Review: ANVL ARC Direct Mount Stem & Spacer System, Plus Mandrel Handlebar
Last year as Sea Otter, ANVL debuted a brand new line of mountain bike components, which officially launched in September after undergoing further testing and refinement.
Developed in the perpetually wet Pacific Northwest (which is also home to some of the worlds best trail networks), the individual products are designed to be light and comfortable, without sacrificing strength. In addition to those core values, ANVL is also proud of their design language. A process which they proudly share on their website.
We recently received a box full of product from the fledgling company and have them mounted up the products to various bikes in our test fleet. While we’re busy putting more ride time on some those products, you can drop past the break for a full review of the new ANVL Arc DM stem and Mandrel handlebar.
Pictured L to R is the weight for the 5mm spacer, 2.5mm spacer, and the additional longer mounting hardware.
For an additional $29.99, a direct mount spacer kit is available to help you fine tune your bar height. The system includes two spacers – a 2.5mm and 5mm – and is significantly cheaper than buying a new handlebar with a higher rise.
The 800 mm wide Mandrel handlebar is available in two different rises, a 20 and a 35mm. Our 35mm bar hit the scale at 304 gms, which is 8 gm less than the claimed.
Just a note, when installing a two piece DM stem, don’t forget to install the handlebar at this point. You cannot slide the handlebar into position with both clamps installed on the crown.
The Santa Cruz V10 has a notoriously low front end, so their World Cup race team have been using direct mount spacers to help raise their handlebars. That strategy has paid off for three time World Champ Greg Minaaar, so we decided to hop on the band wagon.
The two piece DM spacer kit gives you the ability to adjust the stem by upto 7.5mm, but since we were pairing the Arc stem with a higher rise bar, we decided to experiment first with the 5mm spacer.
Torque settings are subtle etched onto the stem
The stem uses the new 35mm standard and has a fairly wide stance, which nicely frames the handlebars subdued graphic. The handlebars can be easily “cut to fit,” and have a comfortable 6 degrees up and 7 degrees back sweep. The exact specifications are listed on each bar, where they are easily hid by the grip. Like all of the ANVL components, the handlebars are available in blue, red, and black. Retail for the Mandrel bar is $89.99
On the Trail
Switching to a higher rise stem and bar may not have transformed us into World Cup Pros, but it did offer significant advantages when the trail got steep. The ARC DM stem is a beautifully designed component that was simple to work on and provides excellent value. At $30, the stem spacer kit is far cheaper than a new handlebar and offer a good range of adjustability for those who find themselves tweaking their bike for different race courses, etc…
The Mandrel handlebars also offer a comfortable sweep that was easy to adjust too and the weight was reasonable for a 35mm aluminum bar. Steering felt precise and was not plagued by the overly harsh feeling of the 35mm bars that first hit the market. As a groupset, we really liked the how the low key graphics of the bar complimented the design of the stem, although if we had to nitpick, we’d like to see a textured clamping area. That said, we did not have any issues with slipping, and instantly felt comfortable with the cockpit setup.
If you’re in the market for a simple clean handlebar setup that won’t leave you feeling like a billboard, the ANVL Arc Stem and Mandrel handlebar are well worth a look. The products work well together, didn’t slip, and we felt comfortable riding them immediately.