Mountain bike handle bar recommendations?

I’m currently running a Race Face Next R 35 handle bar and Turbine Stem - it’s way too stiff. I’m never been super sensitive to that sort of thing and sort have scoffed at other expensive solutions, but I’m over it now. I want something more forgiving. I’ll be trail riding and racing occasionally, I don’t necessarily need DH rated bars or any thing over 780 width.

I know Jonathan recommends an ENVE bar, I’ve heard him mention it on several occasions on the podcast but I cannot remember the model. Can someone help remind me?

I’ve also heard great things about the OneUp bar, they are back ordered and I’d like to get something sooner than later.

Is it a matter of 31.8 versus 35.0? I know the OneUp bar is 35.0 (appealing because I wouldn’t need a new stem).

Thanks for your recommendations, I’m even very open to an aluminum option if it has good characteristics.

+1 vote for the oneup bar, I have it into my trail bike and love it. I think at this point you’re going to have really slim pickings for bars, all bike parts stock is crazy low!

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I’m almost certain that @Jonathan uses an ENVE M5 on his XC bike but I’m sure he uses on of their others on his trail/enduro bikes

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+1 for enve. I’ve run the m5 on mtb and have also ran their road bars. Much comfier than any other carbon brand I’ve tried. I’d go 31.8 for sure.

Stem does not make a difference.

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Renthal Fatbar 31.8 aluminium

It’s probably around 100g heavier than the ENVE bars (or most carbon bars for that matter) but the smaller clamp diameter and tube butting offer the best trail feel. Plus they are cheaper and won’t explode.

Don’t overlook grips either. A lot of lock-on style grips can transmit a lot of vibration. I’ve found the ESI grips to be the best for vibration damping followed closely by Ergon GE1.

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Thanks everyone for the replies so far.

I’m running chunky ESI already, and glad to hear I’m not the only one running them. It’s funny you mention those Ergons, my buddy just got some and I thought they felt great in the parking lot test. I’ll look at those Renthals for sure, thanks!

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Raceface stuff has always been good to me. Would you consider going to their 31.5 m dia. bars? I’ve had them on two different bikes and really like their feel. I wonder if the additional stiffness you’re experiencing is due to the larger diameter. Typically a larger diameter would produce more rigidity, not that they couldn’t alter the vibration dampening by their lay-up process.
Nothing against Enve, I just can’t justify the price.

I’ve always like Race Face stuff too, especially in the 31.8 variety, so super open to it, but… they max out at 720 bar width option on the Next, looks like SixC goes all the way to 800, would be really nice to find some middle ground. I’m running 780 now and really like it.

The Ergons are nice because they have a slight taper to them (they get thicker towards the outside of the grip), which I have found to be pretty comfortable.

Another thing that can help is lever position but that is more trial and error. A lot of people set their levers in a position that feels good in a flat parking lot. The actual position they should be will be different on the trail and will be different for everyone. Look at the French guys! They run their levers almost horizontal!

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I view components as just another building block in the system that is your chassis, and that system should equal a certain level of compliance. That level of compliance will change even significantly from rider to rider, and less-significantly, but still present from course to course.

I prefer to have more stiffness and damping in my bars, stem, wheels and frame, and less stiffness and damping in the tires, and suspension. It fits my more active riding technique and higher level of body english.

Strangely, I don’t prefer most carbon bars to aluminum, but ENVE feels markedly different to me. I find most carbon bars flex too much and have a snappier, kind of bouncy characteristic to them. It inserts a level of flex and unpredictably where I don’t want it. ENVE has a much more solid feel than most, IMO.

Although, if I were to switch to a different bike, or change suspension, or wheels, I might need a different bar to get the overall compliance I would want.

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Thanks for the response Jonathan. After some consideration I’m going to try a 31.8 Race Face alloy bar because, well I have one, just need to source a stem. I’m definitely not lacking in a stiff handle bar now, so perhaps the entry fee for the ENVE wouldn’t be worth it in my case.

I rode a self assisted mountain bike park today and ALL of my set up will need to change, tires too soft, suspension too soft - what felt right on slightly mellower terrain felt sketchy today; tires rolling on berms, diving through suspension. The good news is that I have a lot of adjustment ceiling available to me in the way of suspension compression, rebound and air settings. Been riding trails for 15 years and still learning how to ride. :slight_smile:

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Thats awesome! I’ve noticed the same thing at bike parks. On my SB150 my settings for trail riding were usually about 2 clicks softer on compression, 3 psi softer on suspension pressure, and 2 psi softer on tire pressure than the park setup. Tons of nuance though. Northstar jumps are relatively steep, peaky and short in terms of height, so I usually run a slower rebound than I would at something like Whistler with longer, more gradual lips. Also, if the terrain is extra steep I’ll go up a click or two in low speed compression in the front, and maybe even put a spacer under the stem to raise the front end a bit.

