Renthal 35mm Fatbar & Apex Stem Review

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Oct 31, 2016

Renthal 35mm Fatbar

I know. I know. Yes, I know. There is nothing wrong with your 31.8mm handlebar and this is just a cosmetic change to sell more handlebars. The new Renthal 35mm Fatbar is proof that they agree.

It’s simply inevitable that 35mm will become the standard for mountain bike bars and stems. Renthal’s 35mm Fatbar bar and Apex stem are two of many examples. It’s a huge upgrade. Visually.

Renthal 35mm Fatbar

The 35mm Fatbar and 35mm Apex stem fresh out of the packaging. 20mm wider and 50 grams lighter than te 31.8 version. I’m going to mention how good the anodizing quality is so many times you’ll lose count. It still looks like new after three and half months.  Photo: Cam McRae

The design goal of Renthal’s new 35mm Fatbar is the only feature I should notice while riding: a full 800mm compared to the 780mm width of the 31.8mm version. If I can crib from my take on their 35mm press release, the idea is “to share the same flex characteristics and ride feel of the 31.8mm diameter Fatbar”.

So why bother? Appearance, mainly. Since Easton released their 35mm Havoc bar, everything else has looked a bit spindly. In the same vein that 25.4mm bars looked like toothpicks contrasted with fat tube aluminum frames, 31.8mm bars appear to be the weakest (visual) link when tied to massive carbon front triangles and wide-stance Boost forks.

Renthal 35mm Fatbar

35mm Fatbar, 35mm Apex stem, and 44mm headtube. The new Renthal bar is definitely the meanest looking thing on my bike.

Renthal Ride Quality

My first Renthal experience came about when I had a test bike with a very short stack height and a neatly trimmed steerer tube that put me in a yoga-like descending position I can only describe as ‘downward dodginess’. My preference is for a bar in the 780mm-800mm range and there was a higher rise Renthal aluminum Fatbar available.

As I’ve attempted to explain to riding friends, it might be all in my head. Fine, I’ll own it. But there is a certain subtle ride quality to the Renthal bar that I noticed right away. I don’t think it’s the fairly normal 7-degree backsweep and 5-degree upsweep. Without giving the review away, I notice it with both the 31.8mm and 35mm bars.

It isn’t suspension. It isn’t the ‘vibration damping’ crap that some makers of plastic-fantastic bars like to BS about. I don’t notice it with other aluminum bars. Maybe I’m just nuts?

The prettiest thing in the flower garden? Renthal’s signature colour isn’t for everyone but I like it.

Interestingly, I’ve also ridden Renthal’s carbon Fatbars in 31.8mm and 35mm and while they aren’t totally sh*t kicking stiff like many carbon bars, they certainly don’t give me the magic feeling of the aluminum options. It’s subtly notable on my hardtail and also on a few different suspension platforms.

That said, my biggest joy with the new Renthal 35mm Fatbar is definitely the full 800mm width. My biggest concern was that the plus-sized bar would sacrifice ride quality for appearance’s sake. Especially after many of my other 35mm bar experiences.

Renthal 35mm Fatbar

Adding “35” to the logo is superfluous when you compare the two sizes of Fatbar. The 10mm rise is barely noticeable due to the size of the 35mm Fatbar’s clamp. This photo seems like a good excuse to include a link to the Formula R0R teardown.

And so…

The new Fatbar, at 800mm, is 20mm wider than the previous version and sheds 50 grams at the same time. Total weight penalty for the aluminum version compared to the same Renthal 35mm bar in carbon fiber is a claimed 80 grams.

The signature gold colour is not for everyone, but the quality of the anodizing is awesome, as I’ve noted previously, and the bar still looks new, even after three months of riding, crashing, and tightening various clamps.

The aluminum bar is also half the price of Renthal’s carbon version and when I factor in the je ne sais quoi factor, it’s the winner everytime.

And that’s the big story because in my opinion Renthal delivers on their one claim about the 35mm Fatbar and that’s that the ride quality is identical to the 31.8mm version. I love it.

The Apex stem’s 240-degree clamps do make it a hair more complicated to mount a handlebar because of how far around the bar they wrap.

