We all know handlebar shape can have a significant impact on how a bike rides, resulting in most enduro/gravity handlebars falling within a general shape consensus. SQlab are a German brand specializing in bike touch point ergonomics and while the SQlab’s 30X handlebar falls within the agreed parameters of the best mountain bike handlebars, there is one measurement that makes the 30X stand out from all other mountain bike handlebars.
The SQlab’s 30X Carbon comes with backsweep options up to 16 degrees, which is twice as much as most other handlebars. The idea behind the huge back sweep is to give a straighter transition from the forearm to the hand for better comfort. I have been riding the SQlab’s 30X Carbon handlebar to see how this unusual bar feels on the trail.
Design and Specifications
SQlab’s offers the 30X in several configurations, there are the standard three backsweep options, firstly there is the nine-degree backswept handlebar which comes with 25mm (med) or 55mm (high) of rise, followed by the 12-degree and 16-degree handlebars which come in 15mm (low), 30mm (med), and 45mm (high). All of these handlebars come in a 780mm width and feature four degrees of upsweep. There is also a Fabio Wibmer version which has a much more conventional seven degrees of back sweep, 25mm of rise, four-degree upsweep, and 800mm width. All the bars come in a 31.8mm clamp size only and feature four degrees of upsweep.
The idea behind the backsweep is that it provides a natural transition from the lower arm to the hand. While there will be an element of personal preference SQlab offers riding style recommendations for each backsweep value, with nine degrees for a responsive ride suited to bike park, 12 degrees for enduro, and 16 degrees for racey XC riding.
The bars are made from T1K Carbon and have a Category 5 ASTM classification so they are rated to deal with the stresses of enduro and downhill, as well as being suitable for e-MTB use.
One unexpected oddity is the inner diameter of the handlebar being smaller than other handlebars. That meant I couldn't fit any handy stashable tools or run standard bar plugs, instead having to rummage up some grips with built-in bar ends. A little annoying but far from a deal-breaker.
These bars were destined for my downcountry long-termer Cotic SolarisMax hardtail so I opted for the largest 16-degree backsweep version as it would line up best with the intended long-distance trail riding that I would be doing on the bike.
I didn't find setting the handlebars up to be any more complicated than a standard handlebar. A test ride with a couple of stops to tweak the bar roll was all it took to find the sweet spot. If you are upgrading your current handlebar setup you may need to budget for a new stem though as the backsweep of the uncut bars will bring the hand position considerably further back than a regular bar. Other than affecting reach this isn’t an issue if you’re running a longer stem, however, if you run a short stem the back sweep could end up putting your hands too close to the turning axis and potentially lead to some weird handling dynamics. With a 50mm stem and the uncut bars, the back sweep brought the center point of my grips giving an effective stem length of 20mm.
Despite the radical 16-degree backsweep, I found the SQlab 30X Carbon handlebar to feel surprisingly natural. My hand and wrist position was very comfortable and I felt it put me in a good position when tackling technical trials too. The construction of the bar gives it plenty of forgiveness as well which boosts comfort on rough descents and long rides without sacrificing steering precision. I felt the combo of sweep and compliance also contributed to reducing arm pump as well, helping me feel fresher on long rough descents.
The SQlab 30X isn’t as revolutionary or different as I expected it to be, the shape was very easy to get used to and the resulting position was comfortable without sacrificing any control. The construction of the bar is fantastic as well, assuring precision without punishment and keeping weight low too.
The 30X Carbon handlebars are expensive and although they offer a serious amount of performance it's understandable many riders may be reluctant to fork out so much money to experiment with the unconventional bar shape. The good news is SQlab also offers an alloy version with the same shape for considerably less outlay.
Tech specs: SQlab 30X Carbon Handlebar
- Price: $289.99 / £253 / €279.95
- Width: 780mm (maximum cutting width 720mm)
- Diameter: 31.8mm
- Rise: 15mm (tested), 30, or 45mm
- Weight: 220g (as tested)
- Upsweep: 4 degrees
- Backsweep: 7, 9, 12, or 16 degrees (tested)