What are the best handlebars for gravel riding? Do you suggest flare?
A: Handlebars are a bit of a personal choice, and I don’t have one that is my go-to. It’s important to note that not all flared handlebars are the same, since the amount of drop will affect the amount of flare. I like a little flare to offer a wider position with minimal drop, because if there’s too much flare, the brake levers and shifters end up in too funky of a position. I also run my stem a bit higher, offering a more upright seating position, which also takes pressure off my hands. Then, the position in the drops is lower than my normal road bike hoods, but much higher than the drops position on the road bike.
Personally, I think bar tape is probably more important than flare. I like the Lizard Skins 2.5mm tape for most gravel riding. It’s thin enough that it doesn’t add bulk, but has enough material that I’m comfortable. For really long events, I’ll use the 3.2mm tape, which adds bulk but a valuable layer of vibration damping as well. One other thing to consider are handlebars with added compliance, like the Lauf Smoothies.
While on the subject of handlebars, I think one of the most overlooked pieces is the computer mount. Most supplied (plastic) mounts are too flimsy and flex when I actuate the buttons. A solid (machined aluminum) mount like the K-edge Pro mount is my favorite.
Now that electronic shifting is what I would consider normal or readily accessible, make sure you keep your batteries charged. As our assistant-editor David found out at the 2018 Dirty Kanza 200, a green LED, indicating things are all good, just means the battery is not completely dead. It doesn’t mean it’s completely full or ready for a long day in the saddle.
With the Shimano Di2, a green LED can mean you have from 100- to 26-percent battery. The red LED means you have 25-percent or less battery remaining. There is a solid LED and blinking LED of each color to narrow it down more, but there is only one battery no matter if you have one or two derailleurs.
SRAM has a bit of a different LED approach indicating ride time left with eTap. For the rear derailleurs a green LED indicates 15–60 hours of ride time remaining. A solid red LED indicates 5–15 hours of ride time remaining, while a flashing red LED is less than 5 hours. For the front derailleur it’s a bit different, with green indicating 90–22 hours, red 22–9 and flashing red less than 9 hours of ride time remaining. Now, if you have front and rear derailleurs and one dies, you can always swap them. t’s also very easy to carry an extra in a saddle bag, something you can’t do with the Shimano Di2. I (don’t forget the coin-cell batteries located in each shifter hood that SRAM says need to be replaced every two years).
FOUR OF OUR FAVORITE GRAVEL HANDLEBARS
ENVE G. SERIES
EASTON EC70 AX