Easton EC90 ALX Carbon Drop Bar: Getting Rolling – by Guitar Ted
Recently we had news here on the new drop bar released by Easton, the EC90 ALX. Well, we are happy to say that one example of this drop bar hit the receiving floor at Riding Gravel HQ here and we already have it mounted and test ridden.
What It Is: The EC90 ALX sits at the top of Easton’s range of gravel oriented handle bars. Dropbars for gravel typically have 12+ degrees of “flare” to the drop section. Editor’s Note: Please refer to our guide to drop bar terminology HERE. However; due to racer’s feedback over the course of developing this bar, Easton has reduced the flare on the EC90 ALX to a mere 10°. In other words- barely noticeable.
Other features of this bar are, of course, carbon fiber construction, which has been molded to Easton’s “Maximum Contact Drop” profile, and also with a flattened, ergonomic tops section. Each bar size is optimized for consistent comfort without losing torsional strength.
Here’s what the webpage for the EC90 ALX has to say about them:
“The EC90 SLX is comprised of advanced carbon construction for Easton’s lightest road bar to-date. This handlebar features Easton’s new MCD shape technology for a unique ride quality and comfort. TaperWall technology and Intelligent Flexibility team up to deliver a perfectly tuned bar that weighs just 195-grams. Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo levers can be positioned for a smooth transition on the tops and into the bend, with cables wrapped neatly in the bar’s designed recesses. Available in five lengths: 38, 40, 42, 44, and 46-centimeters. Now compatible with Di2 internal junction box.“
First Impressions: We received the widest bar available, the 46cm one, and out of the shipping box it was plain to see that it was going to be one of the lightest drop bars tested by Riding Gravel. Sure enough, once the bars were sat on the “Scales of Truth” the weight was found to be 218 grams. Not bad!
Examining the bars further, it was plain to see the minimal flare, but the surprise was that there was a tiny amount of sweep to the extensions as well. Easton doesn’t mention it, and you’d be hard pressed to notice it, but at around two degrees, it is there. The drop section is not a constantly varying radius, but it isn’t a flattened run from the brake lever clamp area to the tips of the abbreviated extensions either. Speaking of the brake lever clamp area, it is graduated for ease of lever placement. No squinting or guesswork necessary. That’s nice.
The ergonomic, flattened tops are a nice feature. However, a bit of a complaint here. Why do designers insist on putting graphics where you are likely going to put bar tape? I mean, you could leave it bare and show that off, but in my opinion, most people won’t. So, that seems a bit misplaced.
By the way, you can forget about bar-end shifters on these bars, but seeing as how these are meant for racing, that’s understandable. Actually, the entire design of the EC90 ALX speaks to racing. This is how the review will look at this product going forward.
Installation and First Ride Impressions: The EC90 ALX drop bars require a bit more attention to your work than an alloy bar would. You really do not want to score the carbon in any way, since this may cause a weakened point and lead to a failure. In fact, Easton recommends that you remove the brake clamps entirely from the levers for installation.
The instructions also call for some carbon paste to be applied on the inside of the stem’s face plate to help resist slippage, although the carbon does have a textured surface treatment to help with that as well. Installation was a breeze, in part due to the aforementioned hash marks to aid in an even lever placement.
Once torqued in place, and with the bars wrapped with some Wolf Tooth Supple Bar Tape, I was ready to try these out. The minimal flare is quite a big difference from a typical gravel oriented handle bar. Riding in the drops, I found that it wouldn’t take much upper body movement for me to strike my wrist on the tops, right where the ramps start on the bars. But here we must remember- these are for gravel racing. Expecting anything rowdy or very demanding on typical gravel race courses at the elite level is not very concerning, apparently.
But be that as it may, it does make the bar feel “racy” and it feels a lot like a standard road drop bar. The exception being that the drop’s extensions are not directly under the brake levers. They are offset a tiny bit by that 10° flare and even tinier sweep.
So Far… Easton took the racer feedback gained throughout the 2022 season and distilled it into what we have here, a gravel racing drop bar. Or should we say, “A handle bar made to appease what top athletes riding on gravel think would be best“?
Whatever way that debate goes for you, the reality is that the Easton EC90 ALX is light, it has a very nice, ergonomic drop and top section, and it should come in a width to suit most racing needs. The jury is still out on the comfort factor Easton claims, and whether that minimal flare is going to work everywhere a gravel bike can go. That’s what we hope to discover in the next update on this review.
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.