Over the past few years, e*thirteen has been branching out and offering more bike components. Today they introduce their take on mountain bike handlebars and stems. Meant for trail, enduro, and downhill riders, their new handlebars and stems are on the beefier side of the mountain biking world. However, don’t interpret that to mean that they tried to make the stiffest setup ever. Instead, e*thirteen thought they could incorporate both stiffness and comfort. Read on to find out if they accomplished their goal.
e*thirteen didn’t come out of the gate with an overwhelming number of products. Instead, they essentially came out with the same bar and stem, but with different constructions and materials to help you land on your price point or desired weight. The handlebar comes in three different varieties: Base (aluminum), Plus (aluminum), and Race (carbon). Each handlebar features the same 9° backsweep and 5° upsweep, which they claim are easy on the wrists when the downhills are long and hard. The only width offered is 800mm, but if you ask me, that’s the only width that should be offered because bars can always be made shorter, but never made longer. There are printed lines on the ends of the bars to make cutting the bars down an easy task. It’s available in either a 20 or 35mm rise. e*thirteen spent time engineering layups, butting, and bend profiles in order to achieve a better, and more comfortable, ride feel.
The stem comes in two flavors: Base and Plus. Both stems are made out of aluminum, so the difference in weight between the two is only 10 grams. It features a 35mm clamp, which obviously fits their new bar, zero degree rise, and lengths of 40 or 50mm. During installation, I noticed that e*thirteen decided to use T25 bolts instead of the typical hex bolts. At first I thought this was an odd inclusion until I realized that e*thirteen uses T25 in most of their other products. So if you’re a fan of e*thirteen and have a lot of their stuff, this stem will fit right in.
The graphics on the bar and stem are subtle and understated. It’s nice and under the radar with a dark grey logo on top of black carbon or aluminum. Personally, this is where my preferences are, so I’m not at all worried about the fact that there aren’t any flashy colors. The easiest way to tell the difference between the three handlebars is by the size of the logos, with the Base having the smallest logo and the Race having the largest.
The first thing I asked myself when I installed the Race bar and Plus stem was, “Am I really going to notice a difference between this and what I already have?” The short answer is yes. Prior to throwing the e*thirteen stuff on, I had a carbon fiber Santa Cruz bar and a Truvativ stem. This combo isn’t the most expensive and over-engineered cockpit ever, but it is still really nice, so e*thirteen has some pretty big shoes to fill. Really, it comes down to ride feel and whether or not their specific emphasis on rider comfort achieved something noticeable.
Installation was easy enough. In fact, the top two bolts are supposed to be fully torqued and then you can adjust your bar as desired, which made installation surprisingly easy as the upper two bolts hold the bar in place while you find the sweet spot. Using a T25 instead of a 4mm hex wrench felt a little odd, but even the most minimalist multi tool usually includes one, so it’s not much of an issue. The whole installation process went without a hitch and the most annoying part was just trying to get my brake levers back to the angle I prefer, so nothing unexpected.
The parking lot test yielded a pretty stiff feeling bar, so I had my doubts that it would really be that much more comfortable of a ride than I’m used to. But e*thirteen did their homework and actually did engineer something that does feel good to grab on to. The trail I picked for my first ride is plenty rocky and the handlebar/stem combo didn’t disappoint. While it may not have smoothed the trail out completely (would you really expect it to anyway?), it definitely did make for a more comfortable ride than I’m used to. Vibrations seemed less intense and hard impacts felt ever so slightly more dampened. All in all, e*thirteen did their homework and made a great first foray into mountain bike cockpits.
So did e*thirteen get it right? I’d say so. The handlebar and stem work well to provide the stiffness that you want on your trail or enduro bike, and the bar would really feel right at home on your downhill bike, too. The build quality is top notch right out of the box and the aesthetics are really nice as well. The range of prices will work for pretty much anyone, and I would even go so far as to say that the highest end handlebars are a pretty fantastic deal for carbon bars. Overall, e*thirteen produced a really nice set of bars and stems.