This spring Zipp introduced a revamped line of Service Course SL bars. Service Course is Zipp’s line of bars they introduced to serve the needs of the pro teams they were sponsoring. Because trusting a carbon fiber handlebar following a crash is maybe not wise or easy, Zipp designed an aluminum cockpit meant to stand up to the rigors of the top professional. The idea is that the bars, in particular, may not be the lightest ever made from aluminum, but they are stiff enough to handle Tom Boonen’s sprint, as well as strong enough to take a crash (or two) and make it to the end of the race.
What had been three bars is now four to give every rider an option based on fit and bend preference. The names are derived from the bars’ reaches, respectively 70mm, 80mm and 88mm. The drop varies for each as well.
The SL-70 features a return to a 1990s-style bend with a flattened section in the 128mm-deep drop to recall those anatomic-bend bars so many of us ran. The bar comes in 36, 38, 40, 42 and 44cm widths (center-to-center). The 42cm bar weighed in at 256g. The SL-70 also comes in a variation called the SL-70 Ergo which features a flattened bar top for those who want a little more surface area to rest their hands. It was a bit heavier at 271g.
The SL-80 features a compact-style bend with a 125mm drop. For anyone currently running a carbon fiber compact bar concerned about its ability to take an impact, the SL-80 is a way to keep that bend and pick up some insurance. It comes in a whopping six widths: 36, 38, 40, 42, 44 and 46cm, making it a fitter’s dream. The 42cm bar tipped the scale at 265g.
The SL-88 features a fairly classic round bend, that recalls the old Cinelli Model 64. That said, the SL-88 features a 130mm drop, which, while the deepest drop of this bunch, is still 8mm less than the old Cinelli. It also varies from those traditional bends in that the ramp isn’t quite as steep so there’s a bit more room for your hands in the hooks. It comes in three widths: 40, 42 and 44cm, which is a mark of how popular they anticipate the other bends will be. Because it has the deepest drop of the bunch, and therefore the most material of the various bars, the SL88 was also the heaviest, 283g for the 42cm bar.
As much as I liked riding the SL-80 and have come to appreciate compact bars, the SL-70 with its shorter reach but slightly deeper drop (yeah, 3mm isn’t a lot), I found myself preferring it with the Shimano levers I was running. I’d probably find the SL-70 on the short side in terms of reach if I was running Campy levers, though. The SL-88 was the licorice of the bunch, a flavor you are either into or not, and I just can’t wrap my head around licorice. The SL-70 Ergo was the real favorite of the offerings. I could see running it on a few of my bikes.
Each of the models comes in two finishes: High Gloss with white lettering or Beyond Black, which is a matte finish with black lettering. The fitter in me preferred the High Gloss because it was easier to see the hash marks on the side of the bar for positioning the levers.
Each of the bars retails for $110, which is an absolute bargain compared to what some carbon bars are going for.