Monday, April 7, 2008

Supersize Me.

Combos. The simultaneous sale of multiple items which enables the seller to make them available as a group at a cheaper price than they would be individually. This is a good thing, yes?

Not necessarily.

Today, let us address the KHE Centaur bar/stem combo:

The concept is simple enough, I suppose—it's basically a set of Macneil Silencer XLTs welded to an Odyssey Elementary. (Of course you couldn't actually weld those two together since the Elementary is all aluminum except for the bolt, but I digress). First, let's review the positives:

• Cheaper
• Lighter
• You can chrome the WHOLE THING!

That's about it. And that's not bad, really. (I'm assuming the combo will cost less than your average lightweight bar/stem, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $130.) Because usually you only get cheap AND light at the cost of strength, and in this case—well, you probably get those two at the cost of strength. Which brings us to the negatives:

• No adjustability

This causes two problems, actually. Let us, for the moment, disregard the fact that people normally run their bars at many, many different angles, even if they appear the same. One could get used to a few degrees difference quite easily. That said, there is a big difference between, say, straight up-and-down and even with the fork rake. So one would think they'd have to make at least two variations to account for that. Then if you want to have versions with different sweep or height or width (cutting down butted bars that have holes drilled in the grip area doesn't seem like such a great idea), you're getting into an awful lot of variables.

Then there's the second problem, which is this: When you have steel bars bolted into an aluminum stem, and you crash/land hard enough, they shift. It's happened to everyone, I'm sure. This won't happen when your bars are welded to your stem. One of two things WILL happen, though. They'll either bend, or break. Add in the huge amount of leverage you get with tall/wide bars, and the fact that these are butted AND have holes drilled in them, and—well, I wouldn't run them unless I had health insurance.

Which brings us to the second point.

• More expensive

I realize this directly counters one of the positives, but bear with me. The bar/stem combo may very well be cheaper initially, but it'll cost you in the end. Look at those bars again. Wide, drilled out. Quite light, I'm sure. Now think about bailing and watching your bike bounce away. Where does it hit? The tires, the seat...and the end of the bars. Which in this case are built like crumple zones in a car, and will probably work in much the same way. One hard hit and they're done for. Which is fine—bent bars have been an issue since the first days of BMX—until you realize that when that happens with the Centaur, you have to replace your bars AND your stem. All of a sudden the whole package deal doesn't seem like such a great idea, does it? Like many of today's products, fine for a team rider who gets them free, not so much so for someone who has to pay for everything.

And then there's my final point:

Yes, a company called Vector did a bar/stem combo back in the '80s. The one shown is a Bob Haro signature version that was quite popular with, um, Bob Haro. Can't say I really remember anyone running them back in the '80s. And I can't help but think the KHEs will have the same fate—seen more on "vintage" builds in 2040 than on bikes that are actually ridden.


ryan said...

rhys said...

fuck KHE.

moebius said...

KHE owner Thomas Göring actually ran a pair of those Vector bars! Maybe he's trying to pass the traumatic experience ...