Fresh off racing the North-South Colorado Bikepacking Race, where she finished 1st women’s and 7th overall, Hailey Moore is here to share her first-ride impressions of Germany-based Beast Components’ Carbon Hybrid Bar. The mtb-shift-and-lever compatible design allowed her to run her Bearclaw Ti Hardtail as a monster-tourer, drop bar 29er, but how did the modified design manifest in ride quality as she pedaled 600 miles down Colorado’s Front Range? Read on for her thoughts…
The Hybrid Bar: A Welcome Niche Offering
In the spirit of credit where credit is due, as far as I know, Surly was the first* to present a production hybrid bar concept (*politely drop into the comments if you know of others!). In classic Surly branding, their’s is dubbed the Corner Bar, was released in the summer of 2021 and, for the first time, offered riders the ability to run mountain bike cockpit components on a drop-bar(ish) shape.
To briefly review the specs, the Corner Bar features a 25.4mm clamp diameter, a 94mm drop with 41.4° of flare, 65.2° backsweep, and is available in three sizes (46cm, 50cm, and 54cm). Travis Engel reviewed the Corner Bar a while back, and having spent considerable miles on one myself, I share most of his opinions: it’s a truly innovative design that helps remedy controller compatibility issues when trying to convert a hardtail from flat bars to drop bars—but it’s not perfect.
It’s a hefty chunk of Chromoly (737g for the 54cm), doesn’t quite nail the ergonomics of different hand positions, and I personally found the narrower diameter to translate to a harsher ride and hand fatigue on long days in the saddle.
Riding the Surly Corner Bar in Nebraska a while back. Photo: Anton Krupicka
Still, as my preferences shift more towards touring on a rigid, drop-bar mountain bike (without a wireless shifting system), I certainly appreciate the Corner Bar concept. But, due to the weight and, ergo drawbacks, I think it shines most as an affordable addition to a tricked-out townie; it just doesn’t offer the comfort I’m looking for in long-day rides or ultra-distance pursuits. That’s why I was especially excited to see the German-based company, Beast Components, follow up earlier this year with their rendition of a hybrid bar.
Beast Components was founded in 2016 by a group of friends studying Lightweight Engineering at the Dresden University of Technology. In the intervening years, the company has maintained close ties with the Institute of Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology (within the university) as a means of staying up-to-date on the latest in lightweight building techniques. Their focus is clear and admirable: crafting cutting-edge, lightweight carbon bicycle components backed by science and all handmade in Germany.
Their product line-up includes stems, seatposts, saddles, bottle cages, wheelsets, and—of course—handlebars, with the Hybrid Bar being their latest addition. In comparison to the Corner Bar, Beast’s Hybrid Bar is available in just one size (46cm), sports a 31.8mm clamp diameter, a 95mm drop with 20° of flare, and tips in at a featherweight 350 grams (less than half the weight of the Corner Bar). Of course, carbon always comes at a premium, and handmade carbon even moreso; Beast’s Hybrid Bars will set you back a stuttering ~$540, while the Corner Bar is priced at a much more manageable $100.
Intentions, First Impressions & Install
It’s a little awkward to mention the price of Beast’s Hybrid Bar and then just keep moving without stating that there’s essentially no way that I would have ever gotten my hands on one if paying retail price. While I did buy my Surly Corner Bar the normal way (shoutout Yawp! Cyclery in Denver for carrying them), I reached out to Beast as a writer about reviewing the bar, which they then provided me with at no charge.
The topic of price for premium bike components always feels a little thorny to mention; on the one hand, I think it’s important to acknowledge the cost of true quality and the limitations of smaller companies that don’t necessarily benefit from economies of scale.
On the other hand—woof!—that’s an expensive bar (though it’s certainly not the most expensive as evidenced by this bar, and this bar), and reviewing a product that falls so firmly in the mega-splurge-for-most camp feels almost unethical. Still, I see a strong parallel in reviewing the extravagant in cycling with the extravagant in food, or any luxury good or service for that matter: it’s not my job to tell you what you should or shouldn’t spend your money on.
Rather, like a hopefully honest review of a Michelin-starred restaurant, I aim to pull back the veil on what delivers on the quality promise and what doesn’t to make sure your money is well-spent should you decide to go big
While it’s been at least six months since the Corner Bars adorned my Bearclaw Ti Hardtail 29er in its rigid configuration, I had a very specific scenario in mind for testing out the Beast Hybrid Bar: the North-South Colorado Bikepacking Race. It’s a dirt-heavy 600-mile traverse of Colorado’s Front Range and, in my opinion, offers an excellent sampling of some of the state’s most dynamic and varied topography.
From the open and rolling north country, to the craggy and river-carved South Platte, and (of course) several high alpine passes, the North South course has no overlap with the iconic GDMBR route that lays a few dozen miles to the west. While I raced the first edition of North-South in 2021 on my carbon Rodeo Labs Trail Donkey 3.1 (an impressively capable gravel bike), I decided that this time around, I wanted a bike with a more forgiving position for the chunky descents and newly-added sections of singletrack. After riding my Bearclaw as a drop bar 29er in the mountains outside of Santa Barbara, California, at this year’s Rapha Yomp Rally, it seemed a perfect choice.
However, my cobbled-together cockpit setup from the Yomp (Ritchey Venturemax bars, SRAM mtb shifter mounted inboard, TRP RRL SR brake levers) didn’t leave much room for aerobars or a mount for my phone (alongside my Garmin mount). And I’d also have to figure out where to stick my Sinewave Beacon dyno light/USB charger. The real estate on the front was looking tight!
