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.

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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

thefunkymonkey
0
TheFunkyMonkey  - Oct. 21, 2017, 2:57 a.m.

I'm following up as I've had the 12* for about 100 miles thus far and they are game changers for me. I did cut mine down to 760mm as I've found anything wider too much for my 5'9" (0 ape) body. And I got the alloy version for this "trial" - quality product.

I, too, have an old wrist injury (compound fracture) that doesn't bother me often but does get "tired" after rides (or anything endurance related). And I don't have full flexibility of that wrist so the added sweep of these bars really helps my situation.

I do agree that 12* doesn't require any adjustments coming from current, standard bars. I haven't experienced any downsides on technical descents but the climbing position and leverage is fantastic. These just flat out work and are super comfortable. 

I'm a convert and evangelist. They aren't for everyone but definitely a nice option to have. I'm actually surprised more brands haven't offered similar options. And while 16* are likely too much for any technical riding, I do see trying them out at some point. They seem like a great option for a flat bar road/CX bike or commuter.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 21, 2017, 7:47 a.m.

Awesome! I’m glad they’ve made such a difference.

I’m still regularly riding 7/8/9-degree bars on test bikes but now that I’m used to the 16 I don’t have any issue adapting between the range.

I do still maintain that the 12 is the natural choice for folks to try first.

This has been a really positive review experience for me as I’ve had a lot of feedback from both riders who have already discoverd bars with more sweep (mid-sweep alt-bats?) or who are trying them after reading about them here. Really cool.

Thanks for sharing!

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.

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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........

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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

geraldooka
0
Michael  - Nov. 23, 2017, 10:34 p.m.

Long overdue reply... I run the Vector Alu 10mm rise at 780/12°. I agree with another commenter that the wider the bar the more sweep it should have. This is particularly true for me as I have relatively narrow shoulders. It helps to put my shoulder and it's related structures in a strong and neutral position (shoulder packed and elbows out but not pointed to the sky) Which then engages all of those support muscles like the lats and traps. Another side benefit of a bit more sweep is that riding tight and twisty trails is made just a touch easier by not having to rotate quite as far to get the wheel in the spot one needs it in. I would recommend a bar with a bit more rise as it allows one to take advantage of the up sweep if needed; just more options for getting that perfect position.

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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

DMRDave
0
DMRDave  - Oct. 24, 2017, 7:28 a.m.

What a great article!

I had an off (otb in to a ditch) at the same time as over working myself renovating a house a few years ago and trapped a nerve in my neck.

Since then I have struggled to do more than about an hour riding on my fullsus (Intense Tracer) with an Easton Havoc bar.  My hardtail (Stanton Slackline) has a more comfortable cockpit, but the bars are a little narrow and old (15years at a guess Azonic Double Walls) and have a little to much flex in them but the shape is about right (I can't find any info on their actual shape?).

So after hunting for a alternative shaped bar (a different colour or pattern does not warrant  a different product does it?), I recently read a past issue of MBUK with an article about Hans Ray using the "weird cockpit of SQlab Bars" but finding more info on these has not been easy!

it's interesting that Syntace also do a similar shaped bar, but their website is not easy to use and how do I decide which of these few choices would suit me best without buying them (no shops are going to stock either of these in the UK i doubt)?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 24, 2017, 9:50 a.m.

Wait... so anodized red bars aren’t more comfortable?!?!

Thanks Dave. Yes, Hans also runs a 16-degree bar. 

If you do get a bar please follow up re. learning/adaptation  curve to ride it and if it helped.

Reply

DMRDave
0
DMRDave  - Oct. 31, 2017, 5:28 a.m.

So I have done some crude measures and calculations on my Azonics and come up with 10deg back sweep and almost 11deg up sweep!

Having looked in to bars further it seems that MX bars (yes heavy and different diameter so not suitable) are available in a few distinct shapes (named to various different sponsored riders & manufacturers).  But confusingly they state the shape of the bars with 6 different dimensions including Renthal without a degree mentioned once!

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DMRDave
0
DMRDave  - Dec. 8, 2017, 9:39 a.m.

So I've had 2 bars delivered both high Alu, one 12 the other 16.

Fitting tomorrow when it's light, was considering 16's on the hartal and 12's on the full sus and then likely stem swaps for an experiment as well. 

I'll report back!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2017, 10:19 a.m.

Cool! Very interested to hear back about your preferred setup.

Definitely give the 16 a few rides if it doesn’t feel normal right away!

Reply

wishiwereriding
0
John Keiffer  - Dec. 8, 2017, 10:45 a.m.

I'm looking forward to your ride reports.

Reply

goose8
+1
goose8  - Oct. 25, 2017, 7:02 a.m.

