Renthal Fatbar 35 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: neutral stable feel, great value, good vibration dampening for aluminum
Cons: heavier, divisive style, not tuned for a specific purpose
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Winning the Best Buy award, the Renthal Fatbar 35 is a new take on a lasting classic. For those looking to upgrade the cockpit of their bike for a different feel and better look while not putting too deep a dent in the wallet, the Fatbar 35 is a great option. Staying true to its off-road motorcycle roots, Renthal put more emphasis on stiffness and compliance than weight, but if you arent trying to take uphill KOMS or race XC, that shouldn't matter too much.
Stiffness & Compliance
Renthal bars have maintained their popularity due to perceived perfection in this realm. Testers found it hard to describe these bars as anything other than "neutral". The upsweep and back sweep bends are positioned along the bar at locations that coincide with bore size changes, allowing for an ideal blend of stiff responsiveness as well as a surprising amount of chatter reduction for a non-carbon bar.
Having used previous versions of the Renthal FatBar in the past, though in the smaller 31.8mm clamp diameter, testers knew the 35mm clamp version would put up a good fight. During testing, we found that the FatBar 35 felt ideal in terms of stiffness and compliance, even tying with some carbon bars in this category usually reserved for the "finer" material. The feel itself is almost unnoticeable in that it isn't a striking feature, but rather works so well that there are no complaints on trail. You will absolutely notice an improved feel upon switching from stock aluminum bars, but over time, you will likely subconsciously appreciate the reduced hand fatigue and better responsiveness without realizing it is a result of these bars.
Towards the upper end of the control rating spectrum, the Renthal Fatbar 35 utilizes a 35mm bore size to increase the bar's overall stiffness and create a sturdy clamp interface with the stem. The 800mm width of the bar along with its stiffness give you loads of leverage and a direct and responsive feel on the front end of the bike. The overall feel is a touch less refined than our favorite carbon fiber models, though we felt the FatBars offered the best control of the aluminum models we tested.
At both high and low speeds on everyday trail rides or when tackling enduro-style terrain, the FatBar35 provided a precise steering feel with plenty of leverage when manipulating the front end of the bike. More often than not, the FatBar just went unnoticed, which is pretty ideal. At no point did it not perform its duties in the control department, nor did it ever jackhammer our hands into submission. These bars dampen vibration quite well for an aluminum model, and they helped reduce hand fatigue compared to some of the more uncompromising competition. Of course, there are stiffer handlebars out there offering somewhat more surgical levels of control, though the carbon fiber models we tested cost almost double.
Here is where these bars lose a few marks through a heftier measured weight of 311 grams. Surprisingly, this weight is actually less than the original 31.8mm bore version but is still enough to create a heavier feel in the cockpit than featherweight carbon options. The weight distribution is good, and this bar isn't particularly heavy feeling, but gram counters will be better off looking elsewhere.
Compared to the weight of carbon options such as the Deity Speedway and the RaceFace Next R bars, the Renthal Fatbar 35 may seem like a poor upgrade choice; however, when comparing it to similarly priced aluminum options, it sits right in the middle between the Deity Blacklabel and Spank Vibrocore, which are respectively the heaviest and lightest aluminum bars.
Style & Design
There isn't anything especially groundbreaking about the style or design of the FatBar, they just get the job done. As far as style is concerned, the Alugold color of old Renthal fame is no longer the sole option to consumers, with the tested black option being more subtle while still providing some recognizable Renthal Flare. This new color option is important in no longer driving away consumers from what may be their ideal bar due solely to differing opinions in style. The moto look and inspired lettering are still likely to be divisive among consumers, but that isn't enough to give this bar poor marks in this category.
The FatBar35 is crafted from a high strength 7-series aluminum. Renthal has shot-peened the aluminum to increase the fatigue life and durability, and the surface has been hard anodized to improve abrasion resistance and the longevity of the finish. Moving to a 35mm bore is an engineering challenge when the 31.8mm version had been designed to have ideal characteristics. Renthal took on this challenge and knocked it out of the park in recreating the same feel in the more modern clamp diameter/bore size. They currently offer the FatBar in both bore sizes with the same relatively neutral 7-degree back sweep and 5-degree upsweep. They also offer it in four different rise options, 10mm, 20mm (tested), 30mm, and 40mm to meet your preferences. Renthal has also put has marks on the stem clamp interface to help with alignment as well as markings on the ends of the bars to facilitate trimming.
No question about it, if you aren't willing to spend close to $200 on a new handlebar, but are keen to improve the feel, handling and style of your bike, the Renthal Fatbar 35 is the bar for you. At half the price of the expensive carbon fiber competition, this is an incredible value upgrade to any bike other than an XC whippet.
The Best Buy Award is always an important decision, as most consumers are wary to spend much more after the purchase of a new bicycle that likely cost upwards of $3000. Renthal hit the nail on the head to provide an affordable high-performing aluminum option that will fit the needs of many trail and all-mountain riders without breaking the bank. They are far from the lightest weight bars out there, but the tried and true FatBar 35 can certainly improve your control and comfort over the stock options that come on many complete bikes.
— Dillon Osleger