Who actually needs this? Surprisingly, quite a few! NEWMEN present the Handlebar Advanced 318.25 VGS, a carbon handlebar with adjustable width. Is this the pinnacle of customisation in the bike industry, or have NEWMEN overengineered the usually simple mountain bike handlebar? Read on to find out.

Although not everyone is aware of it, today eMTBs are as adaptable as a camp of chameleons under a multi-coloured disco ball. Usually available in four different frame sizes, eMTBs also offer a wide range of adjustment options to provide customised ergonomics for almost all body sizes and proportions – including handlebar width. But, unlike most other ergonomic adjustments, shortening the handlebar is irreversible. If you accidentally cut it too short, you won’t be able to make it wider.

So, especially if you are new to the sport, you may appreciate the opportunity to experiment with handlebar width before making a final decision.

Shortening a carbon handlebar is no simple task either. Some instruction manuals advise to do this only outdoors, while always wearing eye protection and a dust mask, making sure that you use an extra wide saw guide for a carbon fibre saw blade to avoid delamination. This can all be quite discouraging.

NEWMEN Handlebar Advanced 318.25 VGS | Price: € 145 – 153 (Handlebar), € 22 (Grips)
Weight: 215 – 235 g (Handlebar), 102 – 107 g (Grips) | Tester: Rudi, Benedikt | Intended use: XC, Trail, Enduro, Downhill | Manufacturer Website

This is where the NEWMEN Handlebar Advanced 318.25 VGS comes in. NEWMEN call the width adjustment technology “VariGrip” (VGS). The handlebar has two threads, laminated into the bar ends. The matching NEWMEN VGS grips with the corresponding external thread can be screwed onto the handlebar at different distances to adjust the bar width.

An M15x1.5 female thread is embedded in the end of the handlebar, while the NEWMEN VGS grips feature a corresponding male thread. This ensures that the grips are securely attached to the handlebar while remaining adjustable.

The concept isn’t entirely new, though. Grip manufacturer ODI, for example, introduced a similar product over a decade ago with their Flight Control handlebar, but it didn’t gain much traction. So, what have NEWMEN learnt and improved upon to ensure the success of the VariGrip?

The NEWMEN VariGrip handlebar in detail

NEWMEN don’t just offer one VariGrip handlebar but several models: the Evolution SL 318.25 VGS in aluminium and the Advanced 318.25 VGS in carbon, which is the one we tested. The aluminium bar weighs between 257 g and 339 g depending on the version and costs between € 64 and € 72. The lightweight carbon bar weighs between 215 and 235 g and costs between € 145 and € 153. This makes the VariGrip carbon model even lighter than a comparable but uncut NEWMEN handlebar and only slightly more expensive. In any case, the VariGrip is certainly more cost-effective than buying a second handlebar after accidentally shortening the first one too much.

All handlebars come with a 31.8 mm diameter clamp, although a 35 mm version is in the works. The handlebar has an 8° backsweep and upsweep. There are two widths to choose from, covering either 710–760 mm or 760–810 mm range. Depending on the width, models with a rise of 10, 25 or 40 mm are available. With this, NEWMEN aim to cover a wide range of applications, from cross-country to downhill.

Our € 153 carbon test model weighs exactly 230 g, spans between 760 and 810 mm and has a 25 mm rise.

All standard grips with an internal diameter of 22.2 mm can be fitted. However, the handlebar only makes sense with one of NEWMEN’s four different VGS grips. Your usual grips from Ergon, ODI and the like slide down the handlebar to its minimum width of 760 mm and do not allow the handlebar width to be adjusted. So you are effectively limited to four models. These are the ergonomic Wingmen wing grips with a large contact area for touring bikes and the Blok (XC, trail), Slat (trail, enduro) and Resia (enduro, DH) models.

The Slat grips (red) are side dependent due to their profile. The turquoise Resia grips fit both left and right. However, all grips have a top side where the rubber wall thickness increases for more cushioning.

On the Resia model, there’s no difference between the left and right grips, while the Slat and Blok grips are side specific. In addition, all the grips have a top and bottom side with a slightly different profile thickness to provide extra shock-absorbing rubber under the palm. The grips are priced at € 22 and weigh between 102 and 107 g per pair.

Now, let’s do some maths. The width of the handlebar can be adjusted by 50 mm, allowing an adjustment of 25 mm on each side of the grip position. The M15x1.5 thread has a pitch of 1.5 mm. This means that a grip makes 16 turns between the outer and inner positions, offering you as many handlebar widths and positions to choose from.

A scale is engraved on the ends of the handlebar, making it easy to find the right width. The maximum bar width is 810 mm.

A scale engraved on the handlebar ends with 5 mm increments helps to determine the handlebar width. Once the grips have been adjusted to the desired width, they are secured to the inner clamp using a 3 mm Allen key.

The markings on the stem clamp help to centre the handlebar. It is slightly roughened around the stem clamp to increase friction and ensure a secure fit. NEWMEN specify a maximum torque of 6 Nm for the stem bolts and 1.5 Nm for the brake, gear and dropper clamps.

The area around the stem clamp is slightly roughened to increase friction. The laser marking makes it easy to centre the handlebar.

The new NEWMEN VariGrip handlebar in review

We did our initial test rides with the narrowest handlebar width of 760 mm. With an 8° backsweep and upsweep, the handlebar is slightly more curved than the typical 5° upsweep and 7° backsweep found on approximately 80% of all bars. The slightly more pronounced upsweep of the NEWMEN VariGrip handlebar means that riders with broader backs may experience slightly more bent wrists and a more compressed riding position. This can be easily compensated for by increasing the bar width, so it’s not a criticism of the NEWMEN handlebar, and is, of course, a matter of personal preference.

