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American Barbell Cerakote California Bar Review

Cerakote California Bar Full Review

Last spring I published a full review of the California Bar; American Barbell’s flagship WOD bar. If you happened to read that review then you already know that I discovered it to be a great mid-range WOD bar with a long list of pros. I found the overall quality, reliability, and performance to be outstanding for such a reasonably priced WOD bar, and I had absolutely no problem giving it a favorable review.

Well this time around I’ll be reviewing the newest generation of that same bar; the Cerakote Edition California Bar. The new version is essentially the same as the previous version save for the shaft finish. Instead of glossy, black zinc, the new Cali has been given a matte Cerakote finish – and believe me it’s a huge improvement. Matter of fact, this seemingly simple modification improves the feel and outright performance of the bar so much that I felt that it needed its own new review rather than just an edit. So that’s what this is; an updated, full review of the California Bar.

I’ll be covering the standard review material including the bar’s full specifications, knurling, sleeve assembly, and so on. Additionally I’ll talk about the unique finish on the shaft and how it compares to other finishes. Some sections will seem repetitive to those of you who also read the review for the original California, but I want to be thorough so it can’t be avoided.

California Bar Cerakote Edition – Specifications

  • 20 kg Olympic bar (or 15 kg women’s Olympic bar)
  • 28 mm shaft diameter (women’s is 25 mm)
  • Tensile strength: 190,000 PSI
  • Sleeve assembly: high-load composite bushings
  • Loadable sleeve length: 16 3/8″
  • Whip: moderate/average
  • Knurl pattern: dual IWF/IPF, no center
  • Knurl depth: mild
  • 20 kg Finish: Black Graphite Cerakote® shaft
  • 15 kg Finish: Black Graphite or Prison Pink Cerakote® shaft
  • Sleeve finish: hard chrome
  • Made in USA
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Price (all): $335

Cerakote finish options for the California Bar (pink on 15 kg only)

So far only two colors are available; Black Graphite (color H-146), and Prison Pink (color H-141). Black Graphite can be had on either the 15 kg or 20 kg California, but Prison Pink is only available on the 15 kg women’s bar. From what I understand you can request other colors (or Prison Pink on a men’s bar), but it doesn’t sound like it will be very cost effective for single bar orders.

What is Cerakote?

Cerakote Firearms Coating - What is it?

Cerakote is a thin, polymer-ceramic composite coating. Cerakote improves a number of physical performance properties of metal; including hardness, impact & wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and chemical resistance. For simple steel applications like the California Bar here, Cerakote is basically a more durable alternative to industrial chrome.

Cerakote was developed for and is used predominantly by the firearm industry, but because Cerakote can be applied not only to metals, but also plastics, polymers, and woods; and because of how resilient and attractive Cerakote is (with all its colors and all), its application goes well beyond firearms (though I believe American Barbell is the first to use it on strength training equipment).

Cerakote will resist impacts better than chrome, and it will resist oxidation better than chrome and stainless steel. Cerakote also has the advantage of being more grippy than zinc and the lesser chrome finishes when it’s mixed for a matte finish (Cerakote can be mixed for a high-gloss finish as well). This improved grip combined with its superior resistances make Cerakote’s use on a barbell shaft seem quite appealing. Matter of fact it almost seems like its long overdue.

You can visit the Cerakote website here if you would like technical data on Cerakote.

Cerakote Edition Cali vs. Original Zinc Cali

The Black Graphite Cerakote finish is definitely an upgrade to the high-gloss, black zinc finish that was previously on the original California Bar. As you can see in the images below the matte Cerakote finish is dull, and it lacks the shine and luster of black zinc, but the texture and overall feel of this finish is absolutely perfect for a barbell shaft. Like black oxide, it’s tacky and grippy; only it won’t rust and rub off.

Black zinc (top) finish next to Black Graphite Cerakote finish

Black zinc (right) finish next to Black Graphite Cerakote finish

The California Bar has always been a great bar, and even though the bar under the finish remains completely unchanged, an improvement of this magnitude to grip definitely makes the Cerakote Edition a higher performance bar than its predecessor. Remember that with a better grip come confidence, and with confidence comes those PR’s.

