This is a review of the infamous CAP OB-86B Olympic bar. The OB-86B is a fairly popular, lower-end import barbell sold at sporting good stores, online fitness outlets, and of course; Amazon. This bar retails for around $150-$160, and it’s the least expensive bar currently reviewed on this site.
It’s no secret; I am no fan of the imported strength training equipment sold in the big box & chain stores; especially barbells. I believe that 98% of what you can buy in chain stores and from their online counterparts is a total waste of money, and I very rarely give reviewing that stuff any consideration; much less a second thought.
In the case of the CAP OB-86B, the word for some time has been that it is an exceptional bar for being a box-store product; that it offers high-end features at a very low cost, and it deserves to be considered a viable option. The OB-86B also has more positive feedback than the average box-store bar, and a lot of that feedback appears legitimate and contains more substance than the usual “this is my first bar, I can bench 135 with no problems; why would anyone pay more for a bar!”
So rather than continuing to stubbornly maintain that it’s a CAP product so it can’t be that good, I decided to buy one and check it out. I had to see for myself whether this barbell is worth the $150+ price tag, or if that money is better served being put towards a nicer bar. So here is my take on the OB-86B.
Updated January 2018 – checked current pricing; made minor spelling/grammar revisions.
First things first; the OB-86B is not an Olympic bar. It is not even a multi-purpose bar. This is a power bar. It has only IPF power marks, it’s missing knurl in the snatch zone, and the sleeve rotation is very poor. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with it being a power bar; just know that it’s not a good choice for programs that include the Olympic lifts.
I am aware that there is already a variation of this bar marketed as a power bar; the CAP OB-86PB, but if you compare the two you will see that the only difference is the name and the sleeve finish. In terms of function and performance, they are the same bar. Simply put, they are both power bars.
CAP OB-86B Specifications
- 86″ (7.2′) 20 kg men’s power bar.
- Shaft diameter: 28.5 mm
- Sleeve diameter: 50 mm
- Rotation: steel bushing system
- Shaft finish: black phosphate
- Sleeve finish: bright zinc
- Tensile strength: 130,000 PSI
- Yield strength: 120,000 PSI
- Loadable sleeve length: just a hair under 15″
- Imported; China
- Warranty: varying reports of 30-days to 3-years. My research leads me to believe that if you receive the bar and have no immediate issues that warrant an exchange, then it’s your problem from that point forward.
Regarding the specifications, I will say that I find it very interesting that CAP has made both the tensile strength and yield strength available to us. It required a little digging to find but it was out there. Anyway, it’s interesting because there are many companies that make a far superior product yet they refuse to share the yield ratings with us. Yield is a spec that’s just as important as tensile strength (if not more.) Just an observation.
NOTE: CAP has included their colored Accu-Coat finished variants of this bar on the same product page as the default OB-86B that I am reviewing. This review does not apply to those colored bars, nor do I recommend you spend nearly $300 on a CAP product. BUY A CERAKOTE BAR FOR THAT KIND OF MONEY IF YOU WANT COLOR.
CAP OB-86B Finish & Knurl
The knurl is surprisingly nice for a bar this inexpensive. It’s a tad on the abrasive side; quite unrefined, but it’s comfortable. I’ve read a couple reviews in which it was stated the knurl is harsh and rough on the hands, but that was not my experience at all. In addition to being comfortable, the knurl is of an adequate depth for keeping a firm grip during even decently heavy pulls. I have no complaints about the knurl pattern.
Unfortunately, as I touched on above, the knurling falls many inches short of the sleeves. The outer snatch grip area is only partially knurled, and that will be a problem for taller folks who insist on using this bar for the snatch. I’m also a little unclear on why there is no center knurl, but it is what it is.
In terms of the finish on the shaft, there seems to be some confusion among both reviewers and vendors on whether or not the finish is black zinc, black oxide, or black phosphate. I’m going to have to go ahead and say that it’s phosphate. Black zinc is very shiny, and the Cap OB-86B is a very dull, matte black. I also find that the OB-86B feels too much like the black manganese bars to be zinc or oxide. In any case who knows how many different ways there are to finish a bar with each material; I could be wrong.
