So, I've been looking for some time to replace the Ritchey WCS stem and WCS Carbon handlebar that I've been riding on my Waterford with something aluminum and significantly stiffer. The bar is not bad, but the stem is a little twisty. When I went to Interbike this past September, Shimano's Benelux component division; PRO, were offering a killer industry deal on their Vibe 7S series which happened to be the bar/stem combo at the top of my list. I just had to bite!
I'd been pretty happy with the Ritchey cockpit; but it was time for a change. As I said, I'd been looking for something a little more solid and I just felt more confident riding alloy parts again due to their resilience. The Vibe series is the stuff that PRO basically designed for Thor Hushovd - star Norwegian sprinter. Since I'm of Norwegian descent and Thor and I are roughly the same size and build, this was an easy choice. Seriously - my selection process was not much deeper than that! I'm not all intellectual all the time...
A view of the old Ritchey cockpit...Additionally, my fit has changed a little since I put the Ritchey stuff on the bike - and the Compact contour on the new PRO bars suit my needs and wants nicely. A slightly shorter reach and drop to allow me more complete access to all of the positions on the bar. The differences in the profile of the bars are pretty visibile in this photo:
The shifters meld nicely with the tops of the bar - providing a nice flat perch. You should expect that when the manufacturer of the most prolific shifters on the market goes to develop a handlebar; they'll see to it that the fitment between the two is second-to-none. The shorter reach is nice; but I really like the shallower drop and more "square" bottoms which seem to let me maintain the aggressive position longer.
As can be plainly seen; I have the waningly Euro-chic white version (they are available in classic; bead-blasted black as well). While I claim to be one of the early adapters white handlebar tape and saddles; perpetuating the current trend - now that it is a trend; I have switched back to black. However, the smooth powder-coated white finish just seemed to look so appropriate against the pearl white front end on my Waterford. The coat is well applied and I have no worries whether it will last. There is also gritty; "sand" sections where the stem clamp and shifter clamps contact the bar to help reduce the chance of slipping. Additionally, the stem hardware is top-notch stainless steel. Wrenches fit smoothly, but solidly in the broach and the threads are well cut. Use a torque wrench and you should never have reason to worry (PRO makes a great torque wrench for what it's worth... We're trying to keep it in stock at the store.) So, the install went pretty smoothly - as should be expected.As can be seen from the angle above - the Vibe 7S bar is a consistent 31.8mm for almost the entire width of the top section; rather than tapering to the standard 22.2mm. This likely contributes to it's supreme stiffness as well as making the tops nice and broad - similar to a wing-shaped bar - and it's quite comfortable; especially for those with larger hands.
I think I need to find some white headset spacers though...
Now that the bars are fitted and I've adjusted the dimensions to meet my bike fit needs (consult your bike fit professional if you're doing this on your own bike. It is amazing what a difference a few millimeters makes), I'm ready to ride. And, WOW! Are these bars stiff! It's like a new bike! I've said on too many occasions that the bike is an equation. Add a stiff part - or a flexy part for that matter - and it effects the entire outcome. They don't ride as smoothly as my old carbon bars - but not so much that I'm concerned about longer rides. Most notably I'm using less effort to aggresively climb and accelerate in short bursts when out of the saddle because the front end is now so solid. Interestingly, the quasi-teardrop profile to the Vibe 7S stem almost mirrors the top-tube of my TrueTemper S3 Waterford. I guess it all adds up.
The bike feels more solid and confidence-inspiring. The fit is great and I feel more neutral and comfortable on the bike as the Ritchey configuration was pushing me to the aggresive side of my fit window. 2 hours is much easier than it was before. If I haven't been clear yet - I'm thrilled with how stiff the bars are.
I'm still running the WCS carbon seatpost - but I think that is short lived. A PRO Vibe 7S seatpost should be in my near future. However, I have a choice to make: hold out for white so that it matches the cockpit or stick with black because it blends with the back half of the bike. The photo below is the current build with the black WCS carbon. What do you think?
As always, thanks for reading. I'll be a little more regular in posting for at least a little while...
Enjoy the ride!