Renthal 35mm Apex Stem

The new Renthal 35mm Apex stem is an awesome looking example of machining and design. The bar clamps are flush-mounted at the bottom of the stem and then torqued up top. They contact the bar through 240 degrees which allows Renthal to really hollow out the inside of the stem to reduce weight without any loss of strength or stiffness (the holy grail of bike component design).

The 240-degree clamps do make it a hair more complicated to mount a bar because of how far around the bar they wrap. This means putting the clamps on a narrow point on the bar and then sliding them down to the 35mm wide clamping zone vs. mounting a face plate straight on. In practice this is a non-issue but I thought it was worth noting.

Renthal 35mm Fatbar and Apex stem

Part way through my test period I started to experience regular creaking and clicking at the bar-stem interface I could not resolve with lubrication. I ended up swapping the stock bolts out and it’s been all quiet since. Stock bolt on the left. Fresh hardware was a cheap fix.

A Perplexing Creak

As test bikes come and go, the Renthal 35mm Fatbar and Apex stem spent most of the test period mounted to the front of my single speed and experienced as many rides up the superb No Quarter climbing route as anywhere else. I just stand and crank away on the 800mm bar while singing bawdy tunes until I explode. Then I have a drink of water, catch my breath, and do it some more.

About a month into the test period I started to experience a regular creaking and clicking at the bar-stem interface. I tried copper Anti-Seize, I tried grease, I tried Loctite, I tried grease and Loctite, and it was all to no avail. As a reader pointed out in my Crankbrothers Highline review (thanks, John) I don’t know the actual grade of the un-marked hardware on the Renthal 35mm Apex stem; however, a quick trip to my local bike shop for some fresh Grade 8.8 bolts ended up being a really cheap fix and the noise has not returned.

35mm Fatbar

Renthal Traction Grips revisited. They’re a lot less mean in the Kevlar compound.

Renthal Traction Grips Revisited

In my initial review of the Renthal Traction Grips I whined about how mean they were. Yes, traction on the Traction grips was amazing, but they killed my hands over the course of a ride.

As predicted, the Kevlar compound was a lot more forgiving with no loss of grip. I have sweaty palms, and this is the first set of grips I’ve come across that work for me without gloves on, in pissing rain or sweat-drenched humidity.

I still prefer Renthal’s standard lock-on grips and a pair of gloves, but if you prefer to ride glove-less, definitely give the Traction Grips a look!


Bigger Begets Bigger

Comments

poo-stance
0
Poo Stance  - Nov. 3, 2016, 10:23 p.m.

Me runs cah-bin Renthal bahs on me hardtail.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 3, 2016, 11:08 p.m.

You're bombastic for plastic fantastic?

Reply

reini-wagner
0
Reini Wagner  - Nov. 1, 2016, 12:41 p.m.

So you set up the Ti Explosif as single speed? How are you liking it?
Good review and thanks for keeping an objective stance towards the 35mm and the carbon trends.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 1, 2016, 4:19 p.m.

Hi Reini,

Mine is a 2015 - which shares ~ geo with the 2014 steel - so found I needed to go with a large frame which is a touch tall on the stack height and seat tube length. On the current steel models' geo I'd be a medium. I also have a medium frame. I also have a medium Honzo (140mm fork) with '13/14 geo.

For SS I prefer less travel up front so I currently run a 100mm fork with a 29'er wheel (27″ out back) to get the same ground-to-crown height as a 140mm & 27″ setup.

I really like the bike for SS. Sliding drops are the simplest and most solid design, the frame is stiff by Ti standards but still has some spring to it.

Thank you for reading.

Reply

andy-eunson
0
Andy Eunson  - Nov. 1, 2016, 9:10 a.m.

The unique colour is what makes Renthal desirable. It is. Immediately obvious that a rider has chosen an aftermarket product for performance reasons rather than matchy matchy aesthetic reasons. The other reason to buy a Renthal or other recognised brand name is for the confidence that the company's name carries that the product won't fail on you. I started running name brand carbon bars years ago because the aluminum bars of the time were pretty thin walled and looked to my eyes as being a bit too light. Never a failure, it wlas all in my head. I had seen aluminum road bars fail back in the day. I'd had steel steer tubes fail, but no carbon fails until very recently and that was a cracked road frame that was warranted. In case people don't know, Deda invented the 35 size for road. A few years later it was adopted for off road. The big sprinters Greipal liked it for stiffness. I think I would be hard pressed to feel a difference in materials or diameters of bars.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 1, 2016, 6:59 p.m.

