Stiffer! Lighter! Stronger! These are the taglines found in the ad copy of nearly every cycling component or frame and are clearly stated as the main features of the Easton Havoc 35 bars and stem. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that these claims are true while acknowledging that they must be taken essentially on faith alone. This raises the question: How will these claimed empirical numbers translate to an improved riding experience? I can’t think of a product that has raised this question as frequently as the Easton Havoc 35 bars and stem in the mountain bike community. That is where real world testing and subjective opinion comes in, and is where this review both starts and finishes.
Many riders, myself included, thought when the Easton Havoc 35 bars and stem were released, ‘I have never noticed any unwanted flex in my handlebars’ and I am not a small or lightweight rider at 6’2″ and 175lbs. In my case those handlebars were a pair of ENVE carbon DH’s. They replaced a set of KORE Torsion DH bars. Both sets were ridden at 780mm length for the span of about 2 years each. I didn’t notice any flex in either bar during that period, however the ENVE bars were undeniably lighter with 100g less mass than the aluminum KORE’s. The ENVE bars also exhibited far less vibration on rough trails. So, it is fair to say that I went into this test as a skeptic. Even so, I was intrigued with the idea of a stiffer setup.
The Havoc 35 bars and stem installed painlessly and I was impressed by the precision of both components. There are no ripples in the handlebar wall that are often found in some of Easton’s competitor’s bars. The handsome stem faceplate made rotational adjustments precise and easy with the pointed outer edges aimed squarely at the hash marks on the handlebar’s clamping circumference. Easton’s stem faceplate clamping arrangement is second to none. By first bottoming out the upper bolts on the faceplate before torquing the lower bolts there are no sharp edges or uneven clamping forces applied to the handlebar. This protects the bar while holding it as securely as possible.
Once I installed the bar and stem, the increase in stiffness was immediately noticeable both tactilely and visibly when torquing on the bars, even with the bars at their full 800mm stock length that was used throughout the test. Out on the trail there was slightly more vibration transmitted through the aluminum Havocs on high speed sections than I felt on my carbon ENVE’s, but the difference was minor and is nothing that a set of ESI grips couldn’t cure. Where I noticed the increased stiffness most was when I was either climbing out of the saddle, sprinting, or while riding high speed rocky trails. This translated into the ability to more easily hold a line; similar to the feeling I’ve noticed after upgrading to a stiffer fork or wheelset. Climbing and sprinting felt more efficient and controlled with more of my effort spent pulling on the bars being transmitted to the pedals. Jumping felt more predictable as well. With all of that said, the difference is not night and day when compared to a stiff 31.8 handlebar such as those on offer from Renthal or Enve. Yet, it is certainly an improvement that would be clearly noticeable to any rider and offers real benefits out on the trail. My main gripe is that the stem is only offered in a 50mm length and I would prefer a 60mm or 65mm as offered in their standard Havoc 31.8 line.
This brings us to the place for these bars in the marketplace and whether they belong on your bike. Most people don’t think about their handlebars being flexy, but for some reason (good marketing perhaps?) they are very concerned about flexy frames, forks, and wheels. However frames, forks, and wheels don’t come cheap. The Easton Havoc 35 handlebar and stem on the other hand, are a downright bargain by comparison. So if you are looking for a stiffer bike but are on a budget, I highly recommend picking up a set of Havoc 35’s. If you were already planning to make the switch to a wider bar, put your money into the stiffest setup you can get. You can’t go wrong with the Havoc 35’s.
Daniel Slusser is a professional bicycle mechanic with over ten years of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from HSU and a master’s degree in history from Cal Poly University. When he is not riding, wrenching, or writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children