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Pro Vibe finishing kit review

15 Mar 2018
Verdict:

The Pro Vibe finishing kit ticks all the performance boxes, it just comes with a couple ergonomic quirks

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£100-300
For 
Weight, stiffness, build quality
Against 
Saddle clamp design for carbon rails only accepts Pro saddles, stem faceplate bolts finicky to access

Buy Pro Vibe finishing products from Sigma Sports here

Pro is the components arm of Shimano, and is so named to dispel any connotations to the groupsets of the Japanese manufacturer. Were Pro’s products labelled as Shimano it would make consumers far less likely to buy its products to put on bikes adorned with groupsets from other manufacturers.

It means that pedants like myself can spec Pro components on bikes with Campagnolo and Sram groupsets without ‘clashing’. Indeed, I’ve been testing the Pro Vibe Aero finishing kit on a Ridley Helium SLX outfitted with a Campagnolo Record groupset and it all integrates rather well, not least because I think that to look at the components are understated and classy.

Shimano-related products haven’t historically been known for their finesse and beauty in the way products from other manufacturers have been (this Ridley’s Campagnolo Record is a prime example) - I’d say the allure of Shimano and Pro products typically comes as a result of their clinical functionality.

Yet in recent times Shimano and Pro have very successfully married form with function and these Vibe components are another example of some good-looking, proficient kit.

In my opinion, the Vibe Aero bars are the highlight - the unidirectional carbon design is pretty light (260g) and has a number of unusual features that helps it stand out in a competitive market that goes some way to justify the high price tag.

The tops adopt a truncated airfoil cross-section, primarily in an effort to improve aerodynamics, while the portion of the drops facing the wind is ovalised, again with aerodynamics in mind.

There are a number of ports on the bars, which are sensibly positioned and sized to make routing cables as easy as you can expect it to be. Provided the bars are combined with the Pro Vibe stem, Di2 cables can be routed entirely internally thanks to a rear-facing port where the bars are clamped by the stem.

The Vibe Aero bars also contain Innegra, which is an olefin-based fibre (basically a tough polymer), which apparently improves strength and impact resistance of the composite in which it is included without impacting weight.

There is some confident scientific evidence to suggest the efficacy of Innegra so it is encouraging to see it employed by Pro in its Vibe Aero bars. Luckily I didn’t have to put it to the test but it is reassuring to know that should I have hit the deck these £300 bars had a lower chance of experiencing catastrophic failure.

In terms of riding performance the bars are exceptional. Provided you can get along with the shape of the aero tops, I don’t really see a disadvantage to using aero bars - the Vibe Aero cede just 20 grams in weight to Pro’s more conventional Vibe Carbon yet undoubtedly (although for me, unquantifiably) improve aerodynamics.

Additionally, they are inherently better at dampening road buzz than round bars despite being no less torsionally stiff.

Seeing is believing

I saw these last two attributes visibly displayed at the end of the of the first stage of the 2018 Paris-Nice thanks to a slow-motion replay of the sprint finish.

The final kilometre was raced over the cobblestones of Meudon - the stage’s eventual winner Arnaud Demare used Vibe Aero bars and during the final throes of the sprint, despite him wrenching on the drops, they can be seen to remain torsionally rigid.

In the metres after he won, he relaxed and dropped his weight on the hoods. They noticeably flexed vertically, partially absorbing the bumps of the cobbles.

My experience of the bars has been no different. The Ridley Helium SLX frame I used as a test bed had a racy-stiff front end which the bars complemented well - the bike gave away nothing in a sprint yet the bars flexed enough to stop me getting bashed up on longer, gentler rides.

Where it all stems from

Coming from a company who markets products on the concept of ‘System Supremacy’, it should be of little surprise that the bars form an effective pairing with the Pro Vibe stem.

Performance-wise the stem does the job - it is stiff and light (I weighed my 120mm sample, including top cap, at 161g), but that said all high end stems are stiff and light. So, just like the bars, it includes several quirky features that help out stand apart from its competitors.

Largely these are to the stem’s advantage - the use of titanium bolts is a bonus for durability and it is neat that the design accepts Di2 cables to keep them internal through the cockpit. Also, the integrated top cap is very sleek.

That is done to reinforce the aerodynamic efficiency of the bars, as is reversing the stem faceplate bolts. However, while this particular feature may indeed improve aerodynamics, the stem’s ergonomics suffer for it.

Tightening and loosening the bolts without a ball-end Allen key is annoyingly tricky - it was hard to find adequate access and clearance to apply the correct torque with a regular torque wrench. It can be done but it was noticeably harder than if the bolts were more usually positioned.

First past the post

Quirky but well made is a theme that continues from the Vibe stem into the Vibe seatpost. Pro says the unidirectional carbon is tuned to balance stiffness with vibration dampening and I’ve seen no reason to disagree with that.

Ride feel is neutral, in that there are no outstanding attributes of harshness or flex. It is a fit-and-forget component that is simple, durable and good looking.

In a similar vein to the Vibe stem Pro has furnished that Vibe seatpost with a couple of nice tweaks - the internal diameter of the lower portion of the post has been reduced to house a Di2 battery without the need for additional bungs or seats, and the fixing hardware is once again titanium.

However the carbon-specific clamp design, while simple to use, only accepts the carbon rails of saddles made by Pro. Fine if you get on with one of Pro’s designs but it is more likely you’ll prefer a saddle from another manufacturer.

In which case your options are switching to a metal-railed version of your favourite saddle (Pro’s alloy-specific clamp design accepts metal rails from any brand), or satisfy your seatpost needs elsewhere. It is an odd limitation on an otherwise exemplary product.

While the finicky ergonomic issues prevent Pro’s Vibe finishing kit from being perfect as an overall package, in performance terms it is hard to fault and I’d place it among the best finishing components I’ve used.

A couple of tweaks to the design of the stem and seatpost and I’d say, from a functional standpoint at least, you won’t find a better way to complete your bike.

Buy Pro Vibe finishing products from Sigma Sports here

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