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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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