Review by Dave Trumpore // Photos by Dave Trumpore and Gary Perkin
FSA’s Afterburner line of mountain bike components have suited cross-country and trail riders quite well over the years, offering reliable and lightweight performance. The lineup includes handlebars and stems, which come in various rise, width, and length options. The alloy stem was recently redesigned to reduce weight, and has a new faceplate as well. Let’s see how the combo faired on trail.
Afterburner Handlebar Highlights
- Material: AL7050/T6, Triple-Butted, Tapered and Shot-Peened
- Clamp Size: 31.8mm
- Width: Low Riser - 630, 685, or 740mm // Flat - 600, 620, 660, 670, or 680mm
- Rise: Low Riser - 15mm // Flat - 0mm
- Upsweep: Low Riser - 4° // Flat - 0°
- Backsweep: Low Riser - 9° // Flat - 9°
- Colors: Sand Blasted with Polished Black Anodized Finish
- Weight: 7.6 to 9.5-ounces (215 to 270 g)
- MSRP: $74.99 (685mm) // $89.99 (740mm)
Afterburner Stem Highlights
- Material: 3D Forged and CNC Machined from AL6061/T6
- Hardware: Cr-Mo Steel
- Clamp Size: 31.8mm, 4-Bolt Cold Forged
- Length: 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, or 130mm
- Rise: ±6°
- Steer Diameter: 1 1/8-inch
- Colors: Sandblasted Black with Polished Black Anodized
- Weight: 5.1-ounces (144 g) for 100mm stem
- MSRP: $69.99
It was evident that this was a pretty lightweight setup as soon as I held the bar and stem in my hands. I appreciated the proven and simple stem design with no strange shapes or hard machined edges. The Afterburner bar and stem have clean lines finished with a nice shiny polish. The bar is shot-peened at both ends.
On The Trail
As it should be, the bars and stem were a breeze to install and set up, and it only took a few minor rotation adjustments until I found that sweet spot. The stem can be mounted with a slight positive or negative 6° rise, and I stuck with the positive for the duration of the testing period. All in all everything felt natural with the up and backsweep of the bar being spot on and comfortable for both climbing and descending.
I was presently surprised to find the stem/bar interface to be quite stiff, despite its minimalist design and lightweight. While the bars may not be the stiffest thing in the world, I for one find that to be a good thing. Having never liked overly rigid aluminum bars, it was good to have something that took the edge off trail vibration without sacrificing handling. The 60mm stem felt great on the two medium sized bikes that I tested it on, and the 740mm (29-inch) bars were great in the tight and twisty stuff, but often left me wishing for a bit more width when the speed picked up.
Things That Could Be Improved
Two things really stood out that could use a bit of improvement. First, the stem's face plate does not line up with the hash marks on the handle bar, and it would be nice to be able to quickly center the bars and reference the angle they are set to. With many manufactures providing this feature I was disappointed to see it overlooked, especially with the amount that I teardown bikes to put in bike boxes and travel.
My other gripe is with the width. 760mm (30-inches) is the minimum standard for DH bikes, and with modern trail bikes being capable of tackling the roughest of terrain at speed, I just couldn't love these bars at just 740mm (29-inches). I’d much prefer to cut a 785 or 800mm bar down to size as I'll taker too wide over too narrow any day. If you do decide to cut the bars, there are no cutting guides so measure twice.
If really pressed to be picky, I would like to see the stem offered in a shorter length than 60mm as well, as the trend for bigger wheels and longer top tubes combined with shorter stems is one I quite like.
Long Term Durability
I have had the bars and stem mounted on a few different bikes for the past few months and have ridden in rain, snow, and seemingly endless dust with nothing coming loose or creaking. I have even managed a few good crashes, one severe enough to destroy a helmet with no damage to the bars and no twisting of the stem. The finish is quite good as well, and there is little to no scuffing or scratching despite being installed and uninstalled at least six times. The steel hardware is also still in great shape.
What's The Bottom Line?
In my opinion, if a bar and stem are light but manage to stay tight, stiff, and straight regardless of riding style or terrain ridden, then they are a winner. The FSA Afterburner bar and stem provided good control, no creaking came from the bolts, nothing bent, and nothing twisted. Cockpit components should be set and forget parts, and other than the relatively narrow width, there was never any reason for me to give them a second thought.
Visit www.fullspeedahead.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Dave Trumpore’s 20-year riding career has seen him sling a leg over the best and the worst the mountain bike industry has produced during that time. From Junior Expert XC in his early racing days to Pro DH from 1998-2009, a handful of World Cup finals take pride of place on Dave’s resume. Not being the biggest guy out there he has a smooth style focused on carrying speed rather than smashing his way down the trail. He has always taken a very technical approach to bike setup, in particular with suspension and brakes. After trading number plates for a camera, Dave can now be found chasing the fastest riders on the planet when he’s not out racking up thousands of feet climbing and descending while exploring the vast high alpine trail networks of the Rocky Mountains.