At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. Black phosphate has the benefit of being more corrosion-resistant, but zinc looks much nicer while also doing a good job of resisting oxidation. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Together, the knurl and matte, dry finish make for a decent grip, and adding some chalk only increases the security of the grip. Truth be told, the grip is probably the best feature of this bar.
Sleeve Assembly and Rotation
The good news is that this bar isn’t pinned. That means no tightening of the bolts between sets is required, and no risk of the sleeve departing from the shaft.
Instead of a pin, the OB-86B uses the more modern horseshoe and snap-ring design; it is basically what you’d find on a Rogue or American Barbell bushing bar. This is a much more secure way of permanently attaching rotating sleeves, and like I said, it requires no upkeep (other than oiling, as you’ll see.) Kudos to CAP for ditching the pin on this bar.
It’s not all good news though. A huge issue I found with this bar is a large amount of lateral play in the sleeves. There is a good 2 or 3 mm of movement; enough to be able to slam the sleeve from side to side on the shaft. Not only is this indicative of poor assembly tolerances (which naturally makes me worry about the rest of the bar), but it makes for a bar that will experience more rapid wear and tear. It also makes it noisier than it needs to be.
As if loose parts weren’t bad enough for the integrity and performance of the sleeves, add in the use of steel bushings and you not only have sleeves with horrible spin, but sleeves that will require constant lubrication just so that they’ll spin at all. (For what it’s worth, the spin is better than it would be if this bar was pinned.)
To give you an idea of how bad the spin is, while testing the shaft’s ability to rotate freely within the sleeves (as you would expect during a lift), I found that having even just one 45-lb plate on each sleeve created enough compression on the loose fitting parts that rotation of the shaft transferred significant motion to the plates. In other words, at only 135-pounds, spinning the shaft caused the plates to spin as well when they should have remained stationary. Needless to say, this sort of defeats the point of even having rotating sleeves.
No worries though. As I already mentioned, the OB-86B is a power bar, so this hit or miss sleeve rotation is a non-issue. Smooth, quick rotation just doesn’t matter much for the lifts outside of the Olympic lifts. That said, if your program does include power cleans (like Starting Strength), be prepared to oil this bar on a regular basis if you want to maintain any semblance of spin.
On the plus side, the sleeves themselves are grooved. This is a nice feature in general being that it allows change plates to be used outside of collars, but it’s even a better feature on an economy bar because owners of economy bars tend to own spring clips. Spring clips lose their ability to cling tight to the bar easily, and having the grooves and ridges on the sleeves help keep those spring clips in place.
Bar Strength / Tensile Strength
I’ve shown you what the tensile strength and yield rating for the OB-86B is, but you won’t find it in most product listings. What you’ll find listed instead is the budget-bar alternative to tensile strength; the bar’s max capacity; which in this case is claimed to be 1000-pounds.
First let me say that even at this bar’s relatively low tensile strength rating of 130,000 PSI, the OB-86B is plenty strong for the masses. Not as many people as we’d like to think can squat over 350 or bench over 225. However, in the interest of safety and not wasting cash, it must be mentioned that there is no way that this bar can handle the 1000-pounds that it claims without deforming. It may take going over 1000-pounds to snap the bar in two, but it will bend well before that. Matter of fact, there are many reported instances of this product failing to manage even 50-60% of that max without bending.
Fortunately; as I hinted at above; the target demographic for this bar isn’t going to put that much weight on it. We could effectively call this bar a 500-pound max bar and it wouldn’t change much. Just understand though that if you already have lifts in excess of 300 or 400-pounds, I would suggest finding a stronger bar. You are already too strong for this one.
OB-86B Bar Whip
Identifying the CAP OB-86B
It seems CAP changed the end caps on the OB-86B. Instead of the steel end-cap with the engraved model number (below image, furthest right), they now have this neon green Beast end-cap. It’s not the classiest of end-caps, but if you have snap-ring pliers you can pull the end-cap out and use some of that gunk remover to peel the sticker off. I did with one side of my bar (middle image below) and now no one will know that I have a CAP bar.
TL;DR – CAP OB-86B Pros
- Obviously the low price is the biggest upside to this bar. It’s highest online price is $100 less than the Rogue Bar 2.0 and $50 less than the recently released Echo Bar.
