[Thor]

Tested: Neken SFH Handlebars & Grips

4 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: Sal Aloisio, iKapture

A product the Transmoto team has tried, tested and would recommend to a mate.

When a new product hits the market, it’s generally accompanied by claims of “all-new” and “unique” features; claims that can often be … let’s say, exaggerated. Neken’s recently released SFH handlebar, on the other hand, is a genuinely unique product. The all-new SHF bar puts a completely new spin on handlebar design by reducing the tubing diameter at each end of the bars, and marrying that with thicker-walled grips. The result is that your grips retain the same outer diameter, but offer more cushioning to your hands. But is it revolutionary? And what are the pros and cons of this new bar/grip combo? After using them for a few months, here’s what we found…

WHAT IS IT?

The SFH (Smooth Feeling Handlebar) is an all-new handlebar from French tubing and CNC specialists, Neken, who’ve been in the game since 1990 and currently make the OEM bars for KTM and Beta. The SFH is an oversize bar that uses a variable diameter and wall thickness (1-inch/25.4mm bar with a 1-and-1/8-inch/26.8mm clamping area) and is made from aerospace-quality 7070 T6 aluminium. Its unique feature is that the tubing’s outer diameter at either end of the bars is 5mm smaller, which means it must be used in conjunction with Neken’s small-diameter SFH Grips. To reduce vibration transferred back through the rider’s hands (and to retain the grips’ conventional outer dimensions), the SFH Grips use thicker sidewalls (around 4mm, versus the 2mm on most conventional grips). The SFH bar is claimed to be 40% lighter (yet stronger) than a classic handlebar, and it comes with laser-etched marks for accurate positioning, and a bar-pad. The SFH Grips are available in a kit (complete with a throttle tube and six throttle cam options) or as a standalone pair.

WHY WE RATE IT…

Comfort: By using more material in the SFH grips, they’re noticeably cushier and kinder on your hands. These things work a treat – both for how much ‘mechanical’ grip they offer, and for reducing blisters and general hand soreness after a long ride. So much so that, if you go back to conventional grips after using the SFH set-up for a while, it feels like you’re swinging off concrete (especially with Yamaha’s notoriously rock-hard grips). In effect, the SFH Grips reduce vibration and the associated hand/arm fatigue; an advantage that’s especially noticeable on two-strokes, for desert racing (when you’re hanging on for dear life at high RPM), and on longer adventure rides.
Wear: The SFH Grips’ added wall thickness means there’s literally more material to wear though before you finally ‘hit’ the alloy of the bars and need to replace them.
Hardware Supplied: Each set of SFH Grips comes with a throttle tube (to suit to smaller-diameter bar-end), and a choice of throttle cams to suit your bike’s make and model.
Track-record: Neken handlebars have been around a long time, and have a proven track-record when it comes to strength and durability, plus they’re available in a wide range of bend, sweep and height options to suit rider size and preference.
Potential: If you watch a small kid ride a dirt bike, two things are glaringly obvious: their necks aren’t strong enough to stop their helmet-clad head from bobbling around, and their hands can’t close around the grips – both of which makes it more difficult for them to properly control the bike. Which begs the question: why hasn’t Neken taken advantage of the smaller tubing used on their bar-ends by also producing grips with 2mm and 3mm sidewall thickness, thereby reducing the grips’ outer diameter? No doubt they’ll be onto soon, and will own the Junior bike market when they do.

WHAT DON’T WE RATE…

Options: If you use Neken SFH bars, you need to use Neken SFH grips, which only come in grey and black, and only in the one ‘soft’ compound. That’s great for Neken, but not so good for you if you like a specific type of grips. Also, lock-on grip brands such as ODI are yet to offer grips that suit Neken’s SFH bars.
Grip Glue: It’s not really a negative, but you do need to be aware that, as the SFH Grips’ Kraton rubber is much softer than average, you need to use slow-setting glue (such as Loctite Super Glue 3); otherwise, it’ll eat the rubber compound.
Hardware Compatibility: The smaller internal diameter of the SFH bar-ends means they don’t yet accommodate existing bolt-on bar-ends or fastening hardware for full-wrap hand guards. We suspect it’s simply a matter of time before hardware to suit the SFH bars starts to appear.

WHAT DO WE REALLY RECKON…

Neken’s SFH handlebars were introduced primarily for motocross, but we reckon their benefits will be most appreciated in enduro, desert, adventure and Junior bike circles. To really take advantage of their unique bar offering, Neken needs to ensure that aftermarket bar-end and hand guard brands develop mounting hardware to suit the smaller internal diameter of the bar-ends, and produce SFH Grip options with 2mm and 3mm wall-thickness for smaller hands or guys who prefer narrower grips.

PRICE

$169.95 (SFH Handlebar); $34.95 (SFH Grips Kit – with throttle tube); $16.95 (SFH Grips – standalone pair).

AVAILABLE

See www.gasimports.com.au for your nearest Neken stockist.


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