Syntace’s C3 aero bar is a triumph of design. I’ve put a pair through the wringer endurance cycling, and I love them.
Words and images - James Raison
A special caveat before the review: I am not a triathlete. These bars are for my ultra endurance adventures. My main desire was sustainable comfort for massive days in the saddle. Interesting side note: their carbon C6 version is good enough for endurance cycling demigod Christoph Strasser. He used them in his trans-Australian record ride So I thought they were certainly good enough for me!
FITTING THE BARS
You may raise an eyebrow at the general bendiness of the bars when unboxing them. I had been using a set of ski bend Pro Missile Alloy bars before that were just sort-of-ok. Comfort was ok, position was ok, and I felt just ok riding them. They were very adjustable though so I figured I just needed time to dial them in.
Fitting them is easy, with Syntace's spiffy allen key included in the box. I also got a 12.5 mm lifter to use with them for that slightly more elevated endurance position. and to give me a bit of the handlebar flats to grab onto.
Switching to the Syntace was a revelation. All of the claims of comfort were shown correct immediately. There’s less adjustment on the C3s than with many aero bars. You buy it in either Small, Medium, or Large size based on a self-measurement using a printed sheet of paper from the Syntace website. You can cut off the end to make it shorter but that’s it. The arm pad can slide sideways up to 84 mm but there’s no fore-aft adjustment or rotation. The bars are much more rugged as a result, with the arm pads sliding along solid metal rails rather than floating in space. Speaking of rugged, Syntace cover these bars with a 10 year warranty so they clearly feel like they've made them to last.
They tip the scales at an outstanding 366 g for the Medium. That’s not just good for alloy, that’s a good number for carbon bars.
The comfort of these bars was immediately obvious. I almost couldn’t believe the improvement in comfort over the bars I’d been using.
All those bends put the end of the extensions exactly where I wanted. The included Syntace “Gizmo” attaches into the end of the bars and gives a little foam bridge for your thumbs to rest on. After I’d wrapped the bar ends in some tape it was nothing but comfort.
I used the bars training and racing (albeit somewhat briefly) in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. After 6 massive days on the bike I didn’t have any back, neck, arm, or hand pains. I would have spent the entire time on the aero bars if I could but my sore arse did need some relief from the aero position.
The bars aren’t just cleverly designed to help your hands: but they also flatten your back. After fitting, I did notice less arching than I’d had before. That helps with comfort and improves the airflow over your shoulders.
The elbow pads and cradles help add to the comfort because they’re a slightly flexy fibre re-enforced plastic. That helps give a little bit of vibration and bump dampening. These bars are so well considered that the elbow cradles have small finger ridges beneath them for you to grip when you want to hold the pads and sit upright. I used this daily for Indy Pac when I needed to stretch the back and neck. It’s such a nice touch.
In total I’ve put some 3,800 km on these bars and I absolutely love them. I spoke to another Indy Pac competitor - Jan-Willem Bobbink - who’d used them a lot more than I had and he claimed he’s never had any wrist pain since using the bars. That’s high praised from a very experience endurance cyclist.
THE ONLY NEGATIVES
There’s really only 2 possible problems with these bars. First, the lack of adjustment might deter some who preference ultimate flexibility. Personally, these fit me like a glove so that didn’t matter. Syntace take the view that the bar is already the right shape, so adjustability is not necessary. In my experience, they're correct.
Second; their bendiness can make them a little awkward to mount things onto for ultra-endurance cycling. I did have a bit of a tough time strapping a dry bag to them and finding spots to mount lights and a Garmin to. That’s a small price to pay for all this comfort and I will most definitely be using them in the future for ultra endurance events. I’ll gladly get a custom bag made to hang on them. These bars are just too comfortable to want to use anything else.
I didn’t really like aero bars until I used the Syntace C3s. My hands, arms, back neck, and shoulders loved them. They’re not the most adjustable bars, nor quite as convenient as a straight bar. They are fantastic though. I wanted comfort and I got it. These are worth a look for anyone looking for fast, and comfortable aero bars. I wholeheartedly encourage ultra endurance cyclists to try them. The comfort gains on offer here are staggering.
Disclosure statement: These bars were supplied by the Australian distributor EightyOne Spices. They retail for $299 AUD. It is not a paid review and we do not receive any proceeds from the sale of Syntace equipment.