The PNW Components Loam handlebar is the brand’s first foray into the world of carbon composites. Coming excellently proportioned and with a slick, refined finish, it's among the best MTB handlebars. However, it’s not as compliant as expected, not yet available in 31.8mm and not as competitively priced as other options in PNW’s range
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PNW Components Loam Carbon handlebar - Technical details
PNW Components is renowned for creating high-quality componentry at comparatively accessible prices. Although the brand is well equipped with a wealth of crafting some of the best stems, bars, pedals and now even clothing stepping into the manufacturing of carbon fibre parts is a step upon new ground.
The move to create a carbon handlebar is one that’s been made in the pursuit of increasing cockpit comfort, and PNW hasn’t done things by half. Instead, the Loam handlebar is made using the brand’s patent-pending CBD carbon layup that’s said to reduce trail chatter without compromising horizontal stiffness. So it should boost comfort without allowing its compliance to affect the handling of the front of a mountain bike.
That carbon layup is crafted using what the brand reckons is a premium pre-preg UD carbon fibre and the final product is stated to be strong enough for e-MTBs and downhill riding.
Aside from its carbon build, the Loam Carbon bar borrows from its alloy sibling, the Range handlebar in terms of its geometry. Like its alloy counterpart, the Loam benefits from a 10-degree backsweep, and a five-degree upsweep and it measures 800mm in width, although it can be cut down to 740mm. PNW calls this its anti-fatigue geometry.
Although PNW says that it's working on offering a 31.8 clamp bar, there isn’t one available yet. However, this 35mm clamp bar is available with 25mm or 38mm of rise and in 10 colours. As for weight, this bar comes in at 240g (233g claimed), which is weightier than similarly priced and similarly built bars.
PNW Components Loam Carbon handlebar - Performance
First and foremost, the Loam Carbon bar looks very good indeed. It carries the usual PNW decals that we first saw on the Range handlebar but the carbon is finished with a matt coating combined with gloss graphics that results in a sleek and subtly stylish package.
Around the clamping area are clear grey markings which help make dialling the bar’s roll easy, while keeping the bar central in the stem. The graphics towards the grips also aid somewhat in aligning brake levers and asymmetric grips. PNW has also marked out where a rider should cut if they’re looking to trim the ends of the bar but even then, measuring twice is well worth the extra effort regardless.
While its fresh carbon build may be one of the first points to talk about, the bar’s geometry and proportions are more than worthy of a mention as I reckon that it's the main reason why this bar is so good. At an early glance, its 10-degree back sweep may look a bit extreme on paper, especially as many brands have settled on eight to nine degrees but the result is incredibly ergonomic.
PNW puts quite the claim behind the Loam Carbon bar, saying that it’s compliant vertically to absorb vibration and that, it certainly does. Against alloy bars with 35mm clamp diameters, the Loam bar adds a fresh level of comfort and vibration damping that’s tough to find on an alloy handlebar of the same dimensions. This results in less fatigue during lengthy descents and more control in general. However, the Loam bar’s vertical flex does little to hinder the increased stiffness and direct steering that the 35mm clamp provides. The brand has done impressively well to blend these two characteristics, especially given its PNW’s first bash at a carbon component.
Even though the Loam bar’s compliance is massively appreciable, the damping it provides isn’t quite as effective as I was expecting. Coming straight off the back of a test of the OneUp Components Carbon handlebar, a bar that’s designed to work very similarly to PNW’s, the Loam bar was certainly stiffer. While I was expecting more damping, that doesn’t exactly make it a bad handlebar because, in use, it feels more like a normal handlebar but with a useful level of buzz reduction. However, I’m sure the Loam bar’s bendiness will be increased as soon as PNW releases a 31.8mm version.
PNW Components Loam Carbon handlebar - Verdict
At £150, the Loam bar is certainly competitively priced but it’s not quite as budget friendly as I would expect from PNW, especially given that the OneUp Components Carbon handlebar is the same price and is designed to work similarly. However, the Loam bar does have a couple of tricks up its sleeve in that it is available with slightly higher rises and its geometry feels more comfortable (in my opinion). But, if it's a lower rise and a more compliant cockpit that you’re after, the OneUp Carbon bar is second to none. It’s lighter, too, at 220g.
A serious contender is Nukeproof’s Horizon V2 handlebar which will set you back £110. It’s equally as stiff and compliant in the right places but it costs £40 less. However, I don’t believe it looks quite as good and it doesn’t get as extreme a backsweep.
The PNW Components Loam Carbon handlebar does a good job of damping the majority of harsh trail feedback and it does so while looking rather lovely.