Verdict: Unusual-shaped bar gives an optimised hand position on the tops and vibration isolation on the drops
Weight: 210g Contact: www.coefficient.cc
The Coefficient Cycling AR carbon handlebar is designed to offer enhanced comfort and some claimed aerodynamic benefit when holding the tops of the bar. Thus far this is the only product from Coefficient and was born out of a design to improve comfort and aerodynamics while riding on a variety of terrains. It can be fiddly to fit, but I found that it gave multiple hand positions which were comfortable for extended periods.
Pros: Unusual shape does give a range of comfortable hand positions; decent weight; exceptional vibration isolation in the drops
Cons: Fiddly to fit if you opt for internally routing the cables; looks may be divisive; cost
The Coefficient AR bar has really quite a complex shape. The most striking thing when you first see it is the upwards kink either side of where it is held in the stem. At first glance, many will be reminded of the Specialized Aerofly riser bar as fitted to the Venge VIAS or the Genetic Driser bar that Mike tested earlier in the year, but whereas the tops on those bars are horizontal, meaning that all hand positions were higher than they would be on a straight bar, the unusual thing about the Wave is that it then slopes back down across the tops.
if you hold your arms out in front of you palms-down, the natural position of the hands is with the thumbs slightly raised.
What this means is that with your hands on the hoods or the drops, they are no higher than they would be on a conventional straight bar. What's the point then, you're asking? Coefficient says that it noticed if you hold your arms out in front of you palms-down, the natural position of the hands is with the thumbs slightly raised. Hence, if you are holding onto a horizontal bar, you're having to rotate your wrists away from their neutral position. The tops are also swept backwards by 12 degrees in the horizontal plane, something we've seen with quite a few other "ergonomic" bars such as the Ritchey Comp ErgoMax.
The combination of these two angles means that it does quite feel quite different when you're riding on the tops. Your elbows tend to sit closer to your sides too, which is the basis for Coefficient's claims about aerodynamics – this reduces your frontal area which should make you slip through the wind a little easier. If you're struggling to understand the shape of the bar, Coefficient has full dimensions on > this page.
In short, the bar leaves the hoods and drops roughly where you'd be expecting them on a straight bar, so when you're riding those positions it feels familiar. That said, I quickly noticed a big change when riding in the drops along a stony towpath. This bar has the most effective vibration isolation of any that I've used, (disclaimer – I haven't ridden Canyon's double handlebar yet). Back to back with a standard handlebar, the difference was akin to going from a 28mm tyre to a 40mm tyre (with pressures adjusted accordingly). Really. It was that noticeable.
I was really impressed with this aspect, as I spent quite a bit of time on crappy tarmac or towpaths and it certainly helps delay fatigue in your wrists, arms and shoulders.
This compliance seems mostly to come from the curve of the drops; riding on the tops or the hoods it was less noticeable. Hence you would be better on the hoods in a sprint – you can feel a bit of flex when you put your weight on the ends of the drops. I was really impressed with this aspect, as I spent quite a bit of time on crappy tarmac or towpaths and it certainly helps delay fatigue in your wrists, arms and shoulders.
The drop is quite shallow at 120mm between centres, which meant I spent more time enjoying the comfort of that position than I did on the tops, which is where this bar is probably unusually shaped. At 15 degrees, the slope on the tops is quite pronounced and it does feel strange to begin with, but I did find it was comfortable. I tend to spend only short periods of time riding on the tops unless I'm on really bumpy terrain, and I can't say that this changed significantly here; indeed, when it got rougher I tended to migrate down to the drops on this bar to enjoy the cush.
I mentioned weight, and at 210g for a 44cm bar, the Wave is slightly lighter than the conventionally shaped carbon Easton EC70 SL bar. You can get lighter, but given the complex shape this is a decent weight. It is made from a mixture of Toray T800 and T700 unidirectional carbon fibre and is available in 38, 40, 42 and 44cm (centre to centre) widths. The drops are angled out and flared ever so slightly, though nowhere as much as on some off-road-focused bars.
There is internal routing and it is helpfully supplied with guide tubes fitted. Don't pull these out – the idea is that you thread the cable inners through these and then run the outers back in the other direction. That's the idea, although the choice of location for the openings is a bit unhelpful here. Cables enter right in the corner where the bar bends forwards and exit the other side of the stem. I found it very tricky to get the cable outer to come out of the hole by the shifters, and the unusual exit location means that you need longer cables and end up with a larger-than-ideal loop of cable each side. There is just about space to fit two cables through side by side, but I ran my hydraulic brake lines outside the bar and I think it would have been really challenging to fit them next to the gear cable. I'm normally someone who likes to fit things myself, but my recommendation with this bar would definitely be to leave it to your LBS. Rumour has it that Coefficient is revising the internal routing options for a future version.
There is a reasonably short straight section of bar either side of the stem before it kinks up, leaving limited space for fitting lights and GPS units. I managed both but couldn't also fit my bell (although I could probably have fitted a conventional bell more easily on the riser section).
What of the looks, then? Traditionalists are unlikely to be big fans; ergonomic products rarely have a classic aesthetic, although you could probably argue that this is less controversial-looking than Canyon's Grail handlebar.
the choice of comfortable hand positions on offer are certainly going to win it friends
As for value, most cyclists would baulk at paying this much for a handlebar. If you see the benefit in the unusual shape then it could be worth paying for, but it's likely most cyclists would be able to find an aluminium bar for under half this that they could get on with. That said, the price is in the same ballpark as some other carbon bars, and given that Coefficient is a small company with one product, I think that's quite an achievement.
As Coefficient only has one product, it's perhaps natural that it is aiming it at a market that stretches across road and gravel. In both environments, the choice of comfortable hand positions on offer are certainly going to win it friends. For me, I didn't find I suddenly spent much more time on the tops than on a normal bar, but I really enjoyed the enhanced comfort that it delivers on the drops. I suspect that the looks might be a bit too contentious for some roadies, and maybe some off-road-focused riders would want something with a wider flare, but if you do a bit of on-road and a bit of off then it's definitely worth a look. Just get someone else to fit it for you.