The contact point makes up the bulk of your cockpit, without it you virtually can?t ride the bike. Yes, I?m talking about the handlebar on our beloved bike(s). The handlebar in question is Atom straight bar made by Ultimate Sports Engineering or more common known as USE in the UK. We have heard about the raves and praises about their Alien Seatposts where weight and stiffness far surpasses the make by Thomson which we are all familiar with, let?s see how they compare with their handlebar.
Many have their fears over the usage of carbon fiber parts on their mountain bikes, simply for the fact that they wouldn?t know when it?s about to give way. Though it is light and stiff, not to mention vibration damping properties, some mountain bikers still stay off carbon fiber parts. Most of the time that carbon parts do fail, is the result of inadequate or over-torque while tightening the bolts. This causes a substantial amount of unwanted stress on the area, and over time, the combination of stress and fatigue will cause the part to fail.
First View and Impression
Upon the first view of the USE Atom handlebar, the very first thing that caught my attention was the aluminum inserts at the end of the handlebar. This meant that I could have a piece of mind if the bike happens to tip over and the handlebar taking the full load of impact. Upon taking a closer look, 3 more pieces of aluminum inserts were discovered at the brake lever and stem clamping zones. This meant that the stress areas are well protected by the aluminum inserts, so you can have no fear of overstressing the carbon bar. However, with a total of 5 aluminum inserts in the handlebar, the overall weight went up by quite a fair bit as compared to the Easton EC90 which weighs in at 99grams. However, the tradeoff for the weight increment is the ability to install bar ends.
The amount of sweep on the handlebar is 5 degrees, which is 2 degrees more compared to my own handlebar. However, not much difference was felt in the control of the bike and comfort while riding.
The width of the bar is just nice for a couple of gadgets on top of the standard parts. The standard brake levers, shifters, grips. Throw in a speedometer and a front blinker, and you still have sufficient space for other gadgets, without having the problem of overcrowding. At a width of 580mm, it allows me to cut between obstacles in the trails without getting clipped by either tree trunks. A short bar is definitely useful in trails where there are quite a lot of switchbacks.
Being an aluminum bar user, for so long, the first thing about the handlebar difference compared to an aluminum bar was the vibration damping properties it has.
Once everything was fixed and adjustments were made, off I went on a short ride to East Coast Park. Once I jump over the bike and grab the bars, the feel was totally different from an aluminum bar. The vibrations coming from the road were well dissipated by the bar with its unique carbon fiber damping properties. Do note it was a road ride, its full potential hasn?t been realized yet.
I had the chance to test out the full potential of the handlebar on Ubin on Togoparts.com 1st Mass Ride. Upon hitting the trails from the tarred road section, it was clear the handlebar handled all the bumps well, without twitching the direction I?m heading to. It held its line firm. Going downhill proves to be a breeze as well, with the carbon fibre damping most of the vibrations generated, which in turn means less numbness on the hands. No flex could be felt at this point of time.
Next, I had the opportunity to try it out in a race condition at Ubin once again. Its performance remains the same, damping the vibrations and held its tracks.
Due to time constraints, I had not had the opportunity to try it out at Bukit Timah for a tough test. However, I do believe that the handlebar will perform as well as it did in Ubin.
The handlebar finishing proves to be first class, even with rocks thrown up from the front wheel, no scratches! Construction wise, with 5 aluminum inserts present, one would have no worries about over stressing the ?fragile? handlebar without the use of a torque wrench. Crashing also doesn?t seem that scary anymore. The ability to affix bar ends will be a hit with bar end lovers. And NO more ice cold handlebar on a late night or a wet weather ride! Sufficient space was still present for more gadgets after standard items are installed.
However, with the additional aluminum inserts present, XC weight weenies might not be too keen; after all they are only interested in getting their bikes to the lightest weight possible. Albeit they are on the heavier side for carbon handlebar, they have the proper compromise between performance, weight, durability and most importantly, safety.
Diameter: 25.4mm (standard) or 31.8mm (oversized)