These snazzy R900 carbon bars from Oval are an ideal upgrade for your Sunday best bike or a nice bit of lightweight bling if you're building up from scratch. Of course, if you're like me then you'll fit them to a single-speed commuter hack made from pig iron. No, it's not exactly a match made in bike heaven, but the roads round here are rougher than Simon Cowell's tongue with a few cheeky hills thrown in for good measure. If that doesn't show up a handlebar's weaknesses then I don't know what will.
Oval say that this is an all carbon bar, but it also has a kevlar layer to eliminate "catastrophic failure" and inserts around the stem and lever areas to reduce stress. Not that you're likely to need them, because this is a very strong bar, despite the very low weight (about 220g for the 42cm that I tested). We don't have fancy deflection testing kit at Road.CC Towers, but you can tell that these narrow gauge bars are extremely stiff. Even honking up some sharp hills didn't induce any flex. Consequently you don't get much of the vibration absorption that carbon is famed for and on poor road surfaces the shock goes right up your arm. It isn't so bad if you ride on the drops, being the part with the most give, but if you spend a lot of time on the hoods or tops, you might want to look elsewhere. On the other hand, sprinters and burly riders will find the lack of flex a great help.
These are fairly conventional looking bars with a semi-anatomic bend. The lever clamp area is generous and nicely roughed up for you so you won't have any problems with levers slipping and sliding around, as is the case with some other carbon bars. The one gripe that I did have was with the total lack of guide markers in the centre. The only help you get is the Oval logo, which is not hugely useful. In the end I lined them up by eye. Not terribly hard, but some crosshairs or graduated lines would have been nice.
I ran these bars with the matching R900 stem and while that setup totally outclassed my 4130 CroMo test rig it would make a very smart (and stiff) front end on a top notch carbon frame. Incidentally, Oval claim that these are the "only carbon road bar recommended for use with clip-on aero bars" which is worth bearing in mind if you're thinking about giving time-trialling or triathlon a go.
Good lightweight, stiff carbon bars. Excellent value but not the most comfortable
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Make and model: Oval Concepts R900 Carbon drop bars
Size tested: 420mm, 150mm drop, 26.0 diameter
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Only if I had a bike that really deserved them
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, ditto above
Age: 40 Height: 5\' 8 Weight: er....86kg
I usually ride: GT Rave - singlespeed conversion My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,