Review: FSA’s stiff, comfortable Energy stem and Compact bar

April 22 Update:  Brifter and bar angles fixed!

As much as we would all love to be riding around on carbon fiber wunderbars and unobtanium stems, our fiscal realities often dictate more… defensible purchases.  After all, it takes some time to decide if a bar’s bend is right for you- and several hundred dollars is a big commitment if things don’t work out. Better still, giving racing’s appetite for handlebar destruction, going with metal ‘bars could even be considered Pro than destroying a set of carbon bars in your regular Tuesday night pileup crit.

While I hadn’t thought much about FSA’s aluminum offerings, the raves of a local shop owner about the near-perfect shape of the company’s shallow-drop Compact bars had me taking a closer look.  And what better compliment to a nice new set of bars than a light, stiff matching stem?  Hit the jump for more on FSA’s best alloy set.

Complete with titanium hardware, our 100mm Energy stem hit the scales at an impressive 113g.  3D forged out of 2014 aluminum, the stem should be stronger than a similar-weight machined model (and kinder on the knees).  The matte/polished graphics are handsome- though a more neutral color option might be nice for some of the brighter bikes now available.  Despite a weight that would put most carbon stems to shame, the Energy is most impressive for its stiffness- it is noticeably stiffer than the OEM Ibis stem it replaced.  While it may not be an obvious upgrade, the $100 Energy a no-brainer and should be considered before splashing out on bigger-name alternatives.

The real attraction here, however, is the Energy bar.  Despite coming in the bar’s widest width (44cm), our sample weighed in at 274g: 5g more than claimed for the 42 and within 40g of the brand’s $350 SL-K carbon bar.  The 31.8mm clamping section is a nice, accessory-friendly 120mm wide, and transitions comfortably to a semi-flat top.  Given their width, the bar’s graphics disappear under the tape, but that’s a minor complaint.

Ultimately, it’s the 125mm drop and slight (4 degree) flare that have made love the Energy Compact bars.  The relatively shallow drops makes the transition from the tops or hoods less dramatic- and means that I spend more time tucked out of the wind than I would with a deeper bar.  The bars mate nicely with SRAM’s (previous generation) hoods and the drops’ ever-increasing radii provide plenty of hand positions on longer rides.

While fit is inherently personal, I feel like FSA have really nailed the shape of these bars.  While they can’t offer the vibration damping potential of a carbon bar, the invention popularization of wider rims, 25c tires, and more comfort-oriented frames makes this much less of an issue than it was even five years ago.  Against $300+ carbon bars, the FSAs’ roughly $95 price tag makes them look like a bargain.  The only downside?  The same bend can be had (along with another 30g or so, but without the flattened tops) in the $45 Omega Compact bars.  You really can’t go wrong either way.

marc

www.fullspeedahead.com

Comments

21 thoughts on “Review: FSA’s stiff, comfortable Energy stem and Compact bar

  1. This is the setup I’d rock, regardless of price. Carbon stems are even sillier than carbon clinchers and I like crash proof, or at least crash resistant bars.

  2. Please, I beg you to re-install your shift levers into the right place. Shift levers should never be pointed down. In order for you to hold the holds you have to extend your wrist which is not right. Rant over :-).

  3. Leven,

    That’s what the photo captions were getting at- the bars have been rotated down and the hoods up. That’s what happens when its late and you install bars in the stand: you end up doing it twice.

    marc

  4. 3D Bike Fit recommends these bars: they like the transition from hood to drop without a shift in back angle. I am personally clinging to my 26 mm stuff: I don’t like the higher mass and center bulge of 31.8 mm.

  5. I”m on my third set of FSA compact bars…. a pair of Wing Pro’s and an Omega…. all aluminum. The short forward extension means you can use a long stem, putting the top center section of the bar further forward (where it needs to be) and still be able to reach the hoods easily. The shallow drop means you can lower the bars on the steerer and still ride comfortably when in the drops. Someone at FSA was using the old noodle when they came up with these. I can’t say enough.

  6. Ahh, complaining about shifter angles, more proof that many BR commenters don’t actually read the article.

    I’ll probably grab a set of these this summer to replace the base level FSA stem and aluminum Vero bars, which I believe are the same dimensions as these. I really like the bend of the compact bar.

  7. Yeah, Al bars and stems are great- but please, please don’t cut steerer tubes shorter than the stem clamp. That Serotta probably has a metal steerer, but best practice still says 5mm spacer above the stem.

    Good on FSA for making different levels of components with the same dims- if you upgrade you know the position is the same; that’s awesome.

  8. I’ve got to be honest… Just about every FSA product that I’ve used has failed. I’m a professional bike mechanic who is beyond ocd with using torque wrenches and I still have seen faceplates crack (and snap), brakes that don’t stop, and crank bolts that come to beyond “wobbly” loose with cranks about to fall off.

    Now I’m not trying to drag a company through a ditch here, I’m sure the alloy bar and stem are beyond kosher and that FSA has worked out some bugs. But I want to see more long term reviews of product and I want to see a company strive towards making a more reliable product before they invest their time and money into making lighter weight chic items.

  9. Dudeguy,

    Thanks for a well-considered comment. That’s a surprise to me- though I have been out of the workshop for a while now. What I do know is that FSA’s carbon fiber cranksets are known for their tolerance for abuse- I’ve been beating the snot out of some SL-Ks for several years and a local shop owner swears by the K-Force set in the dirt. We’ll keep an eye on this stem as well as the SL-K set on the Project 24.2 singlespeed and let you know if anything changes for sure.

    marc

  10. @ Dudeguy and Marc – I work in a shop and concur with DG…. some of FSA’s components leave something to be desired when talking about longevity. That being said, I probably have over 7K miles on my first set of Wing Pro’s and am sure they will last as long as I will.

    One thing to keep in mind though is that FSA measures their bars at the end of the drops, NOT where the brakes mount. Because of that, and the flare outwards at the ends, if you want a 42, buy a 44.

  11. A huge number of professional racing cyclists still prefer using an aluminium bar. I’d have to agree with them.

  12. Can’t take this site serious when you bars and levers are not in the appropriate position.
    And that’s why I did not read this article and will start looking for other sites for better information.
    Mechanic for twenty years now and this is upsetting to say the least. Please fix this!

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