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The Easton EC90 SLX Di2 handlebar is conventionally shaped and weighs very little. As you might have guessed from the name, it's compatible with Shimano's Di2 internal junction box but works equally well with non-electronic groupsets. It's not for you if you want internally routed cabling, though.
The SLX is one of Easton's non-aero offerings. We tested the aero version last year, the (surprise surprise) EC90 Aero, and there's also the AX range (with 16 degrees of flare compared with the 4 degrees here, for gravel bikes).
Made from Easton's EC90 carbon, the construction quality and finish of this bar is excellent. Even inside the bar ends, as far as I could reach with a finger, everything was clean and tidy.
The EC90 SLX seems plainly styled, but when you look closely it's not that simple: the bar tapers very subtly from clamp area towards the bends. The cable routing is smoothly sculpted around the front of the bar for the brake cables and from the rear to the underside for the gear routing, as required.
The drops are very 'compact' as far as the hooks, below the lever position guides, where they become much shallower to curve out to a well-extended bar end. Easton calls this bar shape 'MCD' – 'Maximum Compact Drop' – which it says extends the drop and gives a short reach for a more comfortable wrist position.
The Di2 bit of the name simply refers to Easton's solution as to where to put the junction box on Shimano's electronic shifting system. It's a low-tech answer to this high-tech issue: stick the box into the end of the bar and run the cable out of the hole on the side. I watched a guy on YouTube modify his bar to achieve the same effect; I cannot imagine any manufacturer looking kindly on any warranty claim.
If you don't need this feature, you can still use this bar – the hole is covered up by the bar tape and all your cabling goes by the conventional route. I found it easy to create a smooth transition around the bar to the frame stops.
The clamp area is roughly textured, which I took to mean you could do without carbon grip paste, but the instructions warned me always to use this with Easton's carbon bars, so I did. Once torqued correctly, there was no movement and no creaks or cracks in use.
Easton also warns you not to clamp anything on any part of the bar that is tapered. The excellent reason for this is that a clamp attached where the bar is not parallel could cut into the carbon and weaken it, which could lead to failure. The long taper on the EC90 SLX means only a small area remains for clamping attachments. There was just enough room for a Garmin mount on one side of the stem and a light on the other, but if you need more than that you'll need to look elsewhere.
Once set up, this bar felt entirely natural to me in every position. Looking at the old Cannondale bar it replaced, the profiles are quite similar so it's no wonder I felt at home. Everything is within easy reach wherever you rest and there's a good long lead-out on the bottoms, so no danger of being bounced off the ends by a pothole.
I'm no powerhouse rider and only found out I had any kind of sprint when a driver came accelerating towards me side-on as I crossed a roundabout (I escaped, by the skin of my back tyre). However, I have plenty of nasty little climbs locally, and I wrenched and twisted this bar as I dragged myself, out of the saddle, up some of these. There was no discernible flex.
Easton says the EC90 SLX is its lightest-ever road bar, and it immediately knocked 120g off my Cannondale CAAD10 compared with the stock alloy bar supplied. It's a fair saving but probably cheaper to achieve the same effect by cutting out the beer for a month.
The bar comes in five widths from 38cm to 46cm; the 42cm size on test was perfect for me, as I would have expected.
Traditionally shaped (ie, non-aero) bars are getting harder to find outside of the gravel genre, so the SLX is a good addition to the market. Enve's Traditional Drop Handlebar comes in at around 200g for this width, so is very much in the same area as the Easton in both style and weight. It retails at £360.
Overall, I was very pleased with this bar: light, stiff, comfortable and reassuringly expensive.
Light, stiff, expensive – choose all three
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Easton EC90 SLX Di2 Handlebar
Size tested: 42cm
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, "The EC90 SLX is comprised of advanced carbon construction for Easton's lightest road bar to-date. This handlebar features Easton's new MCD shape technology for a unique ride quality and comfort. TaperWall technology and Intelligent Flexibility team up to deliver a perfectly tuned bar that weighs just 195-grams. Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo levers can be positioned for a smooth transition on the tops and into the bend, with cables wrapped neatly in the bar's designed recesses. Available in five lengths: 38, 40, 42, 44, and 46-centimeters. Now compatible with Di2 internal junction box."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
FINISH: MATTE UD CARBON / WATER TRANSFER DECALS
BAR WEIGHT: 195g (42cm)
CLAMP DIAMETER: 31.8mm
WIDTH (C-TO-C AT HOODS): 38-, 40-, 42-, 44-, 46cm
MATERIALS: EC90 CARBON
Di2 COMPATIBLE: Yes
MCD Drop Technology
4 Degree Flare
EC90 SLX Carbon
Super Light X Series
Di2 Compatible : Yes
Bar End Junction: Yes (Right Side only)
Full Internal Routing: No
Very clean indeed for a carbon bar; poking about inside the ends revealed no tangle of fibre ends.
I loved this; the riding position felt very "at home" for me, which suggests it's not too different in design to the bar it was replacing but also that Easton has got this right with its "MCD" shape.
Well, it didn't break on test; the general build quality is reassuring.
One of the lightest out there; 110g lighter than the Cannondale alloy bar I usually run.
The "neutral" shape works very well wherever you put your hands. While the bar feels stiff, it certainly wasn't jarring and I enjoyed using it even over 70-mile rides.
Not cheap, but if I had that money to lay out on a new bar I would certainly feel I was getting a good return.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Pretty much as Easton promises – as you might hope for nearly £300. I found it comfortable and the riding position was excellent wherever I chose to put my hands. I'm no great powerhouse, but trying to wrench the bar about up some of the steepest local climbs, I couldn't get it to flex or creak at all. The 42cm test bar was perfect for me.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great "neutral" riding position, light, well made, and well-considered cable routing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not much, but if you want aero or internal routing this isn't for you. The price is a bit stiff too – if cheaper than some comparable offerings.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Enve's Traditional Drop Handlebar comes in at around 200g for this width, so is very much in the same area as the Easton in both style and weight. It retails at £360.
We also tested Prime's Primavera X-Light Carbon handlebar, which also sticks to a traditional non-aero shape and is even lighter at 183g and cheaper at under £150, but the compromise was a flexy feel.
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
Looking at what Easton has set out to do here, I'd say it hits the mark in pretty well every respect. Light, stiff but comfortable, great riding position and well finished; good cable routing is well worth having and the Di2 compatibility will be a bonus for some but won't exclude you if you still run cables. The only minor drawback is the non-internal cable compatibility (the Aero version as this) – and the fairly high price. If I had the readies to drop on a new bar, I'd certainly consider this.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,