- The combination of knurl and the matte finish make for a surprisingly solid grip. It’s aggressive, but not sharp enough to be painful. Folks with smaller hands may not care for it though.
- CAP went with corrosion-resistant finishes for the OB-86B rather than the useless and messy decorative chrome typical of box-store bars.
- The OB-86B is not a pinned bar. No bolts to tighten, and no worry of sleeves falling off the shaft.
- Grooved sleeves help basic spring clips stay in position; less re-adjusting of plates and clips
TL;DR – CAP OB-86B Cons
- No center knurl; passive or otherwise. The only bars that should be missing the center knurl are CrossFit bars, and nothing about this bar is “CrossFit.”
- There is an excessive amount of lateral play in the sleeve assembly. This amount of movement is a major sign of poor build quality.
- By today’s standards, the tensile strength is really low, and you can find complaints galore of this bar bending well, well, well before reaching its “1000-pound limit.”
- Steel bushings will require more maintenance on your part. Avoid this bar if you are unwilling to maintain it.
- The low-quality spin, missing snatch-grip knurl, and lack of whip make this a bad choice for training the Olympic lifts.
- This bar has less loadable sleeve length than the average modern day 86″ Olympic bar.
- CAP’s shipping tubes are very light-duty; higher chance of damage to bar during transit.
CAP OB-86B Review – The Verdict
While there are certainly aspects of the CAP OB-86B that are far superior than most other box-store bars, nothing about the bar is particularly impressive. The features that make it stand out as a good box-store bar are things that any other mid-grade barbell already has; accurate specifications, corrosion resistant finishes, quality knurl, no pin assembly, etc.
Also consider that along with these mid-range features you still get some of the classic box-store problems. You still have the issue of a loose sleeve assembly, low strength shaft that will bend under much lighter loads than even the cheapest of mid-range bars, and horrible sleeve rotation. You also forego any real warranty with a bar like this.
All that said, it is about as good as you’ll get for this kind of money, and I still think there are a handful of people that this bar could be appropriate for; specifically beginners and those with a very low budget.
Beginners are the least likely to have any issues with the lackluster performance, while at the same time being the most likely to get a lot of use out of it before an upgrade becomes necessary, and when it comes to someone with budgetary limitations when just getting into strength training, this $150 bar may be the difference between getting to lift or not. I’d much rather someone takes up weight training with a less than ideal budget bar than to not take up weight training at all. A year or so down the road a more specialized bar can be chosen and ideally money will have been saved for that purchase.
So if you’re relatively new to weight training and your budget is tight, then by all means buy this bar. It is the lesser of countless evils in the budget-bar world, and I prefer this bar over any of the $99 pinned bars you’d find in a Dick’s or Sports Authority, or on Amazon. I even prefer this bar to the beater bars, not only because it has normal barbell specifications with no pin, but also because it’s like $50 less with shipping.
For the rest of you; anyone with aspirations to improve in the Olympic lifts (CrossFit too), or more experienced lifters with respectable numbers in the big three; you should expect to pay a bit more that $150 for the most important piece of equipment in your gym. To even risk limiting or delaying your progress with a bar below your skill level to save $100 is just silly to me – and I’ll just leave it at that.
CAP OB-86B Olympic Bar
Quick Note: Don’t forget to buy clamps. They’re not included.
I bought one of these during CAP’s Black Friday sale for $100 w/free shipping. It arrived only two days ago. It was enclosed in a thick cardboard tube. Which, looked like someone took it for a container of Pillsbury crescent rolls. The middle of the tube had somehow been twisted and the middle of the bar was completely exposed. Blame this on UPS. (Or as I now call them OOPS due to other mishaps they performed this past week.) It has an impressive appearance. Unlike the other *ahem* other bar I got from them.
I bought their cheap $180-300 lb. weight set during BF as well. This came with an all black bar with a black oily residue all over it. This was shipped with only cheap cardboard on both ends and a layer of plastic wrap. The wrap was ripped everywhere. And one of the cardboard covers fell off the first time I lifted it up. OOPS! This is probably going on Craigslist.
To my newbish eyes, The OB-86B looks and feels like an actual workout bar. Not a piece of metal you’d find at a construction site. *orbatron flashbacks.* *shudder*
“…specifically beginners and penny pinchers….”
