You need chutzpah to explain to your loved ones why you need to spend the cost of an entry-level city bike on… the bit that does the steering. But assuming you can swing it, the gorgeous Bontrager Race X Lite IsoZone VR-CF handlebar oozes quiet luxury, with a subtly alluring carbon finish and neatly molded cable grooves.
Its lack of mass is impressive: our 42cm bar weighed in at 233g including the red ‘IsoZone’ pads, about 100g lighter than the aluminum version. It’s also getting on for four times the price…
- Highs: Vibration damping, weight, shape
- Lows: There’s no getting past the price
The adhesive-backed IsoZone foam pads that cover the bar’s contact points are designed to reduce the amount of vibration transmitted to your hands. They’re made from a material with perceptible ‘squish’ which, as we discovered, can be undermined by excessively tight bar tape – it’s likely that Bontrager’s own stuff would be a better choice than the Lizardskins we were using, as its stretchiness permits a looser wrap.
Related: How to wrap bar tape
It’s open to question how great a difference the pads can make, as you are still very much in contact with the bar with your fingers wrapped around it, but we’re not sure how much it matters anyway, as the bar itself does a good job damping vibrations.
We fitted ours to a cyclocross bike along with Bontrager’s very competent, if unexciting, Race Lite stem (as pictured) and took it along some rough roads where it performed admirably, effectively muting the sting of rock and rut impacts while offering precise handling.
The slightly flared drops (about 3cm wider than the hoods, across which bars are measured) add wrist clearance and make for confident descending, while the semi-ergo bend (123mm drop, 85mm reach) is a great hybrid of bar styles.
Tire pressure, wheel construction and frame design are hugely important factors in comfort, but on more neglected backroads, we welcome any morsel of respite.
Bar choice is always personal to an extent, but if you’re prepared to stump up the cash, there’s a great deal to like about this.