The new Matt Chan Bar is here; an updated yet still true-to-form version of what is typically considered to be Rogue’s most unique and versatile multi-purpose bar, and incidentally the bar that has always been one of my personal favorites over the years. The new Chan Bar is stronger, it’s more resilient, and it’s flashier, but is it still a standout in Rogue’s bar line-up?
In this review I’m going to side-by-side compare the new stainless steel Cerakote Chan Bar to the classic steel variants (black zinc & chrome.) We’ll talk about what’s different, which is better, and whether or not the Chan Bar (either version) is for you. I’ll also be comparing the new Chan Bar to the rest of Rogue’s Ohio Bar line-up as well, as the Chan Bar is indeed an Ohio Bar variant.
Before I begin it should be mentioned that I’ve owned the Satin Chrome Chan Bar for many, many years now. While no longer my daily bar, it’s still used [exclusively] by others who use my gym, and I still grab for it when I need a second bar for supersets. It easily has the most miles on it of any bar in my gym, and as you will see in some of the images below it’s still in incredible condition.
Review Table of Contents
- Matt Chan Bar History
- Specifications – Chan vs Chan
- Chan Bar Sleeve Assembly
- Finish & Oxidation Resistance
- Chan Bar Elasticity
- Knurling Aggressiveness
- Matt Chan Bar vs Rogue Ohio Bar
- Matt Chan Bar vs Rogue SS Ohio Bar
- Matt Chan Bar vs Rogue Ohio Power Bar
- Review Summary
Chan Bar History
The Chan Bar was co-developed by CrossFit athlete and Rogue Brand Ambassador, Matt Chan. Matt was enlisted to help design this new Ohio Bar variant at a time when there was already half a dozen such variants in the Rogue line-up; bars like the Castro, Operator, and the Froning Bar that were only truly distinct because of their finishes.
Now whether the Chan’s design was left entirely up to Matt and his vision, or Rogue already had an idea of what they wanted out of this new bar, the end result was going to be not only the most unique of all the Ohio spin-offs, but probably the most unique bar in Rogue’s entire line-up at the time (and probably still today if you don’t count bars like the Freedom Bar).
Now keep in mind that the Ohio variants are multi-purpose bars – which really translates to CrossFit bar. They are general-purpose bars meant to go from a WOD to the rack; offering adequate performance in both the Olympic and power lifts without excelling in either. These multi-use bars typically have lighter knurl than dedicated Olympic and power bars and mid-range shaft diameters, but they are versatile and generally very durable. They tend to make better WOD bars than power bars, but that’s why the Chan Bar was going to be different.
Chan Changes – What Made it Different From Other Ohios
All of the changes made to the Chan Bar are knurling changes, and they all favor power lifts like the deadlift, power clean, and squat without negatively impacting its use as a WOD bar; at least for the most part. Matt added a more aggressive outer knurl, a passive center knurl (no other Ohio Bar has a center knurl), and he spaced the outer knurling further from center to keep the shins clear of the knurl when pulling cleans or deadlifts.
The only adjustment made to the Chan Bar that an Ohio Bar-wielding CrossFitter may take issue with is the slightly more aggressive knurl. I don’t personally think that the Chan Bar is too aggressive for a high-rep set, but hey, you may. The other two knurling changes should have literally no impact on your ability to do your WOD. The knurl spacing doesn’t change a snatch or clean & jerk, and the center knurl is truly quite passive.
In my opinion all of these changes are great, and they make the Chan Bar unique not only in Rogue’s line-up, but unique in the marketplace. The Chan Bar is more or less a versatile power bar; a power bar that you can technically Olympic lift with, and as we all know power bars don’t typically make good Oly bars so the Chan truly is extraordinary in that sense.
When the Chan was initially released it was available in two finishes; black zinc and a satin chrome. Chrome was what I purchased because I think black zinc is a bad finish; especially when it’s on sleeves (and it was and still is on the sleeves). Chrome was definitely the more popular choice among customers.
