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Fringe Sport 20 kg Hybrid Bar Review

Fringe Sport Hybrid Bearing Bar Comprehensive Review

This is a review for the Fringe Sport 20 kg Hybrid Bar, a high-tensile strength, multi-purpose barbell that readers have suggested I review a surprising amount of times since its release. Well I finally snatched one up, and here is that review.

The Hybrid Bar is a 28.5 mm, dual-marked bar intended to offer a high level of performance for both the Olympic lifts and the big-3 power lifts. The idea behind multi-purpose bars such as the Hybrid is that you can take them from the Olympic platform to the power rack without needing to change equipment. You can snatch, clean & jerk, squat, bench, and deadlift with the same bar, and all without feeling like you’re sacrificing performance.

Being a multi-purpose barbell, the Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar falls into the same category as a number of very well known bars; bars like the Rogue Ohio Bar and Vulcan Standard. Nearly all bars in the ‘multi-purpose bars’ category are dual-marked, 28.5 mm bars that have a pair of bronze or composite bushings for sleeve rotation, sport a fairly mild or moderate knurling, and have no center knurl. They also tend to have an average tensile strength of about 190k PSI or so.

The Hybrid Bar is a little different. It still sports a moderately whippy, 28.5 mm shaft and has dual marks like most other multi-purpose bars, but rather than utilizing bushings for rotation, the Hybrid has four needle bearings per sleeve, and rather than an average 190k PSI shaft, it has a very strong shaft rated at 216k PSI (with a 206k Yield). The Hybrid also gets treated with premium (and rather unique) finishes, features a passive center knurling, and even has the outer knurling start further away from the center to give your shins room to breath. It is a very feature-heavy multi-purpose barbell for sure.

In any case, I’ll get into all of this more as I progress through the review. For now, let’s start with the Hybrid Bar’s specifications.


Fringe Sport 20 kg Hybrid Barbell – Specifications

  • 20 kg men’s barbell
  • 28.5 mm shaft diameter
  • tensile strength rating: 216k PSI
  • yield strength rating: 206k PSI
  • moderately knurled; dual IPF/IWF hash marks
  • increased distance between outer knurl start points (21″ vs about 17″)
  • center knurl present; very passive
  • moderate whip / elasticity
  • rotation: (4) needle bearings per sleeve
  • loadable sleeve length: 16.3″
  • grooved sleeves (flat grooves)
  • shaft finish: matte chrome
  • sleeve finish: chrome with manganese phosphate collars
  • made in Taiwan *
  • price: $399 MSRP (shipping included)

* the Hybrid is manufactured by one of the best barbell manufacturers in Asia.


Fringe Sport 20 kg Hybrid Bar – Knurling Specifics

According to the Hybrid Bar’s product description, the Hybrid Bar is an aggressively-knurled bar with the peaks of the knurl blunted.

One may read that description and assume the knurl is still somewhat aggressive, but really it’s more moderate than it sounds. Even the picture (see below) is somewhat misleading, as the knurl definitely does not feel like anything I’d label as ‘aggressive.’

Close up of the Fringe Sport Hybrid Barbell outer knurling

Personally I think it’s a very nicely-done, middle-of-the-road knurling that is appropriate for a multi-purpose bar, and in this industry-wide sea of under-knurled CrossFit bars the Hybrid is really kind of a blessing.

So what do I mean by under-knurled, CrossFit (multi-purpose) bars?

I am consistently unimpressed with the super mild knurl found on most multi-purpose bars. I feel like too many manufacturers are partial to a level of knurl aggressiveness that’s so safe and so tame that it damn near defeats the purpose of having knurl at all. I mean, I get it that folks don’t want Ohio Power Bar knurling on a bar they WOD with, but the line between mild knurling and super aggressive knurling is not so thin. It’s not an all or nothing thing.

Fringe Sport did not go the super mild route with the Hybrid Bar, and this is good because it has so many other great features that it would have been a shame if the knurl sucked. Why go through all the trouble to make such a nice bar with a premium steel shaft and beautiful aesthetics only to screw up the knurling, right?

