7 Innovative Handlebar Systems
The humble handlebar. A bike has to have one and depending on when you started riding, the bars that came stock on bikes were as close to throw-away items as you could get. Heavy, soft, steel with welded cross bars that bent as soon as you had your first tip over. The industry standard, thankfully, has moved to aluminum and there are some interesting options when it comes to design.
Not all of the bars below are brand new, but they still deserve a nod of recognition and explanation of how the are different than anything else on the market. They are in alphabetical order. Following these bars is a mostly complete guide of bars available for dirt bikes and their prices, just so you can have some reference of price and features.
1. Fasst Company - Flexx Bars: $359.99
Not really known for their use in moto, Fasst Co. Flexx Bars have been a stable in the off-road racing community for years. As you can see, there is a lot going on here. The 1 1/8 clamping area supports two hinged 7/8 outer sections that are suspended by elastomers both on compression and rebound. The design of the hinges allow for movement up and down in-line with the forks, but not front to back. The elastomers are tunable with different densities available.
For extremely rough tracks with aggressive square-edge, these bars can be an option to take away some of the sting of sharp hits. They were also designed to help with slap down landings, over jumping, and abrupt g-outs. But the downside is that, along with being tough on the wallet, they are also heavier than any other handlebar on the market. They are made of aluminum but the extra material and hardware for the damping system increases the weight.
2. Mika Metals - Hybrid Series: $109.99
Since the invention of the oversized handlebar by ProTaper in 1991, if you wanted the strength and feel of a 1 1/8 bar, you needed oversized bar clamps to match. But Mika Metals changed all that with their Hybrid Series Handlebar. The clamping area is 7/8 inch diameter which has been the standard OEM bar size and bar clamp size for years (though, in 2018 only Kawasaki has stock 7/8 bars).
The Hybrid bar tapers its size twice. Starting at the clamping area, it is 7/8 inch, then ramps up to 1 1/8 inch right after the the clamps, stays 1 1/8 inch through the bend and the crossbar clamping area, then tapers back down to 7/8 inch for the controls, throttle, and grips. The bar does have a crossbar to increase strength. We haven’t had any first hand experience with these yet but we can imagine that they are stiffer than your standard 7/8 bar but with more flex than a 1 1/8 with a crossbar.
3. Neken - SFH (Smooth Feeling Handlebar): $113.95
Now, we understand that English is a second language for the guys and gals at Neken so we are going to let the name slide. Vague monikers aside, the SFH bar is definitely an industry first. The start off as a pretty standard 1 1/8 oversize bar without a crossbar, but at each end, just where the grips go, they are tapered down smaller than the industry standard 7/8 bars.
You might be thinking they are copying ProTaper’s Micro Bars (further down the list) and while the look is the same, the end goal is different. The Micros are from small hands while the SFH are for normal adult hands, with extra thick grips on which to hold. As you can imagine, running standard grips and throttle tubes isn’t going to be possible. You have to buy the throttle tube and grips from Neken as well, but that’s the whole point of this system.
Rather than adding flex, or pivots, or composite materials, or any other more complicated things to increase comfort, Neken just made the grips thicker. But to do that, obviously, the bar ends had to be smaller. We should have a set on its way to check out and we’ll see if blisters and calluses become a distant memory.
To see more on the Neken SFH and more from Neken, go to our Product Guide.
4. ODI - Podium MX: $129.95
Oversized bars with crossbars have been around for awhile and they are on the top of the pile when it comes to stiffness, but what if you want to dial that back a notch? ODI released their Podium bar more than five years ago, but it is still an innovation worth noting in the handlebar space.
Where it differs from its fellow 1 1/8 crossbar bars is that the crossbar is not solid. It is actually two sections with a center housing connecting them with an elastomer damping system. The bar can flex up to 2mm but does so in a more controlled fashion than a 1 1/8 bar without a crossbar at all.
Here is a some snippets on how well the bar worked from when we first rode with them. “Saying that the ODI CFT Handlebar is the best of both worlds might be an overstatement, but I am certain of one thing…it works. I consider myself to be a fairly precise and smooth rider with decent line selection, but even Ron Lechien, Christophe Pourcel, and Kevin Windham would hit the occasional square-edged bump that all of the factory suspension in the world couldn’t soak up. It is times like these that any extra flex in the chassis and handlebars is noticeable and welcomed. If the bars are designed solely to be strong enough to withstand the stresses of a crash, they probably will not give very much. But, when flex is the basis of the design, it is indeed noticeable.”
“Hits against the CFT Handlebar? It is only available in black (although there are a bunch of different colored bar pads); once you have ridden without a crossbar, it can be difficult to go back, and vice versa…this handlebar is only available with a crossbar.”
