Deity 35mm Handlebar Range Compared
Of all changes with “standards”, or dimensions for mountain bike components, the move to 35mm diameter handlebars has probably been the slowest in recent memory. Since the larger diameter bars first began to trickle onto the market we’ve come dangerously close to the full extinction of 26-inch wheels and the 10x135mm hub width. Four-piston brakes are now close to standard on all-mountain trail bikes, where a 35mm bar may be found, and rims suitable for smashing often start around the 27–30mm internal width.
But handlebars remain a mixed bag. Many brands still offer 31.8mm clamp diameter bars and stems, and not just in their budget lines. For a few brands, the move to 35mm has been a reluctant one and some are rumoured to have been produced purely to service demand. It’s funny, and at times frustrating, how the marketing world of mountain bikes can influence what we ride, even when the benefits are questionable.
Deity is one of the reluctant brands. In their words, "it is all about the feel of a handlebar” and they say considerable time was spent getting their 35mm bars to ride the same as their 31.8mm counterparts before offering them to consumers. So if the intention is to offer 35mm bars that ride the same as their already available 31.8mm equivalents, why bother at all? For Deity, moving to the larger clamp diameter made it possible to provide a wider bar, at less weight while maintaining strength. With many of their new bars measuring wider than the 31.8mm equivalent and weighing less, they appear to have won that argument.
Benchmarking with the Deity Blacklabel Handlebar
800mm wide • 25mm rise • 7075 T73 aluminum w/ Gradient Butting Technology • Weight: 347g
I’ve spent the last four years riding the Blacklabel bar from Deity. I appreciate the combination of bar geometry and ride feel and despite spending time on others, I’ve always gone back. I’ve ridden them in 25mm and 38mm rise, uncut at 800mm and cut to 780mm. They've been consistent in ride quality in every version. They’re comfortable and they prevent hand fatigue or arm pump, after long, rough, non-stop runs or in high-frequency chatter. On the rare occasion I’ve suffered hand fatigue with the Blacklabel, it's coincided with a new component (brakes, grips, wheels), or stiffer suspension setting.
After years trying 35mm bars on test bikes and a couple on my own, the size has never made a permanent claim to my cockpit. I feel more comfortable on a 31.8mm diameter and see no need for increased stiffness. With brands marketing the bigger is better mantra for bars, and so many OE spec. options featuring the larger clamp interface, it’s no surprise that so many riders get caught on the 35mm bore. Not to mention when there's an influx of new riders.
In the new 35mm range from Deity, the equivalent bar to my preferred Blacklabel is the Racepoint so I'll begin there. From the Racepoint it's onto three other Deity 35mm bars; the Topside alloy bar, and the Speedway and Skywire carbon bars. The Deity Ridgeline 35mm alloy bar was also on the long term Norco Sight I reviewed and I can offer some insight, but the Ridgeline never spent time on an identical setup like the rest. Each handlebar features a 5-degree upsweep and 9-degree backsweep but stock, they vary in width.
810mm wide • 25mm rise • 7075 T73 aluminum w/ Gradient Butting Technology • Weight: 323g (cut to 800mm) • 84.99 USD
While the Racepoint bar is claimed as the 35mm equivalent to the Blacklabel, it comes in a wider 810mm width. They felt too wide for me and to keep things consistent I chopped them to my current preference of 800mm. Mounted, the bars looked different. The straight, 35mm section through the stem ran for longer before hitting the rise than the 31.8 diameter section of the Blacklabel. Grabbing the bars with my eyes closed, they felt the same.
I found these the most comfortable of the 35mm bars in the test. During an average ride they went about their business in the same manner as the Blacklabel – that’s to say they went unnoticed. But occasionally when pushing during long, sustained descents – five minutes or more – my hands lost some strength, with the fatigue growing the longer I pushed on. This was minor and not bad enough to affect brake control. After rides, I didn’t feel beat up from the bar and I could get back on the bike the following day without any signs my hands had ridden hard the day before.
