Reviewing the Klokov Sport barbell reminded me that you can’t always be sure of something until you actually try it out. Initially thinking it was just going to be the same old thing as the original Again Faster bar was what made me hesitate to try it out. After reviewing it, the Sport barbell ended up being one of my personal favorites and of course, I knew I would have to test out it’s competition spec. big brother. Special thanks to the generous folks over there at Klokov Equipment for reaching out cutting me a deal to make my life a little easier.
(Going forward, we’re going to be using the same style rating system found on the more recent shoe reviews. Categories are scored out of 6 with a maximum score at the end of 30.)
Build Quality – 6/6
Usually, people can expect quality construction from barbells hailing from Sweden, Japan, Germany and the USA. Would it surprise you to hear that the Klokov Equipment barbell is just as well made as any of those bars and that it’s made in China? I guess you can’t really discredit China as a legit manufacturer for barbells, since Zhang Kong is located there. What I can tell you about the build quality of the Klokov Oly bar is that it’s unlike any Chinese import I’ve ever tested, everything about this barbell screams competition spec. and should not be viewed as a “cheap” found-on-Alibaba barbell.
After all, each barbell goes through a 112 point quality test that goes over dimensional & weight tolerances, material strength, straightness, finish, knurling, collar spin and construction. It’s easy to see that just as marketing fluff (as I did), but after speaking personally with the CEO of KE, I’m convinced it’s more than a show. I actually talked to him about showcasing this inspection in a video, which they’re currently now working on.
If I were to remove all the branding from this barbell, you could easily confuse it for an Eleiko barbell. From the laser engraved Klokov Equipment logo on the bright chrome plated shaft to the precision cut knurling, the fit and finish feels like a bar that would normally cost $200 more than it actually does, but to be honest, I expect this quality from ANY $700 barbell.
Other niceties include: The “Amazon frustration free” packaging that the bar ships in; unpacking a barbell has never been easier! Sleeve bumpers that that should honestly be included in any barbell that has a groove for a band; not only do they help identify the bar, they also protect it when its without weights. A spring retention ring in the sleeves that also helps to absorb shock from being dropped. And, the sleeve tolerances are so tight the barbell is virtually quiet when dropped with any quality bumper plates.
Knurling – 6/6
Knurling is mainly a subjective thing, so with that in mind, I’m going to be as objective as possible about the KE Oly bar’s knurling. As mentioned previously, the cut of the knurling on my bar is flawless and uniform throughout. The pattern was hand selected by Dmitry Klokov himself and like the rest of the barbell, is competition spec., meaning that it’s more towards the aggressive spectrum than the Sport barbells more casual training knurling. One should already know, expect, and want this style knurling from a bar of this caliber.
The pattern they went with is coarse and “scratchy” feeling, but the grip is superb and while aggressive, it’s not uncomfortable and I haven’t torn my hands from using it, even for reps. It’s near identical to the pattern found on the current Eleiko NXG performance barbell. The center knurling is deep enough to remind you its there when you catch a bar to the collarbone but shallow enough to leave your neck unscathed; though it will feel like you might have caught yourself worse than you actually did.
Klokov nailed the exact knurling you would want and come to expect from a competition barbell. Just be sure that more aggressive knurling is what you’re going for. If you asked me to test this barbell 5 years ago, I would have complained about the knurling being to harsh. My hands have matured (callused), so I can appreciate a healthy dose of knurling now.
Spin – 6/6
Like the Sport barbell, the Oly bar uses 10-needle bearings encased in stainless steel jacket to produce it’s rotation. It’s easy to be dazzled by how much a sleeve spun freely can go on for but when it comes down to it, that’s not really the true test of spin. Even cheap bearings can spin for days, what you really should be looking for is smooth, consistent and most of all, controlled spin.
Both of the Klokov barbells hit the nail on the head when it comes to the quality of the shaft rotation inside the sleeves. Pulling under the barbell is fast and precise and it never feels like the sleeves are annoyingly over rotating, which could be problematic in the jerk or snatch. Best of all, you don’t feel any grinding or friction from the shaft rotating in the sleeves, making lifting with the Klokov Oly bar smoother than when MJ first pulled the moonwalk.
I do feel like there is a slight difference in spin between this and the Sport barbell, in that this barbell has a slightly more subdued spin in comparison. The difference is minimal, but I do think that when getting up to the heavier weights, the more controlled spin of the oly bar will be more beneficial than the more aggressive spin of the Sport bar.
Whip – 4/6
Tensile strength isn’t always a clear indicator of how dynamic a barbell will be, but it’s a pretty good starting point. The Again Faster Klokov bar had a ridiculously high 264k PSI tensile that definitely translated into how stiff that bar was and made it resemble a power bar than a competition oly bar. Thankfully Klokov Equipment scaled it back to a still relatively high 235k PSI for the 28mm diameter shaft, which compared to the original model, feels like a rubber band. Compared to the 215k PSI Sport barbell, the difference is negligible and feels more like “big number” marketing.
You still have to get a pretty decent amount of weight on the KE Oly bar to feel any noticeable whip, but when it gets going, the bar starts to feel more like reactive. Experienced weightlifters will see more benefit from this than beginners will, with the oscillation starting to kick in around the 90kg mark. Most of us mere mortals won’t even notice the difference or have the skill to use the oscillation in our favor anyways, so it’s not that big of a deal.
It seems the metallurgy is the same between both Sport and Oly bar, which is great for potential buyers of the cheaper bar, but is a little worrisome for people looking at the bar almost double the price. It’s good either way, but there is virtually no difference between the two in terms of oscillation.
Value – 4/6
Honestly, I think a lot of people are going to look right past the Klokov Oly bar because of it’s price. It retails for $695 which puts it in the same category as Rogue and American Barbells best, yet those are manufactured in the United States. You can even spring a little bit more for the Eleiko NXG Performance weightlifting bar, which though I don’t like as much as I do the Klokov bar, at least has legendary heritage behind it.
Another reason why the KE Oly bar takes a hit is because the Sport barbell is just so good! It’s performance is 95% to the same standard as the Oly bar at a fraction of the cost. Sure, the Sport lacks center knurling and has less aggressive grip knurling, but that actually probably caters to a wider audience than having them does.
When it comes down to it, you are actually getting a stellar barbell, both in performance and build, for the price. The KE Oly bar can easily hang with the best in this price tier, but the other options in the same price range just make it hard to want to spend the same kind of money on a brand that isn’t necessarily established in the industry or made in a “reputable” country. If this bar was priced closer to the $600 mark, you’d be looking at a “must-buy” weightlifting barbell, but $700 will have most people thinking twice.
The Klokov Equipment Oly bar should be viewed as a higher level training to competition level barbell. I wouldn’t recommend this for high rep CrossFit workouts or long training sessions because the knurling will leave your hands in shambles and though the center knurling isn’t too aggressive, it can definitely leave a mark after a bunch of reps.
If you’re looking for a high quality, competition spec. training barbell, that costs under $700, the Klokov Oly bar is absolutely worth your consideration. Like the Sport barbell, it’s one of the best performing bars I’ve tried all year, just be sure that you’re up to it’s level. If you’re on a budget, prefer lighter knurling, or just starting off – you can opt for the nearly as good, for about half the price, Sport barbell.