5. Pro Taper - Fuzion: $129.99
Not unlike the ODI Podium bars mentioned just above, the Pro Taper Fuzion bars are oversized bars with a crossbar, yet the crossbar is actually two different halves. But, rather than being always separate with an elastomer in between, the Fuzion bar has a locking mechanism that lets you connect or disconnect the crossbar.
You might be asking yourself, “If I’m going to run them unlocked, why have a crossbar at all.” And there are a few reasons. One, even in the unlocked position, the Fuzion is going to be stiffer than a 1 1/8 bar without a crossbar. Since the two halves of the crossbar are still connected via the lock housing, there is still some lateral and torsional rigidity at play. Secondly, some riders are head cases and just can’t ride with a bike without a crossbar in their peripheral vision. In the past, and present, pros have been known to cut the crossbar on their 1 1/8 bars to give it them the visual comfort of a crossbar without the stiffness.
Here is what we had to say after riding with the Fusion: “When in locked mode, the Fuzion feels just as I'd expect, rigid and precise. At the same time however, this feedback can be brutal on hard-packed tracks with high-speed "chatter" chop that is repetitive on the hands and arms. So as you'd expect, there is some give and take in this situation. In unlocked mode, Pro Taper claims that the Fuzion begins to flex almost as much as their popular EVO bar (1-1/8" non-crossbar), but it still has a unique feel. The Fuzion's sleeve inside its crossbar only allows so much travel in the bar. For me, it still has a bit more precision than the non-crossbar. It took away a bit of the harshness on the repetitive, high-speed chop, but still gave me enough feedback to feel comfortable with what the front end was doing.”
Have you tried Pro Taper Fuzion bars? Leave your own thoughts in the review section.
6. Pro Taper - Micro: $69.99 - $149.99
Kids are little. Kids bikes are little. They have little seats and little pegs and little motors and little wheels. But no one made little bars for them until the Micro Bar. They are traditional 7/8 bars with an abrupt taper at the bar ends to accommodate smaller diameter grips and throttle tube. It just makes sense that smaller grips will work better, offer more control and more comfort for little hands.
The downside to the Micro bar is that you have to buy specific grips and throttle tube. You do have the option of buying it all together and saving some money (the $149.99 price above) and without the smaller grips and throttle, there would be no reason to buy this bar.
If you've tried the Micro Bars before, let us know what you think with a review.
7. Renthal - Twinwall: $119.95
According to Renthal, the Twinwall Handlebar has been around for 20 years this year. That is definitely not a new product. It’s older than a bunch of you reading this. Yet it still deserves recognition for being innovative since no other bar today has the same design. It is a 1 1/8 bar with crossbar but has a second layer of aluminum wrapped around the middle section. This is to increase strength and safety while staying light weight.
Professional motocross, supercross, and off-road teams the world over have used Twinwalls for two decades. Yet some would say that they are stiffer and offer less flex than other bars, so if comfort is your priority, Twinwalls might not be the best bet.
And here is a look at a mix of handlebars available for reference. These are also in alphabetical order.
|Fly Racing||Carbon Steel: $20.95|
|Fly Racing||Aluma Steel: $27.95|
|Fly Racing||T-6 Aluminum: $41.95|
|Fly Racing||Aero Flex: $52.95|
|Mika Metals||Pro Series: $79.99|
|Mika Metals||Hybrid Series: $109.99|
|Moose Racing||Carbon Steel: $23.95|
|Moose Racing||Carbon Steel Oversized: $27.95|
|Moose Racing||Competition: $54.95|
|Neken||7/8 Diameter Alloy: $66.95|
|ODI||7/8 MX/ATV: $74.95|
|Tag Metals||T3: $69.95|
|Tusk||T-10 Aluminum: $29.99|
|Vortex Racing||MX Bar 7/8: $69.99|
1 1/8 Handlebars
|Fly Racing||Aero Tapered: $66.95|
|Mika Metals||Raw Series: $109.99|
|Moose Racing||Flex Series: $79.95|
|Neken||Variable Diameter: $71.95|
|Neken||Variable Diameter Conical Design: $96.95|
|ODI||Podium Flight MX: $89.95|
|Tag Metals||T2: $89.95|
|Torc1 Racing||Attack Oversized: $69.99|
|Tusk||Chub Big Bar: $39.99|
|WRP||OS America: $69.99|
|WRP||Pro Bar: $109|
|Fasst Company||Flexx: $359.99|
|Mika Metals||Pro Series: $109.99|
|ODI||Podium MX: $129.95|
|Tag Metals||T1: $119.95|
|Vortex Racing||V3 Oversize: $89.95|
|WRP||X-Bar America: $89.99|