Hey, I resemble that comment! :D The money I saved I put to good use. You gave me some great advice on getting the Body-Solid GPR370. But after buying the above I had enough money left over to afford the Body-Solid GPR378. Considering I only started lifting about 3 months ago, I consider all of the above a good beginning investment.
I hope that penny pincher thing isn’t coming across as rude; it’s not supposed to be. I don’t know how else to put it. A novice can use it whether they penny pinch or not, but an experienced lifter would have to be penny pinching to buy it, right? lol someone back me up.
No offense taken. That’s why I smiled. :D
It was more important to me to find safe, affordable equipment than “this is what we use”. Sure, I would have loved to buy stuff from Rage. But currently it just wasn’t in the cards. I would have been able to afford buying one of their bars. But then I would have had to get a different rack or not have weights to use with them. In the long run I think I’m coming out ahead. And anyways, it’s not like this won’t sell on Craigslist when it is time to upgrade.
Ok good. You know with the penny pinchers thing I was really referring to that sect of people who despite having lifted for 5 or 10+ years still believe that a Rogue, York or AB bar is just an over-priced version of the $99 bar that they choose to train with. I thought I was pretty clear about beginners and low budgets being ample reason to spend the $150 over $300 or more if it meant being able to start lifting or not. I’ll probably re-visit that whole section though; I think it reads too close to being sort of rude or snobby, and that’s not what I was going for. I mean, you get it, but someone else may not =P
I’ve got a question about barbells and landmines.
Some of the stuff I bought during the BF sale at Rogue included the Ohio bar and a landmine attachment. Do you know if the Rogue landlines will scratch barbells? If so, should I put something on the barbell itself to protect it, like tennis racquet tape or some of the athletic tape on Rogue’s website?
This also makes me wonder if I should put something on the pin/pipe safeties on the rack I purchased. I bought all I could; I feel myself turning into a tiger mom wanting to protect my equipment from scratches that can be prevented.
What’s your thought? Protection necessary for either of my two concerns?
Thank you for always putting out some of the best information I have found yet!
I haven’t seen Rogue’s landmine attachment in some time and I don’t know if they’ve made any changes to it since then. If it’s still just the metal pipe with no plastic lining of any kind and sharp edges around the rim of the opening, then it’ll probably get nicks and scratches on the sleeves of your bar, but if you wrap tape around at least the small area of the bar that’s in contact with that sharp edge, you’ll probably eliminate a lot of that.
The pipes from your safeties won’t do anything though. They are round and smooth just like the bar shaft; no sharp edges like that landmine hole. Not only that, the bar will so rarely even touch those things anyway.
Thanks so much for your quick reply, I appreciate it.
Have a great weekend!
Of course! You too )
Hey, thanks for doing this review. I almost got one on the lightning deal myself but just couldn’t justify a second bar at this point.
It sounds about like what I’ve gathered from reading the forums: it’s better than the other bars in it’s class but definitely not better than anything in the next price tier.
As far as the whip, you just say “power bar.” Were you able to try it out to get a feel or at those weights would it be in danger of bending the bar permanently?
Yeah sorry, when I do all the whip testing it’s because it’s an Olympic bar (or dual) and I’m doing it to text the reflexive properties. Since this bar didn’t even spin well at 135, I took the Olympic stuff off the table. I actually added in that “this is a power bar” section later in the process of writing the review. I tried to look at it as a multi-purpose bar for a while because I know some thrifty boxes buy this thing, but it just became too evident that it could never be a valid recommendation for Oly work and talking about whip would give a mixed message.
That makes a lot of sense. Sounds like it might still be ok for a land mine bar that could also serve as a back up power bar in a pinch but not much more than that. Thanks again for the review!
Pretty decent review of the low end of things for sure. I actually run into CrossFit gyms that have purchased Cap bars for the price. Like I tell them, if you want “price , price , price, you inviting “China, China, China” in the door. Cheap bars are about 50-70 bucks FOB China so you can figure out why they are loose, rattle and are cheap. I’ve also found you absolutely cannot reply on and specifications the Chinese tell you about their low end products. There is no way to verify what they tell you anyway so it’s pretty hard to get behind the product as a distributor.
