Today’s barbell marketplace is a lot more competitive than it was even just two years ago. There are tons of Import options offering things like bearings and chrome finishes at very competitive prices. Even with all that pizzazz, they all feel generic and kind of cheap. That’s not to say that they’re bad barbells, far from it; some of my favorites are imported. The feel of U.S. made barbells is just more solid and has more character. I’m probably reading into this way too much, but I’ve used a ton of barbells and I still prefer the majority of domestics over imports, even if they are bushing.
I held off on review a Pendlay bar for a long time now. When I first looked into making my first barbell purchase, the Pendlay Nexgen HD was at the very top of my list, but for whatever reason I went with the Rogue Ohio bar (probably just because it says “Rogue” on it). Honestly, I’m glad I went that direction instead of the 2013 Pendlay, because soon after I bought, we got Pendlay’s at my box and I was just not a fan of the knurl. About a year later, I found one a 2013 model on Craigslist for a good price and decided to give it another shot; but alas, same story so I just ended up flipping it.
If you’ve used any of the previous models. I’m going to tell you the 2015 model is not the same barbell. Many things remain the same, but there are some thoughtful changes and one new addition. Gone is the bright zinc, instead you’ve got a beautiful, shiny, polished chrome. The knurl that I once despised so much, has been refined and is now one of the more unique (in a good way) patterns I’ve used. Last but not least, Pendlay has added a center knurl option! First and most importantly, let’s talk knurling. This can easily make or break a barbell, and what broke the Pendlay for me before, makes the barbell for me now. I must reiterate, knurling is completely subjective, and in my case, I don’t like harsh. On the previous models, I always felt like they tore my hands apart; the knurl was deep and the pattern was coarse. The crosshatches now are more fine, yet the depth feels close to the same. Just that little difference makes the lifting experience (for me) a lot different. It’s very comfortable to use the Pendlay HD for reps, with little to no chalk.
Pendlay boasts that the metallurgy on this bar is only used on their barbells. With a tensile of 190k psi, the amount of whip is excellent compared to other barbells in this price range and even up to much more expensive bars. The more weight you put on, the better it gets. For CrossFit and weightlifting, it’s going to be perfect for you. If you’re a dedicated powerlifter, this is probably not the barbell for you; it doesn’t have IPF markings either.
I ordered my barbell from their “event sale”, but my bar came brand new, with center knurling, something that was never present on Pendlay HD’s of the past. When I e-mailed Muscledriver to ask them about this, they just told me they accidentally sent me a bar with center knurl and they as of yet, they haven’t released the option. They also opted to replace the bar if I didn’t want it, but I decided to give it a shot. Typically, I’m not a huge fan of center knurling because I do a lot of high rep work. It’s definitely there, but you don’t actually notice it that often unless it catches your shirt, which is exactly what you want it to do. Bringing the bar down from overhead doesn’t eat your neck up, catching cleans doesn’t either, but it has just the right amount of stick when you need it to. Without question, I’d recommend that you go with the center knurl if you’re a weightlifter; if you’re a Crossfitter, you could probably do without it, but if it was there, it really wouldn’t kill you and it would make your singles or squatting better.
The new chrome on the HD is blinging. Seriously, this bar is freaking gorgeous. The 28mm diameter shaft remains the same, but the coating on it is a polished nickel chrome instead of the pale-ish bright zinc. The problem about zinc is that when it’s not new, it get’s ugly pretty quick and it chips off pretty easily; but at least it’s some kind of corrosion resistance. Chrome is usually more expensive, but offers excellent corrosion and scratch resistance. I don’t rack my oly bars, I’ve got beaters for that, but so far the sleeves are still looking brilliant even after a few weeks of use. Speaking of which, the sleeves have a pretty good amount of ribbing on them, so plates stay on pretty easily without collars. On the flip side, they don’t go on or come off that easily either.
This is the bushing version of the barbell, which at the moment spins exceptionally well and smooth. Pendlay uses a special gel lubricant, which they have been using for quite some time. The problem there is that it usually dries up, and that spin doesn’t last; at least with the bars I’ve encountered. My usual remedy is spraying a bit of lithium grease into the sleeves, but I wish I could get my hands on whatever they’re using. Other points of concern are that even with the 190k tensile strength, I’ve seen Pendlay’s bend under completely normal use. They do offer a lifetime warranty, but no one wants to have to go that route. Another thing to note is that the sleeves have quite a bit of play side to side; the HD is not the most quiet bar when dropped.
Retail price of the Pendlay HD bushing barbell is $339, which for what you’re getting is a decent value. Like previously mentioned, there are a lot of import bars on the market undercutting US manufacturer prices. While I’m not against this, because it gives more power to the consumer, I’d still take a U.S. sourced and made barbell any day. Pendlay will always be around, I can’t say the same for all those import barbells.