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3/25/2013 12:00:00 AM - TECH NEWS!

Review: FSA’s stiff, comfortable Energy stem and Compact bar

FSA Stem and Compact bar

As much as we would all love to be riding around on carbon fiber wunderbars and unobtanium stems, our fiscal realities often dictate more… defensible purchases.  After all, it takes some time to decide if a bar’s bend is right for you- and several hundred dollars is a big commitment if things don’t work out. Better still, giving racing’s appetite for handlebar destruction, going with metal ‘bars could even be considered Pro than destroying a set of carbon bars in your regular Tuesday night pileup crit.

While I hadn’t thought much about FSA’s aluminum offerings, the raves of a local shop owner about the near-perfect shape of the company’s shallow-drop Compact bars had me taking a closer look.  And what better compliment to a nice new set of bars than a light, stiff matching stem?  Hit the jump for more on FSA’s best alloy set.

Complete with titanium hardware, our 100mm Energy stem hit the scales at an impressive 113g.  3D forged out of 2014 aluminum, the stem should be stronger than a similar-weight machined model (and kinder on the knees).  The matte/polished graphics are handsome- though a more neutral color option might be nice for some of the brighter bikes now available.  Despite a weight that would put most carbon stems to shame, the Energy is most impressive for its stiffness- it is noticeably stiffer than the OEM Ibis stem it replaced.  While it may not be an obvious upgrade, the $100 Energy a no-brainer and should be considered before splashing out on bigger-name alternatives.

The real attraction here, however, is the Energy bar.  Despite coming in the bar’s widest width (44cm), our sample weighed in at 274g: 5g more than claimed for the 42 and within 40g of the brand’s $350 SL-K carbon bar.  The 31.8mm clamping section is a nice, accessory-friendly 120mm wide, and transitions comfortably to a semi-flat top.  Given their width, the bar’s graphics disappear under the tape, but that’s a minor complaint.

Ultimately, it’s the 125mm drop and slight (4 degree) flare that have made love the Energy Compact bars.  The relatively shallow drops makes the transition from the tops or hoods less dramatic- and means that I spend more time tucked out of the wind than I would with a deeper bar.  The bars mate nicely with SRAM’s (previous generation) hoods and the drops’ ever-increasing radii provide plenty of hand positions on longer rides.

While fit is inherently personal, I feel like FSA have really nailed the shape of these bars.  While they can’t offer the vibration damping potential of a carbon bar, the invention popularization of wider rims, 25c tires, and more comfort-oriented frames makes this much less of an issue than it was even five years ago.  Against $300+ carbon bars, the FSAs’ roughly $95 price tag makes them look like a bargain.  The only downside?  The same bend can be had (along with another 30g or so, but without the flattened tops) in the $45 Omega Compact bars.  You really can’t go wrong either way.

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