The Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO is an astonishingly light carbon fibre handlebar that offers a good level of stiffness although, as you'd probably guess, it doesn't come cheap.
- Pros: Superlight, good balance of stiffness and comfort, great shape
- Cons: Well, there's the price tag
We're forever saying that weight is far from everything when it comes to bikes and components, but there's a big focus on the scales here so we'll start out by telling you that our TLO handlebar came in at 147g. That's for a 44cm model (measured outer to outer) too.
To put that in some sort of context, the excellent Pro PLT Carbon handlebar (38cm) that we reviewed recently was 235g, the £149.99 Prime Primavera Carbon bar (40cm) – admittedly with deep, aero-section tops – was 238g and the FSA K-Force Compact (42cm) was 218g. The Deda Superleggera RS bar (£269.99) is 180g. In other words, at 147g the Schmolke bar is stunningly light.
Schmolke is a German brand that has supplied bars for the likes of Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel in the past. All of its products are made in Germany. The TLO – it stands for 'The Lightest One', by the way – is made from T1000 carbon fibre and it comes with a reach (the horizontal distance from the centre of the stem clamping area to the centre of the tube at its furthest forward) of 76mm and a shallow drop (the vertical distance from the stem clamping area to the end of the drop) of 126mm.
The top section of the bar is slightly squashed in profile, fitting beautifully into your palm when you're climbing, and it's easy to arrange things so that you get a flat or just slightly angled platform from the shoulders to the hoods of your levers.
The drop bends smoothly with a generous amount of rearward extension at the end, allowing you to shift your hands backwards if the road ahead is clear and you don't need immediate access to the controls. You can shorten the ends by up to 10mm if you're really careful.
One thing we're often pointing out is that dropping the weight of components is easy; you just use less material. The only problem is, you then run the risk of affecting things like stiffness, durability and safety.
I've used stiffer bars than the Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO. The Pro Vibe Carbon handlebar that I took off my bike in order to fit this one was a little more rigid, for instance, but the difference was only noticeable when sprinting eyeballs out. However, the Schmolke is a long, long way from a swimming noodle of a bar! It's not one of those bars that turns the front end into a wobbly jelly the instant you turn the power up to 11. Rather, it's about mid-table for a high-end bar in terms of stiffness, offering plenty of confidence when you're out of the saddle or cornering hard while, on the other hand, also helping to damp vibration over rougher road surfaces. It's a decent balance.
The walls of the handlebar are thin – obviously – so make sure you buy the right model for your bodyweight (up to 75kg; 76-95kg; 96-110kg). If you want to use clip-on aero bars or Di2 internal wiring for a bar-end junction box, models are available with the necessary strengthening (which adds 8g of weight in each case). Whichever version you go for, make sure you apply the fitting paste that Schmolke provides at both the stem and lever clamping points in order to minimise the bolt torque required. Don't be tempted to wing it without a torque wrench; the stakes are way too high!
As long as you follow those simple instructions, the Evo TLO should prove perfectly durable, and Schmolke provides a three-year warranty.
We can already hear the comments: "£450? You could buy a bike for that!" (It's actually €495 so the price will vary slightly according to the exchange rate). There's no getting away from the fact that the Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO is an expensive bit of kit. The Pro PLT Carbon handlebar I mentioned up top is £179.99, the Prime Primavera Carbon bar is £149.99 and the FSA K-Force Compact is £249.99. On the flip side, the Schmolke is about a third lighter than any of those three bars, and you're paying for small scale production in Germany. It essentially comes down to whether or not you're willing to pay a lot more money for that.
The Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO is incredibly light and offers a good balance between stiffness and comfort. The price, though, is one that's going to send all but the most dedicated weight-savers diving for cover.
Incredibly light carbon fibre handlebar with a good balance of stiffness and comfort... and then there's the price tag
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Schmolke Roadbar Oversize Evo TLO handlebar
Size tested: 44cm outer to outer
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's a superlight drop bar for road racing.
Here's the writeup from Schmolke:
"With its drop and reach of 126 mm and 78 mm respectively, our Evo road bike handlebar is designed with ergonomics in mind for both the drop and the hood position. The evolvent curve of the side parts lets you find an aerodynamic but not too deep position on your bike. When riding on the hoods the nearly horizontal forward part of the drop makes for an unbroken line with the hoods. The advantage of this oversized full carbon drop bar is its middle section's larger diameter. This results in a considerably stiffer road bar. In addition to that, its wide and flat top makes for anomic and comfortable grip when riding with your hands on the tops. The flat section design is also more aerodynamic than the round-section version with its larger frontal area. In addition, the handlebar comes with recessed cable grooves on its underside following the proven design of our original Compact series. The drops effectively raise the brake hoods. With small hands in particular the levers are easier to reach.
Our TLO series is handmade to specifically suit your weight and riding style using the best carbon fibre prepeg available (about carbon). This, together with a further refined layering plan with less layers, results in yet another reduction of weight. Stems with 31.8 mm clamping diameter including those with four clamping bolts may be used. These thin walled carbon handlebars may be completed with our custom made oversize carbon shifter clamps and carbon bar plugs.
Keep in mind that we measure our carbon road bars from the outside to the outside. Our road bike handlebars as standard are not made to be used with triathlon or time trial bars. If you plan to use your handlebars with aero bars, please tell us when placing your order. The necessary strengthening will add some 8 g to the bar's weight. All our handlebars may be shortened at their ends by 10 mm. Trade customers, as a rule, are supplied with standard handlebars, that's no time trial bar reinforcement.
TLO Evo models are also available with optional holes for Di2 internal wire routing (compatible for the Di2 bar end junction box).
It's the most expensive handlebar we've ever reviewed. On the other hand, it's the lightest by a considerable margin. You're also paying for small scale production in Germany.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performs really well. It doesn't flex around like you might expect of something this light.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The light weight will be the attraction for weight weenies but I especially liked the smooth shaped drops and the level of comfort in all hand positions.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I totally get that you have to pay more for something that isn't churned out in its thousands by a factory in the Far East. All that said, £450 is a helluva lot of money.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's more expensive than any other handlebar we've reviewed on road.cc.
The excellent Pro PLT Carbon handlebar is £179.99 while the Prime Primavera Carbon bar is £149.99. The FSA K-Force Compact is £249.99, but that's still £200 cheaper than the Schmolke.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I wouldn't pay this much for a handlebar.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? To anyone with loads of disposable income.
Use this box to explain your overall score
If you take cost out of the equation, this is a definite 9. Try as you might, you can't ignore the price tag.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.