Getting straight to the point, the PNW Coast handlebar is a budget friendly solution for the rider who is looking for greater stability on their road, gravel bike, or any bike with a drop bar including converted mountain bikes.
Here’s what you need to know about the PNW Coast handlebar:
- It’s wide, so your get better stability, which is great for those taking to the trails.
- The reach is a short 65mm to compensate for the width.
- The ends are flared 40mm and makes getting to the drops a breeze.
- It’s aluminum, so the cost is low and the weight is reasonable at 354 grams.
- A shorter stem is recommended and PNW states for every 20mm wider your bar is, decrease stem length by 10mm.
- The handlebar is offered in a staggeringly wide 480mm and 520mm width version.
For this review, I dropped my own $70 USD to pick up the 520mm version and their $70 60mm Coast stem.
The Coast bar is your standard 31.8mm diameter and should fit most all gravel or road bikes. If you’re increasing width by more than 20mm, you may find yourself installing their Coast stem simultaneously. Fitment of both products are great so installations were a breeze.
While I found installation was a breeze, you’ll want to be mindful of the available length of your brake line and shifter cables as to prevent stretching. In my case, I took a gamble and did not re-run longer lines. Turning the bar left has plenty of slack however turning to the right stretches the if the handlebar rotates far beyond what I’d consider the standard steering zone. If I crashed, I wouldn’t be shocked if the rear brake line gets pulled out or damaged in some fashion. This is where I’d love to retrofit a knock-block-like solution.
I thought the wider bars meant I’d have trouble finding bar tape long enough to wrap, but I was wrong. Or I just got lucky. I chose the Zipp Service Course CX bar tape and had ample tape left over.
First, visual impression is a solid “Whoa, those bars are wide!”. My wife walked by the bike in the garage this morning and even commented on it herself. That’s saying something.
On the road, I felt noticeably less stretched and more upright. No doubt the shorter stem contributed greatly. I was comfortable in all positions, whether on the hoods, getting down or up from the drops.
On gravel, I noticed a bit less tram-lining and less propensity for the bike to wander off the directed course. This meant less effort to keep the bike in the direction or chosen path to avoid potholes, crowns or whatever else the less-than-perfect tarmac may throw at me.
Where the PNW Coast bar really shines is off-road, on the dirt and under the tree tops. With the 42mm bar, I could manage off-road, but the effort and concentration required was much more elevated, and even green trails could become sketch if I wasn’t focused. The Coast bar changed the game entirely. I could now point the tires where I wanted and keep them on the desired path with far less effort. The tires didn’t wander quite as much on uneven surfaces, slick roots no longer raised alarm, and rock gardens were just another sight to see.
Green singletrack became fun again!
One unexpected benefit was that the bar absorbed more vibration without any perceived flex. This translated to a smoother riding experience across all surface conditions. With the original handlebar, I would experience wrist and hand fatigue with numbness through my fingers on my standard 10-12 mile loop. I would always ride with padded fingerless gloves, but that only fended off the pain for so long. My first ride with the PNW Coast handlebar was a 12 mile mix of gravel, paved sidewalk, and rocky, rooty singletrack. Not once did I think about my hands, and it didn’t dawn on me until after the ride that my wrists and hands felt great — a first while riding this bike that distance.
Things I Don’t Like
There’s nothing about the PNW Coast handlebar that raises concern. If anything, I would have liked better markings on the stem mounting area to more easily identify dead center and angle. It was nothing that prevent installation, just a note.
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