When it comes right down to it, handlebars are probably one of the simplest, yet most often overlooked components on a mountain bike. If you ask around, chances are most riders you talk to are still riding the stock handlebar that came on their bike or whatever they have been riding for years. Those who have changed their bars more often than not have done so due to weight or color rather than width or geometry.
Many riders haven’t experimented with different handlebars for whatever reason, whether it be fear that the bar won’t be liked, will be too expensive, too complicated to change out, or they’re just afraid of change. Truthfully though, as one of the main contact points on your bike, big advantages can be gained from trying something new, and perhaps a bit wider. Many mountain biking experts will agree that going to a slightly wider bar (in conjunction with a slightly shorter stem) in many situations will aid in control and rider confidence.
I’ve had a chance to bolt up both the AnswerProtaper carbon and aluminum 720 AM bars to multiple bikes now, and it certainly checks the wide bar box, but is it for everybody?
Find out, after the break.
While quite possibly my favorite, the AM 720 is only one of many different Protaper bars currently offered by Answer. Protaper bars are available in multiple widths from the 660mm XC carbon bar, to the 780mm Protaper DH monster shown at the top of the photo above. The 720 width bar may be a tad too wide for many users, but the thought remains the same across the board: narrow is out, wide is in. You probably won’t see many XC racers with 700+ wide bars, but XC racers who were on say 620mm bars might bump up to 660s, and the DH racer who was riding a 700mm bar may now be riding the 780mm. Riders of all types are starting to widen their bars and liking the results.
Don’t take my word for it though, try it yourself.
For the past few years I have been riding around on bars anywhere from 660-690mm on my XC/Trail bikes, although like most other XC riders back in the day, I started with flat bars around 550mm. Of course, the shorter bars were also used with longer stems, and as my stems have gotten shorter my bars have gotten proportionally wider. Recently, I had the chance to test out the two versions of the Answer AM 720 bars, and what initially started as a sweet upgrade for the Orbea Rallon I was testing, turned into trying to find a bike that the bars didn’t feel good.
(bonus points for whoever can figure out what bottle cap is on the Niner YAWYD headset cap in the upper right picture!)
You may recall, that the initial spec on the Rallon included a bar that even Orbea thought was a bit narrow. Naturally, the AM 720s were a great fit when coupled with a 70mm stem. As Fall turned to Winter, and I found myself riding Cyclesport’s Surly Pugsley, I couldn’t help but feel the same cockpit set up on the Rallon might improve the handling in the snow. I was right, as the wider bar and shorter stem allowed me to power through loose sections with heavy snow trying to pull the wheel in ever changing directions. As Winter turned to Spring, the bar and stem found their way onto my Fuel EX which seemed to greatly help tackle the crazy muddy conditions and keep the front wheel pointed in the right direction. Finally, as Spring slowly rolled into Summer, the Carbon 720 AM bar showed up, and while the mud is starting to dry up, my love of the bars is staying put. I would definitely consider my riding style to be on the playful side, with much more emphasis placed on having fun than being race-y. However, that isn’t to say that I don’t ride XC distance and time, and after the longest rides of the season so far I am still happy to have the wider bars. I love the extra leverage they provide, not just when muscling the bike around, but when climbing as well.
Most of the AM 720s great feel likely comes from the tried and true Protaper 4° up sweep, 8° back sweep which are the numbers that denote how much a riser bar, well, rises. But what about those riders who are looking for weight savings first, and bar geometry second? Neither of the AM 720 bars will jump out at you as being super lightweights, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. My Bontrager Carbon RXL bar that came off the Fuel comes in at 180g for a 660mm bar. While it is 35g lighter than the Carbon 720 AM (25.4mm rise), the Answer bar is a whopping 60mm wider! Not only does the extra width add weight, but wider bars offer more leverage, but in turn need to be stronger to avoid breaking, so all of a sudden that 35g starts looking pretty good.
When compared to the current competition of wide, carbon bars, the AM 720 finds it’s place among the lighter bars over 700mm.The aluminum bar is a different story, and a lot of that story has to do with the paint, white wet paint to be exact. While the anodized AM 720 bars are spot on their 315g claimed weight, the white bars are noticeably heavier at 334g on my scale. That makes them even heavier than the anodized Protaper DH 780mm bars.
In addition, the glossy white finish made it difficult for me to get my GoPro mounts to stay put which could be an issue as well. Problem is, with a white stem and a few other white parts they do look really good. I did get a chance to briefly ride the aluminum AM 720s on the Remedy 9.9 as well, and as no surprise, they felt right at home although this time with a 60mm stem.
Like all Protaper bars, the AM 720s include generous hash marks to ease alignment with your stem especially if it is an Answer Rove AM as pictured here, due to its large sighting windows. Also, should you buy the 720 AM and wish for a slightly narrower bar, they are all marked with easy cutting guides with visual cues that range from hucker to hipster.
With an MSRP of $60-$72 for the aluminum AM 720s, and $140 for the carbon version, the AM 720s are one of the best deals going. If you are looking for a wide, strong, and comfy all mountain handle bar you owe it to yourself to give the Answer AM 720s a try. The Carbon 720 is easily my favorite bar I’ve used to date, and the aluminum model isn’t far behind. Five out of five thumbs up for the carbon bar, and probably a 4 out of 5 for the aluminum model.
*Update* Since this review was initially posted, Answer has now released a new colorway for the Carbon AM 720: White/Smoke. Now you can get you carbon fix in gold or white!
|Material||7050 series alloy|
|Color||Red, Black, Silver, White|
|Weight||205g & 225g (50.8 rise bar )|
|Rise||12.7mm, 25.4mm, 50.8mm|
|Material||Carbon with unidirectional 12 outer layer|