Review: K9 Direct 55 Stem and Switch 780 Bars
April 26th, 2011
K9 Industries are a brand on the move with 2011 seeing their entry into the component market with several exciting new products in their line up. In this, the first of our K9 reviews, were taking a look at the 780 Bars, which feature an adjustable platform to tailor your bar width according to unique track and rider requirements via supplied extensions and the new 55 Direct Stem, one of the lightest and most attractive direct mount stems on the market.
Direct 55 Stem.
The Direct 55 Stem is a 2 piece design featuring a unique hollow section in the centre of the stem to reduce material where it isn’t required and increasing it where it is, thus reducing the overall weight considerably while maintaining strength to its fullest. The design is also to aid the shedding of mud and debris and remove the need for ‘moto foam’. Notice the torque settings laser-etched into the back of the stem – trick and useful! The production stems will feature markings that aid alignment to the bars for a perfect fit.
The Direct 55 Stem is one of the cleanest looking direct mount stems on the market, packed with innovations to keep even the fussiest riders pleased. The stem is manufactured using a 2 piece design from a 7075 Alloy with a hard anodized black finish with laser-etched logos delivering a stem that tips the scales at 118 grams with the supplied (as standard) titanium hardware. The stem retails for £100GBP which is extremely good considering the manufacturing quality and features, especially with a ti bolt kit too. The stem is available in only a 55mm x 0 rise offering that is non adjustable, this may be 5 – 10mm longer than what most people are used to, but the length is designed to give the rider a better position and increase weight distribution.
The scales don’t lie – 103 grams without the bolts is pretty light by anyones standard! Going down the two piece route either side of the clamp, results in side to side flexing issues and making the stem two parts with a solid front piece bolting to a solid rear is the only route for an effective low weight design that doesn’t compromise on flex or indeed, looks.
118 grams with full hardware is incredibly light and 82 grams lighter than the Truvativ direct mount stem (only stem we had for weight comparison), all in all if your looking to reduce the weight of your all-ready heavy downhill bike, every little helps!
Switch 780 Bars.
Adjustable bars are nothing new, but the Switch 780 represents fantastic value for money at £70GBP with the high quality and attention to detail you’d expect from a brand like K9. The bars are fully adjustable from 750mm all the way to the almost industry standard 780mm, this might sound a bit pointless to some, but if you ride a variety of terrain that requires different bike set ups, having the choice to quickly and easily adjust bar widths to suit conditions is definitely going to be a massive bonus. We’ve all ridden those steep and wild tracks where 780 is spot on and then those tracks where it’s either overkill or just too tight for bars that wide. The supplied extensions thread into the end of the bars and are a piece of cake to install, but only if you run lock on grips – no glue and wire here I’m afraid.
The shot peened finish in the centre adds to the bar’s overall durability with an anodized finish towards the ends and the laser-etched logos and alignment marks all make for an attractive set of bars with features to match.
The Switch 780 Bars have a comfy 8.5 degree back sweep and a 4.5 degree up sweep that felt right from the off. The laser etched alignment marks match up with the Direct 55 Stem perfectly, although the stem we reviewed was a pre-production model and didn’t have them – this is a great feature and something that can always help reduce time fettling your ride and getting you on the trail and ripping.
The Extensions are all anodized black and laser etched to add to the overall appearance and match the bar perfectly. Each extension threads into the end of the bar effortlessly via a 6mm allen key.
With the Switch 780 bars you get a total of 8 parts, 4 per end; these are –
20mm Extension – 780mm Width (370 grams)
10mm Extension and 5mm Spacer – 760 – 770mm Width (330 and 340 grams respectively)
2.5mm End Caps – 750mm Width (320 grams)
Nice and wide – 780mm
Still pretty wide at 770mm – the spacer only works with the 10mm Extension
In the middle at 760mm
All the way down to 750mm for those tight and twisty tracks!
After visiting K9 earlier this year I have been incredibly impressed by both their stance on bike and component manufacturing and their potential to go potentially ‘too far’ into producing products that surpasses expectations. I’ve come to realize that the people behind K9 are dedicated to the point of obsession and taking things further than many would consider necessary, ultimately produces excellent results that only benefit us, the end user. I’ve described them as ‘boffins’ before and they are exactly this (handy on their bikes too) and producing well priced and functional products such as the Switch 780 Bar and Direct 55 stem, bare testament to the mechanical know how and sheer focus on taking bicycles to the next level.
The Direct 55 Stem was exceptionally awesome to use and looks great on my bike – I had initial reservations regarding the 55mm length and the lack of adjustment, but to be honest the extra 5mm over my usual 50mm set up wasn’t noticeable and the stance and position aided the overall feel of the bike from the off. The stem’s incredible low weight and supplied ti hardware at a price of £100 all makes for exceptional value for money within the market too, where direct mount stems are pretty pricey compared to their steerer tube clamping cousins. The appearance and clean lines are what really what stood out for me, after all its a stem and it just holds your bars to your bike – but I’m a firm believer that making products where form meets function is incredibly important and that is what the Direct 55 Stem does well – light as hell, well priced and looks sweet.
The Switch 780 Bar was incredibly comfortable from the off with perfect angles and combined with the overall excellent finish and with the supplied extensions, all made for a fantastic set of bars. At £70 these bars also represent exceptional value for money especially considering the features. The ability to tune your bar width might not be on everyones list of things to have and they weren’t on mine either, but having the option sure does raise some interesting options that will only help with making your ride more harmonious with the different trails you encounter.
Overall I’ve been pretty impressed by both products and combined together make for a formidable cockpit that will only enhance any ride. K9 are a British company and are one of a growing number of brands in the UK producing interesting and equally awesome parts to make your bike faster. For everything K9 and beyond – www.k9industrues.co.uk