With so many options for handlebars these days, it’s difficult to stand out in a crowded market. With their new Loam Carbon Handlebar, PNW Components claims they have achieved the optimal combination of compliance, comfort, strength, and value. Available today, the Loam Handlebar is offered in either 38mm or 25mm rise, trimmable 800mm width, and 35mm clamp diameter. Josh and Andrea recently installed the Loam bars on her Ibis Ripmo and, below, offer an overview and first ride impressions…
We’ve grown quite fond of titanium handlebars in recent years, adding them to multiple hardtails and rigid mountain bikes throughout our ever-changing collection. Similar to the benefits of building complete bikes out of the transition metal, handlebars can be constructed using thin-walled titanium tubing to achieve a low weight compared to alternative materials, in addition to incorporating slight flex and vibration damping. It can be shaped into nearly endless forms that cater to a wide spectrum of rider ergonomic preferences. The only catch is that they are expensive, often costing north of $300.
While lightweight and strong, carbon fiber handlebars designed for big, squishy bikes were often stiff and uncomfortable. In recent years, however, brands have worked closely with manufacturers to optimize carbon component production, paying closer attention to small bump compliance and steering precision in the final products. With the Loam Carbon Handlebar, Seattle-based PNW Components utilized a proprietary carbon layup, wall thickness, and interior shape they’ve dubbed Compliant Bore Design (CBD) to reduce trail chatter and aid in handling.
At a reasonable $149, the Loam is one of the lowest-priced carbon handlebars in its category. Even so, it’s made of fancy carbon that’s woven on an as-needed basis and stored in a “refrigerated climate-controlled environment” prior to production – aspects PNW reports to be somewhat rare in carbon bike component manufacturing.
Special CBD Sauce
PNW claims that there’s even more to their CBD layup than just vibration damping. Using both in-house and 3rd party testing, they found the Loam handlebar “offers data-backed vertical compliance to deflect chatter, along with improved horizontal stiffness for more predictable handling.” 3rd party testing also yielded EFBE’s TRI-TEST for MTB Gravity Category 5 certification, which means the Loam handlebar is strong enough for downhill and e-bikes.
Mimicking the geometry of their popular alloy Range Gen 3 handlebar, PNW again utilized 5° upsweep with 10° backsweep for the carbon Loam bars. They’ve found this shape, combined with rise options of either 25 or 38mm, is a desirable accompaniment to long reach numbers of modern trail and enduro bikes. Thus, the combination of compliant CBD carbon with comfortable upright positioning is intended to aid in steering precision and reduce upper body fatigue.
PNW sent along their 50mm alloy Range Stem Gen 3 to use with the Loam bars. The stem features a 35mm clamp area, which is the only diameter currently available for the Loam. If you only have a 31.8mm stem and want to use a Loam handlebar, you’ll have to buy a new 35mm clamp stem. There’s also a 70mm max stem width so be sure you pay attention to these specs.
Mounting was straightforward and made easy by the ample gradient tick marks and a center line. Torque spec for controls is 6nm, while the clamp area on the bar is 8nm. However, the Range Stem’s 6nm max torque overrides that of the handlebar. PNW includes a small packet of fiber grip for added interface security.
As a neat added bonus, the Range Stem came with a small universal “action camera” mount meant for mounting a light, but could also, of course, hold a camera. While I realize the Outbound Hangover is designed for helmet use, it’s a nice fit with the Range Stem and the only light we had with a compatible mount for demonstration purposes.
First Ride Review
I didn’t talk with Andrea about any of the Loam’s technical information laid out in the above description before installing them on her bike. She’s not usually interested in how things perform, but that they do perform. After riding her Ibis Ripmo all summer, she wanted to install the 50mm extenders in the 750mm HiFi handlebar that came with the bike and experiment with the performance of wider bars. Given that the 38mm rise Loam bar has a similar geometry to the HiFi bar, just with slightly more rise, installing them for her to test made a lot of sense. We mounted them up prior to her spending two full days in Sedona at a Ladies All Ride clinic with the goal of her paying attention to any noticeable differences in the bike’s feel or performance. Now, after clocking a handful of big days with the Loam bar, here is her feedback:
“I tried out the new Loam handlebar without really knowing what to expect. I have mild arthritis in my hands and wrists and sometimes the vibration of long rides, or rides on chattery or chunky trails, leaves me with aches and pains.
After two full days of riding technical terrain in Sedona, followed by a 12-mile ride in the chunk around Phoenix, AZ, I realized my usual wrist and hand discomfort was noticeably lessened; the vibrations from the trail just didn’t feel as harsh as before. This new handlebar might just be a game-changer for me.
It’ll take a few more rides to determine if I’ll keep the bars at their full width, or cut them down shorter. I like wider bars for the type of riding I do with my Ripmo, which often includes bigger features. They give more leverage for the “active ready position” I have through technical terrain.”
- Material: “CBD” Pre-preg UD carbon fiber
- Width: 800mm (can be cut to 740mm minimum)
- Rise: 38mm or 25mm
- Sweep: 5° upsweep/ 10° backsweep
- Clamp size: 35mm
- Weight: 233g
- Colors: Matte black with satin details (nine different color decal packs are sold separately for $5)
- Max rider weight: 286lbs
- Warranty: Lifetime
- Noticeable compliance and small bump damping
- Comfortable and upright geometry
- TRI-TEST MTB Gravity Category 5 certification
- Solid price point
- Lifetime warranty
- No 31.8mm diameter option
- Only available in 800mm width, though can be cut to a minimum of 740mm
See more at PNW Components.