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.
One downside, shown below, is that they tend to scratch fairly easily if you move controls around. I pointed this out in the review and shortly after, Roost published a process for removing these scratches. They do scratch pretty easily while you move controls around, but they can largely be buffed out with this process. I can also point out that after riding this for about a year, they've shown no additional or unwarranted wear.
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 and are standardized. For whatever reason, most handlebar manufacturers fail to post what standards they comply with or how their bars were tested for durability/fatigue/etc. Considering how critical handlebars are| for the safety of the bike, it's surprising to see brands not post it.
Update (10/11/2023): My original review for these bars pointed out that Roost fell into this category, along with other large brands like OneUp, and they did not list their testing / certification standards for their bars. Well, they were paying attention and emailed me a little while ago: they read the review and notified me that they have updated their website to reflect the testing/certification information. I cover this in the updated section at the end, but wanted to modify it inline to avoid any confusion. Now, this testing data is available on Roost's site, which is a great change for people who are concerned about this like I am.
It's nice to see brands be both responsive, but also listing this information. As I pointed out in the original text, I will probably prioritize buying bars from brands who list this information in the future, a category Roost now falls into. 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.
I think anyone can benefit from these and they are excellent all around, they are compliant, have held up great for me, and have great aesthetics. They are more on the expensive side, but I feel they are worth it especially if you are concerned about running carbon bars, but still want a compliant feel.
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
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.
Updates (10/11/2023): Roost reached out to me about a week ago and notified me they had addressed two minor gripes I had with the original review:
Like many brands, they did not list the testing process/standard that they adhered to. I think more brands should be doing this, but even some of the larger ones like OneUp fail to provide this information. After reading my review, Roost reached out to notify me that they updated their site to include this information and that they meet the relevant standards
I had originally complained that the bars scratch fairly easily when installing controls. In response, Roost published an Instagram post that details a process for removing these minor scratches. The surface still scuffs and scratches easily, but following this does seem to remove or reduce them. In a year of riding these, they look about the same as they did when I installed them, so this is only really something to consider when installing the bars. During the initial install, I wasn't exactly careful and slid some controls around which resulted in the scratches, but it does appear these can be buffed out.
It was really great having a brand read these and address these things, despite being minor, so props to Roost for that.