Tested: Easton's Havoc 35 Bars and Stems - Is Bigger Really Better? 15

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.

Tested: Easton's Havoc 35 Bars and Stems - Is Bigger Really Better?

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.

Tested: Easton's Havoc 35 Bars and Stems - Is Bigger Really Better?

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.

Disclaimer: This isn't Hazard County. We were having way too much fun to take pictures!

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.

www.eastoncycling.com/havoc35

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15 comments
  • muchentuchen

    7/29/2012 4:54 AM

    I'd try 'em. Been running Full Ons for quite some time now.

  • erwinmruiz

    6/25/2012 6:31 PM

    Im gonna rock some of these, I feel you Iceman2058. Progression is always good

  • iceman2058

    5/21/2012 11:29 PM

    Well we have all learned to be healthily sceptical about "innovation" from product companies, fair enough, but I'm surprised at the amount of negativity here in the comments. Looks like a legit case of a company trying to build something better, specifically for the more aggressive side of MTB. Like most other parts we use on our bikes, the standards need to evolve away from their XC/road origins, all of which is leading us to today's "lighter stronger slacker" bikes....surely a good thing?

  • bambam

    5/21/2012 5:14 PM

    SO if the 31.8 version is 'bombproof' and Easton recommends it if you want to cut your bars down below 750mm why do we need this bigger bar?
    - He was unnerved getting back on his old bars. Was that because of all those bar failures you'd suffered from with them?
    - No, it was because (according to the reviewer) when your bar flexes, it returns at the same rate. Which is why your bars shake perpetually when you flex them, even after you've stepped off the bike and gone to get a drink. You come back the next week and there they are still shaking. The rate never diminishes. Bigger bars don't do this because the extra money you pay soaks up the vibration. Isaac Newton proved this.

  • bturman

    5/21/2012 5:51 PM

    bambam, I can appreciate the skepticism. I was a skeptic too, and then I actually used the bars. Let's step through this.

    Easton decided to go bigger so that bars wider than 750 would have the same or better ride characteristics than their 750 offering. With increased leverage comes larger forces.

    No, it wasn't due to the any failures I'd experienced. There is a very definite and noticeable difference between the two types of bars. After riding the 35s, the 31.8s felt pretty flimsy in comparison. Yes, the vibration of the bars is damped but at nowhere near the same rate as your fork. Surely you can see the benefit to having your fork do more of the work.

    I'm not saying these are the be all, end all bars. Your 31.8s are just peachy. Then again, so were quick release wheels and then something better came along.

  • craig.manning.52

    5/20/2012 7:09 AM

    Its all marketing hype and crap, easton says its stiffer, some reviewer says "its great, it totally changed my riding, I'm stoked", then the masses go out and buy it and it really doesnt make that much of a difference. Its how the companies increase their sales and keep themselves in business. You didnt expect this review to say " the bigger ID felt that same as my 31.8mm bars and didnt do anything for my riding" did you? If it did it wouldnt be published.

  • erwinmruiz

    6/25/2012 6:34 PM

    So I assume have you tested the 35 combo?

  • bjenson

    5/20/2012 9:47 AM

    craig the cold war is over. you can come out of your bomb shelter.

    the reviewer rode old and new bars back to back twice. seems like a valid comparison to me.

  • OCsponger587

    5/20/2012 10:48 AM

    by your logic this has to be youre current bike. anything newer is only full of hype

  • iceman2058

    5/21/2012 1:37 AM

    Looks like a Trek!

  • danielfox

    5/20/2012 1:59 AM

    Great review. This is the very first review in vital that I can read the full article without hitting the 'NEXT' button 23 times.

  • bturman

    5/20/2012 10:22 AM

    Cheers. Pro Tip: You can use your right arrow key to skip to the next image in galleries.

  • Snfoilhat

    5/19/2012 9:33 PM

    This comment could apply to 1000+ different reviews by any of 100+ reviewers; it's nothing personal
    I don't believe stiffness is a figment of the imagination, and I wouldn't lighten up a bike or reduce a build's cost by running PVC pipe as a handlebar. But the bike industry, from engineers to marketers to media guys (print/web/sponsored brand ambassadors/racers), have given consumers (me/you) zero tools to discriminate and compare, and so every single claim about stiffness relys on faith, the authority of the source, and some reason (a tube, all other things equal, is stronger w/ bigger ID, or some such). The companies presumably do the tests of how a bar reacts to fast, low-amplitude stresses (vibration), and slow, high-amplitude stresses (flexiness), but all we get is one stupid word: stiff. Stiffer. Stiffer than last year, than the other guy's bar, than the bike with the same setup I rode 5 min ago. It sounds good, but there's no way to show it's not just the reviewer's confirmation bias (he or she knows which bar is the one that's supposed to be more stiff). Give us something we can use, please. Thanks!

  • bturman

    5/19/2012 11:06 PM

    Snfoilhat, you bring up a great point. We're never provided with true measurements of stiffness which would allow us to accurately compare two bars. What Easton did provide us with in their literature, however, is a statement saying that the "Havoc 35 handlebars are 21% stiffer than traditional 31.8mm designs." I assume they are referencing their own 31.8 bars in that statement and are talking about flexural/bending stiffness, but it is rather vague.

    Performing a simple calculation where flexural stiffness = EI would likely yield something around the quoted 21%. Considering the fact that the wall thickness varies along the bars and the shape is not a straight cylinder, there's much more to consider into the equation so I could be way off base.

    Having said that, I just went out to the garage to experiment a little. While I don't have an accurate way of measuring the deflection at the ends of the bars, when I really put my back into it and wrench on a pair of 31.8 bars and then do the same to the set of 35s with a comparable amount of force, it's plainly obvious to me that the 35s are deflecting less, and are therefore stiffer.

    Anyway, your comment has piqued my interest as well. I'll get in touch with the boys at Easton and see if we can get some more numbers involved.

  • mjcedeno

    5/19/2012 8:08 PM

    Both bars are alum?

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