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Rogue Stainless Steel Ohio Bar Review

Bar Review - the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar

This is a review of the new Stainless Steel Ohio Bar from Rogue Fitness. In this article I’ll go over the SS Ohio’s technical specs, the benefits of stainless steel, knurl pattern, sleeve rotation, and whip. I’ll also compare the SS Ohio to the American Barbell SS bars, comment on comparisons to other SS bars, and finally I’ll talk about how the new SS Ohio Bar compares to the classic Ohio Bars. As always, if I miss anything important or if you have a question regarding the review, leave a comment below.

Specifications

Stainless Steel Ohio Bar - technical specifications

These are the technical specifications taken from the Rogue website. They are copied here for quick reference.

  • 20 kg men’s multi-purpose bar
  • 28.5 mm stainless steel shaft
  • chrome finished sleeves with 16.4″ loadable length
  • dual composite bushings
  • 195,000 PSI tensile strength
  • dual Olympic/powerlifting marks
  • medium depth knurl with no center
  • average whip typical of Ohio line
  • manufactured in Columbus, Ohio
  • lifetime warranty
  • full product description

If I may add something that isn’t very technical, the SS Ohio is an extremely beautiful bar. The flawless surface of the stainless steel shaft in conjunction with the polished chrome sleeves simply makes for a stunning piece of equipment.

Stainless Steel 101 (Finish, or lack of)

Stainless steel is still an uncommon material to use for Olympic bars. Not only is it more expensive to manufacture and harder to work with than carbon steel, there really isn’t much of a performance benefit gained from lifting with a stainless bar. It makes you wonder why anyone would bother with stainless steel at all, right?

Rogue SS Ohio, American Barbell SS WOD, and AB Super Power Bar

From top: Rogue SS Ohio Bar, American Barbell SS WOD Bar, and American Barbell Super Power Bar. The SS Ohio and SS WOD are the basically the same save for knurl depth, but the Super is heat treated.

Well there are two things to consider about carbon steel when it comes to barbells. First, nothing feels as natural and secure in the hands as an unfinished, raw steel bar shaft – no applied finish can compare. Secondly (and unfortunately), bare steel rusts – and it does so quickly and easily.

Because of this rust issue almost all steel bars are finished with either a chrome, zinc, or oxide finish. These applied finishes definitely help reduce and/or eliminate rust, but they also strip away that naturally secure grip and superior feel of the bare bar. In a way you’re trading performance (grip security) for protection from rust.

Stainless steel is the way around this issue. By using stainless steel over carbon steel you get that same natural feel of a raw bar, that same secure grip, but no rust. Seems simple enough, right? Well the problem has always been the extra cost. Up until pretty recently a stainless steel bar could cost as much as $200 more than it’s raw steel equivalent. That’s a lot to pay for oxidation protection when you can just dip the steel bar in chromium and effectively achieve the same protection. For $200, to hell with the feel.

Here we are now about to head into 2017, and we can buy a multi-purpose, stainless steel Ohio Bar for just a little more than the classic black oxide Ohio. Not only does the SS variation feel more secure, it will always feel that way. There is no finish to wear away, the bar won’t chip or fade out, and you’ll probably never have to do much more than take a nylon brush to it to remove chalk, dust, and skin. You certainly won’t be scrubbing rust off of it – unless you live in the ocean (if you do, say hi to Patrick). Sure it’ll still cost you more than a steel bar, but not by nearly as much as it used to.

Does stainless steel really not rust?

It is extremely unlikely that you will ever have to deal with rust on a stainless steel bar. That said, there still are some very rare circumstances in which stainless steel will oxidize. Of course, going into detail on this subject is a whole separate article, so fortunately these topics are already addressed elsewhere. You can read about stainless steel and the conditions that cause rust here or here.

The important thing to know is that rust on stainless is easily managed, and the bar is easily restored. Stainless truly is the ideal bar shaft material.

Knurl and Grip

Close up of the Rogue SS Ohio Bar's knurl

Knurling of the Rogue SS Ohio Bar

As Rogue Olympic bars go (that is, non-power bars), I’ve always felt that the Matt Chan Bar has the best knurling and overall feel. It’s aggressive without being uncomfortable, and despite having a zinc finish (or chrome, in some cases), the grip is simply flawless – just very secure in the hands. In the review that I did for the Chan Bar a couple years back, I gave the knurl a 10/10 rating. Well today, I think I can safely extend that same perfect score to the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar.