California Bar Knurling

Just like its predecessor, the Cerakote California Bar is a dual-marked, multi-purpose bushing bar. There is no center knurl, and the outer knurling extends all the way to the sleeves. The knurl pattern itself appears unchanged from the previous version of the California. Like all American Barbell bars, it’s still on the mild to moderate side – absolutely no sharpness whatsoever. What has changed though is the overall feel of that knurl as a result of the new finish.

Close-up of Cerakote California Bar Knurling

Close-up of Cerakote California Bar knurling and dual hash marks

For those who have handled the original high-gloss, zinc California Bar, the improvement to grip security should be immediately noticeable when you pick up the new Cerakote California Bar. I certainly noticed it right away, even with no chalk involved. When I finally did add a little chalk and grabbed at that bar, I found that I was able to lock down on the shaft like it was an Ohio Power Bar. It’s an incredible grip, and the difference is night and day.

If I had to compare the feel to something, I’d say that a lightly chalked up Cerakote California Bar feels about as secure in the hands as a chalked up black oxide bar with fairly aggressive knurling. It’s a very grippy finish, and I can’t even imagine what a matte Cerakote bar with aggressive knurling would feel like – but I’d take one.

Sleeve Assembly & Rotation

The sleeves remain completely unchanged from the previous California. The bushings are the same high-load (and quiet) composite bushings used in all of American Barbell’s bushing bars, and the sleeves are still finished in a thick, durable layer of hard chrome (the perfect compliment to the resilient Cerakote finish on the shaft).

Both California Bar variations side-by-side. Sleeves are exactly the same

All American Barbell bushing bars offer smooth, reliable sleeve rotation. I have zero complaints about the sleeve assembly. Tolerances are tight, the bushings are great, and the chrome is as beautiful as it is durable. Show the California Bar even a moderate amount of respect and you’ll be passing it down to your kid in fully functional condition.

Whip

The California Bar is a multi-purpose CrossFit bar, and as such the whip is present, but moderate. I am comfortable saying that the 28 mm shaft of the California has a tad more elasticity than the standard 28.5 mm shafts generally used for CrossFit bars, and that is certainly a plus, but the whip is nothing like what you’d experience with a professional Olympic weightlifting bar.

Price, and the Cali’s Biggest Competitor

The new asking price of $335 is is $60 more than what the black zinc California sold for (previously ~$275). That’s a fairly substantial increase for just a finish upgrade. Going from bare steel to chrome wouldn’t even cost us that much (though it does appear that Cerakote is actually pretty expensive.) So is it worth the price?

In a world of zinc WOD bars like the Ohio, Black & Chrome, and Vulcan Standard (not to mention all the imports), I’d say the moderate increase in price is worth it. Knurl and overall grip security is a pretty big deal, and if $60 more gets you into a bar that you can better hold on to, feel more confident with, and lift more weight with for longer, then that’s money well spent, right? I’d say so.

The only issue I see with the Cerakote Edition Cali and its price is the competition of the new stainless steel Ohio Bar. At $350 you’re looking at a bar with the ideal shaft material that just so happens to have a fantastic knurl to boot. It also has a similar composite bushing system, and chrome finished sleeves. Stainless steel is just great, and while Cerakote may be even more oxidation resistant than stainless steel, you’d have to have beach front property on the Gulf and leave your bar outside to actually get rust on stainless.

Rogue Stainless Steel Ohio Bar vs American Barbell Cerakote California Bar

In terms of performance I say these two bars are very close to being equals. The California has milder knurl while still offering a secure grip, so that may be more appealing to hardcore CrossFitters with their long Oly sets. The SS Ohio being more aggressive may be more appealing to those who big-3 lift as often as they WOD, or have higher than average lifts. I doubt the $15 price difference will matter to most people, but I can see how those who like colored shafts will see a chance to get what they want and save $15 – especially as more colors are released.

