PNW Coast Handlebars: A Bikepacker’s Long-Term Review

The Bottom Line

  • The Coast handlebar from PNW Components is a wide, flared, shallow drop bar designed for comfort and stability on gravel and light singletrack.
  • I’ve been testing the Coast bar for over 2000 miles of bikepacking and gravel riding, and it’s currently on my Salsa Fargo.
  • I love the confidence-inspiring width, ergonomic drops, and affordable price tag.

I’m a big fan of flared drop bars, and have been ever since I first put Cowchippers on my Long Haul Trucker. But as dirt drops proliferate like bunnies and options grow wider and weirder, not all dirt- and gravel-focused drop bars will appeal to all riders.

That’s why I was very pleased to discover the Coast Handlebar from PNW Components, which fits my hands and riding style like a glove. And I suspect I’m not the only one, because this well-rounded handlebar is comfy, stable, and easy to like.

I’ve been riding with Coast bars on my Salsa Fargo, where they replaced the original funky Woodchipper bars, for over 2000 miles. That includes 350 miles of bikepack racing at The Big Lonely in Central Oregon and 1200 miles of bikepacking abroad in Morocco and Portugal. The Coast bars are still on my Salsa Fargo, which is currently set up in “gravel mode” for day rides at home, and I expect they’ll stay there for many more miles.

This review of the PNW Coast bars explains what makes them stand out, why I love them, and what type of rider and riding I think they’ll work best for. If you’re looking for an affordable drop handlebar for bikepacking, gravel riding, or both, I hope it’s helpful.

New handlebar day, yay!

Please note: My Coast bars were provided by PNW Components for testing and some links in this post are affiliate links. All words and opinions are my own. I value your trust as a reader, so for more information please see my Trust & Transparency Policy.

PNW Coast Bars Overview

The Coast Handlebar from PNW Components is a wide flared drop bar with shallow drops, ideal for comfortable, stable, and playful riding on gravel and light singletrack.

Widths: 440mm, 480mm, 520mm
Material: aluminum alloy
Weight: 294g, 324g, 346g
Clamp size: 31.8mm
Price: $59

Buy or learn more:
PNW Components
Jenson USA

Coast handlebars pointing down red dirt road in central Oregon
Bikepacking with my Coast bars in Central Oregon

Width

We all know flared drop bars are meant to be widest at the ends of the flared drops, but the Coast bar is fairly wide at the hoods too. The first generation of Coast came in only two sizes: wide and wider (480 and 520mm). With Gen 2 PNW added a smaller 440 width, but even that’s still fairly wide. This focus on width has several advantages for gravel riding and especially for bikepacking.

Stability: Wider hoods mean more stability and control while riding with hands on the hoods or the outer curve of the bar, which for many bikepackers is a more comfortable all-day posture than riding in the drops. Since I like to ride varied routes with everything from singletrack to pavement, I’ve struggled with this compromise in the past. I like the flexible hand positions of drop bars, but when the trail gets rough I long for the stability of wider flat bars.

The Coast, though obviously not as wide as flat bars, strikes a decent balance for the mixed terrain I like to ride. With the Coast I find myself riding comfortably in the hoods on flowy singletrack and rocky downhills that would have had me switching to the drops on narrower bars.

The Coast handlebars were a perfect compromise for this bikepacking trip in Morocco that included everything from smooth pavement to incredibly rocky trails.
The Coast bars are great for routes with plenty of gravel and a bit of light singletrack, like here on the Crater Rim Trail in central Oregon.

Bag space: As a smaller bikepacker I’m always looking for ways to fit more gear on my bike. With my old 42cm Woodchipper bars I struggled to cinch my handlebar bag short enough to fit between the hoods. The Coast opened up another 2 to 3 inches of space between the hoods. I was able to move my sleeping pad and emergency bivy into my handlebar bag and still had more lever clearance than in the past.

Bar real estate: Between bag mounts and electronic gizmos, my cockpit gets pretty crowded. I use a bar extender to make room for the gizmos, but the Coast’s extra real estate allows for mounting more on the bar itself. For example, putting my phone holder on the bar, instead of the extender, placed it in a more secure and usable position.

Room for more gizmos, gadgets, and gear.

Comfort and Ergonomics

I log long days in the saddle when I bikepack, so a comfortable riding posture and ergonomic hand position are big priorities. My small hands put me at a disadvantage here; sometimes it’s a strain just to reach my levers.

The Coast bar’s shallow drops are very comfortable for me. They make it easier to use my brake and shift levers while riding in the drops, and take some pressure off my wrists on descents. It’s easy to quickly switch between the drops and hoods too.

The Coast’s relatively shallow drops and short reach make for comfy hand positions and quick switches.

Vibration

The only negative I noticed about the Coast bar was some minor road vibration. These are affordable alloy bars, not pricey carbon, so this is expected to some extent. I found it worst on my initial test ride, unloaded on pavement. Once loaded up with gear and riding more varied surfaces it all but disappeared.

