As gravel tires get bigger and gravel bike capability gets closer to mountain bikes, standard road cockpit dimensions can be the limiting factor on confidence. The extra-wide Coast bar and matching stem from top quality direct-to-consumer component brand Pacific North West are an instant singletrack steeze-boost at a great value price. Unsurprisingly though, they’re neither light or aero.
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At 520mm from hood to hood, the Coast bars aren’t the widest available (Curve’s broadest Walmer Bar is 600mm at the hoods and 750mm at the flared tips) but the 20-degree flare makes them 604mm at the tips. That means they’re a lot wider than most standard fit 420-440mm drops with a short 65mm reach and shallow 120mm drop giving them a tight and compact hand position. That makes them naturally secure and offsets the extra stretch outwards but PNW still recommends you go 20mm shorter than normal on your stem choice.
You’ll also have to factor in how much extra bar tape you’ll need and whether your existing brake hoses/gear cables will fit. We swapped directly from 420mm bars and had to spread the bar tape pretty thin and as you’ll see we had to pop the brake hose out from under the tape halfway along the bar too. If you’ve got enough length, the bars are grooved on the front to guide the cables but they’re not drilled for internal routing. Gloss black graphics add some grip to the shot-peened finish, but there’s no angle or centering guides. At 359g they’re not light either. That meant we had no worries about the strength of the bars though even when battering across rocky moors or sending small jumps and PNW obviously haven’t either as they give them a lifetime warranty. Impressive for a bar that costs just over £50.
The extra leverage significantly increases riding confidence and bravery too, opening up totally new lines and lean angles and making it much easier to surf sliding tires. That’s a good job as you’ll be putting a lot more load through your side knobs once you start to exploit the less restricted steering feel. While we were expecting more flex from the wider span, the opposite is true with a stiff, borderline-brutal feel that is exacerbated by the fact you might have to spread bar tape thinner and you’re likely to be hitting stuff harder. The wider shoulder angle can be more fatiguing/achey at first if you’re not used to it, and obviously having your arms out wide will lose you a few watts of aero drag. If it’s bags not drag you’re more concerned about though, the extra width obviously gives you much more room for luggage or any other accessories you want upfront.
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The Coast stem is less obviously different with a neat cold forged body and four-bolt stem clamp. It’s impressively light though and the front plate is slotted for an adjustable, removable GoPro style mount. Graphics include torque ratings on the bolts which does mean it looks slightly less slick rotated for a 7-degree drop than it does for a 7-degree rise, but that setup probably suits its gravel intent better anyway. You can feel some twist if you’re really honking on the wide Coast bars but that’s not surprising for the weight, and the stem also gets a lifetime warranty included in the top value price. It’s only available in 31.8mm diameter but lengths from 60-100mm make it suitable for road and XC MTB use.
If you want to make your gravel bike a lot more confident on descents and technical trails or just have more room for bar bags then the PNW Coast bar is a seriously tough, good-looking piece with an awesome warranty at a great price. It can be hard on the arms though and tape, hoses and cables might be stretched too. The Coast stem isn’t as radical but it’s impressively light with an excellent warranty and bonus camera/light mount for an extremely good price. Kudos to PNW for the fully recyclable packaging and schemes like their ‘PNW Cycled’ refurbished shop too.