Save Your Hands? Spank Vibrocore Bars

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Jan 29, 2017

Relative Stiffness

Some mountain bikers always want more stiffness.

How much more? All the stiffness. 20% more on top of the 20% more than last year. The stiffness brigade may not be crazy enough to think Giant’s Overdrive-2 is a good idea but almost. I don’t have both feet on that bandwagon.

Spank Spike

Spank Spike vs. Spank Spike. One is a standard Race bar and the other is a Vibrocore version filled with a low density foam.

Why are we talking about stiffness? This is ostensibly a look at a pair of identical looking Spank Spike handlebars. But, I think the best way to highlight what I’m talking about is to reference two other cockpit choices that are more commonly talked about. Both carbon. Chromag’s BZA and Easton’s Havoc. Both bars are 800mm wide and have 35mm clamps.

The Chromag, which I’ve ridden on the ThunderVolt, has got to be the stiffest bar on the market. Combined with Chromag’s 35mm stem, the front triangle of Rocky’s Thunderbolt frame with Shimano’s XTR wheels, the reasonably stiff Fox 34  fork was the flex point in the system. Comparatively, the Easton Havoc carbon is actually very forgiving.

I’m not saying one is better. I know impressive riders who swear by one or the other. But it’s a notable difference on the trail.

Aluminum Bars

I’m with Cedric Gracia in my preference for alloy bars, or more accurately some alloy bars, over carbon. I perceive the ride quality to be better and I take less of a sh*t kicking. Particularly on shorter travel bikes. Nothing scientific, but I went into it in greater detail in my Renthal 35mm Fatbar review.

35m Fatbar

In addition to riding the Spank Spike Race and Spank Spike Vibrocore bars in a rotation on multiple machines I also used the 35mm Fatbar as a point of comparison – albeit with a Renthal’s stem as opposed to my 31.8 NSB Overlords.

I bring all this up in introducing the Spank Spike bars because their relationship to the Renthal parallels the Chromag BZA vs. the Easton Havoc. The Spike, with its 31.8mm clamp, is the stiffest aluminum bar I can recall using.

And that is entirely by design.

Spank Spike

Both the hollow Race version and a foam-filled Vibrocore model of the 800mm wide, 31.8mm clamp, are equally the stiffest aluminum handlebars I can recall using; that’s by design. I ran both bars on the NSMB Nomad during my OneUp Shark test period.

Spank Spike

Spank’s ‘Super-6’ aluminum is a specially blended, highly magnesium-silicon enriched, work hardened alloy… It is ideal for the creation of thin walled, super stiff handlebars.”

Spank’s theories behind the Spike bars is straight forward. To start off with, they sponsor elite gravity racers and riders. Stiffer handlebars mean more precision. When Spank claims the Spike line is “super stiff” they aren’t messing around.

For folks like myself who suffer from vicious arm pump on longer crunchy descents an extra $20 (USD) and 30-grams of weight, over the Race model, buys the Vibrocore version of the Spike. As tested by the likes of Tracey Hannah and Brett Tippie these bars are meant to combine that massive amount of stiffness and “to combat the debilitating effects of hand-arm numbness and arm-pump” while also providing “vastly enhanced fatigue life”.

They may use the term “carbon killer” in their marketing…

Spank Spike

The Race and Vibrocore bars are identical in dimensions. The gloss vs. shotpeen finish and slightly different graphics are all that separates them externally. The finish on both bars has held up very well.

Geometry of the bars is identical with an upsweep of 4° and a backsweep of 8° across the sizes.

Spike’s Spank 800 Race bar is 800mm wide, has a 31.8 clamp, and is available in four rises: 5mm, 15mm, 30mm, and a massive 50mm. All models run with an SRP of $80 (USD).

The Vibrocore version retails for $20 more and forgoes the 5mm rise option. It’s available in 15mm, 30mm, and 50mm rise options. Suggested retail is $100 (USD).

Premise & Methodology

Spank Spike

The SRAM Eagle-equipped Transition Patrol Carbon is one of the most fun bikes I’ve ridden. Before Tim rolled off to give the Eagle X01 drivetrain a wicked whooping I enjoyed it with both the Spike Race and Spike Vibrocore bars.

I laughed. I was reading an intelligently crafted – if baseless – critique of Spank’s Vibrocore marketing. Something along the lines of buying a can of spray foam and filling a handlebar to get the same benefits. Chuckles aside, Spank makes some bold claims about the damping effects of their “complex foam core”.

The joke is actually on me because when I pitched the idea of a bar-to-bar test to gauge the potential advantages of Vibrocore they were gung ho.

Spank Spike

Both Spike bars have done duty on the Intense Primer in dirt and in snow.

