Thursday, August 18, 2016

FSA: SL-K Compact Handlebar Review

It is no surprise that carbon fiber is the real deal. It is highly likely that you’ll find this piece of material in most sports especially if you’re into cycling. I couldn’t imagine how cycling would be today if we are still using the good ol’ steel. It’s heavy and very unforgiving to the body…the saying that “I’m beat up” after each ride would be more predominant if our technology didn’t evolve. Most cyclists, as we all know are weight weenies and I do understand that since I am one of them:-).

Carbon technology has evolved thru the years and FSA (Full Speed Ahead) is one of the leading companies that pioneered such advancement and designs. We all know that carbon is the preferred material by many cyclists not just because of its minimal weight but mainly it helps in dampening the road vibrations compared to other materials. This will save you a lot of energy in a long run (wattage for my power geek peeps) and better control on the bike.

I’ve been using the FSA components, mainly the cranksets, on the three bikes that I currently have and I’m so please with their performance. This is the first time that I have used the SL-K compact handlebar and I was thrilled to see the difference. Though it altered my hand position a bit, the change is much better and I have more comfort when going on the drops.

                The SL-K Compact handlebar is a single-piece monocoque construction that is made of unidirectional
                carbon fiber for stiffness and Kevlar for superior strength. 

·         Continuous unidirectional carbon fiber   
·         Kevlar monocoque construction
·         Reinforced and textured clamping area
·         120mm wide round center section makes
it easy to mount accessories
·         125mm drop
·         80mm reach
·         31.8 mm diameter
·         4o outward bend

The stem clamp area has a gradual transition to a flatter top. This flat section is ideal for smaller hands and I found it easier to grab compared to some big rounded tubes that could be even bulkier once the bar tape has been put on.

                The shifter / brake lever clamp area are textured for better grip which eliminates over-tightening.
                However, there are no tick marks to how far up or down your clamp is, so you might have to use a
                long level bar to make sure it’s even. 

                The drop section has a relatively flat area that makes it easy grab and control when you start grinding on 
          your sprint and on the technical descent.

                Located along the bottom is the recessed area where you can tuck and route your cables. I tried my best 
           to let the cables sit along that recessed area for a cleaner cockpit look.  

                This is how it looks like before I put on the bar tape.

                And this is the finished product.

With all the time I spent putting it on my bike and hundreds of miles testing, here are some of the things I found:

The Good
·         With the compact bend, the 80mm is easy for small-handed people to reach the brake lever.
·         It is a lot easier and pleasant to transition from the top to hood to drops with a shallow drop of 125mm.
·         The long sweeping 4o bend of the bar offers a more relaxed wrist and hand positions while on the drop.
·         Because of the shallow drop, it encourages more time to be on the drops. It also prevents the over-bending that could cause lower back issue for some.
·         It really dampens the road vibration and less fatigue on my arms and shoulders.

The Bad
·         I wish they could have done a lot better on the cable routing by having the option to run it internally. But nonetheless, this is more of a cosmetic side that doesn't affect the performance.
·         The clamping area doesn’t have tick marks to gauge the levers if they are evenly positioned.

My Verdict
The SL-K Compact Handlebar may not be your top of the line handlebar but it gives the same benefit of the top notch handlebars in the market today. It helps in dampening the road vibrations which makes it more comfortable on my arms, shoulders and wrists especially being on the saddle for so many hours.

I love the extended flare and perfect bend shape of the drop that is almost horizontal to the ground. This creates an even relaxed wrist and options to change my hand positions while on the drops. The shallow drop of 125mm encourages more time to be on the drop and more forgiving on my lower back. I don’t have any back issue but having the option not to bend too much from my waist just to reach the drop is a big plus to me. Having a shallow drop also gives me the advantage of not compressing the angle between my torso and hips which helps me deliver more power on the pedals.

The SL-K compact handlebar sells for $300 on Competitive Cyclists but you could probably get it cheaper by visiting the dealer stores near you. Thanks for reading and I love to hear your feedback, so feel free to post your comments below.

As an extra bonus, here’s a quick video courtesy of FSA…Enjoy!

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