A Tale Of Three Bars: FSA K-Wing AGX – Part 2 – by Grannygear
When we left this conversation about the FSA K-Wing AGX bar, we had called it out as a bar of very many shapes and curves. It is hardly your typical round handlebar with a bit of shaping to it. Oh no. It’s a Klingon Battle Cruiser. And all that shaping had me thinking it was either amazingly awesome or a bit annoying. More time on the bar was needed to sort this out.
So here is the thing with drop bars. We have been used to riding bars that are basically round tubes bent into a shape and formed for their intended purpose. Now the reach and sweep and width and drop, etc, may vary, but what you are grabbing with your hands is basically a round tube. And that is both good and bad.
It’s good because you know what you are getting. When your hand is in one position on the bar, and you move to another position, even if the move is a small one, you know what your hands will be resting on. It’s predictable. And for the most part, it works.
It’s bad because a round shape is perhaps not the best thing to ride on for hours and hours with your weight on your hands. It’s not round because it is best, it is round because that is how they could make a handlebar in days gone by…bending round tubing into a drop bar. Who says it should not be shaped more ergonomically?
Well with carbon, you can make that shape into all kinds of odd angles and widths and platforms, etc. And that is what the FSA K-Wing AGX is bringing to the table…its not very round, or at least not for long in any one part of the bar. Some of the shapes are subtle and some are less so, but its hardly a simple form.
I needed more time on this thing to figure it out so I moved it to my road bike after having it on the Cannondale Topstone for quite a while.
I swapped the K-WIng AGX onto my road bike for a couple of reasons. I was still healing from a collarbone break and rough gravel rides were not in the cards yet, and I had an 80 mile road ride to do the next weekend. Since I was doing this with Mrs. Grannygear, and the pace would be social, I figured 6 hours or so of saddle time. We ended up with 6.5 hours of riding time at a leisurely pace on some chip sealed, backcountry highways and that gave me quite a bit of time at one sitting on the K-Wing AGX. In the end, I was still conflicted, but also convinced it is quite a good bar once you figure it out.
The ride is very ‘carbon nice’. Wrapped with the FSA Power Touch tape , the K-Wing AGX took a lot of the rumble and sting out of the rough surfaced roads. By the way, that FSA Power Touch tape is quite nice all on it’s own. It has a tacky feel to it so grip is high and it was quite easy to wrap. I did see that the edges could maybe be tapered bit so they lay down better, but it was not bad at all. It has no real adhesive on the back so it is easy to remove and re-apply. It uses a tacky surface to keep the tape in place and that seemed to work fine. At $28.00 retail and 3mms thick, it is worth a look for gravel bike use.
I also used a couple of FSA stems in this process, a 90mm and a 100mm version of the very sweet forged and then carbon wrapped OS 99 stem (or the 66 50 stem depending on how you look at it…graphics can be confusing). Whatever it is called, its a nice bit of kit and elegantly held all in place at a good weight. However, it is a bit of a indulgence as the stem it replaced was almost as light and 2/3’s the cost.
OK, so back to the K-Wing AGX bar, it is more compliant than any aluminum bar I have used. I also love the fact that the shaped/flattened tops are juuuust right….momma bear wide…. not trying to be an airplane wing for ultimate aero performance. But that flattened surface is so darn nice to rest your hands onto, that cruising along on the bar tops is something I actually did more with the K-Wing AGX. Moving outwards to the curves the comfort stays really high. Once you dial into that, and then get back on a traditional round bar, it feels like you are grabbing onto plumbing.
Another thing I loved was the way the bar sloped downwards from the center of the bar to the drops. That slight downwards/outwards slope felt very natural on the wrists, much like a mountain bike bar with more sweep to it…. it is what your wrists want to do.
But sometimes I felt like I had to be in a certain sweet spot, like if I moved an inch one way or the other, I was NOT in the sweet spot and I noticed that mostly as I was onto the hoods or getting close to them. I was going from very pleased to slightly annoyed and then back again as I moved my hands throughout the ride. Princess and the pea, perhaps?
So to sort this out a bit in my mind, I swapped bars on my road bike back to my fave bar of all time for road use, a Ritchey WCS Evocurve. It has some mild shaping to it and is decently compliant too. I wrapped it with some Lizardskins 2.5 tape. At first I felt the lack of support as compared to the carbon bar, noticing more pressure in the palms, etc. But in a short time I got used to that and appreciated the way I could micro correct my hand position without the bar having ideas of its own.
Another thing I noticed was the way the K-Wing seemed to place me more forward and lower once I was on the hoods. It is subtle but it’s there.
So in the end I think the FSA K-Wing is legit. It offers support and comfort that no round bar can supply and yet is not so extreme you feel like you need a skin suit or you are out of place. I think it has a ton of potential for pressure relief on long and rough gravel rides, and if I were having any nerve issues in the hands or wrists, it could be very, very good for helping with that.
I do wonder why the forward sweep is there. Maybe it all works out in the end to be the same reach, but it felt like I was out there a bit more. With the trends on gravel bikes to longer top tubes and shorter stems, I wonder about this. However, this bar, and at this price, will likely appeal more to the performance endurance rider or racer and in that way, it likely will work out.
The FSA K-Wing AGX bar is not subtle. Oh no. But I bet the features will ring true for a lot riders, especially those who spend hours and hours hanging onto a round handlebar and wondering if it can be better than this.
Note: FSA sent over the K Wing AGX bar to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We were not paid, nor bribed, for this review and we will strive to always give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.