FORGOTTEN MOTOCROSS TECH: EASTON EXP 1-3/8-INCH OVER-SIZE HANDLEBARS
Motocross history is filled with examples of creative ideas that were heralded as groundbreaking, but, because of the rapid rate of change in development, sank into the swamp of forgotten technology. Although some are best left abandoned, others were truly innovative (if not ultimately successful). MXA loves to reveal motocross’ tech trivia. Do you remember these ideas? Easton EXP Over-Size Handlebars.
Easton is the company that made the original 1-1/8-inch oversize Taperwall handlebars for Answer that led to the current crop of oversize handlebars. Back in 2008, Easton launched its own line of Easton EXP bars. The trick part of the EXP bars was that they were 1-3/8 inches in diameter instead of 1-1/8 inches. The inherent problem with the oversize Easton EXP bars was that, just as with their Taperwall predecessors from 18 years earlier, the buyer could not mount them on his bike without investing in the added cost of oversize bar mounts. Easton’s concept was based on the fact that as the handlebar’s diameter went up, so did its strength. One other thing also went up—the cost.
The strength of a tube goes up with its diameter, thus a 1-1/8-inch tube is stronger than a 7/8-inch tube, which means that a 1-3/8-inch tube is stronger than a 1-1/8-inch tube (when used in the same configuration). There is no doubt that the Easton EXP over-over-size bar was the strongest handlebar made (in the places where its tubing diameter was larger than its competition).
Contrary to popular belief, a crossbar makes a 7/8-inch bar stronger, but it weakens a 1-1/8-inch or 1-3/8-inch crossbarless handlebar. How so? The strength of an oversize bar is that the stress loads are put on the stronger and larger diameter sections of the tubing, but if you put a crossbar on, you focus the stress into the 7/8-inch section of the bars. In effect, a crossbar undercuts an oversize bar’s strong point.
Easton was required to make bar mounts capable of holding its 35mm-diameter handlebars, so while they were at it, they rethought the whole concept. Easton’s eight-bolt Top Lock design has more surface area than any other bar mount and weighed more.
If we had blindfolded the MXA test riders before they rode with the Easton EXP handlebars, they would not have known that they were riding with 1-3/8-inch bars instead of 1-1/8-inch bars. We had expected the ride to be much stiffer and less resilient. This wasn’t true; the bigger bars delivered a very pleasant feel at the grips.
So, why did the Easton EXP handlebar fail on the market? The cost is prohibitive for the average racer. A handlebar in the same diameter range of the Easton EXP bar would retail in 2020 dollars for $150 to $180 dollars, while the bar mounts necessary to fit the over-over-size bars on the triple clamps could run as much as $90 with the necessary hardware. Compared to an 1-1/8-inch oversize bar which offers comparable strength, the price to put the first set of EXP-style bars on your bike is approximately $250 (almost double the cost versus a 1-1/8-inch bars). This has to worry anyone pursuing the same concept a decade later.
Although the Easton EXP bars were a sales flop, the science behind it was sound—and to keep it from being forgotten Renthal has recycled the 12-year-old Easton idea with their new FatBar36 ($179.95). Even though the “strength of a tube goes up with its diameter,” Renthal says that the Fatbar36 has the same strength as its popular 28mm Fatbar, but is lighter. The Fatbar36 will not fit in existing bar mounts. They will need “36Tech” bar mounts ($79.95) and they use special lock-pin handlebar bolts.