Enve recently revamped and expanded its mountain-bike-handlebar lineup, and while at it, went ahead and aligned it with the now-established naming convention used on its M Series rims. In case you don’t happen to speak Enve, let’s do a quick breakdown before we continue:
The first M Series rims were originally categorized by percentage of downhill to uphill: M50 Fifty for cross country, M60 Forty for trail, and so on. In 2017, Enve dropped the second half of the nomenclature, leaving M5, M6, M7 and M9. For rims, an additional number was added, representing inner rim width. For instance, the M525 is an XC rim with an inner width of 25 millimeters.
Like the rims, there are four levels of the M Series bars, but Enve broke them down into a couple classifications: Enve calls the M5 and 6 bars “trail rated” while the M7, and 9s are “gravity rated”. Gravity-rated bars are claimed to have 50-percent-higher-impact durability and 30-percent more overall strength than trail-rated bars.
Also, similar to the hoops, Enve’s M Series bars are specifically engineered with comfort, flex, shape, width and weight suited to each category. Since the fives and nines essentially belong on XC and DH race bikes, respectively, I went ahead and ordered the two bars that cover everything in-between, the M6 and M7. Because they’re designed to fit into two different strength and stiffness categories, I figured it’d be an interesting comparison.
Enve M7 Bar | $170
This is Enve’s first bar offered with the 35-millimeter clamp standard. I’ll fully admit that I’ve become a sucker for 35-mil bars, despite the fact that according to every engineer I’ve talked to on the topic, there’s absolutely zero advantage. According to the aforementioned smarties, it’s actually much harder to make a 35-mil-clamp bar be strong yet forgiving. And what’s the point of buying a carbon bar if you’re just going to get rid of all the advantages the material gains you in the first place? For looks, that’s why. Thirty-five-millimeter bar clamps look sweet because they match the burly look of a lot of the big ‘ol carbon tubes many of today’s bike frames are sporting.
Aesthetic is why the standard actually exists. They look cool, but many 35-mil bars are overly stiff. And Enve has already learned its lesson making shit way too stiff, and engineers weren’t about to make that mistake again. They spent a ton of time tuning the flex of the M7 bar so that it could actually do what carbon is supposed to do--which it turns out, is more than just looking cool.
Going along with the tuned flex theme, Enve prints fewer cut marks on each M Series bar. That’s because as you cut the bar down, it becomes stiffer and messes with the way it was designed to flex--thanks a lot, leverage. So if you’d like to run your M7s at 750 millimeters, go ahead, but you’ll have to measure yourself--and don’t go crying to Enve when your hands get beat to hell.
The M7 bar is 800 millimeters wide and has cut marks down to 760 millimeters. It’s offered with either 10, 25 or 40 millimeters of rise, each with an 8-degree sweep and 4-degree tip (upsweep). The M7 and M9 use geometry that’s a degree straighter on each dimension than the M5 and 6, because according to Enve, riders tend to prefer flatter bars as width increases. This apparently coincides with shorter stems as well.
I’m honestly not sure I can even feel the degree sweep and tip difference between the M6 and M7, but when riding back-to-back, the change in flex is definitely noticeable. The M7 has the same familiar solid-but-forgiving ride characteristic I’ve grown to love about Enve’s former DH bar. It doesn’t feel to me like they’re any harsher than those bars were, even though the clamp diameter is larger. And for a bar touted as having downhill-bike-level strength, I’m still impressed at how well it reduces trail vibrations and chatter. It’s a bar that’ll take abuse, but won’t abuse you. But more importantly, that 35-mil clamp sure does look rad.
Value-wise, Enve’s bars are in line with other popular carbon bars, such as Renthal and Race Face. The Enve M7 isn’t the lightest on the market, either, at 240 grams for the 25-millimeter rise option. Comparatively, a Renthal Fatbar Carbon 35, with a 20-millimeter rise, weighs in at 225 grams. Renthal also offers four rise options to Enve’s three. I’m a huge fan of Renthal but I do prefer the simplicity of the graphics on Enve’s new bars.
Enve M6 Bar | $170
With its 31.8-millimeter clamp, the M6 bar looks a bit less beefy than the M7. And according to Enve, it doesn’t just look that way--the M7 is 50-percent stronger impact-wise, and overall strength is 30-percent higher. But that doesn’t make the M6 weak, it just means it’s designed for a different style of riding--I guess.
