The models in this review were selected through years of discussing rider preference, evolution, design, and material with peers in the racing, riding and industry scene. We tested the most popular and heavily touted handlebars on the market on bikes ranging from cross country hardtails to full-on 170mm travel enduro race machines in order to best determine how their characteristics might change a bikes fit and behavior. Each bar was ridden for several hundred to a thousand kilometers on buff singletrack to Enduro World Series downhill stages, pushing bars to the limits of durability and under a microscope searching for marginal gains.
Stiffness & Compliance
In order to test both stiffness and compliance, we mounted each bar to a stem held in a wooden vice clamp on a workbench. Using the slow-motion video feature on an iPhone, we recorded as full body weight was applied onto the bars, putting the bars under maximum strain. Deformation was quantified through the placement of a millimeter ruler next to the bars in the video. These numbers were used in Young's Modulus (essentially stress over strain) to determine a numerical score of compliance and stiffness.
This numerical determination was amended through on-trail use of the bars, where testers could determine if the bars maintained their characteristics across varying surfaces and uses.
The weight of the models we tested is the most objective test we conducted. Each bar was weighed as it comes stock out of the box to evenly compare each bar across the board.
Control was primarily tested through on trail riding, as each bar was tested back to back at an almost identical length in order to remove the variable of leverage in the control equation. Control was determined by the ability of a bar to "smooth out" a trail through vibration dampening, chatter reduction in rock gardens, pulling up and pushing down on the front end, and leverage while counter-steering in corners.
Style & Design
Style and design take the quality of finish and material used in a product, attention to features like cut markers, unique technology and variety into account. This metrics scoring is primarily a result of the overall quality of a product, while also taking into account the thoughtfulness of making it visually appealing or innovative.