Unfortunately chrome was ultimately removed as an option, leaving only the black zinc – for years. I’m sure the Chan Bar still sold relatively well, but I think it would have done a hell of a lot better if chrome had been available this whole time. Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “what happened to the chrome Matt Chan” followed by “which bar should I get instead?” over the last few years I’d have a lot of extra cash.
Enter the New Chan
We finally have a new Chan Bar option. The new Chan Bar is stainless steel, it’s finished in Cerakote instead of black zinc, it’s stronger, and yes it’s also more expensive. It is definitely a more tempting purchase than its zinc little brother though; as evidenced by the fact that I bought a $400 Chan Bar when I already have a perfectly good $375 [chrome] Chan Bar.
So let’s see what makes these two bars with the same name different.
OG Chan Bar Versus the new Cerakote Chan Bar
Below is a chart outlining the differences between the classic Matt Chan Bar (still available for sale) and the new Cerakote Edition Matt Chan Bar.
|Original Chan Bar||Cerakote Chan Bar|
|diameter||28.5 mm||28.5 mm|
|finish||black zinc †||Cerakote|
|sleeve finish||black zinc †||varies *|
|tensile strength||190k PSI||200k PSI|
† As previously mentioned satin chrome used to be an option but it no longer is. That said, the specifications for that bar (should you stumble upon one) are the same as the currently available black zinc Chan Bar.
* The Cerakote Matt Chan Bar has a black Cerakote shaft with an unfinished stainless steel center knurl, but you can choose between black Cerakote or chrome sleeves. Pricing is not impacted by your choice. I recommend chrome sleeves as they are likely to age better than Cerakote (weights sliding up and down the sleeves will eventually wear down that Cerakote finish leaving exposed stainless steel).
In terms of the knurl depth and outer knurl spacing, there appears to be no change from the original Chan to the new Chan. Some materials used have changed (from steel to stainless and from bronze bushings to composite) and the finish options have obviously changed, but the features that make the Chan Bar unique are completely unchanged.
Of course, the price has also changed. The Cerakote Chan Bar’s price went north a full bill, and while it is a better bar overall, those of you who aren’t bothered by black zinc as a finish may find the original Chan to be a better buy. If you’re bothered by the branding embedded in the shaft of the Cerakote Chan you may have even more reason to go with the older gen.
Rogue Cerakote Chan Bar – Sleeve Assembly
The sleeves are Rogue’s standard Ohio sleeve; single-piece carbon steel finished in either chrome or Cerakote. The Chan end cap is unchanged, and everything is assembled using snap-rings. Nothing different or special going on here, business as usual.
Sleeve rotation is adequate; on par with any other Rogue bushing bar I’ve ever handled. My chrome Chan spins slightly faster unloaded, but there’s no difference in how these two bars perform under load (which is what really matters anyway.) I do not think bronze is inherently better than composite or vice versa; well at least in Rogue’s case.
It should be noted that my chromed Matt Chan Bar is also more than broken in at this point, so any difference in spin could easily be attributed to that.
In terms of noise, the new Chan; despite having composite bushings instead of metal; is no quieter than the older generation Chan.
Rogue Cerakote Chan Bar – Finish & Oxidation-Resistance
Between a stainless steel shaft and the Cerakote finish, the new Chan has one of the most oxidation-resistant shafts on the market. Matter of fact, only the American Barbell Mammoth Power Bar is on equal footing with the Chan. Interestingly enough, neither of these barbells utilize stainless steel for the sleeves so the uber protection only applies to the shaft.
I personally don’t understand why anyone would apply a finish to a stainless steel shaft, but this is becoming a thing I guess. I suppose those of you in extremely humid regions like say Houston or Bangkok will reap some benefit from all this oxidation protection, but to the rest of us this bar is much like any other. We don’t have problems with rust on chrome, zinc, just stainless or just Cerakote so the doubling up of oxidation-resistant materials won’t affect us.
If I may…
Earlier I recommend buying the chrome-sleeved version of the new Chan Bar, yet as you’ve probably noticed I did not follow my own advice. Well, I purchased the full Cerakote version for a very good reason: science.
