Words: Mike Blewitt                                                                               Photos: Colin Levitch
 
Nothing sets off a bike like having the right cockpit setup, from both a looks, fit and performance perspective. Ben Morrison did a big feature on handlebar width and diameter a couple of years ago, and plenty of people were surprised that many pro riders didn't reach for the widest bars, or 35mm clamp sizes, as a matter of course. They needed their bars to offer the fit and qualities that were right for them. Increasingly, we have seen trusted bar and stem manufacturers bring out 35mm clamp bars and stems. Not because they couldn't do so before, but because they have spent the time making a product that actually performs better than their 31.8mm clamp models.

 

PRO are one of those brands, and their new Tharsis 3Five handlebars and stem are a veritable tick list of what people are looking for when choosing a burly set of handlebars and a matching stem. The stem comes in 35, 45 and 55mm lengths and is a zero degree chunk of CNC machined 7050 aluminium. The 4 bolt face clamp is broad, with open sections so you can clearly line up your bars.

 

The Tharsis 3Five handlebars come in alloy or carbon, and both share an 800mm width, 20mm rise and 9 degrees of backsweep. The carbon model we had sent out for test hit the scales under 200g, and it has marks so you can cut it down to as narrow as 720mm. If you think that sounds silly, look back to see our bar width feature – you might notice plenty of top riders who run 740-760mm!

 

We were also sent a pair of PRO Lock on Trail grips with a flange. They use a single collar lock with a closed end, a low height flange, and a 32mm diameter with a pattern that suits those who ride gloveless or gloved.
 
Fitting and using the Pro cockpit
 
Setup was easy with clearly defined marks to make sure the bars were centred. Some carbon paste is included, and using a torque wrench made cinching the bolts to spec an easy job. With a few tweaks for the exact bar angle I was set to ride.
 
First impressions make a difference, and the biggest one even leaving my driveway was how much stiffer the front of my bike felt. Stiff, but not harsh. Yes, this is an age old statement from media types talking subtly about how paying more for carbon is worth it. The Tharsis 3Five handlebars are the second carbon 35mm bars I have ridden, and I have used a lot of basic alloy ones and some nice ones as well.

 

The Tharsis 3Five carbon bars are said to have tuned compliance. Which means they really thought about how they want to use carbon. Carbon fibre is a really versatile material. If you use a lot for crazy strength you end up with something overly stiff. Go too light and it's flexy and you risk damage. I'm no materials engineer, but I'd suggest the Tharsis 3Five bars have been designed to keep the strength in the clamping areas, while allowing a little more vibration damping along the length. I've ridden basic alloy bars with 35mm bar clamps and suffered terrible hand and forearm cramps – and nothing like that occurred with these bars.

 

The stem is really subtle, and the low stack height will help keep your bar height in check when matching the 20mm rise bars with a long travel fork. The steerer bolts are recessed but the ends are exposed a little. Still, what's exposed is better than the edge that might be left it they were fully recessed – your knees can make that decision if you do impact them at the wrong time.
 
The whole setup was creak free and didn't shift during testing. Even though the grips were sent to complement the bars and stem, they're the first flanged grips I've really got along with. I'm a staunchly gloved rider but I actually enjoyed riding gloveless on these, with great tactile feedback thanks to the finish.

 

I think the Tharsis 3Five cockpit should be something to consider when looking to upgrade your bars and stem. It's not just about having a 35mm clamp on your bar and stem, it's about having a cockpit that is stiff but that doesn't beat you up. And I'd suggest there are plenty of bikes out there with overly harsh bars and stems, leaving owners looking to change their suspension tunes or tyre size when the solution might be a whole lot more simple. These will be moving right onto the Norco Optic long term test bike as an ideal upgrade to it's stock bars and stem.
 
RRP: Stem $196, Bars $199, Grips $35
From: Shimano Australia
 
Hits:
- Well designed and nicely finished
- Suits aggressive bikes and riding
- Alloy and carbon options
 
Misses:
- Gotta love black