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At 169g Bontrager's Race X Lite Isozone bar is light, even for a carbon fibre bar, but weight is not the heart of the story here. What's cool about this bar is the Isozone foam inserts on the tops and in the drops that improve comfort.
On the surface, this is a conventional carbon fibre bar, insofar as a component that is still fairly uncommon can be seen as 'conventional'; it's not like you find carbon bars as standard equipment till you get to fairly spendy bikes.
And let's get it out of the way now - this is an expensive handlebar. That's true of all carbon bars, of course, but nevertheless weight would have to matter to you quite a lot to drop £220 on a carbon bar, if a lower gram count were all it offered. There are 250g aluminium bars for well under £100. But the Race X Lite Isozone bar has a trick up its bar tape.
The bar is shaped with indents into which the Isozone foam pads sit, so they provide extra cushioning without increasing the diameter of the bar. That's arguably a better way to improve comfort than, say, using two layers of tape or placing gel inserts under tape on a standard bar. Unless you have very big hands, a fatter bar can be fatiguing.
There's a space for a pad along the tops and round the bends to the brake levers, and another in the curve of the drops.
With the foam inserts in place and taped up, there's no visual clue that there's anything unusual about this bar, but you definitely notice it on the road. Buzz is reduced and your hands are cosseted. It's not enough to reduce the feeling of direct contact with bar and bike, but the usual high-frequency vibration you get over coarse road surfaces is gone.
The foam pad in the drops is less noticeable, but that's only because I spend less time there. But when it's time to get your head down and hammer, then once again, you do so with comfier hands.
When it comes to overall shape, the Race X Lite Isozone has a medium drop and reach - 85mm and 125mm respectively - and a curve to the drop with no 'anatomic' flat section. The transition from the top-section forward bend into the drop has a fairly sharp radius so you can fine-tune the brake lever position and the angle of the bottom section.
Our nominal 46mm bar was actually more like 44cm across the brake levers, flaring gradually to 46cm at the ends. The extra width makes for improved control at speed, which facilitates downhill shenanigans.
The bend itself also has a fairly tight radius, and that's really my only gripe with the Race X Lite Isozone bar: there isn't quite enough room in the drops for my hands. I'm an L in most gloves, so I have fairly large hands, but I'm not exactly Jimi Hendrix.
But if you have slightly smaller hands than me and want a bar that's both light and provides an extra bit of comfort, the Bontrager Race X Lite Isozone is definitely worth your consideration. And if the £220 price tag has you sharply drawing in breath, the £59.99 Race Lite IsoZone VR-CF has the same gentle flare and shape and comes with foam pads for the tops.
Light bar with some handy extra comfort for long days out on the bike, but riders with strangler's hands might find the drops a bit cramped.
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Make and model: Bontrager Race X Lite Isozone handlebar
Size tested: Black
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?
Bontrager says: "Turn cobbles into concrete. Integrating IsoZone foam pads directly into the bar's construction provides a minimal increase in diameter, a minimal increase in weight and displaces vibration by 20%. Plus flared drops are more ergonomic for comfortable power."
At the light end of the spectrum for carbon bars.
Comfort is the idea, and the Race X Lite Isozone delivers.
Carbon makes shaping and features possible in handlebars that are hard to do in aluminium, and knocks off a big chunk of weight, but the extra cost is financially ouchy.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. It does the basic job of a handlebar perfectly well, and the improved comfort is a very welcome bonus.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The light weight, and shock-absorbing ability of the inserts.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price and the slightly cramped drop.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No. It's way outside my budget for a bar and the drop doesn't fit my hands.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
If your hands fit the drops and you can afford it, this is a terrific handlebar and an easy 9/10. But the price is a hell of a lot to pay for a handlebar even taking into account the clever shaping to accommodate the foam inserts, so that brings it down to 8.
Age: 46 Height: 5ft 11in Weight: 85kg
I usually ride: Scapin Style 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, touring, club rides, general fitness riding,
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.