Easton EC90 ALX Carbon Drop Bar: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted
Now that several rides have happened with the Easton EC90 ALX drop bar I can give my current impressions for this lightweight racing component. If you want the technical details on this carbon drop bar, I introduced the EC90 ALX here. Please click that link if you missed that intro. Now, on with the show here…. Editor’s Note: Please refer to our guide to drop bar terminology HERE.
Update On Set-Up: When I received this bar I had been using a Redshift Sports ShockStop Stem on the Twin Six Standard Rando. I did a few rides with this configuration, but in my opinion, this is not how most racers will likely use this handle bar. So, I swapped out the Redshift stem for an Easton stem I had in my parts bin. Otherwise, the bicycle was as I had it before the bar/stem swap for awhile until, as you will see later, I also changed out the tires. The results were surprising.
Ride Performance: At first, when I had the Redshift stem on the bike, I felt as though the tops were slightly interfering with my wrists if I was deep in the drop position. However; when I switched over to the Easton stem, I rotated the bars so that the extensions were more parallel to the ground, and this brought the hoods down a tic along with clearing my wrists just a bit more if I was in the drops. So, I think this handlebar is going to be okay in this position in as far as wrist clearance goes, but if your preferred drop set up has the extensions pointing downward a bit, that clearance issue may become more pronounced for you.
On the road and on the gravel, the EC90 ALX displays a touch of compliance, but I wouldn’t say it is anything that will make you comfortable or make the handling of your bike any better. Frankly, it is on par with some aluminum bars I have ridden in that sense. I also noted a definite high frequency buzz in the hands on gravel. This along with a very tactile feel of the road surface is going to appeal to racers. You know exactly what your front wheel is doing, which may be what you want to “feel fast”.
I should note that the Twin Six Standard Rando has a pretty beefy carbon fiber fork. I was also running tubeless Teravail Rutland 700 X 42mm tires at about 38psi. These tires are set up on the WTB carbon wheels we reviewed recently. So, nothing out of the ordinary here and all things I am very familiar with.
I enjoyed the tops with their ergonomic, flattened out shape while cruising and climbing. The reach is fine as well. I had no issues with getting to the brake levers from a drops position with the EC90 ALX bars. The drops position is comfortable with that “MCD” shaped curve Easton uses.
Recently we received the Pirelli Cinturato M tires for review. (Link here) I mounted the 700 X 40mm versions on the same wheels I have been using all along. I think that this illustrates very well how much a really good tire can make a difference in ride feel.
Since installing the Cinturato M’s, the Easton bars have felt better. Much of that high frequency vibration is damped out and now? Now I don’t mind the bars at all for riding loose gravel. This also points out how much a total system a bicycle is, and that judging a part’s performance is often colored by the components elsewhere on the bike. Something to think about….
So Far… I am looking at this handlebar from the perspective of a racer. In that light, this handlebar does everything right. I discount “comfort” to a degree because – in my opinion – racers don’t prioritize comfort. It comes with the territory that being somewhat “uncomfortable” is the price that you pay for “going fast”.
That “price” is, in this case of the EC90 ALX, a handlebar that would be very familiar to a road cyclist. A bar that is very light, has an ergonomic element to it, but remains stiff when you corner and sprint on it. “Vibration reduction” isn’t high on the list of priorities for most racing products, and the EC90 ALX is no exception to that notion. That said, you can do a lot with tire choice, or….
Maybe you could use something like the Ergon Ortho Cell pads for under the bar tape. That maybe would give you a little bit of relief here. However; there are handlebar alternatives available which would probably be similar in spec and feel a lot better. An example would be the which we tested in the Whisky Spano bar. It beats this bar with its ergonomically shaped tops and drops sections while having more vibration reduction capabilities as well. That’s one choice and I would maybe go with that bar over the EC90 ALX based upon my current experience. Obviously, there are a lot of ways to approach this, but the bottom line is that the Easton EC90 ALX needs a “supporting cast” in terms of other components to make the handlebar a bit more palatable to the hands.
Stay tuned for the final installment in this review which should post in about a month.
For more on the Easton EC90 ALX see their website here.
Note: Easton Cycling sent over the EC90 ALX carbon drop bar for test and review to Riding Gravel at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.