SQlab Alt-Bars AndrewM
REVIEW

Defying Convention: SQlab 12º and 16º Sweep Bars

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Aug 4, 2017

SQlab 30X Handlebars

After an NSMB reader (Endur-Bro!) mentioned SQlab's ergonomic handlebars below an article I couldn't get them out of my head. Like most riders, I thought I was happy with the standard 7-9° back sweep. But then I started to wonder if that was because I did't know better? And why was my left elbow bothering me on long rides?

To collect sufficient data I swapped three bars between four bikes. The control was my current favourite, the 780mm Renthal Fatbar aluminum, with 7° of backsweep. I pitted it against two 780mm wide SQLab 30X bars in both 12° and 16° versions. 

Materials

SQlab's carbon and aluminum 30X bars easily pass the Zedler 'End Of Life' tests for both gravity and e-bike* applications. Bars ship out at 780mm wide in 12° and 16° backsweeps in both materials and three rises are available - 15mm, 30mm and 45mm. 

The carbon bars are stiffer on the trail compared to the aluminum models and also drop around 100 grams depending on the exact configuration. Both bars use 31.8mm clamping diameters. 

SQlab Alt-Bars AndrewM

12° vs. 16° backsweep. Upsweep is 4° for all models. The uncut length is 780mm and the stem clamp diameter is 31.8mm. 

The only complaint I have with the carbon SQlab bar is that the slick black-on-black finish is... well... slick. It makes tightening levers, dropper remotes, and grips so they are tight enough but not over-torqued a tricky exercise. The aluminum bar's slightly textured finish is perfect in this regard. 

Hooked

The SQlab bars work best with brake lever blades with generously hooked ends. Magura HC lever blades and the last couple generations of Shimano Servo Wave both work well. The very straight blades on the Level brakes that are stock on NSMB's Trek Stache test bike did not. Even on the 12° bar I felt like my fingers were going slip off the end of lever blades at the worst possible moment - coming in hot and heavy with sweaty digits. I swapped the brakes out before testing the 16° on the Stache. 

SQlab Alt-Bars AndrewM

After a lot of experimentation, I run my brake levers rotated much higher - closer to parallel with the ground - with both SQlab bars than with the 7-9° bars. It simply feels more natural. 

On The Dirt

After running the Renthal Fatbar on all four test bikes the 12° 30X was a natural fit with no adoption curve. Uphill and downhill it feels completely normal and at the end of a long ride, I feel less fatigue in my shoulders, elbows, and wrists especially after long rides with lots of time out of the saddle climbing and descending. I also appreciate the greater sweep when pulling back on the bar during hard seated climbs. In those situations, it feels natural and I feel more power coming from my upper body. 

There is no trade off for me to run the bar and I'm convinced that a 12° backsweep suits my body much better than a 7-9°. 

SQlab Alt-Bars AndrewM

I assumed I would need to run longer stems to make up for the extra backsweep of the SQlab bars but after some experimentation on all four mules I use precisely the same stem lengths and bar heights as previous. Running alt-bars** requires a certain commitment to experimentation. 

The 16° 30X was a different story. It was immediately comfortable for standing climbs but it felt a little uncomfortable for seated climbing on technical terrain. When I pointed it down initially it felt as awkward as an adult using chopsticks for the first time. After some saddle time, I came to realize it has its place on my bikes. I find it more comfortable on all day rides but it took a handful of outings to adapt to on technical descents, especially at speed. 

It is never my first choice on the Stache or Hawk Hill, where most of the climbing is seated. Instead it has evolved to be my preference on my single speed as it works better for me bio-mechanically during standing climbs and I no longer find it to be a large trade off on descents. 

Swept Away

I'm sold on riding handlebars with more sweep on my personal bikes. The 12° because there is no trade off for the slight performance and comfort gain I perceive and the 16° because it is a significant improvement in certain situations. 

Your results will vary but my take away is two fold. It's a great idea to try something weird once in a while because it may be better, if only subtly, than what I'm using now. I've been recommending more sweep to anyone who is cutting rides short due to elbow, wrist or shoulder pain give. It can only hurt your pocket book and there's a good chance it will make riding more enjoyable. 

 The aluminum 30X bars sell for $90 (USD) and the carbon 30X models are $190 (USD). For more information check out SQlab here

*E-bikes account for a large percentage of bike sales in Germany where both SQlab and Zedler are based. 
**Or perhaps 'semi-alt-bars' in the case of the 12° model.

Comments

thefunkymonkey
+1
TheFunkyMonkey  - Aug. 4, 2017, 4:25 a.m.

Thanks for the thorough comparison review on these, Andrew. I've been considering them for some time now but have been reluctant to go ahead and buy a set. I'm going to give the 12 degree a shot. Thanks again - great review.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Aug. 4, 2017, 6:46 a.m.

Thanks for reading; let me know how it goes. Just in my riding circle there are a lot of folks talking about trying the 12°.

My wife has an old wrist injury that affects her riding and she put a hand on my 16° and knew right away it would help. So I bought one - more sweep more better right? It's good on the road but in hindsight the learning curve (coming off a 7°) is so steep for riding technical trails I would have been better off getting her a 12°.

Reply

bart
0
bart  - Aug. 4, 2017, 7:36 a.m.

Been waiting for this, seems like SQ lab has some stuff figured out - the saddle is still awesome and now 12 degrees might just be in my future!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Aug. 4, 2017, 10:08 a.m.

Yeah, SQlab is my favourite brand I'd never heard of before 2017. They are 3/3 on the products I've tried: 30X bar, saddle and insoles.

Reply

bart
0
bart  - Aug. 4, 2017, 2:19 p.m.

I'll have to hit up Uncle Kenny!

