Last month the G Series family was expanded to include the G Series Gravel Handlebar, a full-carbon purpose built drop bar for dedicated gravel riders and racers. Since the handlebar transmits direct feedback to and from the rider, it plays a critical role in not only the handling of the bike but also ride quality. Throw in the element of riding gravel at high speeds with no suspension and tires significantly narrower than a mountain bike and the handlebar design becomes all the more critical.
So what specifically makes a gravel bar, a gravel bar? As it turns out, a lot. After spending months riding the competitors’ designs, we came up with three main development goals for the Gravel Handlebar:
1- Ride Dynamics
2- Functional Ergonomics
3- Ride Tuned
The initial test phase consisted of riding a number of the popular gravel handlebars on the market to see what we liked and what we didn’t. Chief Design Engineer Kevin Nelson said, “We found that everyone liked having the wider stance in the drops and the improved control it allowed. What wasn’t working was that your hand positions didn’t offer support below your hand–it felt like you were holding on for dear life. Most of the complaints centered around the lever/hood angle created by the flare. The sideways hood position wasn’t working for anyone.”
Taking those notes, we went to work creating the bar we wanted by engineering-out what testers felt to be the negatives from what were the current options on the market.
Let’s start with the most obvious difference in our Gravel Handlebar versus our Compact Road Handlebar–the flare. Aggressively flared drops have become a trademark design of handlebars designed around gravel riding because of the design’s ability to improve control and confidence when riding in the drops. Across the board, test riders responded with the feedback that the refined flare of the Gravel Handlebar enhanced their ability to control the bike and increased their confidence in all riding conditions. From the center of the hoods to the center of the drops, the Gravel Bar features 12cm of flare which creates an increase in stability when descending or riding in the drop position.
For most of the gravel bars on the market, achieving that degree of flare comes at a cost to lever/hood position. As the drops flare out, the hoods are forced to roll in at a severe angle. This was targeted as something we had to overcome in order to allow riders their typical road position on the hoods. To do that, our design uses a compound flare that allows more setup options that range from a standard hood position as found on our Road Bar, to a rolled in position, if that’s what’s preferred. On the upper portion of the drops, a lesser degree of flare is used, which then increases once below the hoods to achieve the wide stance we sought while eliminating the negatives we found when testing other gravel bars.
Our goal for all the handlebars in our line is to have functional hand positions everywhere, and the Gravel Bar takes that to another level. By creating a tighter bend at the transition between the tops and drops, we’ve effectively increased usable room on the tops to allow for alternative hand positions, and to allow ample real estate when aerobar extensions or lights are mounted. In the drops, two hand positions are available, one low for relaxed riding, such as when we were testing the bars at Dirty Kanza 200, where finding a comfortable yet efficient position was critical. The second position is higher up, where the controls are within reach and a more aggressive descending position can be achieved.
There are multiple ways to create a more comfortable handlebar, one of which was already discussed above. Having numerous ergonomic hand positions available for a long day in the saddle is imperative to creating a comfortable handlebar. Additionally, we reduced the cross-section of the drops by 1mm compared to our Road and Aero Handlebar in order to achieve a higher level of compliance for long days on rough roads.
Overall, the Gravel Handlebar is the result of a year and a half of development in which we identified the strengths and weaknesses of other designs in order to create what we feel is the best drop bar on the market for off-road riding. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed testing them through the Flint Hills of Dirty Kanza, across the rocky scape of Iceland, and on the slopes of Mauna Kea to ensure they were the perfect addition to the G Series line.