Neken SFH Handlebars
Neken has fast become a well known brand of dirt bike control components. Now, they have a new bar with something sneaky up its sleeve. The SFH (Smooth Feeling Handlebars) are 1-1/8th inches in the clamping area, taper smoothly to 7/8ths in the control area, then abruptly taper to about a 1/2 inch in the grip area. Obviously you have to use specific Neken grips and throttle tube that have a smaller inner diameter to match the smaller bar ends, but are much thicker with more grip material that normal grips, making the outer diameter the same as a standard bar/grip combo. Unfortunately they are sold separately.
Neken SFH Handlebar Features:
- 7070 T6 aluminum
- Oversize bar made with a variable diameter and wall thickness
- 1 1/8" (28.6mm) diameter in the clamping area
- 40% lighter and stronger than a classic bar
- Laser etched to aid in handlebar centering and indexing
- Bar pad included
- Anodized gray aluminum
- Grips and Throttle Tube Kit: $22.95
On paper, this seems like a relatively simple way of getting more comfort at your hands without sacrificing control, much like rubber bar mounts or other handlebar damping systems. More grip material should offer more cushion for your hands without messing with the steering feeling of your bike. The quality of the bars seem great and the bar pad is covered with a thick rubber cover that doesn’t have to be removed to remove the pad.
This, I thought, would be as simple as any other bars and grips, but the special throttle tube gave me some issues. The smaller diameter throttle tube and grips are sold separately, which are necessary to work with the bars, but instead of having all sorts of throttle tubes for different bikes, there is one throttle tube and multiple throttle cams to match different bikes. The first issue was my fault because I didn’t read the instructions where it says you have to glue the throttle cam to the throttle tube. The throttle cam does snap into place, but that isn’t strong enough to hold it there and when putting the throttle housing together, I noticed that the cam was slipping off the tube. But after gluing like I should have the first time, it was fine.
The other issue I had was, after everything was bolted together and on the bar, the throttle stuck. I thought it was something to do with the glue and the cam, or that I didn’t clamp the throttle housing to the proper spot on the bar. Yet after some investigation, I found that the Neken throttle tube diameter where it went into the throttle housing was a tiny bit too big. When the throttle was bolted to the bar it was squeezing the throttle tube, not allowing it to spin. I used a rotary tool to remove some plastic round the area that the throttle housing was getting hung up and everything worked after that.
Overall, I did enjoy the feel of the grips, but they took some getting used to. At first, since there is more grip material and it is a relatively soft grip compound, the surface of the grip moves around more, even though the inner part of the grip is solid on the bar. This is sort of the point so that you aren’t getting a ton of energy transferred into your hands. But, it also has the sensation that the grip is twisting a little when it isn’t. I had this sensation more when loading and unloading the bike, rather than when riding.
I personally think they do what the are designed to do. After riding a full day at the track, I didn’t have red, sore palms like I sometimes get. They remind me of the ProTaper Pillow Top Grips, but turned up to eleven. I've had really good experiences with those for off-road riding and I would not hesitated to get the SFH system for an off-road bike. But, I also ride at mellow vet speed, and Michael Lindsey had some other things to say about the bar and grip system. For his fast test guy speed, he noticed that the bars themselves felt stiffer (unpleasantly so) than other 1-1/8th bars he’s ridden with. He also wasn’t that into the squishiness of the grips. He said that he felt a vagueness to them where he had to almost grip even harder to get the same contact feel he was used to, or at least preferred. He also says that he likes stiffer compound grips so it makes sense that he isn’t into the soft feeling of these thicker grips
So far the grips look a little worn but not like they are wearing any faster than typical grips. We’ve had them on our 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450 for about month. There haven’t been any tip-overs with the bars so we can’t attest to their ability to resist bending or the grips to resist tearing.
I’m not sure if the throttle tube hang-up issue was just with the Suzuki throttle housing or if I was doing something wrong but it was minor issue that didn’t affect performance. Other than that, if you are a rider that finds yourself with sore palms after every ride, these might be the way to go. I only rode with them at the track but they might be even better for off-road riders who are going through super rocky or rooty terrain where abrupt hits are constantly grinding on your hands. Riders who are picky with the stiffness of their handlebar should know that this bar is on the stiff side. Overall, I’m happy with the setup especially on the Suzuki.