While handlebars are a simple component in appearance, they are crucial for steering and riding inputs. A wide variety of profiles are available; construction varies with amounts of rise, back sweep, and total width. Commonly available in either aluminum or carbon construction, these differing materials provide distinctly differing ride qualities on the trail. Aside from variations in profile or material, handlebars are commonly offered in two diameters, 31.8mm and 35mm. This wasn’t always the case; 35mm diameter bars were only introduced in the past decade and are advertised as the “stronger and stiffer” of the two options. Over the course of the last few months, I swapped between a set of Deity’s Skyline 31.8mm alloy bars and Deity Skywire 35mm carbon bars to see how they alter your ride and determine which I preferred most.
Deity Skywire 35mm Carbon Handlebar
Rise: 15mm or 25mm
Back Sweep: 9 degrees
Up Sweep: 5 degrees
Minimum Width: 750mm
Weight: 226 grams
The Deity Skywire handlebar is a carbon handlebar designed to the exact specifications and demands of enduro and trail riding, as advised by elite-level riders like Sam Blenkinsop. Deity used a unidirectional carbon layup to deliver an ideal balance between rigidity and compliance. As the name “uni” (meaning “one”) implies, all of the fibers in the carbon are running in the same direction for increased strength. Unidirectional layups aren't woven, so forego interlacing fibers that can crimp or cause weak spots in the structure. Deity has created an immensely strong, stiff handlebar using a layup consisting of these continuous fibers. In addition to carbon fibers' increased rigidity and strength, it is significantly lighter than aluminum.
Profile-wise, the Skywire is very similar to that of the OneUp Components Carbon bar that I have spent plenty of time on previously, with an identical up-sweep and a degree more back sweep than that of the OneUp Carbon. Deity has included further refinements to their carbon 35mm offering with features such as a textured clamping surface and indicator lines on the face of the bar to more easily determine bar roll in relation to the stem. Aside from these functional markings, the Skywire is made in eight different colors to complement any custom build.
Deity Skyline 787 Handlebar
Rise: 15mm or 25mm
Back Sweep: 9 Degrees
Up Sweep: 5 Degrees
Weight: 290 grams
Deity’s Skyline 787 handlebar is a no-fuss aluminum alloy bar intended for enduro and trail riding. It has an identical profile to the Skywire with a 9-degree back sweep and a 5-degree upsweep, keeping riders in a comfortable but aggressive position. The Skyline is the lightest aluminum bar Deity offers and comes in a unique stock width of 787mm. The Skyline 787 has been one of the most popular alloy bars amongst Fanatik customers, and for good reason: it competes with high-end bars at a fraction of the cost. Similar to the Skywire, the Skyline has indicator lines to denote bar roll. Although, instead of the lines being on the face of the bar, three lines positioned on top of the bar can be seen through the gap at the top of a Deity Copperhead stem, making dialing in bar position exceptionally straightforward.
Deity Copperhead Stem / 35mm and 31.8mm
The eye-catching Deity Copperhead stem is available in 31.8 and 35mm diameters in lengths of 35mm or 50mm. The two stems differ only in their stack height; the 31.8 mm stem is three millimeters shorter than its 35mm counterpart. This slight difference in height means adding an extra spacer to maintain the same setup when switching between the two stems. With its 5mm clamp bolts properly torqued to spec, I never had any issues with creaking or bolts backing out, even when switching back and forth between the two stems regularly.
With many variables at play, such as tire pressure, suspension, and irregular terrain, isolating the differences between differing handlebar diameters and materials can be quite convoluted. Throughout testing, I kept my setup identical except for the bar-diameter and stem I was using in order to isolate the differences between the two. The majority of my time riding the Skyline 787 and Skywire bars took place in Bellingham, WA, with a couple of Squamish and Whistler trips tossed in for good measure. After familiarizing myself with both handlebar setups, I began back-to-back testing and was surprised at the differences in ride feel between the two and how noticeable their nuances were from one material/diameter to the other.
With my testing taking place in the middle of a dry, rainless summer, there was no soft, loamy dirt to mute out trail chatter or feedback through the handlebars. Down each section of trail, sharp edges, loose rocks, and concrete-like braking bumps lay in wait to test the compliance of the two handlebars. With the Skywire and Skyline having identical profiles, switching from one to the other was seamless, keeping me in the same riding position. The more time I spent bouncing between the two setups, the easier it was to distinguish their differences.
The one aspect of the Deity Skywire 35mm carbon bar that stood out to me most on the trail was how stiff it is in comparison to the alloy 31.8mm Skyline 787 bar. On the trail, this rigidity left little question as to how the front end was behaving, as there weren't any "vague" feelings some overly compliant or flexible bars may present. Depending on rider preferences, this rigidity could be a positive, as it provides a very reassuring platform for pushing the front end of the bike through holes and compressions. However, this stiffer handlebar led to increased trail feedback and small chatter, which I found most noticeable on prolonged clear-cut sections littered with square edges and the all-too-common washboard braking bumps in the Whistler bike park. The smaller diameter aluminum Skyline 787 felt slightly more flexible under load, a feeling that may be more apparent for a heavier rider than myself. When pushing the bike hard on rough sections, particularly those littered with sharp rocks and success roots, the small diameter alloy bar seemed slightly more forgiving, reducing vibrations through the hands.
The primary distinction between the Skyline 787 and Skywire arises from their clamp diameters, with 35mm bars larger than their 31.8mm counterparts. This difference increases stiffness and durability in 35mm bars, providing more precise handling and better control over rough terrain. On the other hand, 31.8mm handlebars are generally lighter, contributing to improved maneuverability and reduced overall bike weight. Additionally, they might offer a bit more flex, potentially enhancing comfort during demanding rides. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on the rider's preferences, riding style, and the type of trails they frequent. Those seeking uncompromised stability and stiffness might lean towards 35mm bars, while riders prioritizing weight savings and a touch of flexibility could find 31.8mm bars more suitable.
At 170lbs, I can typically get away with running lighter casing tires, lower air pressure, and, as it turns out, 31.8mm bars. While the Deity Skywire and Skyline are both fantastic centerpieces for a cockpit, I ultimately preferred the Deity Skyline 787 as it muted out small trail chatter and vibrations more effectively than the stiffer 35mm carbon bar. The result was a ride quality that provided a slightly more compliant ride and didn't fatigue my hands. Noticeably stiffer, the carbon bar provided a slightly heightened feedback on rough, chattery-breaking bump sections of trail. However, heavier riders looking for a solid handlebar may find the rigidity of the Skywire 35mm to be a positive.
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