I mean, I haven’t tested these things in a lab or anything, so I have no idea how much force it takes to break an M6 compared to an M7, but I can tell you that the M6 in no way gives me the sensation that it’s under built. No heebie-jeebies whatsoever. I tested both bars on the same 160-mil-travel Rocky Mountain Instinct, on the same trails, on the same day, and I was shredding my face off. Not really, but you get the idea. I wasn’t trying to act as if I were two different riders doing different disciplines.
The difference is there, but it’s subtle enough that if I hadn’t ridden the bars back-to-back, there’s no way I’d be able to tell them apart, especially after trimming the M7 down to 780, matching the width of the M6. But since I did, I was able to feel the added forgiveness that the M6 has. There’s definitely more flex, but not in a vague or sketchy, ‘I feel like this thing is going to snap,’ kind of way, and I’m not a small or particularly dainty type of rider. It has a responsive, snappy feel, whereas the M7 feels subtly more implacable.
I’d love to be able to say that the 9-degree sweep and 5-degree tip felt significantly anything compared to the degree-flatter M7, but I can’t honestly claim it affected my experience one way or the other, whatsoever. Props to Enve for sweating that detail, nonetheless, because plenty of folks actually do have a preference on that--or at least think they do. Unlike the M7, the M6 is offered in just two rise options: 7 and 25 millimeters. I chose the 25-millimeter option, which comes in at a competitive 200 grams.
The M6 is pretty perfect for me. It feels solid enough for me to not worry about it, while providing a nice, comfy feel that I can ride rowdy trails on all day without my hands turning to mush. Also, the 780-millimeter width is just right for me, and it has a familiar enough shape that setting the roll of the bar is a breeze.
But then again, that 35-millimter clamp M7 sure does look sweet. Even though I know there’s no good reason for it, and it’d be harder to make feel as good, I still, for some reason, find myself wishing the M6 was a 35-mil clamp. But, I’m too far gone--don’t let the popularity contest get the best of you, too. The M6 is a phenomenal trail bar.
One last note on Enve’s bars: While Enve proudly manufactures all of its rims and stems in Odgen, Utah, the bars are made in China. That won’t affect my buying choice, because it doesn’t make the bars any less excellent, and because pretty much everything else on bikes is made in Asia. I wouldn’t even bother pointing it out at all if Enve made mention of it on its own website, but it doesn’t. The company isn’t trying to hide the fact, but it doesn’t exactly spell it out for us, either, so there you go.
Enve Stems | $280
So, the bars are competitively priced, but Enve stems aren’t really. Or are they? Three hundred bucks for a stem is outrageously expensive, but then again, Enve carbon stems are outrageously good. If you’re a gram counter, the sub-100-gram weight for a 50-millimeter stem will impress you, but the real wow-factor is how much better the hollowed-out little beauty feels than your run-of-the-mill aluminum stem. Its just that much more carbon damping the minutia coming through the bike to your hands. Plus they look amazing, have fancy titanium hardware and are made in the US, if you care about that. And, if we’re going to take Enve’s word for it, the things are claimed to be incredibly strong--as if any of us has actually broken a stem.
The one thing I don’t particularly don’t love about Enve stems, is that the faceplate bolts are a bit of a challenge to line up and start threading properly. The threads in the stem are tapped into aluminum slugs, but on each Enve stem I’ve tried, there’s a little bit of carbon flashing before the aluminum threads start that make starting the bolts feel vague, as if you could cross-thread your 3-Benjamin stem at any moment. The other factor at play is that the bolts enter at an angle, and it’s bit harder to guess what that angle is when you’re used to bolts entering perpendicularly. Chasing the threads with a tap helped clean out the carbon flashing and improved the situation a lot, but a stem this pricey shouldn’t need any additional finishing work. Even though I have to be more careful when installing an Enve stem, they’re still insanely nice.
The M7 stem is the newest in the lineup, and matches the M7 bar’s 35-millimter-clamp diameter. It comes in lengths of 35, 50 and 65 millimeters, with zero rise, and features zero-gap upper bolts for faster installation. The 50-millimeter one I have weighs 95 grams. Then there’s the M6 stem, which is unchanged from Enve’s previous carbon mountain stem, with updated logos. It features a 31.8-millimeter clamp, and is offered in 40, 55, 70 and 80-millimeter lengths, at a six-degree angle. The 50-millimeter one I have weighs 92 grams.
If you happen to have a spare $450 to spend on a bar/stem combo, I can’t think of a better way to spend it. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that just the name of the company comes off arrogant as hell, and I spent a long time hating on it for that one reason. But it turns out, the people there are making legitimately great stuff. I suppose that’s worth envying.