Close up of the Fringe Sport Hybrid Barbell outer knurling

Just to kind of summarize all of that the knurl of the Hybrid Bar is moderate. Not moderately aggressive, not moderately-mild. It’s right in the middle. It’s comfortable enough for high-rep sets but substantial enough to allow for heavy rows and deadlifts. It sticks to the hands well but it isn’t so sharp that you’ll have an imprint of it on your hands after a set of presses.

Center knurling on a multi-purpose bar?

Yes, the Hybrid Bar does have a center knurl. It’s very passive, but it’s definitely there.

The center knurl of the Hybrid Bar is extremely passive. It's there though!

Center knurling on a multi-purpose bar is also an uncommon feature. The Vulcan Standard does not have a center knurl, and neither does the American Barbell California Bar. Of the half dozen or so bars that make up the Rogue Ohio line only one has a center knurl (guess which bar.) I’ll wager that your current multi-purpose bar also lacks a center knurl.

I don’t know why a center knurl is so uncommon on multi-purpose bars. It’s surprising if you think about it since the squat [should] play a major role in any training program, and even a passive center knurl can do wonders to help the bar stick to your shirt.  Who knows, but the Hybrid Bar absolutely has a center knurl whether it’s normal or common or not. That’s hot.

But wait, there’s more.

One of the unique features of the Hybrid Bar is that the start points of the outer knurling is a little bit further from center than is typical. This is done to give you more smooth, un-knurled area for your shins when pulling cleans and deadlifts. This is a very uncommon feature, and one that went over pretty well the other time it was done (the Rogue Matt Chan Bar.)

Like the Matt Chan Bar (top), the Hybrid Bar has the start points of the outer knurling set further out (to protect the shins.) The distance between these two starting points is the same on both bars; 21".

Most Olympic and power bars have a distance between outer knurls in the 16½-17½ range, but the Hybrid Bar offers 21″; or about 2 more inches of un-knurled shaft on each side. This leaves just enough knurl inside of the powerlifting hash mark for a large hand.


Fringe Sport 20 kg Hybrid Bar – Rotation

Unlike nearly all mainstream multi-purpose bars, the Hybrid Bar has no bushings. Rather, it is a bearing bar, having four needle bearings per sleeve.

Rotation is good; exactly what you’d expect of a bearing bar. Turnover is reliable, consistent and smooth. I have no complaints about the performance of the bearings in the Hybrid Bar.

That having been said, I’m mostly indifferent to Fringe Sport’s decision to use bearings over bushings, as bearings offer practically no performance benefit in a multi-purpose bar as any decent, oil-impregnated bronze bushing would offer more than enough rotation for a WOD.

Still, there’s no harm in it; outside of whatever impact it has on the cost to manufacture (and purchase) the bar, but we’ll never know what that is so it’s easy enough to ignore. Also, I’ve learned over the years that owning a bearing bar makes many people happy;  regardless of whether those bearings grant them an actual (or reasonable) performance benefit or not.


Fringe Sport 20 kg Hybrid Bar – Whip

The Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar truly does offer an average level of whip for a 28.5 mm barbell. It’s not overly stiff and it’s not especially elastic. It’s just typical.

I’ve pulled, benched, front and back squatted, cleaned, and rowed with the Hybrid. Honestly I’d say it performs more like a power bar than an Olympic bar but I’d probably say the same thing about all 28.5 mm multi-purpose bars.

The Hybrid Bar is just as suitable for heavy deadlifts as it is for high-rep clean and jerks.

Truth be told, it doesn’t even matter. It takes a very talented and experienced weightlifter to pull enough weight in the clean and jerk to be worried about whip. I dare say these folks are not in the market for a 28.5 mm bar. Remember, multi-purpose bars are all-in-one gym bars not endgame professional weightlifting bars.

In other words, don’t think too hard about bar elasticity. The Hybrid will not feel any different than your Ohio or Chan Bar, California Bar, Gladiator Bar, and so on.


Fringe Sport 20 kg Hybrid Bar – Finish

The Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar sports a matte chrome finish on the shaft. Matte chrome is an unpolished, dull looking chrome. By dull I mean it’s not reflective and flashy like your usual, polished chrome; I don’t mean ‘lame’ or something to that effect. It almost kind of looks like Cerakote.