Quick Comparisons of Cerakote vs…

black zinc

Cerakote offers superior abrasion and oxidation protection to black zinc, while also offering a more confident and secure grip. Black zinc looks nice new and it is less expensive, but it doesn’t age well; often turning olive green as it fades.

bright zinc

I find that bright zinc offers a more secure grip than black zinc, and it does seem to adhere on the bar longer than black zinc, but Cerakote still holds the same advantages over bright zinc as it does for black zinc – superior feel, better oxidation resistance, and less fading.

black oxide

Black oxide and Cerakote feel similar to me, and I don’t believe that one is significantly superior to the other in terms of grip. That said, black oxide is a thin and nearly insignificant finish. It offers very little in the way of rust prevention, and it is easily removed from the bar via your hands or clothing. Black oxide does feels great though, and you can save some serious cash going with black oxide over Cerakote if you want a black bar, but black oxide is only a couple steps above bare steel in terms of protection.

hard chrome

In my opinion, Cerakote is just a colorful alternative to hard chrome. Hard chrome feels great, and it offers more than enough oxidation and abrasion resistance for most gyms (i.e. gyms not in the rain forest, or aboard a naval ship). You do have to be certain that you’re buying a bar with hard chrome versus decorative chrome to get any long-term oxidation protection (decorative chrome flakes off easily), but that’s easy to do if you just stick to reputable manufacturers (typically the Americans and Swedes.)

I do believe that for mildly knurled bars like the California here, Cerakote will feel more grippy than chrome would. Chrome works well on moderate to aggressively knurls bars (think Rogue Oly, the Eleiko bars, etc), but not so well on softer bars. That is my experience at least.

bare steel

Unfinished steel shafts still offer the most natural and secure grip. There’s just something magical about bare steel. Obviously bare steel can’t hold a candle to Cerakote’s oxidation resistance, but raw bars will always have their place.

stainless steel

Stainless steel is the ultimate shaft material. It needs no abrasion resistance, it offers better oxidation resistance than chrome, and it feels just as secure and natural as bare steel does (even with mild knurling). It’s bare steel’s magic squared. Yeah it’s still the most expensive of all “finishes”, but the best generally does cost the most. The only thing that Cerakote offers that stainless doesn’t is color variety.

* Technically, Cerakote offers a higher level of oxidation protection than stainless steel, but in 99.9% of gym environments, any resistance above and beyond what stainless offers is kind of overkill. Remember that Cerakote is meant for firearms – small, intricate parts; excessive and rapid heating; moisture; friction; dust, debris & residue, and so forth. Barbells just aren’t subjected to that kind of abuse, and they very rarely find themselves out in the elements. 

Cerakote California Review – Summary

American Barbell took what was easily one of the better WOD bars on the market and improved the only thing that really needed improving ; the grip. With the black zinc over that mild knurl, the original California Bar was just too reliant on chalk and a super tight grip. Other than that though, the bar was fantastic – 28 mm shaft, quiet and reliable composite bushings, hard chrome sleeves, and a very obvious level of refinement and precision not present in the import WOD bars. The original Cali was one hell of a bar, save for that one ‘but’ regarding grip.

Now we have the Cerakote Edition California Bar, and it is much easier to summarize – it’s just one hell of a bar. No buts about it. It’ll be really interesting to see what other colors they begin to offer as well.

Check out the Cerakote Edition California Bar yourself.

 

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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • M February 23, 2017, 2:59 pm

    As you may remember. I got one of the American Barbell stainless bushing bars with a good sale. Seems to be nearly identical this but for the shaft material and coating (or lack thereof). You have the AB bearing stainless bar, which is, I think, the same shaft as mine. So, out of curiosity, I’d wonder how you’d compare the stainless FEEL to the Cerakote. I got a good deal (don’t recall exactly) and can’t complain but maybe it’d be nice to have the bar be low-glare in Cerakote — not that I’d get another just to change color. So be sure to let us know how it holds up in the long run — guess there ought to be lots of experiences with Cerakote on guns on the interwebs.

    Any coating can chip — we’d get visible slide wear on earlier gun coatings too (I’m not at all up to date). Note that they didn’t see fit to coat the weight collars, possibly because they expect the chrome ones to wear better. I think Cerakote is poly powder coat with some ceramic in it for hardness, and possibly some lubricity additive like Teflon to reduce galling — I didn’t look up the fusing temperature to see if it’s different than the poly powders (I’d imagine not), but applying it at home (one would need heat lamps or a hot booth, plus the electrostatic gun and a compressor, and incidentals) would let one color-coordinate a gym with something more durable than paint. Glad you thought of that :)

    • M February 26, 2017, 4:49 am

      I checked on Cerakote a little more — it doesn’t go on with an electrostatic gun shooting polyester-based powder but instead is a catalyzed resin with at least a ceramic as an additive and can reportedly be shot with a touch-up gun. Still should be home-appliable, but still requires an oven (or possibly lamps) in curing, and I’d be more careful with venting and respirator protection than with poly powder.

