Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Matt Puzel
This year Spank Industries introduced the Spike 800 Race Handlebar, and one of the models features a new technology that aims to help alleviate arm pump and hand fatigue. Long, rough and fast tracks are often accompanied by arm pump, which, if you’ve ever experienced it, can feel crippling and definitely hold you back when it comes to riding at pace. Beyond just slowing you down, arm pump and hand fatigue can also be dangerous, especially if it gets bad enough to prevent you from keeping a good grip on your bars or from grabbing your brakes.
Spank's new technology, dubbed “Vibrocore,” was created to help reduce both these problems by damping the high-frequency vibrations that can travel through traditional aluminum bars. This is achieved by injecting the bar with low-density foam to form a vibration-absorbing core in order to reduce the amplitude of those vibrations by the time they reach your hands. Curious to see what this would translate to in the real world, we bolted up a bar and headed out on the trails to find out.
Spank Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Handlebar Highlights
- Length: 800mm
- Rise: 15 or 30mm
- Upsweep: 4 degrees
- Backsweep: 8 degrees
- Diameter: 31.8mm
- Weight: 335-grams
- Material: Super-6 MGR Alloy
- Construction: CNC Bent / Dual XGT Tapers
- Adjustability: New Longer Impact Ends allow for up to 60mm adjustment, between 740 to 800mm
- MSRP: $99 USD
So how does it work? Spank breaks it down in this description of the technology:
"The theory behind Spank’s Vibrocore impulse and fatigue damping system is simple. First, it's important to understand that like all forms of energy, the vibrational energy that is transmitted through your bars to your hands is made up of waves, which can be measured in amplitude and frequency. The more dense a material, the higher its ability to transmit these energy waves. Alloys have a very high density, and in turn transmit vibrational energy very effectively. Vibrocore is a complex, low density material which fills the core of the handlebar, reducing the frequency, amplitude, and duration of energy waves traveling through the handlebar.
Not only does the low density of the Vibrocore impede the transfer of energy, but as energy waves cross material boundaries from high density to low density within the bar, they are refracted and reflected (basically bounced in different directions), reducing their ability to build on one another (resonate) or sustain vibrational frequencies. Where competitors have been forced to design unwanted flexibility into their bars, Spank’s Vibrocore system also acts to reinforce the handlebar from the inside, making it stronger and stiffer, resulting in a more responsive performance and improved sensitivity. The result is a handlebar that feels incredibly strong and rigid, and acts to reduce impulse and vibrational fatigue."
Knowing we were getting a foam-filled handlebar that was a full 800mm wide, we weren’t quite sure what to expect weight-wise with the Spike 800 Race. To our surprise, it didn’t feel exceptionally heavy or out of the ordinary in any way. With the Vibrocore Foam Injection only adding 20 to 25 grams to the regular Spike 800, the Vibrocore version comes in at a very respectable 335-grams. The Vibrocore version of the Spike 800 also gets its own visual identity, with bold, loud, but not obnoxious graphics.In addition to the vibrant graphics, the finish of the Spike 800 handlebars is a somewhat matte black which helps those shiny colors pop a bit, a subtle but nice touch to further enhance the overall look of the bars. In general, the finish of the Spike bar was at the high level we have come to expect from Spank.
Reducing vibrations is something that the motocross community has been dealing with for a number of years, but the common technique of adding lead weight to the handlebar extremities obviously won't really fly on a mountain bike. Spank claims that a good way to deal with vibrations is to leverage refraction instead. Refraction changes the direction of any wave when it passes through materials with different density, and in this case, the hard foam core injected in the bar offers exactly that - a second body of very different density in contact with the main aluminum tube. Externally there are no clues of course, as the Vibrocore "magic" all happens inside, but the bar does have a different sound to it when you tap it. What would the story be on the trail?
In regards to installation, the Spike 800 installs like any other alloy bar, remove the faceplate of the stem, position the bar to whatever roll angle you prefer, torque the faceplate bolts back to spec and position all your controls. Trail time!
On The Trail
Coming directly off the Renthal Fatbar, perhaps one of the stiffest bar on the market, we noticed a few things right off the bat. The Spike 800 is still a pretty stiff bar, but our hands didn’t feel too beat up after long lift/shuttle days on the hill. The on-trail feel wasn’t vastly different to a traditional bar, but our hands were telling us something else was going on at the end of the day.
Our local hill features a few runs that average 7 to 10-minutes top to bottom. We noticed that only towards the end of the day did we start to feel a little arm pump, which is an improvement on our usual condition. Now, although the testing didn't take place in Whistler, with the only difference in our setup being the Spike 800 Race Vibrocore Handlebar, it does seem like the foam filling really helps.
In regards to the overall geometry, at 800mm this bar is wide. If you find yourself wanting to narrow things up a bit, Spike has some pre-labeled lengths etched on the bar telling you where to cut, and it can actually be reduced all the way down to 740mm. We opted to keep ours at full length for this test. The up- and back-sweep numbers felt good to us at 4 and 8-degrees, respectively. We rode the 30mm rise option which was perfect for our set-up, but know that a 15mm rise version is also available to allow you to tune in your handlebar height the way you prefer it.
Long Term Durability
With no major crashes or tree-hugging incidents whilst testing the Spike 800, we can’t comment on durability beyond saying the bar held up fine under one of our bigger test riders. What we can say towards long term durability regarding any handlebar though, is we replace them often, because if we actually pushed a bar to the end of its life, we’d be putting our own life in danger.
Things That Could Be Improved
There can always be improvements in our industry, but we can’t think of any for this product… I guess that’s why we’re not all product engineers. Maybe some color options can be made available in the future, and at some point, Spank might consider jumping on the 35mm diameter trend, if nothing else to make sure they have a compatible bar for people already invested in the new standard. Then again, Spank's founder, Gavin Vos, first introduced the 31.8mm standard to the industry years ago.
What’s The Bottom Line?
At 800mm wide and 335-grams, these bars are heavier than most high-end carbon options but they come in at just about half the price. Moreover, at just $99, you still get some of that carbon bar “feel” at the cost of an alloy handlebar. Price and weight aside, the highlight in our experience was the Vibrocore feature. Hand fatigue and arm pump can a big bummer for some, especially on bike trips where you’re putting in long days, one after the other. Being able to reduce fatigue and arm pump could be huge for the riders who have to deal with it. For those who don’t have to deal with those issues, the carbon “feel” of this bar for the price of an alloy bar alone makes it a cockpit option definitely worth checking out.
For more information, stay tuned to www.spank-ind.com.
About The Reviewer
Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.