Reply

craw
+1
Cr4w  - Aug. 4, 2017, 8 a.m.

Really interesting! Have you tried the Jones H-Bar and if so, how did it compare to these? 

http://www.jonesbikes.com/h-bar/

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 4, 2017, 10:03 a.m.

I have owned a Jones bar - older Ti model - and I know a number of people on the current aluminum and carbon versions. 

The Jones bars have 45° backsweep so they are really entirely different animals where the SQlab bars are more like regular bars with more sweep. 

The Jones are very comfortable and would be my first choice for doing off road touring or bike packing for sure. I did not love them for technical mountain biking - hence switching back to 'normal' bars after riding them a while.

Reply

Fat_Tony_NJ
+1
Fat_Tony_NJ  - Aug. 4, 2017, 8:15 a.m.

If you are looking to try this concept on the cheap, On-One makes the Fleegle bar - 15 degree sweep. Only 720mm, but cheaper than buying aluminum tubing and bending it yourself........

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 4, 2017, 10:06 a.m.

That's a good find. There are quite a few options once you get down to narrower widths - none I've seen as cheap as the On-One - but for me it's the 780mm width of the SQlab bar that makes it rideable in terms of even experimenting with more sweep.

Oddity Cycle's Razor Bar Plus is a pretty sweet 800mm/15° option as well - assuming one can use all the rise and doesn't mind the extra weight of a steel bar.

Reply

Znarf
0
Znarf  - Aug. 5, 2017, 9:19 a.m.

Also try Syntace bars. They come in 12deg also, loads of different rises, widths and materials. Not cheap, but probably the highest quality bars and stems you can buy. Don't know if they're available in Canada though?

Reply

Endur-Bro
0
Endur-Bro  - Aug. 5, 2017, 10:50 a.m.

Thanks for the shout-out and review of these Andrew!

You've done the initial experimenting so I don't have to. The hugest advantage to these SQLabs, and what peeked my interest was the fact that they're designed to use the same length stem as a rider currently uses.   

I almost purchased a bar this week but it was the older 311 @740mm instead of the 30X bar.  

A few follow up questions. Which rise did you get the SQ bars in? Which rise is your preferred for Renthal? Finally, who is the distributor of SQLabs in Canada?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Aug. 5, 2017, 12:10 p.m.

Cheers!

My 31.8 Renthal Fatbar is a 20mm rise - but I would now buy a 30mm rather than run the extra 1cm headset spacer under the stem since I don't need anything that low for any of my bikes. Both these 30X bars are 30mm rise.

SQlab is currently distributed through SQlab-USA in Canada. Shops can contact them to order or riders can buy any of their products direct off their website.

Reply

Endur-Bro
0
Endur-Bro  - Aug. 6, 2017, 1:11 p.m.

Thanks.  I'm using a 20mm FatBar Carbon with a 10mm spacer underneath on my hardtail and a 30mm FatBar alloy on my DH bike.  I'll probably try the 30mm carbon.

Reply

radsporter
0
Kenny Roberts  - Aug. 10, 2017, 3:21 p.m.

Note that they also come in a high 45mm rise.

Reply

powderturns
0
Mike  - Aug. 9, 2017, 8:03 a.m.

Ritchey did this years ago didn't they?  Shame they didn't market it properly.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 9, 2017, 8:14 a.m.

To my knowledge Ritchey - like many companies - never made bars in an 'All Mountain' or Enduro width. They were 680 or maybe 720?

What's unique about what SQlab, Syntace and Oddity (maybe others?) are doing is the width of the bars.

Reply

geraldooka
0
Michael  - Aug. 16, 2017, 8:31 a.m.

Syntace has had high sweep wide carbon and alloy bars for years... For mountain biking I find the higher sweep great for climbing and general flat riding but puts your wrist in an awkward position when descending, if you are trying to get your elbows in a decent attack position. Pick your poison I suppose, would you prefer more comfortable climbing and flat riding position or a more comfortable descending position...

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 16, 2017, 8:37 a.m.

That's true - as I mentioned above - but the big difference between SQlab and Syntace from a Canadian perspective is availability. 

Syntace hasn't had a presence here in years.

Reply

radsporter
+1
Kenny Roberts  - Aug. 16, 2017, 8:55 a.m.

Actually, I was the Syntace importer and brand manager for six years and we sold quite a lot of 12 deg bars in the US. Syntace was also (and still is) distributed by QBP and BTI in the US and now is managed by Cycle Monkey which is also the Rohloff distributor. We just never managed to get a Canadian distributor so sales in Canada were limited. Syntace just did a 8 and 12 degree though and no 16 degree.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Aug. 16, 2017, 9:14 a.m.

Thanks for the check Kenny - I edited my post to say 'Canada' which is a lot more accurate!

Reply

geraldooka
0
Michael  - Aug. 16, 2017, 10:52 a.m.

I appreciated the narrower start point of the sweep on the Syntace bars exactly because it brought the reach in closer for shorter torso fellows like myself it allows me to keep the stem the same length to maintain steering feel and allow less exaggerated leaning for steep climbs. I own a couple of SQ Lab bars (not these) and other products of theirs and would rate them at the same quality level as Syntace (which is high) so these should be good if they suit your riding and body.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 16, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

Cheers Michael! Thank you for sharing your experiences. What model/width/sweep of Syntace bar are you using right now?

Reply

Laksboy
0
Jeff Jantos  - Sept. 28, 2017, 9:47 a.m.

Answer has their 20x20 bar. I have it on my intense and it was awesome. Have no problem descending technical terrain with it. My wrist numbness was gone.   I wish the made it in something wider than 720. Glad to learn about these bars.  

It only makes anatomical sense... The wider the bars, the more sweep you need to keep your wrists in a neutral unstrained position.

Reply

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