  • Tony February 25, 2017, 9:37 am

    Now the Mammoth power bar (sorta) makes sense, at least in terms of introducing cerakote on a premium bar before rolling it out with the Californias. If it feels like black oxide but is more durable than zinc I think it’ll go over well. Since it’s new though I also wonder about the durability. Thanks for the lightning speed review!

    • jburgeson February 25, 2017, 2:36 pm

      I dunno, I’m still confused about finishing a stainless shaft under any circumstances (especially since the sleeves aren’t stainless OR Cerakote), but it is what it is. I think the Mammoth could be a very popular bar at a lower price point, which could be easily achieved by using regular alloy steel instead of stainless, but we’ll see what they do over time.

  • Keen1801 April 11, 2017, 4:03 pm

    I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading on purchasing my first barbell for my garage gym and want to thank you for the in-depth reviews and write-ups. I’m planning on doing mostly weightlifting but want to incorporate Olympic type lifting as well. I was narrowing it down to the rogue 2.0 and the California bar but noticed that the AB training bar is now available in cerakote. To make a more informed decision, my question is, do you know if there is any difference between the AB California bar and training bar other than the dual markings on the California? And which of the Bree would you go with?

    • jburgeson April 12, 2017, 1:57 am

      I actually don’t understand why the prices are so different. Almost all AB bars use the same shaft and same sleeves, and far as I know all of their bushing bars use the same composite bushings. I have a number of their bars and other than the finishes and use of bearings versus bushings, they are soooo alike.

      When I did this review only the California was offered in Cerakote. It could just be that they charge more for the Cali because it’s their ‘flagship’ bar, I don’t know. Seems a lot to pay for markings!

  • Jim L June 14, 2017, 6:53 pm

    How’s the cerakote holding up? I’m looking at replacing my Fringe bar with one of these, but curious how it holds up to use, chalk, cleaning, etc

    • jburgeson June 14, 2017, 7:53 pm

      I have seen no obvious signs of wear yet. To be fair it is not my primary bar, but I do rotate through a small collection of bars from reviews for precisely this reason – to monitor wear and tear – and the Cerakote Cali is one of those bars. I’m not really worried that Cerakote won’t live up to the claims. I mean it hasn’t been that long yet, but it’s looking promising, as oxide would have rusted by now and black zinc would be showing signs already.

      I don’t like to suggest that people should replace a bar if there isn’t an immediate need to do so because that’s expensive, and I’m just not a salesman like that, but I will say that if you do decide you want or need an upgrade from the Bomba or the Wonder, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much nicer the Cali is – regardless of finish. Like night and day. Also, no black sleeves thankfully.

  • Patrick July 7, 2017, 12:51 am

    What’s up with them dropping the Cerakote branding and just calling it “ceramic” this week?

    • jburgeson July 7, 2017, 9:35 am

      You know, I saw that word ‘ceramic’ in the 4th sale e-mail, but I didn’t realize to what extent they reworded everything. I guess Cerakote is gone because that is definitely a case of switching products. Ugh so many edits I have to do now.

      • jburgeson July 7, 2017, 11:47 am

        I was told that it always was and remains to be Cerakote. The reason for the change from ‘Cerakote’ to ‘ceramic’ in the product description(s) is still unclear to me though, as the responses on that particular subject were fairly vague. I was assured that it is still the Cerakote brand ceramic finish though.

        Hopefully we’ll see where they are going with this in the near future. It’s all very peculiar.

        • Patrick July 8, 2017, 2:41 pm

          Interesting. Thanks.

  • ck July 29, 2017, 7:11 pm

    Hello, thanks for all valuable information that you put on here.
    I have question for you.
    It seems like you mentioned the difference between the ohio bar and rogue stainless still ohio bar is the shaft materials and bushing. You mentioned bronze bushing is more superior than compound bushing.
    I am seeing american barbell california bar also use compound bushing.
    Can you tell me whether california bar use different compound bushing than rogue stainless still ohio bar? or if they use the same bushing system?

