Time Sports Ergo Drive Bar and Stem
Time Sports Ergo Drive Bar and Stem
Review of the Time Sports Ergo Drive Bar and Stem
Up until this point, all of the components I’ve discussed as part of the “Do It All Bike Project” have been more on the budget end of the spectrum. This isn’t necessarily a budget bike, though. The idea was never to build the cheapest bike around. The idea is to spend money
where it’s appropriate.
So far, that has meant I’ve been able to save money on the products I’ve discussed without sacrificing quality. Saving room in the budget has meant space to spend it in places where it’s really needed. The first item I’m going to talk about that isn’t going to be described as ‘a budget piece’ is the handlebars and stem.
Some people might not think that handlebars are the best use of an upgrade budget, but handlebars are one of the most important contact points on a bike. The CAAD9 was a frame designed long before the emphasis on aerodynamics was brought to road frame designs, and the handlebars and stem are one of the few places where you can actually increase the aerodynamics of a frame.
It’s also a place where you can make a frame that has a tight race geometry and very little compliance, like the CAAD9, more forgiving and more comfortable in all kinds of conditions. Choosing a handlebar and stem built from carbon might not save much weight over an aluminium option, but carbon does a wonderful job soaking up the kinds of vibrations that tend to make aluminium react like a tuning fork. Those are the same kinds of vibrations that will fatigue your hands in short order and generally make for a less enjoyable ride.
With all of these potential benefits to be had, I went looking for the best when it came to the handlebar and stem. What I landed on was the Time Sports Ergo drive bar and stem. What initially attracted me to the Time units was actually the shape of the bars. It’s a very unique option in a wide and varied field. It’s aero, with a flat top, but not as flat and wide as some of the other options you’ll find. It’s also got a compact drop, and of course, it’s incredibly stiff and light.
Those are only some of the more superficial features, though. As with most high-end products, it’s the details, the things you don’t see, that are what really set the Time products apart from the alternatives.
Time hand makes all of their carbon products at their factory in France using a unique process called RTM (Resin Transfer Moulding), a process where the carbon fibre fabric tubes are pulled over wax mandrels. This allows exact and highly detailed forms since the fabric is still supple.
It isn’t a process that other bike companies use for moulding carbon because it requires a great deal of expertise and time. Instead, it’s a process used more commonly by companies such as Airbus, Boeing, Ferrari, and Lamborghini. And since this process is done all in-house, they control every aspect of the fibre weave, the tubes and the tuning of the finished product. They have the ability to control fibre orientation and mix different materials for vibration dampening. The weave links each fibre mechanically making it more crack resistant. Keeping the production local in France and only France, also ensures that no short cuts are taken in the process. Weaving, laying up by hand and the resin injection process takes lots of time.
All of this attention to detail and precision means that while most handlebars are three separate carbon pieces glued together, the Time handlebar is one piece. The handlebars are carbon fibre tubes, not sheets or cut out patches pasted together in a mould to be shaped by a bladder. This makes the bar, as a whole, stronger and more resilient, with vibrations dissipated over the whole length of the bar since it is one carbon tube. If you were to cut a Time stem or bar in half the inside would be just as smooth as the outside, because the RTM moulding is very precise.
What it looks like inside is important because consistent thicknesses mean more durability and safety without the excess weight. Time determines exact thickness and the exact shape of the bar both inside and out. It ensures strength where needed without overbuilding it and adding weight.
That’s a lot of qualifications and I could go on; what does all that really mean, though? What is it like to ride with it? For me, all of the details of how it’s made, isn’t what I think about when I’m riding with it. What really comes through when riding it are three things: comfort, stiffness, and damping. The most notable feature is really a combination of the stiffness and the damping. The thing feels like it’s carved from a single piece of… maybe wood? Something that soaks up the bumps but also feels incredibly solid. There is never even the slightest hint of flex, but it also smooths out the ride. I’m not going to lay the feeling of the bike entirely on the bars and stem, but they certainly play a large role.
Gone is the resonance and vibration that you get on an aluminium frame. Instead, it feels like a carbon frame. Small bumps don’t make it to your hands and when something does upset the frame, it absolutely dies with a thud. It’s like shutting the door on a BMW versus a Kia.
The other big thing about this bar – and this actually makes you faster – is that it’s incredibly comfortable to get down in the drops. The bend is perfect and I can happily spend miles at a time tucked into an aero position hiding from the wind and putting everything I’ve got through the pedals.
I don’t just spend my time on the flats in an aero tuck, though. I actually spend a ton of time climbing hills, and the bar doesn’t disappoint there either. When you are suffering on a long climb and all you can think of is the next pedal stroke, when your mantra is simply keep pedalling, it’s these moments that I’ve really found an unexpected appreciation for the shape of the top of these bars. It’s a nice thick and unbelievably comfortable place to rest your hands when you want your chest open and an aero position isn’t your first choice.
The covers for the cables make it a cinch to route the cables and they also do a fantastic job of keeping the same shape on the underside. All that aside, let’s not forget how fantastic this bar stem combo looks!
I love the chunky stem. Not only that, but the carbon work is gorgeous and I really appreciate that it’s a unique product you aren’t likely to see on many other bikes. The Time logo on the front is a beautiful little piece of eye candy that speaks to the many details hidden beneath the bar tape.
The bottom line here is that there is no way you can talk about this combo without addressing the price. It’s among the most expensive you’ll find when looking at carbon stems and handlebars. It’s also a bit hard to find and the stem really can’t be flipped. It might be possible, but it’s clearly not designed to be, so make sure you are happy with the drop.
In return for that though, you are getting some of the best you will find. The bars are unbelievably comfortable both on the drops and the tops while paradoxically being both incredibly stiff and really helping to smooth out even the harshest of frames. Save some money in your build budget and spend it on this combo. You won’t be sorry you did.
|Hargroves Cycles||Chain Reaction||Wiggle||Merlin Cycles|
|Evans Cycles||ProBikeKit||Cyclestore||Rutland Cycling|
|Ribble Cycles||AW Cycles||Biketart||Leisure Lakes Bikes|