Friday, May 10, 2013

Long Term Test: Renthal Fatbar and Duo Stem

About a year ago now I decided that I'd had enough of sitting on the fence about going wide and short, in regards to my bar and stem combo.  I had been shopping various websites looking for a good deal on a combo that looked good together and would look good on my Trek Fuel.  Now I'll concede that it would be hard for anything to not look good on a bike like the Fuel, especially in it's flat black color, but I wanted something that popped.  When Arts Cyclery (, a sponsor of San Jose Mtb announced that they would be carrying the Renthal brand I was definitely intrigued.  I had know of Renthal since I was young having had many friends that were into dirt bikes, but didn't really know anything about their cycling division.  It was hard not to like what they offered though.  They went away from the common gimmick, using the standard anodizing colors like red, blue, purple, etc. and instead treated their products to a very unique shade of green.  It took very little for me to decide on what I was going to do.  I promptly ordered up a 20mm Fatbar and the 50mm Duo Stem from Art's.

Once the wait was over (it took a few weeks to get the exact rise bar I wanted) and my parts finally arrived I couldn't wait to install them.  They looked amazing sitting on my tool bench at work so they were bound to look even better on my ride.

Installing a new bar and stem on your bike is usually a pretty easy ordeal, especially with today's lock-on grips and easy to remove shifter and brake clamps.  The Duo stem is probably the most unique part of the setup.  Rather than using a two or four bolt face plate that clamps the bar to the front of the stem, the Duo uses two halves that sandwich around the bar and are held in place with four bolts.  The stem is marked with lines that line up with markings on top of the Fatbar allowing you to custom tune the right amount of tilt.  The markings are well placed and easy to see making getting everything dialed at the right angle pretty easy.  The stem comes with instructions for properly torquing the two halves together.  The directions are pretty clear and easy to follow though so this shouldn't cause an issue for anyone mildly mechanically inclined.

Now obviously this is an entirely subjective subject.  What I think looks hot may look like a hot mess to someone else.  However, seeing as I'm the one writing this I'll tell you what I think.  This think is SWEET!  Between the bars color and width this thing gets you noticed.  At 780mm wide this thing is definitely would look at home atop a downhill or freeride bike, but if you're looking into a wide bar that will look great on your trail steed this thing is it.  If you're into subtle bling on your ride, the sort of parts that people might over look at first only to take second look, then the metallic olive color of Renthal is for you.

Like I mentioned above this bar measure 780mm or just under 31 inches.  Now if you know bar widths that is massive.  Only a few other manufacturers even make a bigger bar.  If you're not into the super wide bars then you'll be happy to know that Renthal has included markings on both ends of this bar to shorten it up a bit.  I however have elected to keep my bar at its full factory length.  This can be a bit scary in really tight forests.  UCSC and Demo have hung me up a few times in the twisty trees, but otherwise this thing makes descending a blast.  The short stem and wide bar combo puts you in a much better attack position when things start to get a little gnarly.  Not to mention how stiff this thing is, I literally have never felt this thing flex even a little.  While a carbon bar may be a little more comfortable, I like the confidence this thing instills when you have to get up out of the saddle and really wrench on it.  Now this really wide and short combo isn't perfect.  Climbing has definitely suffered, especially long steep climbs, as the front end seems a bit harder to keep on the ground and tracking true.  Would I go back to the long stem and narrower bars?  Nope, never!  I have since shortened the stem on my hardtail to 50mm and am likely going to purchase the Lite version of the Fatbar for that bike.

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