The matte chrome finish of the Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar

Matte chrome is supposed to offer a high level of oxidation resistance while being less slick and more grippy than your typical hard chrome or decorative chrome. It’s a super attractive finish when new, but what little luster it has tends to fade over the years; at least that’s been my experience with matte chrome. Though to be fair, my experience with matte chrome can also confirm that it does indeed resist oxidation extremely well, which is good.

I like matte chrome. I’m surprised it’s not used more often. It genuinely does offer a superior grip to polished chrome as well as the often used zinc finishes. Stainless steel would be the obvious upgrade to matte chrome, but the $399 Hybrid Bar would no longer be $399 were it to be a stainless steel bar, and $399 is already an expensive multi-purpose bar – even if the features do warrant that price.

The chrome sleeves of the Hybrid Bar. You can see the contrast from the matte chrome shaft to the shiny chrome sleeves. It's a very pretty barbell.

The sleeves of the Hybrid Bar are finished in polished chrome. The sleeves are grooved but they aren’t the typical, closely-packed ridges. Rather, the sleeves are mostly flat with evenly spaced out pits. Vulcan Strength uses this sleeve style on a couple bars and they refer to it as “flat, wide fins.” People who dislike grooved sleeves should really have less of a problem with this style of sleeves.

The Hybrid Bar's sleeves. The grooves really have more of a thin, recessed valley than a pronounced ridge. This type of texture is going to be far less annoying for those who dislike the typical, grooved sleeves.

What really makes this bar pop aesthetically is the fact that the collars are finished in black manganese phosphate and laser etched with the Fringe Sport logo. This obviously has zero impact on function, but the contrast to the matte chrome shaft and shiny sleeves really does catch the eye (see featured / title image). It’s a great looking barbell for sure.


The Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar Looks Familiar

Those of you who have been following the barbell market for a few years may have noticed that the Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar is very reminiscent of and has some obvious similarities to a couple different barbells. Do you know which bars I’m thinking about? I’ll give you as long as it takes to read this sentence to think about it…

The first bar is the retired Vaughn Olympic Bar. The Vaughn and the Hybrid Bar are built on the exact same 216k PSI shaft, and they both make use of black manganese. I’m choosing to consider the use of manganese phosphate as a similarity because of how uncommon the use of this finish is.

There are some striking similarities between the Vulcan Elite 3.0/4.0 and the Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar

The other bar is the Vulcan Elite Olympic Weightlifting Bar. The Elite and the Hybrid share a couple of features, the first of which is the over-sized and laser etched collars. Now a larger than usual collar is uncommon, but a laser-etched collar is even more rare. Aside from the finish applied to the collars and the name etched into them, they are both exactly the same.

Do the sleeves of the Hybrid and the Elite look similar to you?

The other similarity between the Hybrid and the Vulcan Elite is the use of matte chrome on the shaft. Like the manganese of the Vaughn Bar this too is a very unusual choice for a bar finish; probably even more uncommon than manganese.

Of course, none of this should come as much of a surprise as Fringe Sport was responsible for the Vaughn Bar and all three of these bars are manufactured by the same manufacturer. Now in case you’re wondering if this is good news or bad news, it’s definitely good news, as the Vaughn was a solid Olympic bar and the Vulcan Elite is probably the whippiest, highest-performance, bushing-based WL bar that I’ve ever had come through my gym.

To put all this another way, selectively choosing features of the Vaughn and the Vulcan Elite as inspiration for the Hybrid Bar turned out to be a pretty good idea, as the Hybrid Bar really is a rather impressive multi-purpose bar in an world full of too many, very similar bars.


 

Fringe Sport 20 kg Hybrid Bar Review Summary

The Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar Review - Summary

The Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar is an above-average multi-purpose barbell. It was clearly well-researched out thought out before going into production. I think the strong shaft, the quality wider-set knurling, the presence of a center knurl, and the premium finish of the Hybrid Bar puts it a step above the more popular multi-purpose bars (you know which ones I’m talking about). Hell it’s even quieter. About the only thing the Hybrid Bar doesn’t have going for it is that it’s more expensive than what you can get a basic Ohio, California, or Standard for.

