Good imported things: BMW’s, Jameson, Bruce Lee, Candice Swanepoel, & the Vulcan Black 20kg Olympic barbell.
In my last review of a Vulcan Strength barbell, I made note that I don’t actually mind the surge of imported bars, and in this review, we’re going to talk about a certain bar that’s an example of a finely made piece of imported equipment. Most barbell manufacturers aren’t actually forging the steel and putting the components together of their “own” barbells, with the exception of Rogue and Diamond Pro. What they do is, outsource the work to a mill that uses the manufacturers specifications and design to put together said barbell. The time spent on the drawing board coming up with these specifications and actual testing, is what makes a great barbell. After the success of the Standard, leave it to Vulcan Strength to come out with another hit, with the Vulcan Black bearing barbell. Only this time, it’s imported.
Specifications (taken from VulcanStrength.com):
- Shaft Diameter: 28.5mm 191k PSI Tensile
- Rotation Mechanism: Bearing
- Marking: Dual markings/CrossFit
- Shaft Finish: Black Zinc
- Sleeve Finish: Black Zinc
- Knurling: Medium, No Center Knurling,
- Weight: 20kg
- Warranty: Lifetime. Warranty does not cover abuse or misuse. Alteration or dis-assembly voids warranty.
- Price: $339
The Vulcan Black is a stunner on paper and in real life. It’s shaft and sleeves are coated with a black zinc finish, also being the only style the bar comes in. Texturally, it’s not as glossy as the finish you’d find on a Rogue bar or even the Team Barbell 2.0, but it’s also not as slippery and tends to catch your skin or shirt well enough for something without center knurl. Vulcan states this bar has a medium knurl, which compared to the Rogue bar’s knurl, is a bit shallower, but still provides ample grip even without chalk; perfect for high rep CrossFit workouts. The knurl design pattern is just as fine and consistent as the best bars on the market. I would have preferred for this bar to have a 28mm, but as more of a multi-purpose bar, the 28.5mm shaft does just fine. Besides, if they made this 28mm, there wouldn’t be much room for their Vulcan Elite bars.
At 191k tensile, the Vulcan Black has more than enough strength to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it without bending. This is lower than some of their upper echelon bars (to reduce costs), but is still plenty to make it a high quality barbell. Under loads up to 100kg, the Vulcan Black moves with a generous amount of whip which would probably increase the heavier you were to get. Not the most dynamic bar by any means, but probably not intended to be as well, since this would be more of a multi-use bar thats slightly skewed towards Olympic lifts.
Quite possibly the best feature of the Vulcan Black is how fast and effortlessly the sleeves rotate. I’m getting less and less impressed by bars that just spin well versus bars that spin smoothly, but the Black nails both of these facets down to a tee. Inside each sleeve you’ll find 4 high quality needle bearings keeping things moving. You’d be astounded by how smoothly and how long the sleeves spin on this bar for. This bar absolutely trounces every bearing barbell I’ve used in the past in this area. That just goes to show you that less is more. Having too much spin on a bar could also be detrimental at weights over 150kg, but for normal functional fitness use, the spin is perfect.
As always, the fit and finish on Vulcan products is always on point. Virtually no play in the sleeves side to side and top to bottom leads to a very clean sound when the barbell is dropped with any high quality bumper. The black zinc on the sleeves isn’t going to hold up very long as will on the shaft due to the collars of plates constantly chipping away at it; mine is already showing a lot of wear in this area, but it is what it is. This is going to be true for any barbell that is coated with zinc on the sleeves and not hard chrome. There is one interesting flaw on this barbell, and depending on who you are, it could be a major or minor one. The IPW and IWF markings on the Vulcan Black don’t match up to any other barbell I’ve put next to it, they’re place a little more towards the center of the bar. Normal affiliate and garage gym goers probably wouldn’t even notice if you had nothing top compare it to, but if you’re a dedicated weightlifter, powerlifter, or pro-CrossFit athlete, this might be a deal breaker. Update: I talked to Vulcan about this, and they call these “CrossFit” markings, since having IPF markings on an IWF bar would make it not standard, and IPF has too many different standards.
Minor marking issue aside, the Vulcan Black stands out as one of the bars to beat. Clocking in at $339 ($299 at the time of writing this) shipped with lifetime warranty puts this bar in a class of its own. Bearing bars with similar, or even worse performance usually cost more than what the Black does. Put it this way, if you’re a garage gym or CrossFit athlete, this bar is exactly what you’re looking for. Even if you’re an Oly lifter, you’d probably know where your hands go no matter what, nullifying the issue with the markings, making this also a great choice for you.
As much as I like things made in the U.S.A (see: Kate Upton), the lesson here is that just because it’s imported, doesn’t make it bad.