Like the deck, the bar defines the look and performance of your scooter. Bars come in different shapes, sizes, materials and colors, and you should know some basics before you plunk down the cash. In the world of pro scooters, one size does not fit all and many dudes learn the hard way that there are different bars for different clamps and compression sets.
Scooter bar materials vary by weight and price, but most bars are made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is sturdy, fairly affordable, and won’t rust; the downside is that they’re heavy, which can affect lift when you’re on a ramp or quarter pipe. Chrome alloy bars have that sweet combo of strength and lightweight but can lighten your wallet too. Aluminum bars are ridiculously light which makes them popular; the lighter the scooter, the more advantage you have in tricks like brie flips and tail whips.
Choosing Bar Types
Pro scooter enthusiasts often experiment with different types of bars, even installing BMX bike bars on their babies, but you should choose a bar based on what makes you comfortable when you ride. Almost every manufacturer carries a line of bars—Mad Gear, Blunt, Lucky, District and others. The most common are T-bars and Y-bars (it’s a no-brainer why they’re called this). Most beginner models like the Razor you buy at Wall Mart or Target are T-bars—great for the little dudes jamming down the sidewalk in their Superman costumes. Go little dude! Professional level scooters also use the classic T-bar but unlike beginner Razors, these bars are not collapsible, are much heavier, and detach from the deck so you can change them out—and you will change them out. Pro level T-bars range in size from about 22 inches wide to 22 inches long. Most people buy the larger length and width, then cut the bar to size. Before you get out the hacksaw, remember that once you cut the bar, the warranty is DOA. No biggie though; pro bars are built tough.
Going from a T bar to a Y bar is usually a matter of taste. The difference between a Y bar is two additional struts attached to the handles and shaft. This gives the bar some additional strength but it also adds weight. Like T-bars, Y bars range from about 22 inches long to 22 inches wide and most people cut the bars to fit their needs. Chances are you’ll have both Y and T bars and change them out depending on where you’re riding and what tricks you’re going to do.
The Inner Dimension—Super Important to Know
Inner dimension is what you really have to think about. The inner dimension will determine whether you have a standard or oversize bar.
Length and width are easy but it’s internal dimension, or the diameter of the shaft, is where things get tricky. Here’s where you have to know the difference between a standard size bar and an oversize bar. If you learn anything from this, learn this!! Standard bars have a lightly smaller internal dimension than oversize bars. The reason is that oversize bars are stronger and let you run HiC compression (we’ll discuss compression in a future article). Standard bars are not as strong but let you run ICS compression. Both bars can run SCS compression but with standard bars you will need a shim.
Grip It, Grip It Good
Y bar, T bar or crazy-man custom, one thing all scooter bars need are decent grips. ODI is one of the larger manufacturers and kids love the quality and candy colors of these cushy handles. Grips can be tricky to install and you can’t just lube them or they’ll slip and slide, which will make you use words you’ll get in trouble for. Air compression is a great dry method of installing grips but not everyone’s dad will let them use the compressor. Some kids apply rubbing alcohol to the bars, which is okay, but you can get some annoying slippage until the alcohol dries. Another popular trick is WD-40. Don’t spay the bar; just a quick spray inside each grip to slip it on the handle. If you don’t go overboard, it will take about 10 minutes to dry.
Paint the Bars—oh yeah!
One of the first things budding gear heads do is paint their bars. It won’t harm them but do it right. It’s tempting to take your new bars to the garage and spray paint them fast but you’ll regret the results. Be sure to sand down the metal first and apply two coats of primer before you apply your final color. Yes, you’ll have to wait a couple of days but man, the difference is worth it. Here’s a great video on painting bars the right way.
In future installments, we’ll cover compression systems, threaded and non-threaded clamps, forks and other basics—so stay awesome!