“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
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.
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.
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.
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).
- 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
- 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