PNW Components have been designing mountain bike gear since 2015, building up a great reputation for awesome but affordable products. The new Loam Carbon Handlebar is their first carbon fiber product and it’s one of the best MTB handlebars I've tested. I’ll tell you the tech behind it, the options available and how it rides on the trail.
According to PNW Components, “Just like tequila, not all carbon fiber is created equal. PNW carbon is fresh, it’s fancy, and it won’t leave hands and wrists with a hangover.” That said, they’ve clearly spent a lot of time and thought on their move into carbon fiber. That includes working with one of the best manufacturers in the business and using premium materials.
There’s a serious side behind the CBD acronym gag too. “PNW’s resulting patent pending Compliant Bore Design (CBD) Layup allows engineers to optimize internal wall thickness with a unique internal bore shape. Utilizing EPS molding and FEA Analysis and experimenting with different internal wall shapes, textures, and thicknesses, the team was able to internally tune the bar’s ride characteristics while maintaining an aesthetically pure form.”
Looking down the ends you can see clean and consistent forming with no globs of glue, rippled composite sheets of ‘fortune cookie’ labelling from a generic off the shelf design either.
While the bar and construction are all-new, it’s no surprise that they’ve copied the “signature anti-fatigue geometry” of their Range Gen 3 alloy handlebar. That means a 5 degree upsweep and 10 degree backsweep with an 800mm width. Unlike the single 30mm rise of the alloy bar you get 25mm (tested) and 38mm rise options but only in 35mm diameter.
There are tip cut, roll and centering markers for accurate set up and adjustment, and it comes as stock with neutral Cement Gray and black graphics over the matt carbon finish. You can buy Safety Orange, Black Out Black, Moss Green, Moto Green, Pacific Blue, Fruit Snacks, Really Red, Seafoam (as tested here), Teal, or Peanut Butter graphics to match other PNW pieces for just $5 (US) though.
Performance and ride
There’s generally a correlation between accurate weights and accurate construction so when my sample bar was only one gram different to PNW’s claimed weight at 232g – I took that as a very good sign. That’s a low – if not crazy light – weight for an 800mm bar too. PNW clearly aren’t wanting to throw away their excellent reliability reputation though as it’s been third party tested via EFBE’s Tri-Test and received an MTB Gravity Category 5 rating. That’s the highest possible rating and means it’s fine for e-bike and downhill riding.
Unlike some super tough 35mm bars, that doesn’t mean a punishing ride though. The external taper starts early in the rise and they’ve presumably done something similar inside as the bar is a great balance between clean trail communication and comfortable damping even with skinny grips. It's stiff enough not to flap or flop when you bottom out a landing or blunt a rock but it doesn’t leave your scaphoid bones singing either. I really liked the shape of the lower rise bar too, although the fractionally increased sweep over most bars will leave your stem feeling slightly shorter and your steering lighter.
There are a vast number of carbon fiber bars on the market spanning XC to DH and obviously you might have your own preferences for sweep and rise as well as weight and flex/rigidity. From a personal point of view, PNW have done an excellent job of producing a bar that’s park tough and tire/fork testingly accurate while still being epic XC comfy and light enough to be an upgrade on the scales too. I’m also a big fan of the back sweep, as while I sometimes initially prefer a less swept bar, my wrists never take long to remind me I actually don’t. It’s priced very competitively as well and who doesn’t love the chance to color coordinate graphics, especially for just $5.
Tech specs: PNW Loam Carbon Handlebar
- Price: $149 / £154
- Width: 800mm
- Diameter: 35mm
- Rise: 38mm or 25mm
- Weight: 232g (25mm rise)
- Upsweep: 5 degrees
- Backsweep: 10 degrees
- Colors: Safety Orange, Black Out Black, Moss Green, Moto Green, Pacific Blue, Fruit Snacks, Really Red, Seafoam (as tested here), Teal, or Peanut Butter