The PNW Components brand has been gaining followers over the last few years for their well-priced and nicely designed mountain bike components, in particular dropper posts and cockpit parts. You can check out our reviews on some of those parts here. Recently they have turned their attention to the drop-bar scene. It turns out there’s some crossover between these two worlds, and the gravel scene could potentially learn something from us mountain bikers. Who knew?
The accepted norm for MTB handlebar width is between 700 and 800mm, and for most it’s leaning toward the 800mm width. The shift from narrower bars to this wider standard happened pretty quickly. The opposite is probably true for the drop-bar world, where wider bars have been very slowly creeping in over the last few seasons. This is mostly thanks to gravel bikes and the need for increased control, because wider bars means added stability.
Most road/gravel drop-bars top out around 460mm in width, and this seems to be the conventional logic from road cycling, which makes sense for that type of riding. For gravel however, wider is often better, and a lot of gravel handlebars tend to get wider in the drops, giving the rider more control, and a lot of riders also find this more comfortable. This certainly helps, but a few brands are going even wider, such as PNW here.
The Coast handlebar is available in two widths — wide, and wider, more conventionally known as 48cm and 52cm. For those not familiar, the width measurement on drop bars is taken at the hoods, from center to center. With a 20º flare that puts them at 564mm and 604mm in the drops which is pretty damn wide. These bars are pretty extreme in terms of their numbers, being super-wide but short and low. The reach on the coast handlebar is 65mm and the drop is 105mm. For comparison I’ll quote the numbers from a more conventional gravel handlebar, the Easton EC70 AX, which tops out at 46cm wide, has a flare of 16º where most road bars have zero flare, a reach of 80mm, and a drop of 120mm. The Coast handlebars use a conventional 31.8mm clamp diameter.
On test here is the 48cm bar, which feels adequately wide for my 6ft height. I chose the 48cm having previously been riding a 44cm handlebar. I was relatively comfortable on the 44mm didn’t want to step too far out of my comfort zone, given that the 52cm is certainly pushing the envelope a little. However, now feeling pretty comfy on the 48cm I feel like I could potentially have gone wider. I’m relatively new to the drop-bar world and probably fall well within PNW’s demographic, and I feel much more comfortable on a wider bar than a conventional road handlebar. If I’m anything like those reading this article, I’m sure you too will enjoy a gravelly-tired, drop-bar bike for the ability to go adventuring much further than you might ever get on a road bike or a full suspension mountain bike, and for the ability to get into a moderate amount of trouble on a bike that’s mildly inappropriate for the terrain. A wider, more comfortable handlebar certainly goes a long way toward feeling more familiar and in control in these situations.
Given the nature of gravel riding, the pace is typically slower and rougher than a paved ride. The wider stance of the Coast handlebars puts the rider in a more relaxed position that’s comfortable for those longer, slower rides but retains the sporty feel of a drop handlebar compared to a flat bar that still makes you feel like you’re on a speed machine. The shorter reach and drop mean that the overall position is less aggressive compared to a conventional road handlebar and means that on longer rides there are plenty of hand positions. If you have to spend a lot of time in the drops, for example a long rough descent, they’re more comfortable to stay in with less neck pain. It’s a good compromise and I appreciate still having the drops for when I want to dig deep and ride fast.
The finish on the bars is smart with PNW’s signature graphics — understated as always in just the one color option: matte black with gloss black graphics. The graphics line up nicely in the center of the bar so it’s easy to get them aligned in the stem. They also feature a channel in the front of the bar for cables to run along for a more rounded, comfortable profile under the bar tape. One feature that would have been nice that’s often found on a lot of drop bars would be a graphic at the start of the drops to help get the hoods lined up symmetrically. In this case I just had to eyeball it, which is fine, but it’s a small detail that would be very helpful.
The PNW Coast handlebar is an affordable option for those wanting to fit a wider, more ‘gravelly’ handlebar. With no weird and wacky bends or shapes but some fairly progressive numbers, it’s just nice and easy to get along with and feel comfortable on. If I’m being a little picky I might like a touch more flare in the drops, but that’s a personal preference and honestly they’re pretty damn comfy. Anyone coming from a mountain bike background will enjoy these bars as a good entry to the drop bar world, especially if the gravel bike you just bought comes with a narrower, more conventional handlebar. The Coast handlebars will help the bike feel a little more like home. Bikepackers will also like these bars for the fact that it would be super easy to fit a really wide handlebar bag between them and they are comfortable on long days in the saddle.
With the Coast handlebars being as wide as they are, PNW recommends dropping stem length by about 10mm for every 20mm wider the handlebar is. Enter PNW’s Coast stem. Designed to complement the Coast handlebar, the Coast stem is available in lengths from 60mm to 100mm in 10mm increments. Having made the switch from a 44cm handlebar to the 48cm Coast handlebars, I dropped from a 100mm to 80mm stem, and that felt pretty much spot-on.
The Coast stem is a handsome item, half matte black and half gloss, again decorated with PNW’s signature graphics in black with some white graphics on the faceplate. It’s a simple affair and doesn’t stand out and shout, it just looks clean and smart. I like it. The Coast stem does have one trick up its sleeve in that it comes with an integrated accessory mount that you could fit a GoPro to or anything else that uses the same mounting system. Unfortunately this is the same part found on the Range stem and is not particularly robust. Aside from that, the Coast stem isn’t much to write home about, it gets the job done, looks great alongside the Coast handlebars, and just happens to be fairly lightweight at 123g for the 80mm version.
As for specs, the Coast stem has a 7° rise/drop and is available in the sensible lengths mentioned earlier. It fits a standard 1 1/8″ steerer tube, and a standard 31.8mm handlebar and has a stack height of 38mm. The stem uses a four-bolt faceplate and has two conventional pinch bolts to grip the steerer tube. The bolts are quality and don’t feel like they want to round out. Speaking of which, the bolt torque specs are printed on the stem, which is a nice feature.
The packaging that the Coast handlebars and stem came in was cardboard with no plastic in sight, a nice nod toward sustainability and green practices, something that certainly can’t be said for all brands.
The Coast handlebars and stem are a nice addition to a gravel bike to really personalize it and get the fit dialed. The handlebars are fairly extreme as far as typical drop bars go while still being comfortable to ride. Any mountain biker that is making the move over to a drop bar bike for the first time will likely find these to be a little more comfortable and normal feeling than a more conventional or narrower drop handlebar, as will those looking for a more relaxed feeling geared more toward long days and big descents. While the Coast stem isn’t a stand-out product on its own, I appreciate that PNW have it as an option since most riders going wider in the handlebars will need a shorter stem. The Coast bar and stem look great together and are a nice way of keeping the cockpit aesthetics clean and consistent.
The Coast handlebar retails at $69 on the PNW website, as does the Coast stem. Neither is super cheap, nor super expensive, but they’re nice quality products and personally I’d be happy to give my money to a business that pushes the envelope like PNW does while providing great customer service.
⭐️ The PNW Coast handlebar and stem are sold at PNW Components.
- A familiar width for mountain bikers
- Comfortable geometry
- Simple and straightforward
Pros and cons of the PNW Coast gravel handlebar and stem.
- Only two widths available
- No markings to set hood height