Various stem weights (all 120mm):
Easton EC90 composite: 180g
Deda Elementi 215: 230g
3TTT Zepp XL: 215g
ITM super 330: 367g
Once upon a time handlebars came in two Italian flavours – Cinelli or 3TTT. They used different centre sleeve diameters and therefore you couldn’t mix bars and stems. This meant you were either a Cinelli rider or a 3Ts man. Then there were 3 or 4 bend types, deep and shallow and a variety of widths. So choice was pretty limited. Fast forward 15 years and we have several bar companies and they all have their own take on how we should steer our bikes. The one standard is that they now come in two diameters 26.0 and 31.8mm, the latter becoming the industry standard across road and mountain bikes.
This is the new Zipp B2 carbon fibre handlebar. It is available in 26.0mm and 31.8mm, and in widths of 42, 44 and 46cm (outside to outside). Zipp have produced a one piece bar (some carbon bars were sleeved in the past) and moulded an aero flat top section. The visco-elastic layer inserted into the carbon fibre is designed to increase the vibration damping effect. The finish of the laquer is deep and rich and the centre section and lever clamp areas are roughed up to prevent the laquer from cracking and to stop slipping (something that has always been a problem with shiny carbon stuff).
Considering carbon fibre is now used for all sorts of stress bearing applications from Formula 1 chassis to around the world yacht masts, you shouldn’t fear fitting carbon handlebars to your bike, especially ones made by material experts like Zipp. And the immediate secure feeling the B2s give you is reassuring.
I have a well documented problem with most Ergo bars (read the Trek Pilot 5.2 test). In that the curve in the drop is so messed up that you can’t reach the brake levers unless you have hands of gorilla proportions. There are a few ‘anatomicals’ that work well (Deda are good for me) but usually I opt for a 3TTT TdF shallow drop or Deda’s 215. Both of these have a standard bend, old skool it may be but if it’s good enough for Lance…
However here Zipp have gone for an intermediate bend, not strictly Ergo and not old skool either. The result is aesthetically pleasing and pretty comfortable in the drops and I could reach the brake levers, just. I still doubt that women will find these bars a decent fit, especially with Shimano levers. The dimensions are reach: 110mm and drop: 170mm which are on the agressive side, especially in the drop.
Seeing as the drops are quite deep they will be popular with the sprinters out there. We’ve fitted Shimano and Campagnolo levers and the top section of the curve seems to suit Campag better than Shimano. The flatter top to the Campagnolo lever makes a smoother transition than the oversized hammock shape of the Shimano lever, where your hand seems to get stuck facing downwards on the hoods. However once we fettled and fiddled with the lever position we found that the ‘on the hoods’ cruising position is spot on, albeit making the bar kick back towards you to flatten the tops. Not completely visually pleasing.
Climbing on the tops is noticeably comfortable, your hands automatically fit onto the aero-section and the added bonus is that your cables can be tucked away underneath which allows a very tidy solution whatever brake levers you choose. Sprinting with the B2s is direct and super-rigid, no front end flex to throw you off your line.
Strangely you cannot fit any tri-bars or computers even to the handle bar centre section, what, not even a HR monitor or lights? and this means it’s a race only option and at this price they will be only on a few, very expensive, road-race-only bikes. However, on a more practical note, they do perform very well on rough roads and if you have problems with nerve pain in the hands after long rides you may want to look at the Zipps. Although the bend wasn’t perfect for me, I found the buzz soaking attributes of the B2 enabled me to ride for longer in more comfort and that’s no bad thing.
Carbon bars are here to stay and they will be pretty pricey for a while too (especially as there is currently a world shortage of the black stuff). Zipp’s steering combo is excellent performing and looks great too. If you already like Ergo bends you’ll love the Zipps, especially as they do look better than most, but some other bend options would be better for smaller hands. Weight-wise they save about 100g over a standard aluminium set-up which isn’t loads but I’d rather my bars were strong and comfortable first and lightweight second.
Verdict: Flat tops are excellent and the bar is super comfortable. But super expensive too.