Just wanted to chime in on the discussion. I tried out both sweeps, and love the 16 degree model on my hardtail. It feels similar to my old Answer 20/20, but the additional width is spectacular. Got the AL version and couldn't be happier- thanks for the review.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Oct. 26, 2017, 12:44 a.m.

Since a few folks have been asking me... did you pick up your bar direct from SQL or through a dealer?

Thanks!

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goose8
+1
goose8  - Oct. 26, 2017, 3:07 a.m.

ebay, actually. However, after trying them out my mechanic, who has hand pain while riding from an injury, ordered a set for himself straightaway. He said that they're available through BTI. I live in the US btw.

Reply

wishiwereriding
0
John Keiffer  - Nov. 29, 2017, 1:07 p.m.

Can anyone add more comments about the difference between Alu and carbon as far as comfort?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 29, 2017, 6:27 p.m.

Hi John,

Did you have any questions I could answer beyond what I already mentioned in the piece? 

The one caution I'd have is to make sure to disregard any responses that aren't comparing SQLab carbon vs. aluminum bars.

I find the aluminum bars more comfortable in the case of SQLab (they flex more) but that's not the case for every brand, for example (uncut) Easton carbon bars are quite comfy. One of the stiffest bars I've ever ridden was a 31.8 alloy bar (Spank) and the stiffest I've ever ridden is a 35mm carbon Chromag. 

Cheers,

Reply

DMRDave
0
DMRDave  - Nov. 30, 2017, 9:52 a.m.

I'm sure I posted.... try again!

So which version would you recommend, ali or carbon?  I believe some flex is a positive thing (hence why I ride a steel hardtail!)  still undecided on sweep, maybe 16 on the hardtail and 12 on the full susser...

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Nov. 30, 2017, 9:59 a.m.

Keeping in mind I’m not a weight weenie, even when I divorce my wallet from the discussion I prefer the alloy bar’s ride quality.

The carbon is not an overly stiff bar (i.e. I’m not complaining it’s too stiff as I have with others) but I think the alloy has a nicer ride.

If I was trying to keep the weight down I’d consider carbon but generally I’ve been drifting the other way on all my bikes: Steel Drivetrain wear items, more supportive tires, bigger brake rotors, brass nipples and etc.

Reply

DMRDave
0
DMRDave  - Nov. 30, 2017, 10:21 a.m.

Invaluable comments - you should state this in the review (did you?).

Alloy it is then.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1
Andrew Major  - Nov. 30, 2017, 10:35 a.m.

I mention that the carbon is stifffer - and the finish requires controls to be torqued harder - but relative stiffness is so subjective (+ve / -ve) it’s better to make personal claims in a conversation format (like this). I would buy the alloy bar (even without the cost savings) but I know lots of riders who prefer a stiffer cockpit, the 100gram weight savings and for whom the price difference isn’t a barrier.

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wishiwereriding
0
John Keiffer  - Nov. 30, 2017, 3:59 p.m.

@Andrew Major I agree with @DMRDave - invaluable comments, and I appreciate your responses. Thank you.

Reply

DMRDave
0
DMRDave  - Dec. 6, 2017, 6:09 a.m.

Fair point.  S

But, So many "reviews" (and news for that matter) seems just to be stating "what we've been told...", simple facts that anyone could piece together or worst of all a press release!

I like reading the personal comments, shows the reviewer has opinion and comparisons are very useful too.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2017, 8:42 a.m.

Thanks John & Dave.

I appreciate the feedback - and also the discussion here on the comments!

DMRDave
0
DMRDave  - Dec. 10, 2017, 9:25 a.m.

So I received my Alu high 12 & 16 sweeps on Friday.  In the hand off the bike the 16's definitely hold most neutrally.

I have fitted the 12 to my Tracer Intense and 16 to my Stanton Slackline and swapped the stems so now have the longer 70mm and 8 degree rise (I didn't realise it was that long until I measured it!) stem on the Slackline and the shorter 40mm with some rise on my Tracer, the idea was to see if this improved Mt Tracer (although not ridden more than around the garden, but it felt good). 

A brief ride just now on the Slackline in the slush (its snowing) and the longer stem made a significant making it much harder to pop the front up to manual through rollers, but small drops (less than a foot) were fine. 

Very little to say as of yet, but I did feel more relaxed across my shoulders,  but at only 30mins it was a quick easy blast (one that had highlighted problems with comfort on the Tracer with Havoc's). 

I'll feed back more after Xmas when I should get a few rides in on both bikes.

Reply

DMRDave
+1
DMRDave  - Dec. 10, 2017, 9:36 a.m.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bch71xdDF8j/

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 10, 2017, 3:16 p.m.

I’ve tried a bunch of stem lengths and ended up settling with the same I run with regular bars (I go back and forth between different bars a fair bit). That said, I know Hans Rey went longer when he went 16, so I don’t think there’s a right answer.

P.S. looks great. Hope you get some solid rides in soon.

Reply

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