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Zipp's Service Course SL bars are up at the top end of what you'd expect to pay for an aluminium handlebar, but they're well made, light and comfy.
These bars are available in two bends, a traditional curve with a 130mm drop and the Short and Shallow version that I've been testing. Shallow isn't an absolute measure; I've seen bars with drops as low as 115mm whereas these are just 2mm shallower than the traditional ones, at 128mm. The reach to the front of the bend is 3mm shorter (84.5mm as opposed to 87.5mm) and they extend a touch further back, though they're marked with guides for cutting if you want to give your knees a bit more space.
The finish is very good, with a polished centre and shotblasted ends, and there's a grippy central section where the bar meets the stem to keep everything stiff. I found this was a bit fragile though, flaking and cracking when the position of the bars was adjusted. If you need to tweak the angle of your drops, make sure you slacken your stem right off.
In use they're very comfortable. At 275g they're light for alloy bars; you can get carbon for this kind of money and the bars will be a similar weight, but I doubt you'd get better performance. The Service Course SLs were plenty stiff enough for hoiking a bike around on the steep stuff, but comfy on the hoods and – especially – the drops with good hand positions. The short reach makes the drops more accessible and means you're less likely to bash your wrists on the tops; I found myself using the lower position more than usual, although that might also be because we've been cycling into a horrific north-easterly for much of the testing period. The drops are angled out very slightly too, by 2°, to give a more natural hand position and a bit more room. If you need more space, maybe consider a 'cross bar like the Salsa Cowbell.
Anyway, if you're speccing up a new build or replacing your bars for whatever reason, these are one to consider. If the price tag is too salty then there's a non-SL version of the bar that's 40g heavier (stated weight) for £15 less. The bar is available in standard colours (as pictured) or stealth (black logos on black finish).
Well-made alloy bar that's comfortable to use.
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Make and model: Zipp Service Course SL short shallow handlebar
Size tested: 44cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
When it comes to handlebars, tried and true aluminum remains the material of choice for many pros. In part, that's because their bikes have to meet a minimum weight requirement. But that means aluminum bars such as the Service Course® SL have to meet the fit, durability and performance standards of teams such as Team Exergy TWENTY12 and Cannondale prepared by CyclocrossWorld.com.
The Service Course SL is produced using our proprietary ZTL-71 alloy and intricate internal butting processes to achieve a weight of 285 g (44 cm) with superior strength and rigidity. It features a classic look with round cross-sections throughout and is available in the same comfortable Short & Shallow or Traditional Bend shapes as our carbon bars. What's more, the drops are angled outward by 2 degrees to reduce wrist strain.
Every piece in the Service Course SL line is available in the standard gloss black with white logos, as well as a new Beyond Black color scheme with laser-etched black logos for a stealthy look.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Sizes (out-out) 40, 42, 44, 46cm
Weight (SS 42 cm) 280g
Clamp Diameter 31.8
Clamp Width 40cm/120, 42/140, 44/160, 46/180mm
Traditional Bend Yes
Short-Shallow Bend Yes
Clip Compatible Yes
Max Brake Lever Torque 8NM
Max Torque Clamping to Bar 8NM
Drop style SS and TB
Point off for the flaky central grip section.
Very good to use, comfortable shape.
Should be fine, be careful with the central grippy bit though.
Light for alloy, comparable with carbon bars that cost a similar amount.
Good levels of comfort throughout.
Expensive for alloy bars, even nicely made ones.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Flaky grippy bit.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? For a nice bike, yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Depending on their needs.
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.