Santa Cruz Bicycles Carbon 800 Riser Review
Cons: Limited style and rise options, expensive
Manufacturer: Santa Cruz Bicycles
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Traditionally, the appearance of a frame manufacturer's logo on a component aside from the frame itself is indicative of a lower quality stock part. The above couldn't be further from the truth regarding Santa Cruz Bicycles foray into handlebar manufacturing with their Santa Cruz Carbon 800 Riser. Taking what they learned from producing some of the finest frames in the world, then manufacturing some of the most reliable carbon wheels, Santa Cruz used all the power behind their R&D department to craft the ideal handlebar.
Stiffness and Compliance
The Carbon Riser was designed with intention to create a handlebar with ideal characteristics for all trail scenarios. Based on the well-balanced stiffness and compliance of this bar on the trail, it would seem that Santa Cruz put the time in to perfect this bar to meet the same standards they impose on their frames and wheels.
The Carbon Riser bar has 35mm bore, which is in line with the modern trend of turning to 35mm for increased stiffness qualities in the handlebar/stem interface. This bar is stiff and responsive, on par with the Deity Speedway and the ENVE M7. Unlike the M7, however, the Santa Cruz bar isn't harsh. They've managed to create a handlebar that dampens vibration quite well without sacrificing anything in terms of handling.
Once again at the highest end of the spectrum, the Carbon Riser provides a very high degree of control and razor-sharp handling. This bar offers ample leverage, a stout clamp interface, and a stiff feel while dampening high-frequency vibration to keep your hands feeling fresh. There wasn't a single section of trail where the Carbon Riser felt out of place, suggesting the engineers in Santa Cruz did their job and the test riders gave quality feedback.
The Carbon Riser comes in an 800mm width with is on par with today's wider-is-better trend. The 35mm bore size also makes for a sturdy clamp interface with the stem. The combination of the width and bore size, along with the stiffness of this bar provide adequate leverage for ultra-responsive handling on the front of trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes. Whether steering through low-speed tech, tipping the bike into a high-speed berm, or pulling up on the front end for rock drops, the Carbon Riser responded immediately to rider input. The rider's control is further enhanced by the fact that this bar dampens vibration well, reducing hand fatigue compared to some of the brutally stiff competition so you can actually feel your hands at the end of a long descent.
To match this bar with each rider's size and preferences, the Carbon Riser can easily be trimmed down to the perfect width for maximum control. Cutting down the Santa Cruz bar beyond 760mm isn't recommended, however, as characteristics integral to control such as flex and leverage were designed with widths between 760 and 800 in mind.
One of the lightest bars in this test at a measured weight of 227g, the Carbon Riser is at the very least guaranteed to reduce the weight of the front end of your bicycle. Beyond weight alone, the durability has been fantastic over multiple crashes, indicating that the shaved weight did not trade off for toughness.
The overall weight is very respectable, in fact, this is the second lightest model we tested. Only the Race Face Next R handlebar tipped the scales at a lighter weight. This is definitely a good option for gram counters and will easily shave 50 grams off the overall weight of your bicycles compared to the lightest aluminum options.
Style & Design
This metric is heavily biased towards innovation and the overall quality of a product but we also take the looks into account. Unfortunately, Santa Cruz takes a hit here due to some conscious decisions by the manufacturer. The Carbon Riser is very limited in color options. In fact, there is only one color option which is the carbon/black we tested. While this subtle and somewhat stealthy color scheme is relatively subdued, it may not be everyone's cup of tea, especially those looking to bling out their bike. This isn't to say the finish does not ring quality, but rather that it is not up to snuff with the design and finish of Deity's Speedway. If your frame isn't manufactured by Santa Cruz, the large logo on the front of the bar may clash with your dream build ideals, but at least it is a subtle black on black color scheme that isn't too bold or in your face.
The Carbon Riser only comes in a 35mm clamp diameter and is only offered with a 20mm rise in 760mm or 800mm widths. Given the ability to trim the bars down, these width options should suit the vast majority of rider's width preferences. Beyond that, the quality of craftsmanship appears to be impeccable as we've come to expect from Santa Cruz. It is clear that lots of time was spent on the design and testing of these bars based on their impressive handling characteristics and vibration dampening. Santa Cruz has also made sure to include trim markings on the bar's ends to assist with the trimming process.
The Carbon Riser is the same price as all of the other carbon fiber models we tested. Due to this bar's high scores across the board, we feel that it is a relatively solid value to anyone who can justify the expense. This bar provides excellent handling, a great blend of stiffness and vibration dampening, and is very lightweight. This is a surefire way to upgrade your cockpit, handling, comfort, and reduce the overall weight of your mountain bike. Not to mention the fact that all Santa Cruz carbon handlebars are backed by a five-year warranty.
Simply put, the Carbon Riser is at the top end of our spectrum of bar choices for any discipline of mountain biking. If it wasn't for the limited choices of graphics or rise options, this bar would have bested the Deity Speedway, but consistency is king in choosing an Editor's Choice. Despite not taking the overall victory in this test, this handlebar took a close second and is a great option for any bike or style of riding.
— Dillon Osleger