After realizing just how much stuff I was hoping to squeeze into the cockpit, I tapped out a borderline-frantic message to Beast less than two weeks out from the race start. Michael at Beast got back to me in characteristically-German fashion (read: promptly), and, with similar efficiency, the test bars arrived via DHL on my doorstep just a few days later. Praise be!
The bars certainly make an impression upon unboxing—they just look nice. Like the smell of new leather or satin sheets, the smooth carbon grain and angular planes convey quality. I was pleased to see a reasonably wide clamp area (100mm) and a flat top on either side for resting your hands.
Like the Corner Bar, Beast’s Hybrid Bar features two “hoods.” Unlike the Corner Bar, whose “hoods” have the functional purpose of creating a place to mount the brake levers, Beast’s “hoods” only offer a secondary hand position. The levers are mounted from the bottom, by sliding them up to the top/front of the drops. While I appreciated that Beast’s “hoods” seemed shaped to solve the hand position dilemma of the Corner Bar, I did find that the position of the levers in the drops canted them much farther out front. In addition to being more exposed to branches and other snag threats, the lever angle made the cables (which I ran extra long to accommodate a front bag) a bit of an eyesore.
The last step of the installation involved wrapping just the flat tops and “hoods” of the bars; I opted to run grips on the drops for extra cushion, but I suppose you could wrap this section, too, with its section of tape (though, I don’t think I’d recommend it, purely from an aesthetic perspective). I have to say, I thought the setup looked good, and I was excited to see how the bars treated me during North-South.
Photo: Logan VonBokel
Admittedly, I essentially only tested my complete bar setup on a ride to a few-miles-away coffee shop before starting the race. Life had been busy. But the bars felt really good upon first pedal, so I decided it would be fine. And it mostly was.
Before this year’s North-South, my experience riding carbon bars was quite limited, but on the few occasions I had, I found the damping effect quite remarkable. Even so, on a loaded bike—that’s titanium, no less—with comfy 55c rubber, I think it would be hard to attribute a plusher ride feel purely to the bars. Still, and not to belabor the comparison, it hadn’t crossed my mind to use the Corner Bar for North-South. Or, it did, but I had sort of immediately nixed that option, given the weight and my experience with the ride quality of the CBs. So, maybe that speaks to the ride feel enough.
Overall, I was impressed by the details of the Hybrid Bar: for me—a 5’7″ rider with a ~14.5″ shoulder width—the 46cm width felt spot-on (and a fair compromise if you are only going to offer one size); the flare felt like juuuust enough for confident technical descending without straying too wide, and the hoods were a welcome reprieve from the drops. My one nitpick on the actual design of the bars comes down to the hood size—they’re pretty nubby. I have above-average-sized hands for a woman (typically, I wear size Medium or Large women’s gloves, depending on the brand), and I would have enjoyed the hoods being 15-20% taller.
On long rides on a normal drop bar, I alternate between riding with my hands on the top of the bar, in the drops, and doing the roadie rest thing by either holding the hoods, or simply bracing the heels of my hands against them. On the Hybrid Bar, I reverted to just holding the hoods (four fingers wrapped and closed with the thumb) and would only occasionally rest the heels of my hands on the hoods; they just felt too small to do the latter confidently, and any position on the hoods felt like it required extra attention if I was wearing gloves. The exposed carbon is a little slippery!
My other notes on the Hybrid Bar have more to do with adjusting for fit, which I somewhat (face-palmingly) overlooked prior to setting out for the big ride. Although the Hybrid Bars have a relatively shallow drop (as do the Corner Bar, 95mm vs. 94mm respectively), by default, riding in the drops is the primary position and, thus, you are automatically more bent over. And while riding in the drops is, of course, also the primary grip position of the Corner Bar, I think there is a subtle difference between the two before any specific adjustments have been made: CB’s hood-mounted levers place the rider at a more normal height over the bars, versus Beast’s drop-mounted levers, which require a slightly more stooped upper body orientation.
When not in the drops, I did find I could easily climb out of the saddle while gripping the hoods and the tops of the brake levers, as a pair, though shifting and braking from the hoods is not possible. In retrospect, I would have/ should have raised my stem by about a centimeter to offset the distance of the drop, as I ended the race with some screaming trapezius muscles! Furthermore, I felt my reach on the bike was also affected by the fact that the drops, by design, are closer in than the hoods (i.e., in line with the stem rather than in front of the stem), even if they are lower.
By day two of the race, I kept feeling like I wanted to scoot further back on the saddle to accommodate for that slightly shortened reach. These are easily mitigable issues and overall, I thought the bars solved more problems than they caused.
Beast Components Hybrid Bar is an impressive, premium, handmade product that solves a problem for a somewhat niche corner of the cycling world. While they are spendy, the cost feels more palatable when knowing that your dollars are going to a small EU-based company focused on craftsmanship and innovation. And, when considering the alternative solutions for flat-to-drop bar conversions, a Hybrid Bar investment sounds more attractive than a drivetrain swap. There’s also something just plain fun about riding the Hybrid Bar that anyone who’s ridden an alt bar may relate to: not quite a drop bar and not quite a flat bar, the Hybrid Bar offers an engaging position (that I also experienced with the Corner Bars) that makes the cockpit feel more lively. To borrow the New York Times rating scale, this reviewer awards 3.5 stars!
Price (UD-Finish Black): 499,90 €
Clamp Diameter: 31.8 mm
Clamping Area Width: 100 mm
Hood Width: 460 mm
Drop Width: 600 mm
Drop: 95 mm
Weight (UD-Finish): 350 g
Weight Tolerance: 5%
Weight Limit: None
- A simple solution for flat-to-drop bar mtb conversions
- High quality (handmade in Germany)
- Only available in one width (46cm)
- Hoods could be a little taller
- Need to factor in fit adjustment when setting up
Check out more on the Hybrid Bar at Beast Components.