I have my limits on what I’ll connect with and offer out to clients and Cap / VTX and Troy products are not items I get involved with. No question, a low end par for certain people may be fine, if they are likely not going to use it much anyway. Why people (boxes), try to scrimp on bars I have no idea since it is the prime item in the box. A side note, your reviews are quite good and well balanced.
My first run at home gym equipment was box-store garbage, so I know first-hand how crappy it is. Plus, I go into those stores to this day to see the new stuff because I would love nothing more than to tell folks that I found a bumper set 20% less than online prices that will last, or a solid bar they can buy right down the street. It’s all still garbage though.
I buy one thing at my local sporting goods store; chalk.
And thanks, I try to be reasonable about my reviews, and I try to keep it polite and nice even when I’m not really praising something. I think reviews are just more pleasant to read when they aren’t filled with blatant negativity.
Wondering what you this of these vis-a-vis other low-end bars for landmine usage. I could not find that lightning deal so did not seriously consider these bars, although I suspect we may see that price again because I get the sense there is more competition in the range lately.
I have to travel to see a “local” box store and am not familiar with any that carry barbells. Real estate is just too expensive around here for this sort of store to proliferate. There might be a sports store that would have something perhaps 25 minutes away and there’s a Home Depot down there; never saw bars there, though. A bit over an hour away is a region that has stores like Sam’s Club — suspect there’d be a big sporting goods store there somewhere. Also, I’m sure, in some part of LA I haven’t been to for at least 15 years. So I’d tend towards the convenience of delivery, which is of course not convenient when stuff gets destroyed in transit.
So I’m not really familiar with either the box stores you seem to be thinking of, nor their bars. I suspect any of these would tend to bend in landmine use due to prevalence of drops, and the play on the CAP bar concerns me that this would beat it to death earlier. Maybe a pinned bar would hold together better? I’m interested in your thoughts now that you’ve again tested a box store bar that I suspect we might again see at $100. It would seem wasteful to buy two good solid bars for the landmine pair, and if I don’t spend too much, maybe it won’t hurt too much if they become damaged to where they need replacement.
So I’ve been using the same bar for landmine use for a couple years now. I would say that it compares very much to this particular CAP bar in terms of specifications and build quality. Other than having fairly scratched up sleeves the bar has not had any other issues in that time.
I think that just about any quality, standard 86″ bar with 2″ sleeves would suffice for this application. You may not be near a chain sporting goods store, but all of what they sell can be found on Amazon. Body Solid has a $99 pinned bar, CAP has an economy bar for like $70, Weider has one, etc. These are all trash bars for actual training, but they would be fine and dandy in a landmine, and I can’t imagine what landmine movement requires enough weight to bend a bar, even one of these low-end bars.
The only thing I would absolutely avoid for any application whatsoever is bars that require your assembly. I kid you not, they exist.
Thanks for this reply. You answered my question. I have a nice bar from Wright and one from AB but didn’t want to use either for landmine exercises. So picked up something similar to this from local box store on BF for like $80. Hopefully it will do the job with the landmine.
I’m telling ya, the company that decides to line their landmine with plastic and take that edge off that rim is going to have a very popular landmine. We won’t all have to have dedicated landmine bars anymore. Just shove something tough and rigid like a power bar in there and be done with it.
Good idea right?
Interesting you mention the landmine issues. I was actually looking to represent one to boxes but have yet to find one I like or want my name connected with. I tend to like the ability to move it around by using the plate version vs. bolt on, similar to Eleiko;s Joystick, which I happen to like, but not in the price range it’s in. We are now looking at designing and making one with a special thin teflon liner and still keep it under $60 retail but we’ll see if thats possible in small production runs. (not a huge volume item but has potential)
If I head into it and do some, I’ll send you one to mess with.
For you DIY types: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=161302033
This guy does a rebuild of his CAP bar to help eliminate the lateral play. Seems like a lot of work but was pretty interesting to say the least.
It’s not as bad as it looks. He took so many pictures that it seems like a lot of steps. Though I’m curious how this cleaning is supposed to eliminate the lateral play. Did I overlook something he did?
