What's Cool In Road Cycling

CALFEE Custom Fit Carbon Bar Stem Combo

SWEET! A while back we wrote that, because fit is the most important buying choice and because one piece carbon bar / stem combo’s usually have lots of shapes, most one piece bar stem combinations amounted to stupid vanity. Calfee shows us we were wrong (at least with theirs…).

Calfee design have been making some damn nice bikes for quite a while. They are great with anything from Carbon Fiber to Bamboo and are not afraid to play around a little while looking for things that work. Some place along the way, it occurred to them that they could dispense with all the front end hardware and make a one piece carbon bar and stem combo out of an existing set of bars and part of a stem by hand wrapping the joint with pre-preg fiber… And because custom is what they do, they could manage this process and take orders for different bars, stems and most importantly, bar angles… What you get is a stunner of a bike part…

Click the Thumbnail above for the De-Lucks shot…

The Process starts with a call to Calfee and the decision about what you really want. The sweet end of the deal here is that Calfee can offer you a very nice shaped bar, but they can also wrap lots of other bars! Not everyone is partial to certain shapes, and you’re not stuck with just one… For our purposes (and because we got a 99% discount) we went with their house bar offering. But you can choose the house Ergo (a bar extremely like the nice Stella Azzurra ergo) FSA’s K wing, Ritchey’s WCS carbon or send in your own OS bar for mounting. You can have a huge stem range between 7 and 15 and can select + or – 10 degree angles.

Once your choice is made, getting the custom fit is pretty easy. You can actually use a stock stem and the bars you select and mount them on your bike. I just put them on and adjusted the tilt till I got it where they felt right and tightened it down.

Once everything was dialed in, I pulled the stem off the fork (bars attached) and sent the whole thing to Calfee so they could make the final unit to match the length and tilt to my preference exactly.

More Options
Once you have chosen your bar, stem length and tilt, you still have some work left choosing finish options… We were sent the stock bars with the typical carbon clear coat.

But we (we being me…) asked for the raw carbon finish…

I also could have chosen from several tinted clear coats and custom colors available at Calfee (a $50 up-charge, but if you have custom everything else, why not match it up?).

As you can see in the pictures, the bars themselves are the “super-shaped” type with lots of grip areas notched in, and a deep cable routing underneath (deep enough for double campy cables to sit). There is also a grove along the inside bend that tucks away the cable that is most annoying under your thumbs.

But it’s the hand wrapping that really gets the attention…

They take wet carbon fiber and wrap the joint tightly and then hand finish it to smooth it down… It looks very sweet on board, but it’s also functional in a few ways…

First of all, it fits. Other no hardware combo’s simply don’t give you the bar and fit options available here.

The second best feature is the strength of the joint. Once the resin hardens, you basically have a single unit. When done correctly, the joint is actually stronger than the stuff around it. And with the carbon wrap comes the benefit of never having to worry about crushing your bars in a clamp attempting to make things nice and tight. It’s over-tightening that causes the most failures to carbon these days and that problem simply vanishes with this set up.

Last and least important (unless you’re a marketing guy) is the weight savings. We chose the heaviest bars they have to match with their stem. And I would guess they weight the same as Stella Azzurra’s Tirenno bars at 230 grams. That would put the stem weight and wrapping for our set (at 110 length) at about 90 grams. Let’s say you grabbed a set of Easton Equipe Pro bars (our last test set weighed in at 185)… You could have a very strong, no-crush bar and stem set up that fits you perfectly and combines for @ 275 grams (as a reference, Cinelli’s Ram and Deda’s Alanera are 400 Grams and the new FSA Plasma unit are 384). Add the custom fit and the fact that it’s a lighter set up than lot of tuner bar and stem combo’s and a safer system with less likelihood of damage to the part during install and you have a nice combo. The Easton set up would be the bar cost (estimated) of $199 and the stem and wrapping cost is just $245. That’s a total of $444, or a crap load less than most other Bar stem combo’s that might not fit and are more than 100 grams heavier…

Our test set would have been more money at $598, but that’s still a buck less than the retail on the FSA’s and just a few dollars more than the Deda’s and Cinelli’s. As these were 80 grams lighter AND custom fit, the price is a (relative) bargain. The Fit is key, but for weight weenies, I am not sure of many other weight saving modifications than cost way less than a buck a gram…

Down the Highway
The ride and function of the test bars was fine. I actually prefer less bendy / curvy / notchy bar shapes, but with Calfee allowing me to choose the tilt, these were fine. The ergo levers mounted right where they should so that they were a flat extension from the bends and the cables lined up with the groves well. The cables underneath rest in the grove and required no extra fastening beyond a simple short bar wrap.

Take the test ride set character for what it is, as you can have any bar you want, but the vibration damping was good for a stiffer heavier bar than I am used to. The overall stiffness is good as well, but I would love to get a set of bars that I am familiar with mounted so that I could compare the stem to something I already have.

I would love to see the 162 gram Schmolke bars mounted in this system. They are light and stiff fairly stiff, and the 252 gram combination would make for an interesting ride (maybe even too light up front…). I would take a bit longer stem and the combination should be off the charts comfortable…

Should you want to toss out the custom fit advantage, you can buy these in a stock tilt with the Ergo bars we tested ($458) or choose Ritchey or FSA bars ($448). They weigh in the range of 300 to 320, so they are lighter than the competitive products (80 – 100 Grams) and again the savings relative to other one piece sets is good…

The Ending…
I love having someone show me that I am wrong, as I learn every time. In this case it was kinda like getting a private scolding from Rebbeca Romijn (complete with spanking), as I come out of it with an extremely nice piece of gear. (note that should someone want to trade Rebecca for a set of these, I am reachable by email…)

I stand corrected in that there are one piece bar stem combo’s that will most likely fit you… These do have limits in the 10 degree + or – rise, and once they are made, they are not adjustable (nor are they returnable of course). But relative to the other products like them, this is hands down the way to go.

Lead time is about 2 weeks from order. If you use your bar, You should send it mounted in a stem with the correct tilt to it and they will use that as their mounting angle for wrapping it up. They are limited to 31.7 and or 31.8 bars sizes by the way…

You can find these at your local Calfee dealer, and you can find them at CalfeeDesign.com.


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