This isn’t a full review. A quick breakdown of a product that could, and does, work really well but doesn’t suit my bike and setup. The $325 / £325 Flexx bar from Fasst Company is produced in the USA and its name suggests its purpose: its a flexing, or suspension handlebar. It’s another reminder of why independent MTB reviews don’t exist: I paid full price for this bar and used it a couple of days before realising it would not work for me. This a reminder of the glory days working in paid-for media where all the nice products turn up at the door, and if they don’t work for you, they are simply added to the pile of discarded products and not to the pile, or pit, of debt.
Product Tested: Flexx DH 12º Alloy
Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
Weight: 550 grams (Claimed)
Back sweep: 8° or 12°
Center Tube Width: 73mm
Materials: American Made UD carbon, 7075 Aluminum, Ti-6Al-4V
Effective suspension travel: 5°, length of bar dictates overall travel.
I had a carbon 8º Flexx bar a few years ago when I was working at PB. I never published a full review of that product due to time and component constraints, but I did ride it for a few days and it really seemed to work well. I tried all the elastomer options and the two firmest options seemed to be the best, the softer options felt really vague as it was too soft for my riding weight and style. Fasst has a great information guide on their site to choose the correct elastomer and say anything “that doesn’t feel right” probably means it’s too soft, and I would fully agree from my experience. I never finished that initial test with some proper back-to-back testing but they did feel really damn good: with the correct elastomer, they feel just like a normal bar while riding but have some added give to take the harshness out of some impacts and relieve the amount of vibration arriving at the grips.
Building my silver Supreme-Supreme this spring I chose some 12º alloy Flexx bars with the idea to test them back-to-back against my favourite SQlab bars as they both had 12º backsweep. When fitting, I was instantly reminded of an issue with the bicycle industry and handlebar specs: the numbers quoted can vary a lot between different products and brands and there are no standards or references to check against. Backsweep and upsweep numbers rely a lot on the angle the bar is rolled to, and the feeling of the roll is also related to the head angle.
I set up the Flexx bar to have a similar feeling and shape to my SQlab bar, this comfortable position meant the Flexx was rolled very far forwards and the pivots were almost pointing backwards compared to the fork. It was a few years since the previous test with the 8º bar on a Nicolai G1 but I don’t remember them being at such an extreme angle compared to the HA of that bike which was also around 62º.
Cyclorise ( the UK store where I bought the bar) and Fasst both messaged me at some point saying they had seen my Instagram posts and the pivots should be inline, or close to inline with the fork and head tube angle. If not, this means the bar cannot properly absorb impacts and could possibly get damaged or cause premature wear to the pivots: that all makes complete sense. And now arises the problem for me and my bike.
I then lined up the handlebar pivots to match the fork angle, about 62º on that bike. When these were inline, it felt like it was sweeping downwards and had way too much backsweep. One of the reasons I like the SQlab bar with more backsweep is that I can roll it forwards slightly and get more upsweep. Personally, I find more upsweep is more important for a strong riding position: elbows out with less tendency to collapse inwards. I think this is often confused with too much backsweep, but, again all comes down to specific bar numbers, cut width, rider size, etc.
So that’s my whole short review. I’m sure the Flexx bars work really well. But they definitely do not work for me and my bike/head angle/preferences. The 8º option might work better, but it’s a very expensive thing to take another punt on.
This is the Flexx DH bar, so I think the bar geometry should be modified to a more forwards position when fitted to a bike with a suitable DH head angle between 61.5º and 63.5º. As mentioned earlier, there are no standards or references on any bar manufacturers’ sites to try and find preferred sweeps and rises so we are all playing guessing games with these numbers. Also for a DH bar, I would also like to see a higher rise option as I’m struggling to find many taller bars with good backsweep to suit direct-mount stems that are generally very low stack.
Like always, the Moto world is ahead of us. Fasst Flexx website offers a huge amount of data and setup guide on bar geometry to cross-reference against other products. Renthal also has tons of data to reference bars too, they even have a calculator to compare different bars.
Update: I emailed Fasst Flexx before posting this review and they responded promptly. Absolutely fantastic communication from these guys who obviously care a lot about their customers, unlike, say, a green suspension brand who never bothered to reply to me, took a slice of my money from the refund I was owed, and was poked by one of their distribs online a few times for complaining about something that I bought at full price that did not work properly.
Fasst Company get a mega-triple-thumbs-up from me in this department.
They agreed with me that this sweep and bar geometry is not going to work well for a tall rider on a DH bike. They think it works well for XC/bikepacking and for smaller riders on enduro/DH bikes or anything with a steeper head angle. They are planning to update their website copy to reflect this, so that’s another little win for my independent reviews and #buildbikebetter. They are also working on new products for the MTB industry, though they are slightly behind on those as Moto is their main focus.
Here is a quote from Chris Tidwell via email, Vice President of Fasst Company:
To address the concerns of a consumer, I feel all of your points are valid for sure. One thing you mentioned in your draft was how far ahead the moto industry is with regard to fitment, bar charts, cross-referencing, etc. Our short-term goal is to start the process on the MTB side as well. The funny thing is, there’s very little variety in bar bends across the Mtb industry so the list will be much easier to compile than it was/is for the moto side.We also still believe in direct contact with our customers, whether you purchase from us or elsewhere, we’re here to help. You will find that we have a great reputation for customer service and that is very important to us. We understand that our product is different and expensive, so our number one goal is to make sure our customers are confident going into their purchase, we want to take all the guesswork out. We answer the phone and return messages (our phone number is super easy to find on our site too!), return emails ridiculously fast (but we are closed Friday-Sunday) and thoroughly enjoy talking bike set up and ergo’s with our customers, it’s what we do. The last thing we want is for a customer to drop $350 on a set of bars and not be happy with the fit. As noted, our moto website has a ton of info to cross-reference and compare other brand handlebars. However, we still get a tremendous amount of emails and calls to discuss bar bends, customers stating, “There’s just too much info and I’m confused.”We will have our bar chart and cross reference chart dialed on our MTB site soon along with more videos, more tech tips and more videos on ergos and bike set up. However in the meantime, we are always here to answer any questions a potential customer may have!
To be continued… but while you wait, these bars are available to win on my website: this pair has been used for three days and is the 2nd Prize. The 1st lucky winner will have a choice of any alloy bar option purchased by me from Fasst Company. I’m confident that with the right product and setup these are a great option if you need to give your hands a break.