Words: Mike Blewitt                                                                         Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith
 
Getting the right bar and stem to suit your riding, your trails and your fit isn't really hard, but there are a whole lot of choices out there. It could be easy to fall into the trap of picking a brand of bars that come in the colour you want, or the brand that seems cool right now. But the most important thing is to get the bar diameter that suits, use the right width, the correct rise for your fit, and finding the sweep that feels right in your hands. And sure, then choose material.
 
Race Face have a huge range of handlebars and stems, and given so many bikes come with them fitted from the factory, chances are you might already own a set. We picked the Race Face Next carbon bar in a 10mm rise and 35mm clamp for our Transition Smuggler test bike. Given the majority of Australian trails aren't that steep more rise wasn't needed, and the 180g weight of the bars and stiffness of the 35mm clamp was appealing. At 760mm wide, width was about spot on for me on a trail bike – I could happily run 740mm but so far the 760mm has been ok with no real bar clipping as my local trails are pretty open. These bars have 8 degrees of back sweep and 5 up. To be honest, that either suits you or doesn't. As Ben Morrison has pointed out with a couple of features on handlebars – it really comes down to preference for sweep and rise. I normally ride with 9 degree back sweep and 3 degrees up and found this pretty good.

 

I paired the bars with a very nice Race Face Turbine R stem. It's 0 degrees as really, rise can be done via bars and spacers on the head tube. Race Face have made an incredibly strong alloy stem at a pretty scant 138g claimed for a 50mm stem. I fitted a 60mm for the Transition.
 
The stem is made from CNCed aluminium, and it looks like every last bit has been machined out – including next to the steerer! The bar clamp uses what Race Face call their Toplock – basically there's a wrong way and a right way up for the face clamp, and you secure the top two bolts first to the right torque before the lower two. It's not rocket science and a number of brands do something similar. What it does is provide even clamping on bars, whether they are carbon or light weight alloy, so they'll stay in place and not crack. So it's worth following the instructions.
 
On the trail
 
On the one hand, what's to say? They worked and steered my bike. But there's more to think about than that. Sweep and upsweep isn't always easy to get right, and this combination worked for me, although with a little more roll back than I thought at first, as I don't really like much upsweep. Using the recommended torque settings I had no movement, no concerning creaks or groans, nothing. Not from the controls, or the stem. So that's good.
 
Although I have ridden bars and stems with 35mm clamp diameters before, I haven't done as many hours on them as I have with this combination. I know some people find them a little fatiguing when doing lots of runs, but I didn't have that experience. Whether it was the light carbon bar or the plush Marzocchi Z2 fork, I just found them to be more direct than my usual set up.

 

This model handlebar comes in black like featured, or with a teal/turquoise. Personally I think you can't go wrong with black, and it matches what the bars and stem do. They get on with the job without making a song and dance about it, they just do it in a really high end way with minimal weight and high strength. If you need wider bars, or higher rises or cheaper models Race Face make them, just be sure to check out their full range online.
 
 
Hits:
-      Very high quality finish
-      Good weight, strong build
-      Black matches everything
 
Misses:
-      Sweep might not suit everyone
-      Some might want wider bars
 
 
RRP: Stem: $TBC
Bars: $TBC