The SS Ohio’s knurl is a tad less aggressive than the Chan, but it’s still a superior knurl to what is found on the rest of the Ohio line (not to mention all the competition’s multi-purpose bars). Combine this moderately aggressive and consistent knurl with the flawless feel of an unfinished, stainless steel shaft and you have an incredibly firm grip… the perfect grip.

Rogue Matt Chan Bar and SS Ohio Bar knurling variation

The chrome Matt Chan (bottom) has an ever-so-slightly more aggressive knurl pattern, but the stainless steel of the Ohio easily makes it just as secure in the hands. Both of these bars are very well done.

So whether you use the SS Ohio for high-rep Oly lifts, maxing out on deadlifts, or simply as bench bar, I think that you’ll be pleased by the grip confidence that this bar offers, and by the overall feel of bare shaft. The only thing that I would change in terms of the knurling is that I would have included a passive center knurl, but what can you do.

Whip

The elasticity of the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar is moderate – pretty average really. It’s consistent with the rest of the Rogue 28.5 mm bar family (Ohio, Chan, Rogue Bar 2.0, etc). In other words, you can count on slightly more flex than a power bar, and noticeably less flex than a 28 mm Olympic WL bar.

Since the majority of what Rogue does with barbells is centered around CrossFit, and since most lifters (regardless of their training choices) are not cleaning over 225 pounds, the lack of bar elasticity in Rogue’s non-professional WL bars will never be an issue. That is to say, if you’re not a veteran weightlifter (or Rich Froning), then worrying about the bar whip of your WOD bar is probably a total waste of energy. Focus on the aspects of a barbell that directly impact you. The knurl quality and grip, finish, sleeve rotation, and so forth (all of which this bar has in spades).

Sleeve Assembly & Rotation

Rogue Stainless Steel Ohio Bar - composite bushing system

The Stainless Steel Ohio bar uses composite bushings instead of the louder, cast bronze bushings found in most of Rogue’s bushing bar line-up.

Unlike the rest of the Ohio line, the Stainless Steel Ohio bar uses composite bushings instead of cast bronze bushings. This is a giant perk as far as I’m concerned, as I find Rogue’s bronze bushing bars to be overly loud and require more frequent oilings than bars with sintered bronze bushings. Composite also seems to be able to handle having much more weight loaded before becoming compressed. That compression of course causes sleeve rotation to deteriorate.

The spin is pretty much flawless for a multi-purpose bar. It’s more more than adequate to provide smooth, reliable turnover in the Olympic lifts, but not so erratic that it’s a nuisance when pressing or squatting. Rogue really has found a nice balance when it comes to the rotation of their bushing bars regardless of which bushings they use. Other than the aforementioned noise, I’ve never encountered an issue with their sleeve assemblies.

It is also worth mentioning that because of the composite bushings, the Stainless Steel Ohio is indeed much, much quieter when dropped. I’ve dropped my other Ohio bars onto the mat from no more than an inch and found the noise to be unreasonable for such a short drop, but the SS Ohio sounds much better. It doesn’t scare the neighbor’s cat.

Rogue Stainless Steel vs American Barbell

American Barbell currently offers three different, unfinished stainless steel bars. This includes the SS Bearing Bar ($795), the SS Precision Training Bar ($495), and the Elite Power Bar ($485.)

There was a fourth stainless steel bar offered. About a year ago AB offered the 28.5 mm SS WOD Bar, a bar much more similar to the new Rogue SS Ohio than any of AB’s current stainless bars. It was a limited-run bar and it sold for a very reasonable $299, but because of how good of a deal that it was, those bars are obviously long gone.

Without the SS WOD in the line-up, the closest thing that American Barbell has to the new SS Ohio is the Precision Training Bar. Both the Ohio and the Precision are composite bushing-based Olympic bars with stainless steel shafts and chrome finished sleeves, but that’s about where the similarities end. You can see how the specs differ in the chart below. I’ve also included the SS WOD for those of you who are aware of that bar, but perhaps missed out on that deal.

