If it ain’t broke, fix it

I’ve been using the PNW Components Range 2 handlebars for some time. Ever since I was sent one to review and never felt the need to remove it.

So when I was asked if I would like to try the third generation of the Range handlebars and matching stem, I was both excited and apprehensive. I like my handlebars, can they really improve on them?

When the courier dropped off my package it didn’t take long for both stem and bars to make their way onto my bike.

PNW Components Range stem for MTB

Range stem

First, it’s stats. The Range is available in 40mm and 50mm lengths, has 0 degrees of rise, 38mm stack height and weighs 174 grams for the 40mm version and 210 grams in 50mm length. I went with the 50mm mostly so that I could compare like for like with my previous RaceFace Atlas stem. I did however switch to a 35mm clamp size.

Stems are one of those components I fit and generally forget all about. That is as long as they suit me. Ive had one or two that really didn’t and they annoyed me on every ride. Fortunately, the PNW Components Range Gen 3 stem suits me just fine.

It’s not too heavy, is a good length for me and doesn’t affect my riding position negatively.

The Range stem does have one unique feature, however. It comes fitted with an integrated GoPro mount. The mount fits into a slot cut into the face of the stem and is tightened using an alan bolt. The slot allows for some horizontal positioning, which helped clear my brake hoses. Accessing the adjusting bolt does require the front plate of the stem to be removed.

I’ve used handlebar-mounted GoPro attachments before and have never been impressed. Even with the built-in stabilisation of more recent generations of the action camera, they just couldn’t handle the vibrations transmitted through the fork and handlebars. I was pleasantly surprised by the footage I got from having my Hero 7 mounted to the Range stem, however. I guess other mounts introduce their own flex into the equation. But the PNW mount, being centred, a little lower down than the handlebars and firmly attached allowed the GoPro to do its thing and made for very watchable footage without the need for motion sickness remedies. It probably still isn’t my preferred viewing angle. Your body makes for an excellent gimbal and almost always remains pointed at the trail through relatively smooth movements. The front of a bike, however, makes a lot of sudden movements, and no amount of stabilisation can eliminate that. It does make for good B-roll, though, to provide some alternate angles.

If you have lights or bike computers with a GoPro mount or convertor, attaching them to the stem could be the perfect position for those.

Range handlebar

To the source of my anxiety/excitement: the new version of the Range handlebar.

It seems PNW agree with me that the existing version was great and opted to not change any of the angles. This means the Range 3 keeps the same relaxed geometry with 30mm rise, 5-degree upsweep and 10-degree back sweep. They have however managed to shave off about 25 grams in weight even though the length has increased to 800mm. It may not seem like much, but every little helps.

I haven’t cut down either of the Range bars and I am liking the extra 20mm.

PNW Components Range 3 handlebars up to 800mm wide

The biggest change comes in the choice of 31.8mm and 35mm versions for the first time.

We held off on making a 35mm bar until we could turn one out that we wanted to ride ourselves.

The first range bars I tried converted me from carbon to alloy. This new version doesn’t change that. If anything, the new 35mm version I am using is even more comfortable than its slimmer predecessor damping trail vibrations and reducing arm pump.

Unfortunately, after a good run, the 2nd gen of PNW range handlebars have finally lost their permanent spot on the front of my bike. They’ve been replaced by a younger model.