I do not have access to a bunch of machines that prod, prick, smash, tweak, twist, twiddle, or thwack handlebars whilst creating data. Even if I did, I’m not an engineer of German descent.

My plan? Ride both bars back-to-back on as many different bikes as I could get my hands on. Notice any difference in ride quality. Write about it.

Vibrocore Claims

Vibrocore is a complex, low density, foam core that Spank injects into bars. It is purported to do everything short of providing a sensual post ride forearm and hand massage. No one is claiming it is ‘suspension’ but the idea is to reduce hand fatigue and arm pump by damping “vibrational energy”.

In Spank’s own words:

The result is a handlebar that feels incredibly strong and rigid, AND acts to reduce impulse and vibrational fatigue… Vibrocore™ handlebars enhance tactile sensitivity between rider, bike, and terrain, while reducing fatigue.”

Spank Spike

Reynolds’ Blacklabel wheels firmly transfer pedaling loads but don’t deliver a MMA level sh*t kicking like some of the carbon hoops I’ve ridden. The Spank Spike Vibrocore claims, and delivers, a similar ride quality.

Vibrocore Realities

The Spank Spike bars are the stiffest aluminum handlebars I’ve ridden. They rival most carbon bars. It is notable out of the saddle twerking the bar around. It’s notable smashing down rocky trails. And in the case of the Race version its notable in my hands under those conditions.

The difference between the Vibrocore and Race bar was noticeable particularly after long descents on shorter travel bikes or hardtails. On the Nomad I didn’t really notice the benefits during a ride but I always felt less fatigued afterwards on the Vibrocore version. For long shuttle or bike park days on the big bike the combination of stiffness and relief could be ideal.

Spank Spike

The difference between the Race and Vibrocore versions of the Spank Spike isn’t aggressive enough to be noticeable riding on soft snow. Rock strewn trails are a different story.

Looking for the stiffest bar available but not wanting to feel like you’ve been beaten with it? The Spank Spike delivers. It is definitely worth the extra 30 grams and $20 compared to the Race model.

Choices

The ideology behind Spank’s bars is nicely summed up as they differentiate their Vibrocore bars from the competition:

…competitors have been forced to design unwanted flexibility into their bars”

Spank Spike

Spank has definitely spent a lot of time thinking about their in-house produced aluminum handlebars.

Vibrocore Spank Spike bars are monstrously stiff but also quite comfortable to ride. Anyone looking for the stiffest possible cockpit without the budget, or acceptance of carbon bars, to purchase a Chromag BZA would do well to consider them. The fact they are 31.8mm is also a bonus given my collection of stems.

On shorter travel bikes, and hardtails, I prefer the ride quality of the aluminum Renthal Fatbars. I take the ‘ride quality’ of those bars to be by design as opposed to a bit of flexibility that is unwanted. On longer travel bikes with big tires, the Spank Spike Vibrocore was excellent, and certainly an improvement over Spank’s Race bar.

More on Vibrocore here.


How do you like your stiffness served?

Trending on NSMB

Comments

wacek-keepshack
0
Wacek Keepshack  - Feb. 4, 2017, 10:34 a.m.

When are they introducing the vibrocore seat post?

Reply

brumos
0
brumos  - Jan. 31, 2017, 8:20 a.m.

Just ordered a pair of the 760 vibrocore bars for my short travel steed based on your review. Price seemed about right too. Thx

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 31, 2017, 9:48 a.m.

I think the value (ride quality vs price) is very good.

Let me know how it works for you.

Reply

ron-chang
0
Ron Chang  - Jan. 30, 2017, 8:38 p.m.

Loved the article and the back to back comparisons. This is the type of info that I will skip my bus stop for just to keep on reading for the conclusion.
I've had the vibrocore bars on my dh bike since they came out and i'll be installing alloy renthals on my low travel trail bike for the first time. Can't wait to see how my experience lines up with your's!

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 30, 2017, 9:25 p.m.

Hi Ron,

Thank you. Definitely let me know how your experience varies!

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Jan. 30, 2017, 10:46 a.m.

Are the vibrocore bars bead blasted or shot peened?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 30, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

Shotpeened.

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Jan. 30, 2017, 11:08 a.m.

Thanks for graciously answering my question when you stated that in a caption above. I was prodding you just to be sure; shot peening dramatically lengthens lifespan relative to no surface treatment or bead blasting.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 30, 2017, 11:14 a.m.

Not to split hairs but that should probably read "shot peening can dramatically…"

Like anodizing it can just be a cosmetic treatment (see Renthal anodizing vs. most other anodized bars) that will have very little effect on durability vs. just painting something.

The quality of the finish on the Vibrocore bar has proven very durable so my presumption is that you are correct in this case.

