17 December 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Race Face Next SL ¾ Carbon Low Rise handlebars

How much is there to really say about bars? Unless a manufacturer really screws up, most of them are pretty good. It usually comes down to weight for most of us. These Next SL ¾ handlebars bars came on the Giant Trance that I am riding and (while they're a bit narrower) they remind me a lot of the Syntace bars I reviewed recently. They are very stiff for an XC bar; in fact, they are so stiff that they really bring out the performance of the fork you are riding- as every little bump is registered. They border on being harsh but not so much that you can’t ride all day on them. So these may be an excellent XC race option, or even a good trail-riding option if you don’t mind a feeling a bit more of the trail through the bars. That said, I haven’t had time to put them on a different bike yet so it’s possible that the Giant Trance or it's Fox TALAS sends more chatter through the front-end than I’m used to, so keep tuned for the update on these bars.

The Next SL bars are designed with a 9˚ rearward sweep and a 4˚ upward slope. This is right on-par with many of the other bars in this category so it is no surprise that they feel very comfortable and natural. The ¾ in the title refers to the rise which is .75in. Isn’t the bike industry great about switching effortlessly back and forth between Metric and British measurements? Anyway, they are very attractive with a gloss finish, good-looking carbon weave, and a metal lattice-reinforced stem clamping area (à la Syntace). The Next SL ¾’s are only available in a 31.8mm clamp size and a 660mm (26in) width. The Next SLs weigh 170g which is about as light as you can get in this category (Easton's 25in wide, 146g Monkeylight XC is the only oversized bar that I can think of that is much lighter). Race Face says that they use a 3K high strength carbon weave but that doesn’t mean anything to 99.9% of the population (including me) so I can’t tell you if that is better, the same, or worse than what their competitors' bars use. Race Face also says that these are the most advanced carbon handlebars to date. I understand that marketing is important and all that but come on Race Face- at least try and tell me why. Don’t get me wrong, I thing these are great bars- some of the best out there, but I know that because of the weight and feel and how they compare within the category. If I was asked who is making the most advanced handlebars out there (based on the information they make available to consumers), I would say Syntace or Easton. So Race Face: please include more information on your website as to why your bars are the most advanced to date if you are going to make such grand claims. This is a pet-peeve of mine with most companies' websites and I can't help but bring it up if they get a bit out of hand with their claims.

Despite my bitching about marketing, I like these bars and think they are some of the best available. They seem to favor performance over comfort and that is probably on purpose. MSRP runs about $130.


charlie

www.raceface.com

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