  Rogue SS Ohio AB Precision AB SS WOD *
 Price $350 $495 $299
 Tensile Strength 195,000 PSI 190,000 PSI 190,000 PSI
 Shaft Diameter 28.5 mm 28 mm 28.5 mm
 Knurl Depth medium – firm mild mild
 Whip average better average
 Center Knurl no no no
 Hash Marks dual-marked Oly only Oly only

* this is just for comparison purposes, the SS WOD is no longer offered. 

There doesn’t appear to be much difference in the stainless steel used in all of these bars. Coloration isn’t any different from bar to bar, the feel is consistent among them all (I own the Ohio, WOD, and SS Pro Bearing), and about the only thing that sets the shafts apart is the quality and depth of the knurling.

American Barbell has notoriously soft knurl on their bars which I think gives Rogue a slight edge. When I compare the feel of my SS WOD and SS Pro Bearing to the Rogue SS Ohio, it’s clear as can be that the Rogue has a superior grip. That’s not to say that the American Barbell bars have a bad grip (it’s hard to have a bad grip on a stainless steel bar), just that the Rogue’s is better – much more substantial.

As if the grip and feel of the Ohio wasn’t enough to make it more appealing, the Rogue SS Ohio is $145 less than the American Barbell Precision Training Bar. Granted, the Precision Training Bar is a 28 mm Oly bar rather than a 28.5 mm multi-purpose bar, but that’s still a pretty hefty price difference. This is especially true when you factor in that superior knurl and higher tensile strength of the Ohio.

At the end of the day each bar has its pros and its cons, and while the AB bars may be slightly more ‘elite’, the Ohio is definitely a much better deal and much more accessible.

Rogue Stainless Steel Ohio vs SS Bar x

Direct bar comparisons between the Rogue SS Ohio and other stainless steel bars are by and large unreasonable comparisons to make, as the bulk of the market’s stainless steel bars are higher-end Oly bars. In addition to the American Barbell SS Bearing Bar, you’ve got bars like the Vulcan Absolute Olympic Bar and the Ivanko OBXS-20KG Olympic Bar; both of which are premium, professional barbells. We’re talking about higher quality, higher tensile strength metal, premium needle bearings, and just overall better performance.

The Ohio is a multi-purpose, bushing-based gym bar. The stainless steel is used because of the superior grip and resistance to oxidation, but at its core the SS Ohio is still a simple Ohio bar. Don’t get me wrong it’s a fantastic bar, and a very welcome addition to my gym, but to put it up against an Ivanko SS Oly Bar is just going to make the Ohio look bad. And why shouldn’t it?, the Ivanko is a $1200 barbell.

It’s apples and oranges, at least until more mid-range SS bars (like the retired SS WOD) hit the market.

Stainless Steel Ohio vs other Ohio Variants

Stainless Steel Ohio vs the Classic Ohio

So how do the classic Ohio bars stack up to the new stainless steel Ohio? Should you even consider purchasing one of the classic bars, or is the new SS Ohio a no-brainer?

The classic Ohio Bar has a base price of $282, and that includes two zinc variations. A black oxide variation is offered for just a few bucks more at $295. All three of these OG Ohio Bars feature a 190k PSI shaft and cast bronze bushings versus the 195k PSI shaft and superior composite bushings of the SS Ohio. Both the zinc and oxide bars will fade and chip over time, and the oxide Ohio will also oxidize, but the stainless won’t fade or rust.

So for no more than $68 extra you can upgrade the classic Ohio Bar to the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar ($350) and get a stronger shaft, more reliable spin under heavier loads, a much better grip, and no worries of fading, chipping, or rust. Seems pretty good to me. Unless you are already stretching the budget to afford a zinc Ohio, it’s about the easiest decision ever.

As always, I hope this review has been helpful in your quest to find equipment worthy of your gym. If you liked this article, please share this article somewhere.

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • T December 1, 2016, 6:52 pm

    According to Rogue’s social media rep, the SS Ohio Power bar is on the way which looks like it will be my next purchase. Vulcan indicated they don’t plan to offer their power bars in SS much to my disappointment.

    • jburgeson December 1, 2016, 7:04 pm

      I figured that would be the next obvious stainless bar for Rogue. If the bare steel Ohio Power and this stainless Ohio is any indication of what a stainless Ohio Power would be, it should be a pretty badass bar.

      • T December 1, 2016, 7:37 pm

        Exactly. I’m really pumped for a bar that doesn’t technically exist yet.