Are they the equivalent of the Blacklabel? They’re really fricken close. If it weren’t for the longer descents available in Pemberton and the Whistler Bike Park, I would've struggled to notice the difference. But it seems the bigger diameter had an impact on something. I can’t be certain if it’s the way vibrations were handled or a slightly different flex. Nevertheless, I haven't experienced the same issue with the 31.8mm Blacklabel bar.
800mm wide • 25mm rise • 2014 T73 aluminum w/ Gradient Butting Technology • Weight: 398g • 56.99 USD
Deity makes the Topside bar as an "affordable option to upgrade your OEM handlebar.” I specifically requested this handlebar because another brand is using the same material with claims it provides a more comfortable ride – although they're in the 31.8mm diameter. At first, I thought this may be true but as with the Racepoint above, I found my hands occasionally losing grip strength toward the bottom of long, rough descents. Where things differed between these and the Racepoint was the Topside left me with sore hands after some rides.
Aside from the occasional hand discomfort and fatigue, I found these and the Racepoint to feel similar on the trail. One wasn’t noticeably stiffer than the other when steering the bike and while the Topside left my hands feeling sore after a solid rip, I didn’t find them noticeably stiffer vertically. The difference felt riding these bars was minimal in the real world. And while the Ridgeline was ridden on a different bike, my experience with them was similar to the Topside.
800mm wide • 25mm rise • Unidirectional Carbon Construction • Weight: 225g • 169.99 USD
The Skywire is Deity’s 35mm carbon all-mountain/enduro trail bar. As with others, Deity extended the width from the 787mm of similar bars in their 31.8mm range to 800mm. Holding the bar on its own, the lighter weight was obvious but on the bike, I can’t say I noticed it. Switching from the alloy 31.8mm Blacklabel bar, the extra stiffness was clear though. That stiffer contact point translated to my hands feeling some fatigue after long, rough descents, again above five minutes long.
On rides where a non-stop descent would max out around the three and a half-minute range, I didn’t have any issues with grip fatigue. Carbon's ability to tune out some of the trail noise seems to have helped here. Switching back and forth between these, the alloy Topside and Speedway confirmed the bar fit perfectly in the middle. These felt stiffer steering the bike than they did when taking an impact. Looking for more responsive steering than the 31.8mm Blacklabel and seeking some of that carbon damping? The Skywire is a good option.
810mm wide • 30mm rise • Unidirectional Carbon Construction • Weight: 254g (cut to 800mm) • 169.99 USD
Of all the handlebars in the test, the Speedway was the most eye-opening. After switching the Blacklabel for these, the firm feel was remarkably obvious. They were significantly stiffer than the Skywire bar too, and I found my hands and forearms growing tired even on short local trails that I ride weekly. The extra firmness at the hands was pronounced and it threw off my feeling for the rest of the bike, with the bar noticeably less pleasant than components elsewhere.
For bigger heavier riders on an already stiff setup, this may not be an issue but riders who enjoy a more comfortable ride will likely find the Speedway overwhelmingly firm. In the early days of the Whistler Bike Park, I would occasionally get “the claw” and lose grip strength from hand and arm fatigue. It's been many years since experiencing that and I’ve never noticed it on the slower speed trails around Squamish. Anyone looking for the stiffest bar they can with Deity's most often used geometry, the Speedway has your name on it.
There’s no point manufacturing bars with different names and identical characteristics. The 35mm range from Deity certainly caters to the needs of different riders while preserving the geometry.
After eight months of testing back and forth between bars, the Racepoint is still on my bike. For general riding around home and even in the Whistler Bike Park, they’re close enough in feel to my beloved Blacklabel handlebar that I can run them. They do, however, cause some discomfort when pushing longer laps in the park or Pemberton and I will eventually switch them for the 31.8mm Blacklabel. With those, I can ride day in, day out, longer uninterrupted runs or short, rough stuff and not experience any hand issues. But not everyone wants to run 31.8mm bars and Deity's selection provides variety for riders to grab on to whatever they prefer.
There's more information on Deity’s 35mm range of handlebars over on their website.