“Sir, can I get a little more flare? Just a little more flare.” When the people asked for it, the folks at Zipp delivered. But, instead of flaring the whole drop outward, the Zipp Service Course SL-70 XPLR bar keeps your hoods vertical while flaring the drops (below the hoods) outward. It’s a unique design that delivers road-like feel with the friendliness of today’s flared bars.

Zipp Service Course SL-70 XPLR Features:

  • Flare starts after the clamping area
  • 70mm reach and 115mm drop
  • Ovalized tops for added comfort
  • Uses lightweight AL-7050
  • 11-degree outsweep gives about 6cm wider position
  • Extended, 100mm clamping area
  • 31.8mm clamp diameter
  • Weight: 270 grams (44cm, actual)
  • Widths (C-C): 40, 42, 44, 46
  • MSRP: $110
Zipp Service Course SL-70 XPLR - Front View

From the front, you can see the position of the hoods and the drop flare.

Zipp Service Course SL-70 XPLR - Side View

Shallow, 115mm drop and ergonomic curve offers a nice feel.

This flare may be juuuuust right

If you haven’t noticed, there are as many variations in drop bars as there are saddles. That should tell you that the ultimate way to personalize your ride is to find the right set of bars and that Goldilocks saddle. With the proliferation of gravel riding, riders are getting into more aggressive terrain. And, with that, regular old drop bars aren’t cutting it anymore. Added variety of hand positions and extra leverage are all important when it comes to riding that new gravel bike into the deep.

While most bar makers are going with the same flare shape as the formula, Zipp took a different approach with their SL-70 XPLR drop bars. Instead of starting the flare at the hoods, the flare really begins after the hoods, down towards the drops. With this, you get road-friendly hood placement for a natural position where you spend the most time. And, when the going gets gnarly, you can hit the drops for added leverage.

3T Exploro Gravel Riding in Utah

They feel like regular road bars in the hoods.

Compared to the Easton EC70 AX Gravel bars, for example, the SL-70 XPLR’s look less “gravelly” and more “roady” and that’s not a bad thing. You see, again, there’s a place for a wide variety of bars out there and the SL-70 XPLR is right at home with a gravel or road rider who appreciates and prefers a more road-like position on the tops and hoods, but could use just a little more leverage for those sketchy moments.

Personally, I prefer the road-like hood position for long stretches of gravel or road riding. Is it better or more efficient, dunno. But, I do know that I like it better than the angled hood position of other gravel bars. And, with it, the SL-70 XPLR can feel at home on any road bike without raising eyebrows. And, for road duty, we’re not elbow-bumping to the sprint line these days, so an added bit of width and flared drops only helps to make the ride more comfortable.

Zipp Service Course SL-70 XPLR Review - Riding Singletrack

Rolling the local singletrack with the XPLR gravel bars.

I prefer a 44cm bar for road and gravel, but rode both the 42cm and 44cm of the XPLR. Yes, I still prefer the 44cm, but the flare provided by the 42cm bars was a good compromise aboard the 3T Exploro. I’m now riding and testing the new 3T Exploro RaceMax (review coming) with the proper 44cm width and it’s definitely preferred. That extra width and flare really adds to the capability of the RaceMax and helps me adeptly maneuver both gravel and twisty singletrack trails.

While Zipp’s unique flare design does offer 11-degrees of outsweep bend, due to the late-arriving flare, it’s not quite as capable when things get really rough. Admittedly, I would prefer a more traditional 16-degree outward flare for aggressive riding, but the SL-70 XPLR is a good middle ground and still delivers enough leverage to make a noticeable difference.

Zipp Service Course SL-70 XPLR - Riding Singletrack

In the drops, I can attack singletrack with precision.

Kudos to Zipp for sticking with their lightweight AL-7050 material on the XPLR. I’ve loved the feel of the SL-70 Ergo and love its light weight and surprising compliance. The 44cm SL-70 XPLR tips the scales at 270 grams, which is only 20-30 grams heaver than carbon bars costing two to three times as much. At $110, the XPLR’s are a bargain and perform well above their pay grade.

As far as comfort goes, I absolutely love how the tops are ovalized and the 3-degrees of backsweep is a big deal. That combination notably adds to the ride quality while on the tops. Compared to other alloy bars, these outperform them in every way. They are lighter, more comfortable and offer significantly more compliance than other alloy bars. As a testament to the material, I’ve been riding the SL-70 Ergo (same alloy and upper shape) for thousands of miles aboard the Open UPPER. I haven’t once thought about replacing them with carbon bars, which is saying a lot (since I have other bars at my disposal).

The Good

  • Just the right blend of road and gravel shape
  • Maintains traditional road feel in the hoods
  • Those ovalized tops with backsweep are perfect
  • Di2 compatibility
  • Great value (light weight and price point)
  • Easy to dance around the bars to get the right position

The Bad

  • Fans of the traditional flared drops may not like just having outsweep

The Bottom Line: Zipp Service Course SL-70 XPLR Bars

Zipp is a race-focused brand and the Service Course SL-70 XPLR bars remain true to form. With road-like fit and feel in the tops and hoods, you’ll nary notice that you’ve got a set of gravel bars onboard. But, dropping into the hoods, you’ll benefit from added flare that makes these so nice. The cherry on top is the reasonable price point and respectable weight, which makes these easy to recommend.

Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist.com

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly 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. Hi Jason,
    thanks for the review of the handlebar. it’s sweet looking, lightweight and has the perfect drop-reach for me.
    however, the one i’m really keen on is your review on the Exploro RaceMax. Would love to hear how to match up the old Exploro and the new RM.
    i’m kind of torn between the two and really looking forward to reading your review. would be great to hear your opinion about it on the road especially.
    when will you be releasing the online review?
    thanks very much.

    • Hey Kenny… thanks for the note. I’m still working on the RaceMax review, but it’s an awesome bike. Gerard always makes his bikes with little quirks, but knows how to nail the geometry and real-world fit/comfort without sacrificing speed.

      With the cold weather these days, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to do a proper road ride. Slower gravel rides are still fine in the 30’s, but fast-paced road rides are not typically my cup of tea at those temps. The good news is the RaceMax is bonkers-fast on flat/rolling gravel. It is crushing my best times on many tracks. As a pure road climber, it’s just not going to be as adept as the Open UPPER, but who knows for sure until I give it a proper Alpine Loop test (which may not happen until spring). If that’s the case, I may publish the review without much road experience, then amend the review after I get some proper road miles on it.

      Compared to the original Exploro, this one feels a little more refined to me. It settles into a sweet spot and just rolls along. The Exploro was a fun and comfortable ride, but the RaceMax takes that to another level. Stay tuned, I guess. It’s a fun bike for sure.

  2. Thanks very much for your reply Jason.
    Really appreciate you taking time to pen your thoughts down.
    Really looking forward to your comprehensive review.
    Any dates when it will be coming online?
    Thank you.

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