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1/2/2013 12:00:00 AM - TECH NEWS!

FSA SL-K Compact Carbon Handlebar

Excellent bend shape and vibration damping carbon construction makes for a very comfortable bar

 

The SL-K handlebar is the cheapest carbon bar offered by FSA - cheaper still if you find it discounted. In terms of shape, the SL-Ks are only available in a 'compact' bend which features short reach and a shallow drop. This style of bar is becoming increasingly popular as it suits a wide range of hand sizes and encourages more time spent in the drops.

The SL-Ks are constructed from uni-directional carbon fibre moulded as a monocoque. A wide, circular central section enables accessories such as computers and clip-on aero bars to be mounted easily. Beyond this central section, the tops flatten out slightly to increase the contact area which should in theory improve comfort. Clamping areas for the stem and shifters are reinforced and textured with a sand paper-like finish so that less torque is required to secure them.

On the road, FSA's compact bend is terrific with loads of potential for different hand positions. The bars seem to have been designed so that it's really easy to achieve a level transition between the bars and the hoods.

The short reach and shallow drop mean that all the hand positions are very close together easing bar setup. The handlebars can be positioned lower for a more aggressive position on the hoods, whilst the shallow 125mm drop means that the drops aren't out of reach.

The drops themselves are slightly angled inwards, 4 degrees from dead straight to be precise, with results in a more natural wrist angle. This slight angle makes the bars feel a tad narrower in the drops than their stated width, but I liked this aspect as it made you feel more aerodynamic. Sprinting from the drops feels natural and there was plenty of clearance between the wrists and the tops.

One can often question the 'need' for carbon bars, especially when most pros can be found on more basic, and much cheaper, aluminium numbers. The answer to that lies not in improved stiffness or light weight (though at the extreme ends of the spectrum, carbon bars well and truly trump their metallic cousins) but in improved comfort. This is where the average Joe can really sense a substantial difference.

The SL-Ks score well here, dampening out high frequency road buzz in much the same way that a good carbon frame would. Riding along broken road, the bike is noticeably quieter overall, and your wrists will be thanking you at the end of a long ride.

Coupled with the great shape, the SL-Ks were a godsend for my wrists on longer road rides where holding the same position for hours on end often lead to soreness. Since using these bars, I've not had any trouble at all.

Despite being FSA's cheapest carbon bars, the SL-Ks still come in north of the two hundred pound mark putting them outside what many people would spend on a set of bars (although you can currently find them online for considerably less than their full retail price). If you've got the cash, then these are a great option, but for those on a budget, FSA's cheaper aluminium bars also featuring the compact shape would be good options. For while the carbon undoubtedly has an effect on vibration damping, it's the shape of the bars that really has the biggest effect on comfort.

Verdict

The SL-Ks combination of excellent bend shape and vibration damping carbon construction makes for a very comfortable bar that leaves your wrists pain-free after long hours on the road.

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