Zipp's excellent Contour carbon road drop bars take the company's successful carbon manufacturing formula beyond its core wheel arena. This is welcome news for weight-conscious but conservative road riders, and as well as low weight theContour offers careful shaping that exploits the advantages of carbon fiber.
With road bars, drop and reach are everything, and Zipp has taken a page out of the old school handbook, a welcome feel for big mitts like mine. The 228g Contour bars have a 149mm drop and 85mm reach, which also work well with the SRAM Force shift levers I'm using. My 44cm test bars came with a 31.8mm clamp, which is quickly becoming the standard.
Another new standard seems to be the airfoil top section, which, depending on your preferred brake/shift lever positioning preference, can be a blessing or a curse. Because round tops allow you to gently squeeze the tops from any angle, the airfoil design limits your grabbing. Zipp's design is more subtle than other brands, so it's not as much of an issue.
Of course, an all-carbon handlebar is ultra-stiff, and for a wide-shouldered Belgian like me, a bit more stiffness helps when I'm out of the saddle climbing or sprinting. Carbon is also a good vibration damper, and although my roads are pretty smooth and predictable, there's no such thing as a free lunch on any ride.
This stiffness and shaping comes at a price, and it's weight. While it's smack in the 'quality handlebar' ballpark, 228g is not especially light, though if weight matters to you, Zipp's SL bar is just 160g. Perhaps the big advantage of carbon fiber as a handlebar material is this ability for the designer to tune the properties of the bar.
Zipp spared no effort in taking American carbon manufacturing to a new level, this time for the hands. Devotees of the brand will be pleased.
Sizes: 42, 44 (tested), 46cm (outside to outside)in 26.0 and 31.8mm clamp diameters.
© BikeRadar 2007