I love the endless combinations you could test for a given scenario. Getting to spend a day with a F1 Crew Chief would be my version of winning the golden ticket, hehe.

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@Jonathan can you comment on Schurter’s HB set-up? I’ve been out of the MTB realm for awhile, but was watching the MTB Worlds last night and saw Nino’s set-up.

Is it purely an aero / set-up thing? I know (way) back in the day, some of us rotated 1" riser bars around so we could “get lower”.

Have you already exhausted all adjustments on the fork? That’s where I’d start first. A few minor changes there are going to have a far greater impact than any bar/stem combo, IME.

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I can’t comment on it’s performance, but as a single-rider product, it makes a lot of sense to me. I’m sure Nino has been involved or at least had significant input into the characteristics of the bar/stem combo, and when you can design both to intentionally function as a system, you can get very specific handling characteristics out of them.

With their team being on 2.4 Aspens and 30mm internal width wheels, I can assume they have a lot of compliance in that portion of their bikes, which means they need more stiffness upstream from that. It seems like Europeans typically prefer stiffer compression and rebound damping, and Rockshox just naturally has a more supportive feel than Fox, so I assume they have pretty stiff suspension too, but this is just a total and uneducated guess. Scott frames are pretty darn stiff too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that bar stem combo is quite stiff.

In terms of geo, I bet this gives him the equivalent of something around a 100mm stem at -17º. I’ve never run a -17º stem on a mtb because I feel it would compromise handling a ton, but Nino would drop me one-handed up and down any trail in the world, so who am I to say? lol

Regardless, I think they look cool and have cool performance advantage possibilities, but I’m not sure if they will ever be the go-to consumer option just because of the cost and lack of adjustability.

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Thanks for the insight…definitely bad-ass looking set-up!

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+1 on Enve carbon mountain bike bars.

My Trek Supercaliber came spec’s with a Kovee XXX 35 bar in 720mm with a Bontrager knockblock alloy stem. While it was ok on short rides, on longer marathon rides my hands and wrists took a beating. Initially I thought it was an issue with the SID Ultimate, but dialing that didn’t solve the problem.

Switching to an Enve stem and M5 straight carbon bar at 760mm made a world of difference. The handling improved with the slightly wider bar and my hands and wrist pains went away. The bar is not at all flexy, but clearly helps with dampening things.

I’ve run the older Enve riser bar on a trail bikes (Niner RKT 9 RDO spec’d with Fox 34 SC 120 mm) and it also performed very well.

Of note, I have ridden some Niner carbon cockpits as well and they were also very good. I think Niner is a little under the radar with the quality of the bars, stems and seatposts.

Enve seems to do things with their carbon layups that just seem to work. With the Supercaliber I thought I would give the Bontrager set up a go but was really disappointed with the feel and narrow spec’d bar. Seems an odd choice for a modern XC bike.

You’re right to start there. It’s the same advice I would have given someone else really. It’s funny after I made this thread I did several rides and noticed much less hand pain and fatigue. Even beyond suspension set up, I think this had more to do with my grip force than anything else. I’ve been trying to soften my hands when ever I have the where-with-all to do so, especially while climbing and on rolling terrain. Even when I’m focusing downhill I think I’m holding on too tight.

Simple matter of trying to solve an issue with equipment when it may have more to do with technique. I do still think these 35mm bars are a bit stiffer than what we’re used to in 31.8mm variety, but admittedly that’s anecdotal!

Agreed! Suspension set up (and as it pertains to tires even) is definitely the most interesting aspect of mountain bike performance and set up for me. Thanks again for the responses. Your handle on suspension is a welcome addition to the pod cast.

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Light hands heavy feet? Given your suspension experience I’m sure you’ve come across that one before and have probably even said that to a new rider at some point along the way. I would focus on proper technique before spending money on new bars as you are blaming your bars but it could be so many things leading to that stiffness being transferred into your hands. Do you run with your suspension locked out a lot? Kidding. But the 31.8’s will be fine for XC and would definitely soften things up.

You also say you will be racing but you don’t say what you will be racing. XC? Enduro? Downhill?