Review by Kevin Shiramizu // Action photos by Damian Breach
When Kore was making their comeback effort a few years ago, they sent out their OCD bars and Repute stem for testing. I was thoroughly impressed by the finish quality and the attention to detail given their affordable cost. Most companies making comebacks seem to rebrand some catalog stuff and throw it out there, while Kore seemed to be doing their homework the right way. Now that it's 2015 and they've re-solidified their presence, it's time to check in on their most recent developments, including the new 35-mm diameter versions of the same bar and stem I tested a couple years ago.
OCD M35 Handlebar Highlights
- AL7050-T6 Triple Butted
- 35-mm Diameter
- 800-mm Width
- 25-mm Rise
- 5x7-degree Upsweep/Backsweep
- Dual Anodized Finish in Black, Red, Grey and Silver with HRT Graphics
- Weight: 9.1-ounces (257-g)
- MSRP: $88 USD
Repute M35 Stem Highlights
- AL6061 T6 3D Forged with Post CNC
- 35-mm Clamp Diameter
- 50-mm Length
- Zero Degree Rise
- 1 1/8 Steerer Diameter
- 35-mm Stack Height
- CNC Center Bore To Reduce Weight
- Cross Clamp Steerer Bolts
- Polished Black and White Colors
- Weight: 5.8-ounces (165-g)
- MSRP: $81 USD
Same as before with the bars: “These are really wide, damn.” As for the stem, it shows off the same finish quality as before. If you had just handed these to me without saying anything, I probably wouldn’t have noticed they are a “new product” for a long moment. Visually they are very similar, save the larger clamp diameter.
Installation was smooth and easy as any new bar/stem combo should be. While there is nothing fancy about the stem, we appreciate the simplicity. There’s no revolutionary clamping system, no fancy bolt arrangement, just two on the steerer and four on the bars with some relatively smooth lines all around, again, to make a block of metal as kind to your knees as possible. The bars have the same graphics as before with the exception of the number 35 on them. They retain the cut guide marks for width like the previous version, which comes in real handy as very few riders really need bars as wide as the stock 800mm width. Most mountain bikers are not 6’8” but Kore does the right thing here and delivers a super wide bar to you that you can trim down to preference. It’s easier to cut bars than it is un-cut them. Kudos, Kore.
Interestingly, the 35-mm version of the bar is actually 28-grams lighter than the same width 31.8-mm version, another small benefit. The weight difference in the stems is negligible.
Apart from the clamp size, by all appearances, this is basically the same thing that I rode a couple of years ago. What would be different about it on the trail?
On The Trail
The 31.8-mm versions of these bars at full width provided some significant flex. Not a scary amount but enough that you couldn’t ignore it. It was one of my few concerns with the old setup. The full width version of the 35-mm bars in my very rudimentary scientific parking lot experiments proved to have much less deflection than the cut down 31.8mm version I had around for comparison. Notch for the 35-mm set up before even hitting the dirt.
Once I got out on the trail and started smashing into stuff, I felt immediately comfortable with the angles of the bars. What I didn’t like was smashed pinkies from the added width so I trimmed the bars down to my normal operating size and went back out for another ride. From the second ride onwards, the bars and stem felt great, did their job, and never slipped or creaked. But I couldn’t help wondering, how was this any different to the set up I tested in 2013?
I mounted up the old 31.8-mm versions and rode the next time on the same trail. They felt more flexy at first and I had more arm pump by the bottom of the 10-minute descent. Back to the 35-mm version for the next ride, again on the same trail, and voila - everything felt stiffer and curiously I had less arm pump by the bottom of the trail. Now this is not a significant sample size for a test to conclusively prove that the 35-mm version caused me less arm pump. Correlation isn’t causation. But I will say that I have less arm pump to report in general on the 35-mm version.
The 35-mm combo's added stiffness was most apparent when pushing hard into bermed turns when the load on the bars was big and slow. G-outs were another place where the difference was noticeable. When plowing through choppy/fast hits, the stiffness was less noticeable and some would argue that less stiff might even be better here. I've read marketing mumbo jumbo about how the 35-mm standard allows companies to more easily control the flex of the bars to make them more compliant but also stronger. If there's any truth to that then great news. I might also accept sugar-pills and embrace the placebo effect as a viable answer. Either way, the 35-mm bars ride nicely.
The overall feel of the bigger clamp standard is similar to going from QR to thru-axle or straight to tapered steerers though not as drastic of a change. Your front end will just feel a bit tighter and more responsive. It's hard for me to quantify how much better, but it is vaguely better. Is it "take your current 31.8 stuff and throw it in the trash" better? No, that's a big fat no. But it is "I'm already shopping for bars/stem so these are worth a look" better. It's a minor, incremental upgrade to performance, and that is a step of progress that you might as well make the next time you're building up a ride.
Long Term Durability
Same as the old versions of these products - use a torque wrench and ride on. I see no issues with durability compared to anything else on the market. I still think aluminum bars have a finite lifespan and it’s better to dispose of them after a year or two (or after big crashes with scrapes left deep in the metal) than it is to find out to the exact moment how long they can last, but that’s not specific to these products, that’s just bars in general.
What's The Bottom Line?
If it ain’t broke, why fix it? That was the question I had in mind as I approached this test. The 31.8-mm versions of these products lasted me over a year of riding before they migrated to the spare parts pile, and they never had an issue. They didn’t need to be fixed. But the 35-mm setup is undeniably stiffer and may have made my weak little arms last longer for downhills. That difference in flex is most noticeable in the parking lot though, and after 5-minutes spent on either set up, I felt pretty much accustomed to either as the new normal.
The 35-mm setup didn’t change my life or rock my world, so it is really worth a new “standard” in the game? Normally I’d be hugely opposed to a new standard that offers relatively minor gains. But with bars and a stem, I think it’s an easier pill to swallow. It seems like people buy cockpits for their bikes as package deals more often than not, so buying a stem and bars is not a big deal. Also, the change in “standard” doesn’t affect any other parts so the influence on budget doesn’t ripple out very far. These will probably migrate to your next bike just fine unlike the mess of hubs, wheel sizes, cranks, and bottom brackets that you’ll be dealing with for your next bike purchase. So overall, it's pretty harmless as far as a new standard goes. 31.8-mm stuff ain’t broke and it doesn’t need to be fixed, but if you’re in the market for a new set of bars and stem, don’t rule 35-mm out. And getting back to the subject of this review, Kore has done a good job of executing the new standard on an otherwise already great product.
Visit www.kore-usa.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Kevin Shiramizu has been riding mountain bikes for over 15 years. During that time he accumulated multiple state championships in Colorado for XC and trials riding, a junior national champ title in trials, and went to Worlds to get his ass kicked by euros in 2003. His riding favors flat corners and sneaky lines. After a doozy of a head injury, he hung up the downhill bike for good in early 2010 and now foolishly rides a very capable trail bike with less protection and crashes just as hard as ever. He likes rough, technical trails at high elevation, but usually settles for dry, dusty, and blown out. He spent five good years of his youth working in bike shops and pitched in efforts over the years with Decline, LitterMag, Dirt, and Vital MTB. He also helped develop frames and tires during his time as a guy who occasionally gets paid to ride his bike in a fancy way in front of big crowds of people.