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Jan. 30, 2017, 11:31 a.m.

Split away. I agree with what you're saying, but I don't mean that it makes for a robust surface finish. It works the material to confer specific properties, like increasing fatigue strength. Yes, like anything it can be fucked up, but it's typically applied to impart structural properties to the material. Bead blasting does no such thing. It's a clear distinction.

Ano, yes that's another can of worms. A very diverse range of processes.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 30, 2017, 11:37 a.m.

Re. Ano, I edited the post to say "some" which is more accurate.

Re. Shot peening. Yes, I understand that and Spank does mention it in their product info re. strength and reliability.

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Jan. 30, 2017, 11:56 a.m.

Thanks. I think it's a significant thing, and always look for this the bars I get. It typically results in a bar being safe to use for at least twice as long as a bar that has not been shot peened. The warranties speak to that too. So for me it comes down to cost, and use of resources.

The issue I have with these Vibrocore bars is the foam core. Elsewhere I've read that Spank doesn't do carbon because of environmental and health concerns. That's a stance of conscience I can get behind. So I sought feedback from them on the environmental and health impact of the foam in the other forum, and publicly on Twitter, and never got a reply. Ages ago. I don't assume the foam is a problem, but I know enough not to assume it isn't. You don't by chance have any info on that do you?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 30, 2017, 2:35 p.m.

Hi Nat,

I don't have that information; however, I will ask for you.

One note on Carbon vs. the environment. The only thing that can said with absolute certainty is as an end product Carbon is discarded (there are some recycling methods being developed but currently there is no environmentally and energy sensitive way to recycled the fibers or resins) where aluminum can be recycled infinitely.

Looking at the production of products (much as looking at the ride of all 'Carbon' vs. all 'Aluminum') there is a huge variance factory to factory in terms of employment and environmental standards. For example, Hope's carbon facility in England likely has less overall impact than many places producing anodized aluminum products.

Taken a step further, one of the selling points of Spank's products is they produce them in-house in their own factory so one would think if they did want to do carbon products they could be on the cutting edge of environmental/employment practices is they so desired. Likewise with aluminum they would be easier to hold to a higher standard because they control waste and production.

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Jan. 30, 2017, 2:42 p.m.

It's a somewhat opaque issue due to the variables and subsequent complexity. The working fatigue life of carbon could offset the potential environmental and health costs that would be typical, but that doesn't jive with much of the consumerist aspects of the industry and marketing within. I appreciate your take on this, and you seeking an answer to my question.

Reply

morgan-taylor
0
Morgan Taylor  - Jan. 30, 2017, 10:37 a.m.

Andrew, next week at coffee, give Stephanie's carbon Jones a go. You'll be amazed how much compliance they've built into it. I was so impressed with hers that I ordered one for myself as well, which will be on the Unit soon.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 30, 2017, 10:57 a.m.

I will!

Reply

whatyouthink
0
whatyouthink  - Jan. 30, 2017, 10:34 a.m.

one of the things i like about carbon is that it dampens vibrations so you end up with a stiff setup that isnt a tuning fork. i love the bza setup on my canfield balance, but i have a lot of very supple suspension on my side as well.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 30, 2017, 11:07 a.m.

In attempting to deliver it with subtlety I probably failed at highlighting this point in the piece, but I think making generalizations about "Carbon" or "Aluminum" or even "Steel" (more relevant to frames than bars admittedly) usually results in overstating the differences of material vs. design.

.

Specifically to your point, I believe if the vibration damping characteristics of carbon bars (frame layup/design/material is a whole different world) were as advertised (I.E. stiffness + comfort) then 60-70% of the Pro Peloton in road racing would' be running on alloy bars.

If guys doing huge days on 23c tires (or 23c on 25c casings or etc) at over 100psi don't feel it's enough of an advantage to overcome the perceived benefits of alloy then on squishy bikes with huge tires how much vibration damping can we notice?

Reply

alex
0
Alex  - Feb. 1, 2017, 7:35 p.m.

Two of the main reasons pro road guys ride aluminum bars - the weight limit that's too high for modern road bikes and their need to get their bike up to minimum weight and the crash factor. Hard to see if a carbon bar has been compromised after a pile up when it's wrapped in bar tape.

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Jan. 30, 2017, 8:55 a.m.

hmm.. I went from a Chromag BZA to a Renthal Fatbar alloy and prefer the Renthal as well… maybe its the fact we ride hardtails exclusively… 🙂

Reply

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Jan. 30, 2017, 7:36 a.m.

Very interesting. Any thoughts on how the Boo Bar / Stevie signature bar falls on the ride quality spectrum?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Jan. 30, 2017, 2:44 p.m.

Not one I've ridden in similar dimensions; sorry!

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.