SPANK Flare 25 Vibrocore™ Drop Bar: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted
Flared drop bars are now a common feature of gravel bikes. The more ergonomic way in which they accommodate most humans is something that is palpable. They come on many new gravel bikes and even aftermarket bars have become sought after. One of the newest available, the SPANK Flare 25 Vibrocore™, is not only interesting for its shape, but for its promise to change vibrations from harmful to benign ones. Can it do this and does this bar have a good shape? Those are the questions this review seeks to answer. If you want to know more about the technical side of the SPANK offering here, see our “Getting Rolling” post.
First Impressions: The Vibrocore™ bar has a nice, but very noticeable, amount of flare. The “25” in the name is a clue and indicates that this bar has 25° of flare. Now, that may be more than you are used to, but typically more flare in the drops means more room to move without coming into contact with the bar top while in the drops. This is pretty handy when the terrain gets rowdy and you need to apply more body movements to keep the bike underneath you. Not everyone will need this sort of flare, but for those that do, the SPANK bar here has it and it is a nice feature.
This bar reminds me a lot of the Cowchipper from Salsa Cycles, but it is different than that bar in a couple of key ways. First, the 31.8mm clamp section actually extends all the way across the top. From one end of the ramp on one side to the other, this diameter is a nice place to grip the bar. Especially if you have larger hands. The other thing that is different, of course, is the Vibrocore™ filler material within the bar itself.
I ran this bar back to back with a couple of other bars which were mounted on different bikes. Typical aluminum bars and a carbon drop bar were used. First of all, it should be noted that SPANK does not claim the Flare 25 will eliminate vibrations, but that it will change them from harmful ones to vibrations that are at a frequency that is “less harmful” to the rider. The Flare 25 definitely does have a different feel. The vibrations I felt were……not muted, they were there, but not the same frequency, for sure. Other bars had a “zing” to them, which I could say might affect me negatively, but as for this SPANK bar, I cannot say at this point that it is “better” for me.
I’m not using scientific measuring machines or data to convey what this bar does, or does not, do, because Riding Gravel just does not have those resources. That said, one doesn’t have to think too hard to realize that tires, fork material/design, frame, handle bar tape, and stems all have an effect on what vibrations are coming through the handle bars. For instance, if a fork is too stiff, it may actually be bending the down tube/top tube over vibrations, causing the bars to oscillate. We’ve had several test bikes do this to some degree. This would be something a handle bar would have little to no effect on, in terms of reducing that sort of vibration. So, for us to say that this bar is going to make your hands feel awesome, well…..that would be irresponsible of us. There are just too many variables to this puzzle to say it is just the handle bar.
So Far…… The SPANK Flare 25 Vibrocore™ handle bar is a great drop bar shape- the drops, extensions, and the radius of the drop all are very good. The 25° of flare might sound like a lot, but it feels very natural once you try it. The 31.8mm top is maybe my favorite feature of this bar, lending a very comfortable cruising/climbing position where other bars feel too skinny to my size Large mitts.
The vibration thing: Maybe. There probably is something going on there, and it may be very beneficial to some riders. That said, there are just too many variables for us to say unequivocally that the Vibrocore™ thing is a blessing or just fluff. More riding will be done and then the “At The Finish” post will have our final verdict there. Stay tuned.
Note- SPANK sent over the Flare 25 Vibrocore™ Drop Bar to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.