Review: Swept-back handlebars from Fouriers and SQlab

Originally posted on January 26, 2016 at 8:10 am

Fouriers Trailhead (HB-MB017-M) – $90

Tester: Eric McKeegan

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Fouriers has teamed up with Chris Sullivan, the man behind the Gnar bars. The Gnar bar and the Trailhead feature the Control Curve bend—an extra bend in the grip area said to match the curve of a palm. The Trailhead sweeps forward then back at 28 degrees, which helps reduce the need for a long stem to keep the reach to the bars the same. The Control Curve is available in standard-bend bars as well, in 760 mm or 680 mm widths.

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I installed these and felt comfortable enough to head out on a bikepacking trip a few days later. I can suffer from hand pain pretty quickly, but even after hours and hours I felt fine. The curve of the bar was ideal for mounting bikepacking bags as well. I also tried the infamously rocky Wilderness 101 race in Pennsylvania with these bars.

While I loved them for all the fire roads, I couldn’t get “behind” these bars enough on steep downhills, and needed a very firm grip, leading to serious hand fatigue and lots of stops to shake them out. These get an enthusiastic thumbs-up for bikepacking, but I’ll pass on them for gnarlier terrain on bigger-travel bikes.

More info: 

SQlab 311 – $105

Tester: Adam Newman

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The 311 bars are marketed as all-mountain and enduro, but the 740 mm width is at the narrow end of what a lot of gravity riders are using these days. I think it’s perfect for all-purpose trail and cross-country riding though, and that’s where these bars felt most at home. The width also makes this a good choice for women looking for an enduro or downhill handlebar.

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While the 16-degree backsweep isn’t as extreme as many other bars on the market, the bonus here is that, unlike a normal backswept bar, the 311 has a 10 mm forward sweep, which means it puts your hands in the same position as a straight bar would without having to change your stem length. The 5-degree upsweep and 50 mm rise also put you in a comfortable, heads-up position, which I appreciated on long rides.

These 302-gram bars are a great option for anyone who wants a little more backsweep but doesn’t want to feel like they’re riding a beach cruiser.

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