Even in the narrowest configuration, the handlebar has a noticeable flex that provides a little more shock absorption and damping when riding off-road. Common opinion is that increased flex leads to a reduction in steering precision. However, this effect only occurs in homeopathic doses, so we couldn’t confirm that during testing.

The soft Resia and Slat grips contribute to shock absorption. Their rubber compound has a Shore A hardness of 25. To put this in perspective, gummy bears are around 10A, and the red side of the red-blue eraser is around 40A (what the hell is the blue side for anyway?). For riders with screw clamps instead of hands, the grips are clearly too soft and tend to float somewhat between the palm of the hand and the handlebar. NEWMEN have announced that there will be a version of the Resia grip with a harder rubber compound in the future.

The narrower the handlebar, the more direct and agile the handling of the eMTB is perceived to be, as was the case with the NEWMEN Handlebar Advanced 318.25 VGS in 760 mm width. Although our testers usually ride wider bar widths, they benefited from a slight increase in agility on winding home trails.

Conversely, a wider handlebar offers more steering precision and stability, especially in fast sections. When the grips are locked in place at 810 mm, they feel just as stable as on a standard 810 mm handlebar. However, the extra 50 mm of handlebar width noticeably increases the flex of the bar, which may be too soft for some heavier riders. Unfortunately, there’s no remedy for this. The larger lever, however, makes for a more composed and precise handling of the bike.

By the fourth descent on our home trails, most of our testers were able to identify their preferred handlebar width and either confirm or revise their existing opinion of the perfect width. For the tinkerers and puzzlers among us, the handlebar made us want to find the optimum bar width for other trails too.

Caution: Frequent adjustment of the grip width can scratch the surface of the handlebar. When making adjustments, ensure that all clamps are loosened sufficiently and follow NEWMEN’s torque specifications when retightening.

However, the system has a few drawbacks. If you too carelessly change the position of the grips, and therefore the position of the brake clamps and remote controls, you will have to live with a scratched handlebar surface. You also need to be careful with the small 3 mm Allen screw on the grip clamp, and ideally use a good quality multi-tool to tighten it with a light feel. Otherwise, sooner or later you’ll risk stripping the screws. The same applies to the brake, gear and remote clamps, where you must also respect the low torque specifications of the handlebar. Cable routing for displays and eMTB remotes is also not possible with the VariGrip handlebar.

Who is the NEWMEN VariGrip the right handlebar for?

The NEWMEN VariGrip handlebar isn’t just for teenagers with uncontrollable growth spurts or beginners trying to find their ideal handlebar width. It is also a real problem solver. Whether fitted to a fleet of test bikes or rental bikes in a bike park, it offers a slightly better fit with minimal extra effort. The same goes for sharing a bike with your partner.

Tinkerers can also use the thread at the end of the handlebar for other purposes, such as securely attaching a small tool, ensuring it remains rattle-free and always at hand.

Does your bike hit the tailgate of your car when mounted on the rear carrier? If so, the NEWMEN VariGrip will give you an extra 25 mm of clearance without having to twist the handlebar.

For those of you who frequently transition between heavily wooded home trails and open bike parks, the narrow position minimises your own cross section, allowing you to thread the needle between tight trees without catching them. In bike parks, the wide position is preferred for maximum stability. (Editor’s note: Please avoid being that person who stops the group at every trailhead to adjust the handlebar. Otherwise, you may find yourself riding solo in the future).

Unfortunately, there is no intermediate size of around 735–785 mm, which would offer a better fit for some riders.

Conclusion on the NEWMEN VariGrip handlebar

The NEWMEN Advanced 318.25 VGS handlebar with VariGrip feature proves to be smart and versatile. Not only does it improve ergonomics by allowing you to choose the handlebar width that best suits you, but it also allows you to influence the handling of your bike. At just under € 175, this handlebar and grip combination is also no more expensive than a comparable carbon bar. However, the NEWMEN handlebar may not be suitable for all riders due to the lack of an intermediate size and the slightly higher than usual flex.

Tops

  • innovative handlebar width adjustment
  • improved ergonomics
  • fine-tuning of handling
  • good value for money
  • never shorten handlebars too much again

Flops

  • missing intermediate size
  • somewhat high flex at full width
  • scratched surface if handlebar width is frequently adjusted
  • bar width adjustment only possible with NEWMEN grips

For more info, visit newmen-components.de


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Words: Rudolf Fischer Photos: Geronimo Schmidt

About the author

Rudolf Fischer

In his previous life Rudolf was a dab hand at promoting innovation, putting his brain behind big-ticket patent assessments that easily ran into six-or-seven-plus figures. These days, the self-confessed data nerd’s role as editor at DOWNTOWN and E-MOUNTAINBIKE is no less exciting. Given his specialism in connectivity, Rudolf’s often placed on the front line of future mobility conversations, but he’s also big into testing new bikes–both on the daily as a committed commuter and intensively for our group tests. The business economist graduate is as versatile as a Swiss penknife, and that’s no hyperbole. Away from two wheels, his background in parkour means he’s a master of front, side and backflips, plus he speaks German, English, French, Russian and a touch of Esperanto. Japanese remains woefully unmastered, despite his best home-learning attempts. Good to know: Rudolf’s sharp tongue has made him a figure of fear in the office, where he’s got a reputation for flexing a dry wittiness à la Ricky Gervais... interestingly, he's usually the one laughing hardest.