        • Forrest December 5, 2016, 1:40 pm

          Looks I was just a bit too early to the show (ordered the zinc finish with my Black Friday purchase)… Any ETA on the release of the SS Ohio Power bar?

          Might have to sell the one I have and go for the SS when it is released…

          • jburgeson December 5, 2016, 1:50 pm

            No I have no clue – its all rumor still until the day it just shows up

  • Jordan December 2, 2016, 11:41 am

    Great review as always. I am quite interested in one of these bars as well. Personally, I find the composite bushings to be a bit of a compromise to keep the cost less than a bronze bushing bar. A Rogue CS person kind of eluded to that; however, I agree that all bushings have their pros and cons.

    It may be worth mentioning that another Ohio variant is the Castro Bar (which I am considering buying). It’s the bare steel version of the Ohio Bar at a price of $262.00, which is $88 less than the Ohio SS.

    I would love to get my hands on one of these SS bars before buying, but I am not sure that’s realistic. Interestingly, I sort of find bare steel bars to be endearing and don’t mind the maintenance as it sort of adds a bit of appreciation for me. But….at $88 difference….it’s makes me think a little harder before I jump for a Castro bar.

    • Jordan December 2, 2016, 11:43 am

      Additionally, I completely agree with you that a bar with a finish on it stinks (aside from a nice chrome on an OLY bar). All of my bars will be naked if I can help it.

    • jburgeson December 2, 2016, 1:10 pm

      Actually, the cast bronze bushings that Rogue uses are also a compromise. They are cheaper than self-lubricating bronze bushings (like Oilite), require more frequent oilings (being that they’re not sintered), and tend to make more noise. Technically, cast bronze is stronger than sintered bronze, but when did you last hear of a bushing breaking? I believe that the composite bushing is an upgrade from cast bronze, and an acceptable alternative to sintered bronze. The improved rotation under load and far less noise of a composite bushing vs a cast bushing is easily demonstrated.

  • Chris December 2, 2016, 2:13 pm

    Nice review, as usual. This bar should dominate the market at its price point. I guess you’ll have to go back and change your knurl rating on the SS AB bars now to 9/10. I was fortunate enough to grab the SS AB WOD when it was available (thanks to your review ) and it’s really is a joy to use. I’m sure the SS Ohio is also exceptional.

    • jburgeson December 2, 2016, 2:19 pm

      I thought about doing that. There’s no reason to change the SS WOD review being that it’s long gone, but at $800 for the SS Bearing Bar, the fact that a $350 bar improved upon stainless knurl might be enough to warrant an edit. I’ve gotta find a classy way of going about that before I do it though haha

      • Jordan December 3, 2016, 9:11 pm

        Thanks for the response. Well, I have learned something new that I didn’t know about the Ohio bronze bushings.

        I am still considering the Castro, but the SS makes me stop and think for sure.

    • Tony December 4, 2016, 2:06 pm

      I agree that this bar is going to do really well at this price point. I too got the AB SS WOD bar and probably won’t ever need to get anything else, but if I were in the market today I’d definitely get the SS rogue as my multipurpose bar, no question. I always thought that the price of the AB was due to a fluke though, and wonder if Rogue can keep the bar at such a low price for long.

      • jburgeson December 4, 2016, 3:31 pm

        That price will likely remain. It’s not so much that Rogue is giving the SS Ohio away as it is American Barbell has been able to get a premium for stainless steel because their only real competition was charging even more money for their stainless bars (Ivanko). Now AB will likely lose a lot of sales to the SS Ohio because nearly $150 difference to upgrade to the Precision and $450 to upgrade to the SS Pro Bearing just seems ridiculous.

        The SS WOD was a steal even by today’s standards though, so there should never be any regrets surrounding that bar (but yes, the obviously still had plenty of margin in the SS WOD).

        • Tony December 6, 2016, 10:25 pm

          Oh definitely no regrets. I just meant that in a normal marketplace I didn’t think an SS bar of that quality could be had for that cheap. Rogue is doing it for pretty darn close at $350 and if they can keep the price down like you say, then I think other companies are going to have to try to find a way to compete bc it will make a lot of non SS mid-level bars obsolete imho.