At the end of the day I think without any doubt that the Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar is the nicest Fringe Sport bar I’ve reviewed or seen. It may very well be one of their best products store-wide. I have no problem recommending the Hybrid Bar at its current price, and I have even less problem recommending it when it is on sale (which turns out is rather often.) Great job on this one, Fringe Sport.


 

Fringe Sport Hybrid Bar

4.65
Specifications 4.5
Overall Performance 4.5
Knurling / Grip 5.0
Durability 4.5
Aesthetics 5.0
Value 4.5

Pros

  • Fantastic knurl for a multi-purpose bar. Works well among all lifts.
  • The Hybrid Bar has a passive center knurl.
  • Has a wider-set outer knurling to protect shins during pulls.
  • Smooth, reliable sleeve rotation.
  • Unique, resilient finishes make for a very beautiful bar.
  • Shipping is included in the price.
  • Best customer service in the industry, and that's no BS.

Cons

  • Fairly expensive for a multi-purpose bar that's not stainless steel.
  • The unnecessary use of needle bearings no doubt increased the bar's cost.
{ 8 comments… add one }
  • BSguy January 24, 2020, 6:29 pm

    How does this compare to the Rep Gladiator bar? Any interest in reviewing that one in the future?

    • jburgeson January 27, 2020, 12:30 pm

      Newer Gladiators I haven’t seen yet. I’m still holding on to Rep’s Deep Knurl Power Bar for a review, then I may tackle the Gladiator after that.

  • TM January 25, 2020, 5:19 pm

    I know Rep Gladiator was mentioned in a couple of posts above.. Any interest in reviewing this bar in the near future? Also, what do you think about the new center knurl they added recently?

    • jburgeson January 27, 2020, 12:30 pm

      Newer Gladiators I haven’t seen yet. I’m still holding on to Rep’s Deep Knurl Power Bar for a review, then I may tackle the Gladiator after that.

  • Clayton B. February 3, 2020, 11:34 am

    I may have missed this detail but I’m wondering about your thoughts on the newer Chan bar vs this bar? Thanks for your time insights!

    • jburgeson February 3, 2020, 11:59 am

      I reviewed the current Cerakote Chan Bar, but when it came time to pick which variant to keep in the gym I opted to keep the original chrome. I don’t like black bars in a garage gym because of how it takes extra focus to find hash marks in poor lighting. That’s just my own thing, as I don’t like my gym lit up like a classroom. In any case, that’s why you see the chrome variant in that comparison picture rather than the more current Chan.

      Anyway, I like both of these bars a lot. The Hybrid has the advantage of being cheaper (always on sale, always shipping included), quieter to drop, and it has better bushings (really that just means less maintenance, not really better performance when maintained.)

      In terms of overall performance though there isn’t a lot of difference. Same feel for the most part, same whip, same sleeve length, shaft diameter, knurling configuration, etc. I like that there is at least a chrome-sleeved Chan, but I still think it’s silly to put a finish over a stainless steel bar. I feel like nothing beats raw steel even to this day, but stainless is expensive. That is to say, the Chan could be less expensive without being inferior.

      Fact is, I’ve decided to keep them both in the gym, and I keep far fewer bars than I used to. They’re both stand-out bars among their brand. Also I think the Hybrid is a more attractive bar, for what that’s worth really. I don’t like all that shaft branding on the Rogue Cerakote bars at all. I’d pay extra to have it left off.

  • Brandon February 8, 2020, 11:22 pm

    I know it would be *slightly* outside the usual, but I can’t tell you how much I’d love to see reviews of some weight vests.

    • jburgeson February 9, 2020, 11:08 am

      You know I’ve thought about reviewing products like vests, sandbags, and stuff like that, but they are very difficult products to review (honestly) when I don’t use these products or know jack about them from a functional standpoint. I could fake a review – I’ve seen others that do – but that’s just not my style. Who knows though, maybe I’ll give one a go just for myself and see if I like them enough to learn enough about them to be able to give genuine feedback.

      In the meantime, reviews left by customers who actually purchased a given vest are way better sources of feedback than what I could give you by buying and wearing a vest for long enough to take some pictures. Like I said, I’ve seen other reviewers do just that, and I’m pretty sure that’s not very helpful to you or anyone else actually interested in buying the best vest. The one I saw recently wasn’t a review at all, it was just an advertisement in review format, really.

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