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FringeSport produces some of the best value equipment currently available, and the Hybrid Barbell is a shining example of that. Although young, FringeSport has made a large impact, initially on the CrossFit and Functional Fitness space and now in an attempt to reach a broader audience has introduced three new barbells that offer a bit more specialization.
We've been able to use and test many of FringeSport's barbells and actually listed the Wonder Bar as our runner-up for the best barbell for most people. The Hybrid Barbell is just as the name indicates, a bar that will perform equally well for weightlifting as it will for powerlifting (at least in theory.) Sometimes, when a company attempts to capture multiple markets with one product, they can end up missing everyone. Despite me having that initial thought with both the Rogue Chan Bar (a direct competitor) and this bar, I can confidently say I believe there is definitely a market for their unique specs.
The Hybrid Barbell is built with a strong 216,200 PSI tensile strength steel that is in alignment with many of the barbells FringeSport offers. With the growth of the home gym market, barbell manufacturers have recognized a number that resonates with customers, and that number is the tensile strength of the barbell steel. FringeSport has seen this and decided to beat pretty much everyone else on a tensile strength-to-dollar basis.
Is tensile strength something you should focus on? Probably not, so long as the bar is above 180K PSI tensile strength you should be fine unless you're pulling 600 lbs or more regularly.
The shaft of the Hybrid Barbell is 28.5mm, a change that I'm glad FringeSport made. Most of their other bars, including their most popular Wonder Bar, have a 28mm shaft. Although a thin shaft is great for Olympic Weightlifting and deadlifting, it's pretty uncomfortable for pressing and squatting. In my opinion, the ideal shaft diameter for a general training barbell (which is exactly what the Hybrid Barbell is) 28.5mm. Not only will that diameter provide a comfortable grip for most applications, but it will lead to a barbell that has a good combination of whip and stiffness for the classic and power lifts.
The coating FringeSport decided upon for the barbell shaft is Matte Chrome. It has a nice, smooth feel and looks pretty great in comparison to all of the glossy chrome that fills up my gun rack.
The sleeves of the Hybrid Barbell are listed as having a matte chrome finish, however, in person, they appear to be quite glossy. The sleeve collars feature a contrasted Manganese Phosphate coating that makes the bar stand out in a subdued manner. In fact, I like the combination of the different finishes so much that it's probably my favorite looking barbell currently available. Sure, looks matter little in a barbell, but if you're going to use something every day, it might as well be appealing.
The sleeves spin on 4 needle bearings that provide a smooth, consistent spin, but not one that will leave the barbell shaking during any pressing movements. I like the choice of 4 needle bearings instead of more bearings or a substitution of bushings. For most, I think bushings are fine for most people and applications (I have a couple bushing bars that spin better than bearing bars), but this is a unique bar so why not go all out and give it bearings.
The spin of the bar is excellent for those that like to cycle cleans or snatches in CrossFit workouts or for training the snatch and clean and jerk for Olympic Weightlifting purposes.
The knurling of the bar is again, different. Choosing a knurl for a bar that will be used for powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and CrossFit is challenging to do, but I think FringeSport did the best they could. The knurling is cut deep into the shaft, and then the diamond points are chopped off. The knurling it most resembles is actually the Rogue Ohio Power Bar (check out the review here), but rather than producing four times as many diamond points, the Hybrid Barbell has none. The tops of what would traditionally be diamond points are actually flat.
This unique knurl allows the bar to be aggressive without as much possibility for hand rips to due to it not digging into the skin as much. It's not my favorite knurl, in fact, I would have preferred to see a less deep cut into the shaft, but keep the diamond points. However, for a barbell designed for all applications, the knurling FringeSport chose will get the job done just fine.
One of my favorite features of the Hybrid Bar is the center knurl. I think most, if not every barbell should feature a center knurl. Some don't like a center knurl, but if it's done light enough, it won't scrape up your neck while in the front rack. Thankfully FringeSport decided to take a light pass over the center of the bar to provide just enough tackiness to stick to the back during deadlifts, but not leave your neck looking like you and your girlfriend had the most memorable night of your pre-pubescent lives.
One other unique feature of the Hybrid Bar is where the knurling stops near the center. Rather than running the knurl so that it only leaves a few inches of smooth space, FringeSport backed the knurl off a few inches. This is similar to what Rogue did with the Chan Bar and in my opinion is an excellent idea. This keeps the knurling from tearing up shins during deadlifts and cleans, and provides a spot where most people grip the barbell anyways. In all honesty, I wish more barbells had this feature as I can't remember a time other than close-grip bench press that I set up with my grip as close as most barbells knurls start.
As expected, the Hybrid Barbell features dual knurl marks for both powerlifting and Olympic Weightlifting that start and stop consistently.
The last technical specification of the barbell I'd like to hit on is the spiral pattern on the sleeves. Companies dig into the sleeves to help prevent the plates from sliding off and keep the collars attached. Most companies will dig into the sleeves lightly in a very tight pattern. FringeSport, with the Hybrid, Weightlifting, and Power Barbells have decided to do an aggressive cut into the sleeves that looks different (not in a bad way, just something I'm not used to) and also attracts all sorts of grime and sweat. The reason I bring this up is not to point out that I think it looks weird, because it's not that big of a deal, but I could see the sleeves gathering surface rust rather quickly if not regularly attended to.
In use, the Hybrid Barbell performs well in all scenarios. Being a jack of all trades, it doesn't do as well as a 29mm Power Bar for power lifts or a 28mm Weightlifting Bar for the Olympic lifts, but if you're someone looking for a single barbell to get the job done, this is an excellent option.
FringeSport has an excellent warranty (lifetime warranty against manufacturer's defects and bending), awesome customer service, and despite this bar being manufactured in Taiwan-great quality control.
All in all, I'm a fan of the Hybrid Bar and like that it meets the same price point as the Rogue Chan Bar, but with free shipping. If I had to choose one between the Rogue Chan Bar and the FringeSport Hybrid Bar, I would choose the Hybrid Bar. They offer similar specs, similar prices, but the Chan Bar now only comes in Black Zinc which is, in my opinion, an awful coating for the long-term use of the bar.
I have three areas in which I believe the Hybrid Barbell could be improved.
The first thing is picky, but the end caps on all of the new FringeSport Bars feature a sticker and then a translucent plastic that makes the sticker appear like it's somewhat 3D. I think it looks cool, but the clear plastic on every new FringeSport Bar I received is peeling off. This is the one area that a company can brand a barbell, I really wish more focus was put on this area by all companies.
The second area is the knurling. As I said, it features a deep cut into the shaft with flat tops. It get's the job done, but I would like a less deep cut into the shaft with smaller diamond points. Knurling is personal preference, but this is me writing a review, so I feel okay giving my opinion.
The final area for improvement is the spiral pattern on the sleeves. I would like it to be less aggressive for both looks and long-term maintenance.
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