  • Vlad December 2, 2016, 4:39 pm

    Hi,
    Quick question, how does ss Ohio bar compare to AB stainless super Power bar?
    I’ve read your reviews on both, and I’m just wondering, considering Ohio bar could be used for powerlifting as well.
    Thank you

    • jburgeson December 2, 2016, 5:43 pm

      The Super isn’t around anymore, but it was still a better power bar than the SS Ohio. Of course the Super is not $245 better than the SS Ohio.. not by a long shot. Assuming the Super was still around, the Ohio would be a better choice for almost everyone. I think the Super and the Super’s replacement, the Mammoth, will be negated by the upcoming SS Ohio Power Bar unless AB cuts their prices significantly.

      • Vlad December 2, 2016, 10:19 pm

        Thank you for your response!
        I’ve gotten super power on a closeout, for 360(with red end caps). From what I can tell, knurling is uniform, middle knurl is same as rest of the bar. It is very grippy, almost never needs chalk. I’ve used eleiko xf bar before, knurling is super soft, it doesn’t compare. Also used older York barbells, as well as again faster 2.0 team barbell, but AB that I have still has way better grip. Will wait for Ohio ss power bar, because I do like slightly sharper knurl, although one I have on AB super power closeout is best I’ve felt so far(from the ones I had chance to use).
        Thanks again!

        • jburgeson December 3, 2016, 11:21 am

          Yeah you got a hell of a deal at $360. A lot of people paid $595 for that bar, and while I won’t say that it wasn’t worth it at the time, it certainly isn’t anymore.

          It’s interesting that you ran into an Eleiko XF with knurl softer than the Super. It should not have been like that.

          • Vlad December 3, 2016, 9:36 pm

            Maybe I’m wrong about eleiko type bar, it’s my friends, he’s had it for about 20 years, and I thought that’s what he said, it might be different version. For sure is eleiko, but I was surprised how smooth/soft knurl felt, almost turned me of eleiko completely. At any rate, really loving my super. Looking forward to more reviews from you!

  • Gil December 4, 2016, 9:52 am

    That Eleiko can’t be an XF because it didn’t exist 20 years ago. However, Vlad is correct as to the knurling.

    I have two Eleiko Competion bars. One is new with the familiar cheese-grater knurl. The other is 22 years old and has a knurl so soft it makes the AB SS Olympic bars seem aggressive. Completely worthless without chalk. Great feel/whip though; maybe better than the new bars.

    • jburgeson December 4, 2016, 10:01 am

      Yeah that clarification makes a lot more sense now. And you’re right, even a 3-year old Eleiko can’t be an XF.

      Still, I’ll bet all these weak-knurled, 20+ y/o Eleiko’s are still straight though

    • Vlad December 4, 2016, 2:26 pm

      Thanks for clarification guys. Yeah, not sure why I said xf. Bar sure is straight though, and looks fairly new, never been cleaned or maintained( it doesn’t spin quite the way I’d imagine it, but still solid). Other then soft knurl, guess everything else is really great quality.

  • Gil December 4, 2016, 11:49 am

    Straight as the day it was pulled from the tube. Also remains as tight and quiet, with no degradation of spin or feel. Doubt the new one will be as robust…

    • jburgeson December 4, 2016, 12:57 pm

      No not like the originals, but they’re still better than most bars on the market. Not really by enough to justify their cost for off-stage lifting, but some folk have the cash to burn, and if that’s the case then you might as well own one.

  • Mike December 4, 2016, 3:24 pm

    Great review! Glad I ordered one already. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
    UPS actually delayed my shipment because their Jacksonville hub was so full they ran out of room and couldn’t unload anymore trucks (so they say). Must be that time of year!

  • Dan December 7, 2016, 3:18 pm

    As always, thanks for the great review. I have the AB SS WOD bar and the closeout AB SS SPB (the sandblasted version, not the heat-treated one) and love them both. The $299 WOD bar was an unbelievable deal – one year in and it’s still perfect. But I am left feeling like I would LOVE the SS Ohio bar. Just can’t see adding a third bar to my home gym.

  • Russ McBride January 2, 2017, 12:33 pm

    Hmm… for home gym setup (Oly and crossfit) would you prefer the AB California bar or the Rogue SS Ohio Bar for $75 more?

    • jburgeson January 2, 2017, 12:55 pm

      SS Ohio easily.

      • Russ McBride January 2, 2017, 1:56 pm

        Thanks! My plan is this bar, and then in the long run (4+ years) upgrade to an American Barbell SS bearing bar. Thanks for the great review!

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