It can be awfully hard to know what one’s getting when it comes to handlebars. Aside from externally measurable attributes like rise, width, sweep, and weight, knowing just how this critical piece of gear will perform in the real world can be a bit of a crap shoot. When I discovered some pretty severe scarring in the clear coat of the 5 year old bars on my most-ridden bike, I decided to play it safe and replace them. Click ‘more‘ to find out why I chose Crank Brothers’ new Iodine 11s as their replacement…
Since day one, Crank Brothers have approached the design of their products differently from the rest of the industry. From their elegantly simple Eggbeater pedals to their long-nippled, paired spoke wheelsets, the company’s willingness to approach problems from a different angle has brought them a good deal of success. Add to that a very slick corporate graphic and product design language and you have products that are elevated to honest-to-goodness objects of desire. So why handlebars? Having seen a need, the company this year introduced parallel lines of cross country (Cobalt) and all mountain (Iodine) finishing kits at several quality (and price) levels.
I’ll be the first to admit- part of what attracted me to the Iodine 11 was it’s understated look. While other companies are taking their branding to the extreme, it’s nice to come across subtle, handsome graphics and a unidirectional (no visible weave) finish. More pragmatically, the $120 price seemed reasonable and, for a 680mm wide all mountain riser bar, the 178g weight seemed very reasonable. Besides, as a relatively timid XC/trail rider, it seemed like buying a bar rated for more severe use than mine could expect seemed like a safe decision and the 30mm rise was closer to my needs than the 160g Cobalts’ 15mm rise . Out came the credit card and home came the Iodines.
Part of the appeal of carbon fiber products, especially in handlebars and seatposts, is the material’s ability to damp the sort of appendage-numbing vibrations that aluminum is so effective at transmitting. My previous handlebars were exceptional in that regard- almost to the point of being flexy. With their retirement, I was concerned that a stiffer bar, with a smaller 5-degree backsweep, would be noticeably less comfortable on the trail. It’s here that I’ve been most impressed with the Iodine 11s. Despite being stiffer than their predecessors, the Crank Brothers bars are every bit as comfortable, not buzzy at all. While I would probably prefer a bit more backsweep, the difference really is minor, and I haven’t suffered as a result.
Other nice touches? Tick marks printed on the bars make it easier to get the brakes and shifters at the same angles and top hat-shaped metal inserts at the bar ends not only help keep bar ends or oversized clamp-on grips from crushing the bars, but also help to protect the carbon in the event of a crash. All in all, I’ve been very happy with the Iodine 11s. The price and weight are reasonable, and the details show that the company didn’t just put out a bar for the sake of having one. Absolutely worth considering when the time comes.