Syntace F119 Stem and Vector Carbon Bar
Handlebar and stem choice are often the most over-thought yet under-thought selections on a bike. We focus on this area as it is the foremost contact point with the bike. However, that focus is often simplified to seeking the lightest and sexiest piece available. In reality weight savings at the bar and stem are minimal and static. It’s impossible to feel the difference in weight in a positive manner from one bar to the next. Instead, assuming that each is reasonably light weight, we should focus on the shape, how it makes contact with the rider. After all, this is how you control your bike. Is it better to shave grams here or choose the component that gives the best fit and steering precision? The Syntace F119 stem and Syntace Vector Carbon handlebar stand out from the competition with several unique features from a fit and functionality standpoint.
Syntace truly engineers the Vector carbon fiber handlebar. Syntace has arranged their own unique carbon fiber lay up with the Vector bar to provide maximum durability and compliant ride quality. Carbon has a unique property of being able to dampen high frequency vibration, which can ease the fatigue to the rider's hands, and Syntace aims to provide the strongest bar possible with ample ride characteristics. An example of their very precise craftsmanship is the Titanium lattice-work molded into the clamping area bar to provide inherent strength against the crushing loads from the stem clamp and which additionally prevents slippage. Because of this Syntace has approved the bar for use with four-bolt face plate stems. If you really read into the detail, you will find many carbon bars are not recommended for use with four-bolt clamping stems and are not warrantable if used with another manufactures stem. This is not the case for Syntace. They offer a 10 year warranty on their components! Even more impressive, Syntace give the bar and stem a max torque spec of a whopping 8NM . Although, there is no need test this upper limit. Trust us, adding a touch of Tacx Dynamic Carbon Assembly Paste and tightening the face plate bolts to 5NM with our Syntace Torque Wrench was more than sufficient to keep the bar securely in place.
Again the Vector bar stood out from its competition because of its unique 12 degree back sweep and 680mm width. On paper this seemed overly dramatic as we have become well accustomed to the industry standard 5 and 6 degree back swept bars with a more narrow width. The 680mm was definitely on the wide side for a rider that rolls a 40cm road bar.
It's easy to get used to set-ups and become a little of a bike curmudgeon or retro grouch. We have to admit the idea of a wide bar with 12 degree sweep did not appeal to us from the gun. Would we able to steer through our indigenous tight trees? Would our knees hit our wrists when climbing out of the saddle? But from our first ride, we had no qualms with the sweep and actually found the shape to be extremely comfortable, providing excellent steering and control characteristics. In fact, our bar-stool engineering hat went on and we hypothesized that the added sweep makes running a wider bar or hand position further apart more ergonomic. For example, hold your hands in front of you as if you were holding a handlebar. If you widen the stance of your hands they naturally open a more relaxed angle. Being able to run a wider bar gives you more stability and control at high speeds and puts your shoulders in a more relaxed position with your elbows bent ready to tackle oncoming obstacles.
The F119 31.8 stem is built specifically to accept an oversize handlebar. In fact the F119 stem provides a 200 degree wrap of the bar for a stronger stem-bar interface and to reduce load on the inherently weaker clamps. Additionally the clamp is offset ever-so-slightly to dissipate the clamping force over a large portion of the handlebar. (Insert Image: F119 Clamp) Syntace utilizes a larger tube diameter steerer clamping area. Because of this, Syntace includes a bushing or shim to work with 1.125" steerer tubes. Interestingly, the F119 stem could bolt directly to a 1.25" steerer tube, though we're not sure where one exists. The bushing system allows Syntace to build a stem with uniform tube dimension throughout for increased strength and stiffness. The bushing also provides a more consistent clamping pressure to the steerer and makes it ideal for use with carbon steerer tubes. The stem runs a 6 degree bend that can be set in either a positive or negative direction. Ti bolts can be purchased separately to shed an additional 10 grams over the stainless bolts.
Syntace is very proud of their rigorous VR-3 Testing for these products -- they approve the lightweight bar and stem combo for downhill usage. For us, this is confidence inspiring -- knowing that if there is any weak link in your bike set up, the stem and bar are not one of them. The Syntace F119 stem and Syntace Vector handlebar weigh in at 132g and 189g respectively. Without a doubt there are lighter combos out available, but we struggle to think of another bar and stem that approaches Syntace for their combination of superior ergonomics, strength and quality.