Our "Rider Review" article series features the honest reviews from verified purchasers of Worldwide Cyclery. They contain the photos, thoughts, feedback & overall review you are looking for.
RaceFace makes a ton of high quality carbon components, and their handlebars are some of the best in the biz. Their NEXT Bar offers strength, stiffness, and performance all in a lightweight package. Our friend Richard recently put some on his Evil and loves the upgrade. Check it out!
I’ve been riding for many years, building my own bikes up from parts for most of those, and I have a pretty good idea of things I like and things I don’t, although those ideas evolve over time. For example, if you jumped back in time 20 years and looked at my handlebar, it would be aluminum, flat, with about 5 degrees of sweep and freakishly narrow. It would be clamped in a stem half as long as it was wide, attached to a fork that was more or less straight up and down. Hey, we are making progress here, and despite weight gains, I can seriously ride a lot more trails on something with 150mm of travel or more than I could on some whippet-thin hard tail years ago. Where was I…oh, right, handlebars.
So, my most recent bike, an Evil Insurgent, is a new frontier for me; the whole thing is made of carbon fiber. Like most things carbon fiber, this is made overseas (the only major exception I am aware of is ENVE composites—carbon layup is complex, and because of the noxious components, pretty heavily regulated by the EPA, making domestic manufacture tedious and expensive). Despite my normal penchant for trying to buy as much American made stuff as I can, I thought I would continue the carbon theme and keep the crank and bar of the same material. I did some research, and wasn’t quite ready to embrace the more aggressive 35mm rise, so I landed on the NEXT. It’s wide, at 760mm, although there are several out there that reach 800mm or more now, with a comfortable but not overly aggressive rise and sweep. It’s black, which matches everything (I’m old enough to remember the unfortunate infestation of purple anodized parts, so I have been admittedly reluctant to embrace the neon color-ways that have been available of late), and it’s from RaceFace, which typically represents some solid engineering. The thicker center diameter should increase strength and stiffness without undue effect on weight (thinner walls) if I remember physics at all. Of note, I tried a couple friends’ bars out and found the 800mm high rise to be way huge! I felt like I was constantly going to hook trees next to the trail with those things, and, indeed, actually ejected on one test ride after catching a 4 inch sapling with one. My old bar was cut to about 740mm, and this (760mm) seems like the Goldilocks length.
...the carbon wins by a good margin—less hand numbness and paresthesia after extended rides compared to the Fubar.
So, I ordered it, and it arrived and looked great, all smooth and matte black. I installed it in a Race Face Aeffect stem (pretty nice for their entry level stuff), torqued it to spec, clamped on some brakes, shifters, grips, etc., and took it for a ride. I think the best complement I could give it is, I just don’t notice it. It’s smooth, damps vibration substantially, fit me nicely without trimming (although it’s got hash-marks for hacking off a bit if you feel the compulsion), and looks great on the bike, to boot. I rode my older bike with an aluminum Chromag Fubar to compare the two over a couple rides, and found that the carbon bar often feels a little numb, but it takes the edge off of long rides, while the aluminum bar really feeds you the trail textures but tends to be a bit fatiguing over the same distance. It seems like an even trade, but at my age (48) the carbon wins by a good margin—less hand numbness and paresthesia after extended rides compared to the Fubar. Admittedly, Fubar is an infinitely better name than NEXT, but I didn’t score this thing for the marketing skill that went into it. I also think this bar is genuinely stiffer than the thinner aluminum Fubar, but that may be a composite (har har) of the carbon bike, stiffer fork (Lyrik), I9 wheels, and the NEXT bar. Anyway, it was a good deal and I’m happy with it. I haven’t hit any trees yet in about 20 rides, so I might have been right about the width.
How can I sum up this awesome handlebar? It's lightweight, looks awesome, holds the controls, steers, impresses chicks. Boss!