My old Woodchippers had a similar issue, and if the Coast was a tad worse it may have been due to the shorter aluminum stem I put on when I switched. I don’t think the Coast bars have more vibration than other bars in the same price range, and if you’re riding loaded I don’t think it’s an issue. I rode 18-20 hours a day in The Big Lonely and never noticed it. But if you ride unloaded for long hours or are especially sensitive to nerve issues in your hands, it might be worth shelling out for a pricier bar with more vibration damping.

PNW Coast vs. Salsa Woodchipper

When I first installed my new Coast bar, it replaced the Woodchippers that came with my Fargo. To be clear, the Woodchipper and Coast are not particularly similar as far as flared drop bars go. The Woodchipper’s unique design is known for appealing to some folks and not so much to others. The Coast is more of a classic gravel handlebar design.

I’m comparing them side-by-side here because they’re what I personally know best, and I think others will find the comparison useful. Woodchippers used to come stock on the Salsa Fargo, one of the most popular bikepacking bikes out there, and not everyone loves them. If you’re thinking about swapping out your Fargo’s bars for a more classic gravel handlebar, the Coast is definitely worth considering.

Width: As you can see below, my 42cm (hood to hood) Woodchippers had a larger full width than my 48cm Coast bars, due to the Woodchipper’s more aggressive flare. But you can clearly see that the Coast bar is wider at the hoods, which is where I like to spend a majority of my riding time. The Woodchipper comes in 42, 44, and 46cm sizes, so even the widest Woodchipper won’t be as wide at the hoods as the narrowest Coast.

The Woodchipper (bottom) is more dramatically flared, but the Coast (top) is wider at the hoods.

Drop and overall shape: Here’s a side-by-side showing the different shapes of the Woodchipper and Coast:

The Woodchipper (left) has a very different contour than the Coast (right). It’s hard to visualize in this picture, but on the bike the Woodchipper would be rotated so the drops are angled downward and the top is flatter.

For me, the Woodchipper’s extra-wide flare only added stability when I was climbing a consistent grade with my hands on the bottoms of the drops. Otherwise the need to reach shifters and brakes kept my hands on the narrower parts of the bar.

After trying the Coast I appreciate the added stability over a wider range of hand positions, and I find the shallow drop more comfortable on my wrists and hands. I love Salsa’s bikes in general, but the Woodchippers are a bold statement and that means they won’t work perfectly for everyone.

In Conclusion

Handlebars might not seem like a big deal if you’re still riding what came with your bike. But once you start paying attention and experimenting, you might be surprised by how much they affect your comfort and control.

I rode with my Woodchippers for a few thousand miles with no major complaints, but after trying the Coast I doubt I’ll ever go back. As an affordable gravel handlebar that also excels for bikepacking, the Coast has a lot going for it and I wish I’d discovered it sooner.

More Bikepacking Resources

If you’re thinking about handlebars for bikepacking, you might find these helpful too:

For even more pedal-powered goodness, check out the bikepacking resources center.

About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 19,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

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    Pictures of bikepacking bike with text: Bike Gear Review: Coast Gravel Handlebar

    5 thoughts on “PNW Coast Handlebars: A Bikepacker’s Long-Term Review”

    1. I went back and forth between the Coast and the Ritchey Venturemax XL to replace the woodchippers on my Fargo. Ended up spending a bit more for the Ritchey’s as they have a bit of backsweep that I thought might negate the need for changing stem (so far so good…). But otherwise similar specs to the Coast, and much more comfortable than the Woodchippers for me, especially for singletrack. great review. cheers

      Reply
        • I’d prefer straight tube drops but people seem to like these bars. I had some similar humped (bio-bend!) Ritchey Biomax bars years ago and I didn’t like the hump. I don’t think it’s necessary or beneficial, but it’s kinda classic signature Ritchey. The Biomax also had a similar curve (slant) of the bar like the Woodchipper picture, and to make the brifters fit upright, I had to do the same and rotate the bar upward which made the drops point toward the ground. They made a better double gear hook hung from the wall upside down!

          Reply
    2. Great review! I arrived here via your excellent Salsa bar comparison because I’m looking at options for my fast bike, and wanted to share my thoughts about the Coast bars.

      I have the PNW Coasts (48cm, plus a PNW Range 50mm stem) on my AWOL and I love them. The original 44cm AWOL bars were surprisingly good, but I needed to shorten and raise my position to cope with a neck injury and the Coasts are basically ideal. They look fantastic with the Range stem.

      The AWOL came with gel inserts on the bar tops. I’ve transferred those to the Coasts and added some Brooks Cambium tape and don’t notice any undue vibration. My only minor complaint about the Coasts is that I’d like slightly longer hooks, but apart from that they’re excellent.

      Reply

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