Personally I don’t get excited about all of the colored bars out there. I have no problem with it, but it’s not my thing. I don’t need or want a green or red barbell. Because of this, I haven’t purchased any bars with Cerakote sleeves that I’d actually use, meaning I still have no first-hand experience with how long Cerakote can stand up to steel weights sliding up and down the sleeves. Being that the Matt Chan is a bar I’d actually use I thought this bar would make the perfect test subject.
For the record, even a week into ownership I was noticing missing Cerakote on the sleeves. I’d say it holds up a little better on the sleeves than black zinc does but this will probably be the last bar with Cerakote sleeves that I ever buy.
Seriously, why aren’t all bar sleeves industry-wide just unfinished stainless steel?
Rogue Cerakote Chan Bar – Elasticity
This is not a whippy bar, nor is it really intended to be. The Chan Bar definitely makes for a better general-purpose bar or powerlifting bar than weightlifting bar, though as I touched on previously the fact that this “power” bar can be used as an entry- to intermediate-level WOD or Oly bar will be a big perk for many lifters.
So is the Chan basically a power bar?
I think it is. It may be 28.5 mm rather than the normal 29 mm, but it’s a strong, rigid, bushing bar with semi-aggressive knurl and multiple other features that help with the deadlift, squats and power clean more than they help with the snatch. Again, you can bust out your WODs with this Ohio-variant, but in my experience the Chan Bar has never been nearly as popular among CrossFitters as it has been among more experienced gym rats and powerlifters.
Rogue Cerakote Chan Bar – Knurling
I refer to the knurl of the Chan Bar as being aggressive but I want to clarify what I mean by that so that you don’t go buy (or not buy) the Chan because you’re imaging Ohio Power Bar knurl or something; because it’s not like that at all.
The Chan Bar basically has Rogue’s standard knurling pattern with a slightly deeper cut. It’s essentially an Ohio Bar with a little extra bite. It is not comparable to the Ohio Power Bar or something like the Eleiko Comp Bar. In other words it’s aggressive relative to the other bars in Rogue’s line-up, but by no means is it a cheese grater.
In my 2014 review of the Matt Chan Bar I gave the knurling a 10/10 score. Knurl preference is subjective, of course, and that score was based entirely on how that bar felt to me; in MY hands; but I maintain that it is still a better knurl than what I see on most bars that pass thru my gym. It offers an extremely secure grip without being too coarse or uncomfortable.
While I do find that Cerakote does more to soften up (for lack of better words) knurling than chrome or zinc does, I do find that the new Cerakote Chan Bar offers the same secure grip as the previous generation Chan. I still consider the knurl to be a 10/10 for a Rogue bar.
Speaking of Cerakote softening knurl, this may be the driving force behind not finishing the already passive center knurl. Perhaps Cerakote would have just left the center feeling like it wasn’t knurled at all; or at least not enough. If this was always the plan, maybe it was then the driving force behind why stainless was used. You don’t want to leave raw steel exposed because it will rust, but stainless won’t. Who the hell knows!
I’m rambling. The knurling is fantastic. Grippy enough for a heavy pull, but not so sharp you couldn’t do a set of 15 cleans – though I don’t know why you would ;)
Cerakote Chan Bar versus the Ohio Bar
The Cerakote Chan Bar is not nearly as similar to the Ohio Bar as the previous generation Chan was. Matter of fact, upgrading the Chan’s shaft to high tensile strength stainless steel kind of makes the Chan Bar its own bar now rather than just another Ohio variant.
I think of the Ohio Bars as WOD bars. They have no center knurling, mild outer knurling, no frill shafts, and colorful finish options galore. If you’re seriously considering the stronger and more aggressive Chan Bar you probably will not be happy with an Ohio variant unless your decision ends up being based more on your available budget than features (an Ohio variant can be had for as little as $255 in the form of the Rogue Bar 2.0.)
