Road handlebar bend has always been a personal thing. Eddy Merckx made the Belgian bend popular back in the 1970s, while in the 1990s the buzz word was ergonomic. With Easton’s top-end EC90 Equipe SLX3 carbon road bar, flexible positioning is the key. It's light, reasonably stiff, comfortable and offers a variety of good hand positions plus easy brake lever access.
The shallow 130mm drop and short 75mm reach make for an easy transition into the drops while the compound-radius bend blends the best of old and new – pressure is more evenly distributed across your palm like an ergonomic bar yet you get the easier brake lever access and wide range of hand placements of a traditional bend.
There is an abundance of cockpit room up high, too, as the relatively small-diameter tops hide cables well and remain straight almost the full width of the bar before kicking forward in a tight-radius bend. Easton keeps this section nominally level just before curving into the drops with a fairly abrupt and odd-looking bend. Though it looks strange, that kink makes for a comfortably level perch on the hoods with every lever we installed, just as Easton intends (although Shimano and Campagnolo have both altered their shapes since the bar’s release).
The combination yields a roomy feel with a narrow profile that is perfect for bunch rides or racing alike. The level hood position and wide tops is just the thing during long climbs and the easy-reach drops make for right-now braking when racing through a bunch or navigating in traffic.
Easton’s carbon nanotube-reinforced Taperwall carbon construction makes for a light bar, too – our 44cm tester (centre-to-centre) weighs just 200g. The use of nanotechnology means the structure is about as tough as it gets, so they're more likely to resist failure than other carbon bars in the event of an accident.
Though comfy and light, the EC90 Equipe SLX3 is markedly softer than some other high-end carbon bars we’ve tested. The ‘Intelligent Flex’ design adds to the bar’s comfort on rough roads but riders who praise rigidity above all else may find the extra movement somewhat unnerving.
Assuming the flex pattern suits you, it’s otherwise hard to find fault with this handlebar. The price is rather on the expensive side, but at least it comes with the proven carbon experience of the Easton name and a generous five-year warranty.