There are more different bends of handlebars out there than there are makers of helmets. That is to say there are a bunch, but not so many as, say, species of fish. It’s a miracle, really, as the basic shape of the handlebar hasn’t changed as much in the last 50 years as health insurance.
I’ll admit when the original K-Wing was introduced by FSA I laughed. It’s a riser bar for road bikes. ‘What are we going to add next?’ I wondered. ‘Hydraulic brakes?’ Nevermind. Let’s not look to me for innovating new road bike parts. As I mentioned in my review of the original FSA K-Wing, the epiphany for me came when I realized that the way to set up the bar was to set the bottom of the drop equal with the drop of your current bar.
The upshot is that the top of the bar sits more than a centimeter higher than usual, allowing you to sit up more on climbs. It was the smartest use of a deep-drop concept I’d ever encountered.
So I wasn’t exactly thrilled when the bar was discontinued. It’s not exactly FSA’s fault, though. In talking with staffers, they said that when they introduced the K-Wing Compact—a bar intended for riders whose flexibility was so reduced they couldn’t manage the change in position required with the deep drop of the K-Wing—sales of the new bar so completely dominated those of the old K-Wing that orders for the original bar essentially stopped.
Let’s be honest about the original K-Wing, though. The internal cable routing of the K-Wing was comparable to the internal brake cable through a steel Merckx, Colnago or Pinarello the way Paris-Roubaix is comparable to an industrial park crit.
The new bar weighs in at 252g (42cm). Still not the lightest on the market, not by a trailer park mile, and a bit of a surprise that it weighs a few grams more than the original. Think of this new bar as The Who jettisoning Kenny Jones for Zac Starkey. It’s still not Keith Moon, but he knows a thing or two about history and can quote him chapter and verse.
Cable routing on the K-Wing Compact is easier than changing a flat on a front wheel. Really. It’s not worth discussing.
The wing section of the K-Wing Compact is smaller than in the past. It’s still flattened and sloped, but the width of the wing is noticeably shorter. While I didn’t wrap mine, the first thought I had when I looked at it was that you could wrap bar tape around it and: A) not run out of tape, and B) not end up with something so ridiculously large that you feel like you’re gripping a car bumper.
The K-Wing Compact features a 125mm drop, which is one of the shortest drops I’ve seen, but in my measurements, that number seems a bit deceptive. I get 125mm from the center of the drop to the bottom of the clamping section; the wing section still rises a couple of centimeters above this.
I’ve been riding this bar on one of my bikes for several months. Out on the road, my perception isn’t that I’m riding a compact bar. That short compact drop is usually a bit of a shock when I’ve been on more traditional bars. Reaching for the drops feels very traditional, a feature I like. The reach, at 80mm, is more than some compact bars, but shorter than many traditional bars, and honestly, as long as some levers have gotten (7900, anyone?), that’s a good thing. Were I to run Dura-Ace on this bar, rather than Campy, I’d shorten the stem by a centimeter.
Ultimately, what makes this bar “compact” in my mind is the bend of the drop more than any other feature. That graduated radius I’ve come to appreciate in compact bars isn’t as comfortable to my hand as the old ergo bend, but my hand is positioned closer to the lever with the compact bend, so I’m not complaining.
One interesting feature of the K-Wing Compact is that the bar feature a 2-degree outward bend. That means while the ends of the drops on my bar were 42cm apart (c-c), the levers mount a full centimeter closer together. Whether this feature will work for everyone may be open to some debate, but I found I liked having the levers a bit closer together without sacrificing any width at the drop.
And for you sprinters out there: This bar is plenty stiff. Most aluminum bars I used over the years were more flexible than this bar.
The bar comes in three widths: 40, 42 and 44cm (all measured c-c). Online, it tends to sell for $241, though I’ve seen it for less on occasion.
The bar is finished with a layer of 3k weave over which a thick layer of clear gloss has been sprayed. This will provide the bar with excellent protection from the lever clamps, but more important is the protection the structural carbon will be afforded from scratches, bumps and drops. I’m as confident in the strength of this bar as I am in any aluminum bar I ever used.
I wouldn’t mind running this bar on every bike I own.