Beyond the wheelset, the next best upgrade is a good set of bars. Zipp has long been a leader in wheelsets, but their full spectrum of cockpit bits has the swagger of a World Heavyweight Champion. After my initial time aboard the Zipp Contour SL’s in 2012, I’ve since ridden them as my bars of choice on several subsequent builds. They are now my go-to bars of choice.

Zipp Contour SL Bar Features:

  • Available in Short and Shallow (tested) or Traditional Bend
  • Sizes: 40, 42, 44 and 46cm (measured center-to-center)
  • Weight: 190 grams (42 SS)
  • MSRP: $295

Zipp Contour SL Bar Review

Tired hands. Numb hands. Fatigued hands. We’ve all had them. While aluminum bars are much more economical, they tend to transfer much of the road chatter directly to your hands and arms. Enter a good set of carbon bars. And, in my opinion, I prefer a set of carbon bars that feature extra ergonomics for good measure. I’ve been riding the 44cm short and shallow bend version of the Contour SL. I much prefer the SS version over a traditional bend due to the ergonomic drops and shorter reach.

My original experience with the Contour SL’s was aboard a custom Felt F1, but I’ve since ridden them on several bikes (including the Stigmata CC below). I love how they perform enough that they are standard equipment on many of the bike builds I complete.

The Santa Cruz Stigmata was outfitted with the Zipp Contour SL (44cm)

The Santa Cruz Stigmata was outfitted with the Zipp Contour SL (44cm)

When comparing bars, note that most are measured center-to-center, but some may be measured out-to-out. Zipp used to measure out/out, but have since changed to center/center. When selecting a set of bars, be sure you consult your bike fitter for the best width for your body. After riding 42cm bars for several years, I’ve since switched to 44cm and have never looked back. It opens up my chest just a little more and provides added control.

The Contour SL features ovalized tops with cable grooves. Those grooves work well with both cable and hydraulic hoses. This flat platform results in improved comfort and blood flow during long stints in the tops. And, they are not oversized in diameter, so small hands will appreciate them as well. As I move around these bars over the course of my rides, I appreciate the ease of moving from hoods to drops and back. The short reach makes that process much easier. Additionally, the curve of the short and shallow drops feels comfortable in-hand and provides a great perch for high-speed descents.

The Contour SL's are comfortable, yet stiff when needed.

The Contour SL’s are comfortable, yet stiff when needed.

I will say that there are bars on the market that will certainly provide a more comfortable ride (Easton EC90 Aero, ControlTech Carbon Comp or Bontrager Race Lite X), but the Carbon SL’s do a great job of cutting out a fair amount of road chatter without any gimmicks — just finely-tuned carbon fiber. And, with that fine-tuned fiber, you get an ultra-stiff bar for responsive handling in and out of the saddle.  Again, they do take the edge off large and small bumps in the road, but these are tuned to be responsive like a race car.

Editor’s Note (Apr 29 2016): This original review first appeared in 2012, but has since been updated based on continued use of the Contour SL’s over the course of several years. 

The Good

  • Short/shallow design facilitates proper bike fit
  • Work great for road, cyclocross or gravel
  • Nice-sized drops for precise control and comfort on long descents
  • Stiff and responsive when pushed hard out of the saddle
  • Flat tops provide more surface area on the tops
  • Noticeable reduction in overall road chatter without any gimmicks
  • Great for the racer who demands precise handling

The Bad

  • Could be too stiff for recreational riders looking for extra comfort
  • On the high-end of the price spectrum

Bottom Line: Zipp Contour SL

The Contour SL’s are built for long days in the saddle for those who value the ride characteristics of carbon fiber but still want a responsive bar.

Buy Now: Visit

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. Jason, hopefully you are still able to get this despite the review being a few years old. Have just for an ex-demo 6.2 Modane disc and am upgrading bars and to di2. Was looking at the Zipp Contour SL compact, Bontrager race x lite, and easton EC 90. I am a recreational rider. Between the two reviews of the Zipp and Bontrager, guess you add gel pads and lizard skin to the Zipp, and get the benefit of the flat tops and better ergo shape. Or do you think it would make the bar too fat? As well in the UK the Zipp bars are about 60 GBP cheaper so a definite plus. Just a bit worried the Zipp will be to stiff.

    • Thanks for the question, Chris! So, yes this review is a few years old, but the Contour SL hasn’t changed and it’s what I’m running on my Santa Cruz Stigmata right now. I continue to love the bar for both its responsiveness and comfort. The compact/shallow design is perfect and it does dampen road buzz. I’d say it’s a close second to my current favorite drops — the Ritchey WCS Carbon EvoCurve.

      If you add gel tape alone to the Contour SL or the Ritchey, you’re going to add more comfort for sure. I’d say the Zipp is narrow enough to be just fine. Saving that much by going with the Contour SL should really make it an easy choice — unless it’s comparable to the Ritchey EvoCurve.

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