That having been said…
Cerakote Chan Bar versus the SS Ohio Bar
The Stainless Steel Ohio Bar is actually a viable alternative to the new Cerakote Chan Bar. Both of these bars are more aggressively knurled than the standard Ohios, they both have strong stainless shafts, and they both have chrome sleeves (or at least the option to select chrome sleeves in the case of the new Chan.)
Both of these bars perform similarly in terms of their whip and spin, but the SS Ohio is $50 less and has the benefit of no finish covering it’s beautiful, grippy, stainless shaft. However, the Chan still has that outer knurl spacing and the center knurl, so if that’s what appeals to you about the Chan Bar then you’re kind of stuck with the Chan Bar – which obviously isn’t a bad thing save for the greater expense (thanks, Cerakote).
Cerakote Chan Bar versus the Ohio Power Bar
The Ohio Power Bar (OPB) is obviously much more of a hardcore power bar than the Chan Bar. It has a super aggressive outer knurl and equally aggressive center knurl. It also has a much stiffer 29 mm shaft. The OPB doesn’t have the wider, shin-saving, outer knurling like the Chan, but it does have a super solid grip, a center knurl, and it can be had for a lot less money than the Chan; especially the new Cerakote Chan.
I used to own the bare steel Ohio Power Bar ($250) but I ultimately replaced it with the rust-resistant SS Ohio Power Bar ($395-$425). Interestingly enough, I still never choose to train with it over other bars. Yes, I think it’s is an amazing bar in the right hands and its offered at a very fair price, but honestly I just do not need that cheese grater knurl for the bench press and I don’t want that aggro center knurl when I squat.
What about the deadlift? Well in all fairness I do use an Ohio Deadlift Bar, but removing that second bar from the equation I think I’d still be more likely to pull with a Chan than the OPB. Chan knurling is more than adequate and it is spaced perfectly for pulls, and the thinner bar shaft is more likely to have some slack in it. Narrower bars make great deadlift bars and the Chan is narrower than the OPB; even if only by 0.5 mm.
I think the Ohio Power Bar gives the power bar world a run for its money. The specs for the price is outstanding. $250 for the fully-functional, bare steel variant is just insane. That said, you can do better if you’re willing to spend more, and that’s basically what I’ve chosen to do in my own gym. My $395 OPB collects dust while the Chan Bar and AB power bars rack up all the serious mileage. That’s just me though; the OPB may be precisely the bar for you.
Cerakote Matt Chan Bar Review Summary
Like the original Chan, the updated Cerakote Chan is an excellent bar. It has a lot going for it in terms of features and specifications, and the wider knurl spacing is a nearly impossible feature to find elsewhere (which is incredibly surprising if you think about it.) The Matt Chan Bar is simply untouchable in the uniqueness department.
As much as I like the new Chan Bar I do think it has a couple minor drawbacks. Admittedly these are a matter of personal preference and you may not care about these two things, but in my opinion fixing them would make the Chan a nearly perfect bar; which is truly quite the compliment when you see how petty these two complaints are.
For starters, I find locating the hash marks on a black bar in a dimly lit garage gym to be an exercise in patience. Why cover stainless steel (of all things) with a black finish! Secondly, I could do without the excessive Rogue branding. Both end caps say Rogue and have Matt’s signature logo; isn’t that enough for a barbell?
See? If those are my two biggest issues with a nearly $400 multi-purpose bar, that’s pretty good, right? The new Matt Chan Bar is versatile, grippy, strong, durable, rust-resistant, and unique. The price isn’t a bargain or anything but it’s not unreasonable. Also the fact that we aren’t forced into Cerakote sleeves is a big plus; an option not available on barbells like the Cerakote Ohio Power & Deadlift Bars, and many of the other Ohio variants.
I have no more issue recommending the Cerakote Matt Chan Bar than I did recommending the classic chrome Chan Bar back in the day. I like this bar, I’ll keep this bar, and I’ll use this bar. In a garage gym with more barbells than could ever be used by such a small number of lifters, that’s the ultimate compliment and endorsement, I’d say.