cometti