Specialized S-Works SL Classic road handlebar review

Classic shape, modern materials

BikeRadar score3.5/5Find prices on Bicycle Blue Book

Specialized's S-Works SL Classic mates the positioning versatility of a traditional bend with modern materials to yield a road handlebar weighing just 192g that doesn't sacrifice rigidity like some aluminium equivalents.

Compared to anatomic bends that often offer little real difference between riding on the hoods and in the drops, the SL Classic's bend allows for a longer, more stretched out and aggressive position – something that's important for riders and racers who spend a lot of time there. 

The curve makes for a shorter reach to the brake and shift levers than anatomic-bend bars, too, while still providing good wrist clearance when sprinting.

Conversely, though, the drops' concave upper surface creates more pressure at the edges of your palms, which can be problematic for those with sensitive hands or nerve issues. Sliding back to the unusually long flat section helps but if reducing palm pressure is of prime importance for you, an anatomic bend is still better in that respect.

Apparently well-engineered carbon fibre design and construction yields impressive stiffness when pulling hard, and also a little extra room on the tops owing to the extra-tight bend at the outer edges (something that's not normally possible with aluminium). 

Unfortunately, that stiffness is in play on rough roads, too – while the SL Classic does a good job of damping road buzz, it's not particularly comfortable on very rough surfaces.

Other details include textured and graduated surfaces for the stem and lever clamp areas for reduced slippage and easier setup, and flattened sections along the front edge to help conceal under-bar cable routing.

Though not exactly cheap, the S-Works SL Classic bar is reasonably priced compared to much of the name-brand competition. Lighter riders may want to look for something a little softer but otherwise this is a good choice.

James Huang

Technical Editor, US
James started as a roadie in 1990 with his high school team but switched to dirt in 1994 and has enjoyed both ever since. Anything that comes through his hands is bound to be taken apart, and those hands still sometimes smell like fork oil even though he retired from shop life in 2007. He prefers manual over automatic, fizzy over still, and the right way over the easy way.
  • Age: 40
  • Height: 173cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 70kg / 154lb
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA

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