Tested: Easton's Havoc 35 Bars and Stems - Is Bigger Really Better?
by Brandon Turman
I'm sitting here at the Moab Brewery after completing the Whole Enchilada, an epic ride that descends thousands of feet from the La Sal Mountains into Moab, Utah. My task? To produce an honest review of Easton's new Havoc 35 bars and stems.
Maybe it's the post ride beer, but I'm still buzzing about the ride. Burro Pass, the uppermost portion of the Whole Enchilada network, was closed due to snow, so we started at Hazard County. Hazard is a high speed, super flowy, and oh-so-fun trail that rests at the footsteps of the La Sal Mountains. You then drop down onto a flat out portion of the Kokapelli Trail, and finally connect with the renowned Porcupine Ridge Trail. Each section is amazing and challenging in its own way, and the trail was so diverse it proved to be a great place to really test out the Havoc 35 gear. From the swoopy, flowy goodness that is Hazard County to the super rocky stretches on Porcupine, the trail really does have it all, and it provided some great insight into the effect this new 35mm "standard" has on a bike.
I'm currently riding a 2012 Trek Slash. It's an incredible machine, but when I picked it up a few weeks ago, I immediately swapped the stock stem and bars for Easton's new bits. My preferred setup is a 50mm stem and wide bars on all of my bikes, and Easton's ano green bars matched the "Green Machine" perfectly.
How wide? Easton's new bars come in a whopping 800mm width. That's too wide for my narrow-shouldered build, so, aided by the handy markings on the bars, I chopped them to 765ish. One thing to note here - if you're planning to chop them down to less than 750mm, Easton actually recommends you stick with their 31.8mm Havoc Carbon bar. Why? Well, for starters the 31.8 version is bombproof, but the real reason is due to the massive taper on the new 35mm setup. If you trim the bars to anything less than 750, you may not have room to space out your levers properly because the clamps will stop at the taper. Like I tell all of my riding buddies, wider is better anyway, so don't even consider cutting these beauties to less than 750mm.
Hazard County is arguably one of the funnest segments of trail near Moab, especially at speed. It winds back and forth, from perfect turn to perfect turn along a nice decline. You can really rail the heck out of the trail if you're getting after it. A little ways into the descent, I started to really push the bars into each turn. My speed seemed to increase around every berm as I pumped in and out of turns, and as I railed the Slash down the hillside and began to leap from turn to turn, I realized the incredible sensation that the bars certainly played a part in. I was able to place the front end exactly where I wanted it, when I wanted it there. In those fleeting moments coming out of each turn, it was plainly obvious to me that Easton's new 35mm setup was meant for the front of my ride.
As I made my way down the trail, I began to wonder what the super rocky sections of Porcupine Ridge would be like. Would I get arm pump? Would my hands tingle from vibrations when skipping across the chatter? To my surprise, my arms and hands did not feel more fatigued than normal. It seems Easton, in conjunction with Team Lapierre, took their time during the development and testing phase with these bars. Through the use of their TaperWall butting process, they have deadened any increase in vibration as a result of having a stiffer bar.
All told, I've been running the Havoc 35 line for one month and have had zero issues. There has been no creaking, no stripped bolts, and no gnarly gashes in the metal or carbon despite a few good tumbles. Durability and build quality seem to be on par with the other Easton products I've tested.
During my stay in Moab I've also had the opportunity to ride a rough and rocky shuttle trail several times. I took that opportunity to ride two of Vital's DH test rigs back to back, two runs on each. One bike is equipped with Havoc 35, the other with a standard 31.8mm diameter bar, both of the same width.
How to liken to experience to you? Well, if you've ever ridden a bike with a quick release front wheel, then switched to a similar setup but with a 20mm axle, you'll know the feeling I experienced. The Havoc 35 turned what I thought was a stiff front end into something noticeably stiffer. It was honestly a little unnerving to get back on the bike with 31.8 bars, even though I absolutely love the bike. It really was that big of a difference.
Now then, bigger means heavier, right? Not so with these bars. Miraculously, Easton claims the weight actually decreased when they went from 31.8 to 35mm. The Havoc 35 Carbon runs just 205 grams and the aluminum version is 300 grams, which is 10% less than the 31.8 Havoc. There's certainly nothing to complain about there.
I'd like to get across one final point before I wrap this up, and it's a very logical one. When a bar flexes, however slightly, it will rebound at very near the same rate it was flexed at. Unlike your fork, that rebound is relatively undamped, meaning it's fast and harsh. Due to the increased stiffness of the Havoc 35 system, it flexes less than what I was used to, which meant that the overall rebound of my front end after an impact was more controlled. That super fancy fork was doing more of the work it was designed to do in the first place, which makes a lot of sense to me.
What's the bottom line?
First it was bigger stanchions, then bigger axles, then bigger steerer tubes - all in the pursuit of a stiffer front end. Easton's Havoc 35 bar and stem combo truly is the next step in the progression, and it's a change Vital MTB supports. Bigger, stronger, stiffer, better? Easton nailed it with their tagline, and we'll gladly continue to rock the Havoc 35 lineup on our entire range of test bikes. Given all the benefits, this will likely be a true industry "standard" before you know it.