    Thanks

    • jburgeson July 29, 2017, 9:03 pm

      So there are three main bushing types used in good bars. Cast bronze, Sintered bronze, and Composite. Cast bronze is what Rogue uses in most bars, and they are just fine. Composite in their other bars is also fine, as are American Barbell composite bushings. When I say bronze is better, I mean only in terms of performance, and only when referring to sintered bronze – which as you can see neither of these companies use.

      Now as far as where Rogue and American Barbell source their bushings and whether or not they are the same, I don’t know. Performance-wise I don’t think there is a difference, but that doesn’t mean they are the same “brand” of bushing. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Bushings in barbells just don’t fail, and nobody will ever say that their Rogue or American Barbell doesn’t spin anymore.

      And if you’re wondering if it’s worth trying to find a bar with sintered bronze just because they perform a little better, the answer is no. If a bar that you like for other reasons has sintered bronze, great. If the bar you like doesn’t have sintered bronze but it has either composite or regular cast bronze; doesn’t matter. Choosing a bar based on bushing material isn’t ideal, but you should avoid bars that have steel or brass bushings (not that you’ll see either of those bushings from a reputable company.)

      • ck July 29, 2017, 9:57 pm

        Thanks for quick reply.
        Can you then explain the difference between stainless ohio bar versus california bar? than the material (stainless versus cerakote), diameter (28.5 verus 28 mm)? I mean from your personal experience, it seems like you recommend California over stainless ohio bar. Can you share what uniqueness you found from each of these barbell?
        I think I am trying to purchase one of them now pretty much.
        Thanks

        • jburgeson July 29, 2017, 10:21 pm

          The big differences between the two are like you said, the Cerakote vs Stainless, and the 28.5 vs 28 mm shafts.

          The shaft diameter really doesn’t make much difference in this case unless you already have a preference. You could say 28 mm is better as a lead in to Olympic weightlifting as an eventual preferred sport, but it’s not as though it would take more than a single session to adjust to a 28 mm bar from a 28.5 mm bar if and when that needed to happen.

          The finishes are both corrosion-resistant, and they are both grippy. You get color with Cerakote, but you get a much more substantial knurl with the SS Ohio. If you like a milder knurl, the American Barbell will be more to your liking. If you like a moderately aggressive knurl, the SS Ohio is the way to go.

          In terms of performance, spin, and so forth, the differences are negligible. The SS Ohio is one of Rogue’s better bars, but American Barbell puts out a very refined product as well. End of they day, base your decision mostly on the knurl depth since spin, flex, grip and maintenance requirements are about the same. You could also base it on color choice, but I mean I wouldn’t do that unless you were indifferent about every other possible aspect.

          Long story short; SS Ohio = sharper knurl, Cali = milder knurl. Both will last forever.

          • ck July 30, 2017, 12:39 pm

            Thanks a lot.
            I have better idea now. Really appreciate very much

  • Brandon August 5, 2017, 8:36 am

    Im interested to see how this holds up. Im a big gun guy and Cerakoted a couple guns about 3 years ago, one being my EDC gun, S&W Shield. Well going in and out of my holster everyday has rubbed the cerakote all, but off. My mountain gun (AR 6.5 grendel) which is coated as well, is wearing where the sling is on the gun. Needless to say Im very skeptical on the coating holding up.

    • Jim August 5, 2017, 12:17 pm

      I also cerakoted one of my ARs several years ago and it’s held up great through several multi day carbine courses. I have managed to chip a spot here or there, but it took a heck of a hard hit with a sharp tool. The durability has a lot to do with surface prep and appropriate curing. Also, the DIY cerakote is usually softer than the commercial application that is usually baked on (though you can buy DIY kits for application with an oven).

      For a barbell, the only thing the cerakote will typically rub against will be our hands so I’m betting it holds up really well.

  • ck August 13, 2017, 12:20 pm

    Hi, I have question for you. I see one of your youtube channel to review california bar. The following is the link that I watched.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ0nrff8HNQ

    Can you tell me are you using Rogue training or competition bumper set?

    • jburgeson August 13, 2017, 12:49 pm

      That’s not me, but those are the competition plates

      • Ck August 13, 2017, 1:35 pm

        I am sorry.
        Thanks!

        • jburgeson August 13, 2017, 3:57 pm

          It’s all good, I didn’t mean to sound offended or anything. Joel is a good guy. But yeah, no problem.

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