MXA TEAM TESTED: NEKEN SFH HANDLEBARS
WHAT IS IT? Advances in handlebar design are few and far between. Steel bars with a cross brace welded on dominated the early days of motocross. The solid bar-stock aluminum Inter-Am handlebar of the 1970s was the first successful aluminum bar. Renthal originally only made hollow aluminum bars for trials bikes, but entered the motocross market in 1975 with hollow 7/8-inch aluminum bars with a clamp-on crossbar, which, in 2004, became the first aluminum handlebar to be spec’ed on a Japanese production bike. ProTaper upped the aluminum handlebar stakes in 1991 with the first oversized 1-1/8-inch tapered aluminum handlebar. The next big change in bar design—actually a small change—was the ProTaper Micro Bar, which retained the standard 7/8-inch bar size until it got to the grips and throttle sections and then shrunk the tubing by 5mm to accept smaller grips for the small hands of minicycle riders. Now, in 2018, the Neken SFH handlebar is putting a new spin on handlebar design.
WHAT’S IT COST? $108.95 (bars), $21.95 (grips).
CONTACT? www.nekenusa.com or your local dealer.
WHAT STANDS OUT? Here’s a list of things that stand out with the Neken SFH handlebars.
(1) Concept. Neken first showed MXA its air-suspended SFS (Smooth Feeling Suspension) triple clamp and a prototype of the Neken SFH (Smooth Feeling Handlebar) bar back in 2013; however, the SFH handlebar was back-burnered as Neken focused on marketing the air-suspended triple clamp. Now, five years later, Neken is releasing its innovative handlebar idea. It is similar to the minicycle-focused Micro-Bar, but in reverse. Since both bars were developed at the same time, neither party seems to have borrowed the idea from the other, as evidenced by their different approaches. Unlike the Mirco-Bar, which allows the grips to be smaller, Neken wants to make the grips bigger—or, more accurately, “thicker without changing the outer dimensions.” The Neken SFH handlebars are standard 1-1/8-inch (25.4mm) oversize handlebars that taper gradually down to 22mm (7/8-inch) and then, in the last 6 inches, to 18mm (5/8-inch). In effect, the SFH bars are 5mm smaller in the grip and throttle section than a normal handlebar. But, rather than use the extra 5mm to downsize the grips for small hands, Neken makes its full-size adult grips 4mm thicker. That is double the thickness of a normal grip.
(2) Performance. Doubling the thickness means the extra cushion of Kraton rubber offers a grippier surface and softer feel while reducing vibration from the engine and suspension. Every MXA test rider was skeptical of the tapered handlebar ends and cushy grips, but once on the track their doubts went away. Although double in thickness, the Neken half-waffle grips have the exact same outer diameter as a normal grip. The grips themselves were ultra soft and plush. Test riders reported a reduction in vibration, more comfort and less hand fatigue. Additionally, the strength of the handlebar was not compromised by the smaller ends, because the load on a handlebar is closer to the bar mounts, not the bar ends.
(3) Bends. Neken SFH bars are offered for all modern bikes. They also come in bright two-tone colors with a bar pad and the downsized throttle tube, which is required to fit on the 18mm bar ends.
WHAT’S THE SQUAWK? Because the 18mm bar ends ramp up to 22mm, you have to take care when installing the throttle housing to ensure that the throttle tube does not touch the ramp or the throttle will drag.
MXA RATING: It is easy to think of the SFH handlebar as a handlebar design, but it is really all about the grips. If your hands suffer from blisters, fatigue, vibration or comfort issues, the Neken SFH bars are for you. They smooth out the rough spots.