Roost Titanium Handlebar Review
Anyone that has ridden with me over the years knows that I have crippling hand pain that I've tried to resolve via numerous doctors, therapists, and bike changes. I may finally be getting a medical solution, but the fact right now is that I'm hyper sensitive to certain things on the bike and bar compliance is one of these things.
Unfortunately, I have a possibly irrational fear of carbon handlebars. I know many ride them with no issues, but I've seen too many broken bars and the thought is always in the back of my mind. This creates a weird situation for me where I need a compliant bar, but a lot of the more compliant bars out there are made of carbon and the alloy options are more budget minded.
Years ago someone recommended titanium to me as a compliant metal option, but at the time the only options were very XC (think 720mm width, flat bars). A few months back I decided to revisit this and was pleasantly surprised to see both Stanton and Roost, a relatively newcomer, come out with"modern" geo ti bars. I ordered both and have been on them about six months or more.
The bars are a 31.8 clamp diameter with various rise options. The specs are covered pretty well on their website, so I won't dive into that too much.
The aesthetics are great, they look super nice and the logos, while present, aren't flashy or too showy. Overall, I feel it's a very nice looking bar...until you move a control, at which point the surface scratches badly. I don't really consider this a huge gripe, but these things scratch if you look at them wrong, so it's worth considering when you are installing things.
I also noticed the diameter on the control areas is slightly larger than standard, while everything clamps to them fine, some slide on grips will be difficult to install or remove. My ODI DreadLocks, for instance, needed a lot of pressure to slide on, while RevGrisp went on fine. Again, not a huge deal, but worth considering when you go to install them..
Finally, compared to the Stanton bars, I was really relieved to see markings for the center of the bar and the pitch. These make centering the bar much easier and allow you to tweak the sweep/rise angle by rotating the bar.
So this is what we're here for, at least what I was. Are they as compliant as carbon options in metal form? The answer is both yes and no.
Compliance is a difficult thing to measure and feel. For me, it's simple: an overly stiff bar and the nerve in my left hand immediately lights up on the first bump, a more compliant bar and it drags out a bit longer. That said, this can be induced via a variety of different things including temperature, what I ate the day before, confidence level, etc, so it's really not fair to only consider that. When weighing this, I would consider how both hands feel, my shoulders, and how much vibration I feel through the bars on small, rough chunky sections and even on bigger hits.
I think overall these provide a very compliant feel. If compared to my PNW Range bars and the SQLab 12 degree bars, the compliance is very noticeable in both my hands, wrists, and arms. It's a sortof dulling effect, not so much a smoothing effect, it's like hitting a hammer on a piece of wood vs concrete: one feels harsh and the other less harsh. That said, they do not compare to the compliance provided by the OneUp or We Are One bars in my opinion, this is just a reality of working with a material that has a solid single thickness throughout and one that can be laid up in specific ways. They are the most compliant metal bar I think I've ever run, though.
I've also had carbon bars (RaceFace for instance) that were far stiffer, less compliant, and flat out painful to ride. I'd summarize by saying they are more compliant than any aluminum bar I've run and close to the most compliant carbon bar I've run.
They do not feel vague, they don't flex when you don't want them to, and they've held up fine to me riding on them the last few months. The overall ride feel is excellent, they do a great job of damping vibrations on the trail, and the geometry feels good.
There are testing standards for handlebars, these can be conducted by 3rd parties. What blows my mind is that a lot of handlebar brands, OneUp and Roost being two of them, never list what standards they comply with. The information is just not available, so how are we supposed to make a decision?
So are they safer? Who knows, titanium can be brittle and break. I've seen broken aluminum bars too. How is the consumer supposed to know or feel confident in one of the most safety critical aspects of the bike if testing standards are not published. Were they tested at all? Do they meet or exceed requirements? What is the fatigue life? Your guess is as good as mine because none of this is anywhere.
Now to be clear, this is not specific to Roost, numerous brands fall into this trap including the often recommended OneUp products, but I think this data needs to be publicly available. Going forward, I probably won't buy bars that fail to list it.
Point being, just because it's metal doesn't mean it is safer or more crash resilient. Without test data, we don't know the fatigue life or standards these were tested to, so it may be safer, it may not. I feel more confident in it given that carbon layups can have impossible to see deficiencies, but even considering that, these may not be much safer than carbon options. Who would I recommend this to?
If you are a carbon bar skeptic like I am, but want a more compliant bar, I feel these are a really good option. They provide a dulling effect to vibration and impacts on the trail that is very close to that of the more compliant carbon bars I've used (ProTaper, We Are One, and OneUp mainly). It may not be as compliant, but they are very close.
That said, the lack of safety data leaves it as an unknown whether they are a 'safer' option. Meanwhile, some carbon brands like We Are One are exceeding downhill testing specs by a wide margin and publishing the results. It gives me a little more confidence in their products and I think brands like Roost would benefit from publishing this data especially considering titanium isn't exactly a common bar material.
I think anyone can benefit from these and they are excellent all around, but it's uncertain whether they will have the same resiliency as aluminum or even higher end carbon bars like WAO. I had no issues, but it's still an open question.
So ultimately: they are more compliant than any metal bar I've run, but there are slightly more compliant carbon options, albeit at the risk of running carbon bars.
vs PNW Range - The Range bars are great and probably the best/most comfortable aluminum bar I've had, but the aesthetics get rougher over time and the compliance doesn't compare to the Roost bars. I think the geometry of the Range bars is also more natural for many riders and puts their wrist/shoulders into a better position, but the geometry of the Roost bars is hardly abnormal and is fairly standard.
vs WAO 'Da Bar' - I've only had a few rides on 'Da Bar', but I'd say they feel a bit more compliant, although at the 'risk' of running carbon bars. We Are One also publishes test data for their bars. Da Bar also requires the WAO stem, as well, limiting stem options. I'm putting more time on these in the coming months and will cover them when I have a few months of riding them.
vs. Stanton Titanium Bars - I ran these a bit and the compliance is close, I'd be surprised if they weren't made in the same place because they look real similar. That said, the Stanton bars lack the center markings and rotational marks, which isn't game breaking, but at the cost I'd like to see the markings on there, without them it makes the Stanton bars harder to set up.
Beautiful aesthetics with the polished finish and muted logos
Nice compliant feel without the need to run carbon
Center/roll markers in the middle provide easier setup and tweaking of bar roll
Multiple rise options
No issues with controls slipping or rotating out of place
Clamping surface for controls/grips is a bit larger than spec, so some fittings may be tighter
Lack of published safety test data
Surface scratches easily
Packaging is sub par for the price - I didn't talk to this much above because it doesn't matter much, but they really need to improve the way these arrive in the mail considering the cost.