Yep. Love it or leave it nothing else looks like a Renthal bar / stem / ring.

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Nov. 2, 2016, 9:21 a.m.

There aren't many manufacturers that shot peen their bars, so that's a plus.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Nov. 1, 2016, 8:45 a.m.

So wait, can you clean No Quarter in one shot on your singlespeed?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 1, 2016, 8:48 a.m.

Hell No! Wait… does "in one shot" include a few breaks to try and swallow my lungs/heart?

A more fit man with some bike riding talent could for sure. I've cleaned every section up to Mountain Hwy but I can't put it together without a few breaks and the odd dab when I mess up.

Reply

denomerdano
0
Denomerdano  - Nov. 1, 2016, 8:14 a.m.

What you forgot to add……is that this HANDLEBAR + STEM + GRIPS combo will set you back a mere Six fucking hundred dollars…$600 …

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 1, 2016, 8:20 a.m.

In what currency?

The bar is $100 CAD, the stem is $130 CAD, the Traction grips range depending on compound but they're all under $40 CAD.

That's max $270 CAD.

About $200 USD. Or about $12,700.00 Ruples.

Reply

denomerdano
0
Denomerdano  - Nov. 1, 2016, 8:34 a.m.

Didn't realize until now you didn't test the CARBON version of the bar which is about $250cad..
MY BAD!
Stem also is $200… $50 for the grips + tax…
however you look at it.. alot of money to pay for a god awful color combination..

kperras
0
Kenneth Perras  - Nov. 1, 2016, 8:05 a.m.

How man times can you write 35mm?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 1, 2016, 8:08 a.m.

N+1. 35mm. Have you switched all your spec to 35mm yet? 35mm is 3.2mm bigger than 31.8. 35mm… yeah.

Reply

whatyouthink
0
whatyouthink  - Nov. 1, 2016, 6:38 a.m.

I am impressed with how much you were able to write about a handlebar.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 1, 2016, 7:49 a.m.

Going to choose to take that as a compliment (don't ruin it for me, eh?) 🙂

Reply

dj
0
DJ  - Oct. 31, 2016, 8:10 p.m.

the stem is an awful looking thing. just one mans opinion.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Oct. 31, 2016, 8:46 p.m.

I'd use the word "polarizing". It's garnered a surprising amount of comments (it is just a stem after all) and folks either think its awesome or awful.

On my single speeds I usually run (and really like) NSB's Overlord stem (made in Whistler, M6 hardware: ) but they don't make a 35mm version.

Reply

dj
0
DJ  - Oct. 31, 2016, 9:32 p.m.

i agree it's a bit weird. gear nerdery. stems n shit. somehow they do set off a bike's front end aesthetics for this guy. i may take bike aesthetics too seriously though. saw a joystick stem in a store once, coolest looking stem i've ever seen. very expensive apparently, and all but impossible to source. genuinely innovative if you've ever seen one.

drewm
0
DrewM  - Oct. 31, 2016, 9:35 p.m.

Two upper bolts are on the top of the stem (vertical) and two lower bolts are horizontal in the standard position? I can definitely picture it if we're talking about the same Joystick stem.

dj
0
DJ  - Nov. 1, 2016, 7:43 a.m.

thats it. in execution it was flawless and beautiful. like a Chromag or Thompson but totally unique.

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 1, 2016, 8:30 a.m.

Yeah, that's a great looking stem. Only saw one once or twice spec on Knolly bikes.

drewm
0
DrewM  - Nov. 1, 2016, 5:10 p.m.

Apparently a lot of people agreed with your assessment of that stem DJ.

Chris @ Joystick says they significantly under estimated demand and the stems evaporated. They will have stock again in a couple months time.

They are no more expensive than a "boutique" stem (~$130 CAD?) from any other company so I think availability, not price, was the challenge in getting you one.

They are called the Builder stem and come on 31.8mm or 35mm.

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