I am no stranger to one-piece road handlebar-and-stem combinations. It was in 2007 that I sampled my first one-piece combo, the Pro Stealth Evo. I remember marveling at its sleek proportions, the relatively low weight, the hand-friendly shape of the tops and drops. It was strikingly beautiful and different, and it was only very recently that I donated it after stubbornly keeping it in a parts bin unused for years.
One-piece handlebar-and-stem combos were considered exotica 14 years ago, but they’re practically standard-issue today, at least on higher-end drop-bar bikes. They still look fantastic — especially when the styling is designed to match the frames and forks to which they’re mated — and thanks to more advanced understanding of fiber composite construction, they can be both ultra-stiff and remarkably comfortable, all while also being lighter than most traditional two-piece systems.
The bike industry has often displayed an unyielding affection for something I’ll called “erism”. If light is good, lighter is better. The same goes for other aspects like stiffness, aerodynamics, etc., with seemingly little consideration for where a tipping point might lie.
In the case of one-piece controls, the issue lies in what has been sacrificed in this endless pursuit.
As much as I was enamored with that old Pro front end, the old mechanic in me always loathed the internal routing. That was back in the days of cable actuated rim brakes, mind you, and those lines were only internal through the bar tops; the rest was external as was once customary.
Now, “erism” has resulted in all of the hoses, housings, and wires being completely hidden from view, convolutedly snaking through the handlebar and stem all the way into the frame, unsightly blights that don’t dare be seen by prying eyes. To the general buying public looking at these ultra-modern machines on the showroom floor or perfectly lit web site photos, the end result is gorgeous, and for the fortunate few, those clean lines might even help justify the ever-increasing prices of halo models.
But what have we given up as a result?
Our Field Test group bike tests are by no means paid events, but they’re still only possible with some outside support.
CyclingTips would like to thank the following sponsors for this round of the Field Test:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Companyhttps://sierranevada.com/
Lead Out Gearhttps://leadoutgear.com/