Though Black Inc and sister brand Factor Bikes are relative newcomers to the cycling industry, the people behind them have a long, storied history. That's why Black Inc is able to boast that, unlike most vendors, it is also a manufacturer; it owns its own factory, so it's literally manufacturing the Carbon Integrated Barstem. The material choice, design, carbon layup, and finishing processes are 100% inside jobs, which guarantees that Black Inc is always in complete control of the quality and—more importantly—the reliability of the bar/stem unit. Given that the Barstem's primary job is to give you control during high-stakes finales and driven descents, you'll be happy to know that the manufacturing process is, as Black Inc pointedly notes, "all about control."
The Barstem is, effectively, a combination of Black Inc's handlebar and stem, albeit with the clamping area removed. Eliminating the need to clamp a stem to a bar eliminates one more chance to crush expensive racing bits. It also lets Black Inc continuously wrap material through the joint, increasing structural integrity and stiffness for those grinding efforts when you're out of the saddle in too big a gear and it feels like you're pulling the bike up a punchy climb by dint of handlebar torque alone. The front-end stiffness of Factor Bikes impresses us, and we suspect the Black Inc Barstem is a big reason why.
The combination design also eliminates the transitional ridges from clamp to bar to stem, reducing the possible footholds for air resistance to forward motion. Increased aerodynamics won't be a huge help when you're slugging it out up a wall, but it'll certainly complement today's species of aerodynamic frames after you manage to punch your way to a gap and are faced with the prospect of maintaining it across 30km of no-man's land before the finish line. The bar's dimensions are compact-yet-comfortable, reducing weight while allowing stability in the drops with a 3-degree flare. That slight bump helps reduce wrist contact with the flats while sprinting—a design element no-doubt informed by the preferences of former green jersey Baden Cooke, one of Factor's (and, by extension, Black Inc's) founding partners.
The Barstem looks as clean as it rides, with the aerodynamic benefits translating to sharp aesthetic lines. The routing further supplement both attributes, with recessed cable ports and internal channels for electronic shifting. In order to preserve the full-carbon body, Black Inc forgoes the usual threaded inserts for the steerer clamp and anchors the titanium bolts with aluminum nuts. As with the Factor Bikes it ships with, the Black Inc Barstem includes an out-ahead mount for Garmin-type, 1/4-turn head units.
- An integrated bar and stem from a new brand with old pedigree
- Improved aerodynamics to benefit the bike's leading edge
- Clamp-less design allows greater strength with less material
- Engineered damping across flats eases road noise at the hoods
- Carbon layup informed by years of experience with boutique bikes
- Compact race geometry with flared drops for comfort and sprinting
- Titanium bolts add a final touch of gram reduction
- Produced in Black Inc's own factory, ensuring quality control