Thomson released several new handlebar models in 2012, including an aluminum downhill bar. While Thomson’s new carbon bars are making some serious waves, they are not currently producing any carbon DH bars. When asked if they will produce a carbon bar in the future, Thomson responded:
We could and we may, but downhill riding and racing involves the potential for fairly frequent, big crashes. Every time you crash on a carbon bar you may damage it, but you may not know. An aluminum bar will bend when it has been taken beyond safe limits. A bent bar should be retired.
So for now, Thomson is sticking to aluminum for the downhill market. But what a beauty of a bar it is!
Thomson’s Downhill bar measures in at 780mm wide with a 31.8mm clamping surface, 12mm of rise, 6 degrees of backsweep, 4 degrees of upsweep, and all of that in a 295-gram package. This reasonable weight is thanks in part to the lightweight 7050 aluminum, which also provides superior strength and long life.
The bar is designed to mesh perfectly with Thomson’s own Elite X4 Stem or Direct Mount Stem, but it will play well with other stem combinations (as my test can verify).
As far as construction, according to Thomson:
Bar is produced by advanced CNC bending to avoid the need for hand grinding. Almost all other bars are manually bent and bends are ground to appear smooth. CNC bending ensures very consistent wall thickness and close tolerances, especially in tapered sections. This keeps weight low and fatigue life high.
Out on the Trail
Since I tend to pedal and push to the top of my descents, I threw the DH bar on my AM trail bike. Generally, whenever I hop on this bike, I’m going to be thrashing some nasty trails!
This test was no different. I had the opportunity to shred some gnarly backcountry trails in Pisgah National Forest over Memorial Day weekend, including the Avery Creek trail and Pilot Cove, among others.
The Thomson DH bar performed flawlessly over the course of my entire test. Steering was crisp and precise, and I didn’t have to worry about any undue flex whatsoever.
The sweep and rise were comfortable, yet aggressive. I really appreciate the mild rise that the Thompson bar features. I feel like this low rise gives the bar a more natural ride quality than a bar with a sharper, higher rise. Consequently, the bar didn’t feel too relaxed, so I was able to set up turns without any front-end hesitation and plow off drops without a second thought.
Finally, the 780mm width is pretty much perfect for my shoulder width in this ride application. I’ve ridden several 800mm bars before, and while I’ve loved them, I do realize that for this application and me personally, that might be a hair too much width. Still, I’m a little surprised that the Thomson doesn’t come in a full 800mm length. Many full-fledged DH riders prefer as wide of a bar as they can get, and if they don’t want a full 800mm, cutting a metal bar down to size is a pretty easy operation.
If you’re looking for as wide of a bar as you can find, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a bar that sports Thomson’s fabled construction quality, comfortable-yet-aggressive sweep and rise, and bomber performance, then consider the Thomson Downhill Bar.
Many thanks to Thomson for providing their Downhill bar for review.