It’s been with quite a bit of anticipation that we’ve all been waiting for Thomson’s handlebars to become a reality. They’ve done the slow tease with information buried on their website over the past few months, but at Eurobike we got the first look at the complete collection.
Now, we’ve got our hands on some of the very first production pieces to photo, weigh and ride. Our test batch includes the KFC (Katie F’ing Compton) carbon cyclocross drop bars, the carbon all-mountain low riser bars and the alloy DH risers.
The first thing you notice is the quality finish and respectable weights. Of course, we expected nothing less from Thomson, so it’s with both excitement and relief that we tell you they live up to expectations at first glance…
The KFC drop bars have a fat upper section that essentially retains the OS 31.8 mounting diameter all the way out to the bends. The top 200º or so of circumference maintain the same round profile, too.
On the bottom are two concave, rounded sections for nesting the cable housing. Once taped, it all stays nice and round and quite fat. The bend is a mostly traditional curve with an extended flat section at the ends of the drops.
Most of the bar is UD carbon fiber with a small woven section at the ends for improved impact resistance. The brake/shifter lever mounting area has a small span of nubbly surface texture to help keep things in place.
Our 42cm (center to center) came in at 195g, pretty darn good for a somewhat oversized bar.
Installed, before taping.
After taping with Zipp’s Service Course CX bar tape, which is grippy and cushy.
The top of the bar carries straight out and doesn’t bend until the last bit. It’s not until it’s taped that the girth at the corner becomes evident. It’s huge, but it makes a very nice perch, particularly for large hands. And no, that’s not the cable housing causing the extended platform on the inside of the curve, I taped that under the bar before wrapping. The reach is just 78.5mm, which is good for ‘cross because it keeps me in a more upright position. Drop is 140mm on the 42cm bar.
A quick parking lot ride shows that the upper part of the bar is very stiff, perfect for yanking on when trying to power up that run up instead of dismounting. The drops have a slight bit of vertical flex to take the edge off. These’ll get their first race-day test in October at the Asheville night CX race.
Both the Cyclocross and All Mountain bars have a deep black gloss that appears solid at first glance. Only in the right light or upon close inspection can you really start to pick out the UD fibers. Two models are available: This one with a 12mm rise, and one with an offset center for a truly flat hand position. Both have 6º of backsweep, and the riser has 4º upsweep.
Both are 730mm wide and have cut marks. They, too, get the woven carbon ends for better impact resistance and to bolster them for lock-on grips and bar ends.
Weight is 189g. It uses three different types of fibers throughout to balance strength and flex. It claims to be an “all day” bar, something we’ll put to good test in the mountains soon.
All of Thomson’s carbon bars are, for now, made in Taiwan under their supervision. They use Toray carbon fiber and a “nano epoxy resin” to improve strength and impact resistance. Thomson hopes to have their carbon parts made in-house in the US by 2015. It’s ambitious, but it’ll also benefit their other (and much larger) aerospace side of things.
The Downhill bar is formed from 7050 aluminum alloy and comes in at 780mm wide, 12mm of rise, 6° of backsweep and 4° of upsweep. It gets extensive CNC shaping and bending, which lets them avoid any post-production smoothing that could weaken stress points in the bends. Above and below, you can see how the 90mm wide center section actually dips down a bit before the rise.
The extra wide OS center section pushes the bends away from wider direct mount stems to reduce stress on the tube.
Cut marks help you get it sized just right. Ends are a bit thicker to make them stronger where impacts are most likely to occur.
It comes in at 298g. Once she’s flogged it good, look for a full test from Saris later this year.
All bars shown here became available October 1. The titanium bars are supposed to be available, too, but last we heard they might be just slightly delayed. We’ll update as we hear more.