He stuffs it full of grease. The pressure of the grease is supposed to eliminate the lateral play. One of the commenters suggested it would just get squeezed out, so only time will tell I suppose. If you’re into the DIY though I’d definitely give it a shot. I learned a lot from de-rusting my first CL barbell (although I immediately got an SS as my first real barbell so there’s that…)
Unrelated a bit but just sending a “Merry Christmas” greeting from STP Fitness Products and a thanks for some good reviews this year. Knowledge is powerful and will always help you make better decisions. Sorting real product facts from corporate and promotional BS will only help the business. My compliments to your direction and fair evaluations. All the best !!
Thank you Steve, I appreciate it. Merry Christmas.
Hey there. I appreciate the write-up, but I’m left wondering, what would you recommend as a step-up to this bar? Or do you think it would be fine for me?
Short story long, I’m a 5’8 130 lbs noob. I understand if you stop reading there >$>durability/longevity>bar specialization
Cheapest bar from rogue is echo oly bar, taxed+shipped is CA$368.33
This cap ob 86b bar is 175, taxed and shipped. Not much on kijiji/craigs/etc atm. (and I still have to deal with finding weights. :/)
I’m likely dreaming, but was hoping, for now, to scrape together 4-500 lbs of plates and a capable bar for under 500 CAD and upgrade later when the budget allows.
Its looking like I’m being pushed towards 600-900$ CAD for a ‘decent’ bar and 4-500 lbs of weight.
My platform is built.. Now I just wanna lift, man!
Thanks for the great write-ups.
Well first of all, do you need 500 pounds of weight right away? That’s a lot of weight for a “noob”… as you put it. You can probably save some money right there just by cutting that weight down.
If your goal is to get the bar and just start lifting and then replace the bar down the road, then by all means grab the CAP. The Echo bar isn’t all that much more of a bar really. Not until you get to the Rogue Bar/Ohio are you looking at a significant performance and durability difference. Arguably the Echo will last longer, but both of these bars will ultimately get replaced so it kinda doesn’t matter. Plus it sounds like the CAP is the obvious front runner just because of the price difference in your location. That said, because of your location there are not any reasonably priced (shipped and taxed) upgrades to the CAP that wouldn’t cost you even more than that Echo. You’ll have to make due with that kind of bar (like the CAP) until you’re prepared to drop $400-500 on a mid-range bar.
Don’t let my bar-snootiness deter you from the CAP. Even if you’re being modest and you’re not a total noob, it will get you through a couple years. You just don’t want it later when you really are putting 400-500 pounds on the bar.
Thanks a lot for the great info, and quick reply! I had almost canceled my order of this bar which probably would have meant another week or so of research and head-explosions (queue scanners.gif)
The irony(see what I did there? Oh boy…) Is that I live in a steel town, yet its almost impossible to get here… >.>
Now confident and going through with my order of the CAP for now, and printing out some bar pinup pics to drool over until proper funds can be allocated. (I’ve got my eye on you, Chan Bar.)
Looking forward to lifting with a non-mangled bar again.
haha pinups eh? Yeah I think you’ll be fine with that bar for now. If you’re lucky you can time your upgrade with Black Friday or something. Good luck, and I hope you find some local deals on plates.
CAP bar is priced at $100 on Amazon.
Have to agree with your direction and review on this one. Was surprised to see it…LOL
I’m no fan of Cap / VTX / or Troy products in general but, they have a market. Chinese bars in general are among the worst. For a few dollars more, there are tons of options, many from the U.S. as you know. I’m working on a bar of my own and moved away from China to Taiwan. Chinese bare are basically worth about $90-100 FOB China for mens and 80 for womans which in general is nasty cheap. It’s no wonder. When I get my fine tuning done, I’ll throw the specs. and details by you to chat. Always love the direction !
You should look into northern lights Olympic bar. Black oxide. Picked one up for 130$ 1500lb rated lifetime warranty. Steel bushing I believe. Would love to replace with needle, any ideas on who carry such a thing?
I’m aware of Northern Lights. They’re really no different than CAP here. Huge importer, cookie-cutter stuff. They’re actually really expensive for the quality. I mean they ask $450 for a CrossFit bar with brass bushings and no disclosed tensile/yield strength. That’s insane. You can buy some really, really nice bars for $450. Bearing bars even.
btw brass and steel are considered economy bushings. Cast bronze, sintered bronze (Oilite), and composite are what you’ll find in nicer bars.