Pazzaz DH Stems & Bar|
Thursday, July 08, 1999
A couple of years ago riser bars began to creep back onto bikes spec'd by major manufacturers. Now a trip to the local bike shop will reveal any variety of bikes with riser bars and short stems. These set-ups are no longer just geared towards the DH rides though their lineage can be traced to BMX/DH in the cycling family tree. You'll find riser bars on freeride bikes, cross-country rigs, and even on "comfort bikes."
When the box arrived from Pazzaz & Co. a couple of months ago I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew something was coming but I wasn't sure what and Pazzaz isn't a household name. The Taiwanese company specializes in accessories for mountain and BMX bikes and their slick catalog wasn't the only thing that would impress.
First out of the box was Pazzaz's DH 350. This combo includeds a DH39 handlebar and an ATB870 stem. The stats on the bar are a 31.8mm tapered 6061 PG bar, 3.0mm wall thickness, 680mm wide x 40mm rise tipping the scale at 500 grams. It's targeted at the beginning downhiller or freerider looking for a tough, durable and stylish oversized bar. The ATB 870 stem (371g) is a forward positioned 50mm extension extruded and CNC'd double clamp stem.
Also in the box was a DH-400 set-up in a cool matte black finish. The DH400 consists of the same DH39 bar with a zero extension ATB872 cold forged stem (303g). It's 6061 -T6 alloy material and CNC finish is ideal for the downhiller who wants to tighten up his reach at zero degrees. The T6 alloy is an aircraft specification found on better aluminium stems. Each stem uses six 6-mm bolts to clamp down the bar and pinch the stem to the fork. MTB stems are available either high polished or with sandblast finish and hard anodized for years of protection from the elements. The bar tubing is cold-drawn to tolerance and barrel finished to harden and stress-relieve the surface. Finishes available are hard anodized (either high polished or sandblast) or powder coated.
On the bike there was a definite difference in a zero degree stem and a 50mm version. You're probably thinking, "yeah, about a 50mm difference" but it really seems much more than that. Both stems were placed on an older hardtail used for general purpose riding. By "general purpose," I mean everything from freeriding to cross-country to where ever there's dirt. With zero extension stems, the geometry of the bike is completely altered.
The zero mm ATB872 makes steering pinpoint. Even the slightest movement is transferred directly to your wheel's line. This takes a little while to get used to but when it clicks it's pretty cool. On steep descents you can get waaaay back off the saddle. It's very apparent that a zero degree stem's advantages are best realized on downhill sections. The down side, with the handlebars sitting right on top of the fork, they are well within reach of your knees, watch out!
The 50mm ATB870 is stiff and very beefy. The ATB870 isn't CNC'd out but it's pure bulk gives it an impressive and solid look. Yeah it's a little heavy but in my opinion, weight in the stem isn't so bad especially if going downhill is your main concern.
Steering feel is very personal. Every rider seems to have his or her own preferences and some will like a zero extension stem and some won't. If zero mm's isn't your choice then you'll want to look at the ATB870. With its 50mm length you'll gain knee room but pick up an extra 68g. Currently, the DH400 set-up is used by former World Cup champ Gionvanni Bonazi at the professional level.
In simple terms, they're well built and look good and are offered at a very reasonable price. The DH350 (DH39 bar and ATB870 stem) retails for under $40 while the DH400 (DH39 bar and ATB872 stem) will go for just about $50.
Who needs this?
The Pazzaz gear is excellent for the budget conscious or beginning downhill or freerider.
Those who think riser bars and downhilling is a fad or a cross-country purist.