FSA's Plasma is an all-in-one bar and stem combo that's been around for a while, but we noticed it again on the front of some pros' bikes earlier in the year and decided we should get one in for review.
So, what you get here is a continuous carbon/Kevlar monocoque construction. The compact drop is 125mm compared to FSA's standard drop of 150mm. The reach (the distance the curve extends forward from the top section) is 80mm, which is what FSA use across their whole range of road bars. The zero rise stem section is carbon too - or the front part is. About halfway back a meaty aluminium insert takes over meaning that the clamping area is alu.
The shape is excellent. The tops are squashed down so they fit well in your palms when you rest your hands on there. That profile, which is similar to that of FSA's K-Wing Compact bar, spreads the pressure for a really comfortable hold. It's designed to be aerodynamic as well as ergonomic. Whether it does cut through the air better or not - well, your guess is as good as mine. For what it's worth, I'd guess the difference is negligible. To me, it's more a comfort thing.
The cables run in a covered channel on the underside of the bar so you don't feel them. You don't need to run any bar tape over that section - although there's nothing stopping you if you want some extra cushioning up there.
You get another grab-point right in the middle if you want to use it. You can position your hands so your forefingers virtually touch in a way that you can't with a standard bar because the front plate of the stem gets in the way. I'm not saying it's the biggest deal ever, but it's there if you want it.
The bend straightens out a little just below the levers attachment point so you get another comfortable hand position there, and there's a good amount of rearward extension at the ends - about 6cm. I can't be doing with bars that don't have a bit of sweep down there; I like the option of bringing my arms back towards my body when I don't need to use the levers.
The Plasma is a stiff bar without much flex at all when you're hauling on the drops. This certainly isn't one of those noodly lightweight bars that twists about as soon as you get heavy handed. You've got to balance that against comfort. You don't want a bar that's completely rigid or every little bump in the road is going to rattle your wrists. It's a good balance here, erring towards the stiffer end of things. There's certainly not an excessive amount of road buzz, though - the Plasma dampens out vibration well.
The fact that the top section isn't round makes it impossible to attach some computers to the Plasma. FSA address that with their Control Center, which is an extension that attaches to two threaded holes in the underside of the stem section. That'll cost you £30 extra though.
Another potential downside is that you get no adjustment here. You can't alter the angle of the bar and you can't flip the stem over, so if your ride position is anything other than completely fixed, this isn't the option for you.
I've only got good things to say about the Plasma's performance, though. But the obvious question is: what's the advantage? Is the Plasma lighter than a separate bar and stem? Our 440mm-wide (centre to centre) version with a 120mm stem weighed in at 438g. That's light, but no lighter than separate equivalents.
FSA quote a 370g weight for the 420mm width, 100mm stem model. They give the weight of their K-Wing Compact bar (420mm) as 247g, and the weight of the OS-99 CSI stem (110mm) as 122g. That's 369g in total, so according to FSA's own figures going for an integrated option doesn't save you any weight.
Is the Plasma cheaper? No, buying the K-Wing Compact and OS-99 CSI stem would costs less - although look on the internet and you'll find Plasmas way cheaper than the official RRP.
I'd say the Plasma is slightly stiffer than normal thanks to the large transition area between the bar and the stem sections and I found it really comfortable. Those are the key positives. Oh, and it looks cool. It's beautifully sculpted and the lack of bolts up front is very neat. And no apologies for that observation, by the way - I like stuff that looks cool, simple as that.
Is that enough to justify the big price hike, though? For me, no, I'll stick with a separate bar and stem... although that's for you to decide for yourself. Don't get me wrong, the Plasma does a great job, but so do cheaper separates.
The Plasma is available in widths of 400-440mm. The 400mm model is available in a 100mm length. The 420mm model comes in 100, 110 and 120mm. And you can have the 440mm model as a 120 or 130mm. It fits a 1 1/8in steerer only.
Top performance: stiff, reasonably light and comfortably shaped -but short on advantages over a cheaper bar and stem
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Make and model: FSA Plasma Integrated Compact bar/stem
Size tested: 44cm, 120mm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's a road race product.
FSA say, "The Ultimate in integration. The one-piece Plasma Compact combines a lightweight aero carbon handlebar with a carbon stem to create a stiff, lightweight steering system. The Plasma is constructed using continuous carbon/Kevlar monocoque construction with reinforced textured clamping areas."
They might have mentioned that there's alloy in the stem, but apart from that, this is a fair enough assessment.
It's spot on. Beautifully done.
Hard to fault -unless you count a lack of adjustability compared to a separate bar and stem setup.
Seems as durable as any other carbon bars. The alloy clamping area and threads should stand the test of time
It's fairly lightweight - but if that's your main objective, you can get lighter with a separate bar and stem.
A stiff bar, but plenty of good hand positions
Definitely the Plasma's weakest area. It's not going to win any prizes for value for money.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well - as long as your computer fits onto non-round bars
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
A good combination of stiffness and comfort. And it looks very cool.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's very hard to cope with that price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yep
Would you consider buying the product? Nope; simply too expensive
Would you recommend the product to a friend? I'd struggle to justify it
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.