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The 'Gravel King', that's what Easton calls its new EA70 AX handlebar. Part of its new range of gravel and adventure components, the AX has a wide flare at the drops for stability and a shallow drop that makes it great for blasting over the rubble.
I ride a lot of gravel/adventure bikes as a tester, and I'd say the biggest benefit I've seen over the last year or so is the adoption of flared drop bars. If you haven't come across them, they are basically a handlebar that is the same width at the hoods as a road bar but kicks outwards as it reaches the drops. This gives you a wider stance when descending on rough, moving terrain, making for more composed steering and a better feeling of control.
It's not just for gravel either. I've taken to using this on my T2, my all-weather machine, and the benefits on wet, greasy roads are noticeable.
The EA70 AX flares out by 16 degrees, which increases the overall width from the tops to the drops by 68mm across the 40/42/44 and 46cm options.
On the gravel I found it a nice place to be, offering plenty of stiffness but not being so rigid that it's battering your wrists when out for a long ride. Stiffness is compromised a little when really hauling on the bar for a short, sharp climb, but it is negligible.
The wide flare also helps when you are riding into the wind on the road. You can still keep your shoulders pretty narrow as you hunker down into the drops without feeling constrained when doing it for miles on a long straight section.
The only criticism I have is that the grooved channels for fitting the cables underneath the tape are quite shallow. Probably not much of an issue if you are running 1x or electronic shifting, but fitting two outers either side can leave them quite pronounced under the bar tape.
At £79.99 rrp it's on the pricier side of some bars we've tested lately (though a lot cheaper than others!), but it does look and feel very good quality, especially thanks to that gloss central section.
I really liked the Ritchey Comp Ergomax bar which is a touch heavier but only £52.99. Its wing-shaped tops did restrict the fitting of lights and computer mounts, though, things you are going to need for an epic tour off the beaten track. I do like the Easton for having a long 31.8mm diameter clamping section to help with this.
Others I've tried include the Genetic Drove, which is less than half the price, if a little heavier. The Easton does look a bit more special when on the bike, though.
Overall, the Easton EA70 AX is a great shape for use on the gravel or road, looks the business, and comes in at a decent weight for the money.
Good looking handlebar with a wide enough flare for plenty of stability off the beaten track
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Easton EA70 AX Handlebar
Size tested: 42mm
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?
Easton says, "Easton's new AX series meets the needs of the growing drop bar adventure and gravel segment. Building off the highly successful and critically acclaimed lineup of MCD road bars, the EA70 + EC70 AX bar utilize the same top shape and reach as well as ergonomic drop shape. But AX turns up the flare: from 4 degrees to 16 degrees. Why 16-degrees? Based on extensive testing and rider feedback we determined that 16 degrees was the perfect balance of maximum bar flare which still allowed for efficient access to the shifters and brakes in both the hoods and drops. The wider stance in the drops provides more control on gnarly terrain and long gravel assaults. Time to take the road less travelled."
I really rate it as a bar for riding off-road.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
WIDTH (C to C) 40 - 42 - 44 - 46 cm at hoods (at drops +68mm)
FLARE 16 degrees
WEIGHT 42cm 290g
MATERIAL EA70 ALLOY
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A really good gravel bar thanks to that wide flare.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
A good balance of stiffness for performance and flex for comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Wider cable grooves would make a nicer job when it comes to taping the bar.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Considering the overall quality and finish, I'd say the EA70 is a fair price against the opposition.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A quality bar that offers plenty of hand positions for use on the road or gravel. You can go cheaper for the same weight but the Easton looks the part too.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!