Integration invasion: Three bar/stem combos reviewed

Integration invasion: Three bar/stem combos reviewed

Words by Kristen Legan
Photos by Brad Kaminski

Integration has become a hallmark of aerodynamic bicycle design — from brakes to Di2 ports to seatposts. As one of the major leading edges of a bicycle, integrated handlebar/stem units provide aerodynamic gains by eliminating cylinder shapes, which yield 10 times the drag of aero shapes of the same size. While the one-piece designs are less adjustable than individual components, they increase front-end stiffness for a more confident riding experience.

Each of the bars we tested has internal cable routing options, further cleaning up the front of the bike. And while aerodynamics are the defining concern here, ergonomics are vital, too. No point in using a fast bar if you don’t want to wrap your hands around it.

FSA Plasma Integrated Compact

42x12cm (as tested)
400 grams
4/5 stars

The Plasma is by far our favorite integrated bar and stem we’ve tested. For our 5-foot-10 tester, the 125mm of drop and 80mm of reach offer such a perfect fit in all riding positions. The Plasma felt like a custom-molded bar. The tops are rounder than the others in this test, but the shape cradles the hands for a comfortable and secure grip all the way to the hoods. In the drops, a flat section on the hooks provides a wider, more substantial surface to grasp. If the $659 price tag gives you pause, consider comparable carbon two-piece systems, like Enve’s SES bar and stem, which add up to nearly the same price — minus the sleek integration.

Giant Contact SLR Aero Road Integrated Handlebar

42x12cm (as tested)
380 grams/390 grams with adapter
3.5 stars

The Contact SLR finishes off its flat, wind-cheating top with rounded edges that make it consistently comfortable in all positions. The curve of the ergonomic drop and transition to the tops also make it easy to find a comfortable spot for the brake levers, while the dual-radius drop provides for comfortable wrist angles and a short reach. Like all Giant stems, this integrated unit is built around the OverDrive 2 fork steerer-tube technology, designed to work directly with 1.25-inch steerers (the industry standard is 1.125 inches). So unless you ride a Giant bike, you’ll need to use the included adapter.

Ritchey WCS Carbon Solostreem Integrated Bar/Stem

42x12cm (as tested)
380 grams
3 stars

With a classic bend, short 126mm drop, and one-degree of flare, the Solostreem is ideal for riders with small hands. The geometry offers easy reach to the shifter and brake lever and comfort in the drops. The tops of the bar are not so accommodating, however. The thin cross section likely helps aerodynamics, but the back edge dug into our palms. The tops do get more comfortable closer to the hoods, though. With 75mm of reach, we found a comfortable position and secure grip on the bar without feeling stretched out. Internal cable routing is intuitive and sleek. And the Solostreem gets two superlatives in our test: It was the least expensive ($500) and lightest (380 grams) integrated bar we evaluated.