Back in the early 2000s FSA, which has been the home to more creative ideas than the industry gives them credit for (see: subcompact cranks, etc.), came out with a handlebar called the K-Wing. Considering we were still in the era of long-stemmed mountain bikes with 26-inch wheels, and riser bars were the domain of the downhill set, the K-Wing looked ridiculous to my roadie eye. A brief refresher: The K-Wing was an ergonomic bend bar (flat section in the drops) that rose like an MTB riser bar just beyond the clamp area. It then dropped slightly at the bend and included a deep drop like the Cinelli 66 bar Eddy Merckx was famous for using.
It took months of playing with the bar before I realized that the genius of the bar was that it allowed a fitter to give a rider a more upright seated position, as well as moving the levers higher, without sacrificing an aero position in the drops. In one afternoon the bar went from looking ridiculous to looking genius. Neat trick.
It is with that prologue that I submit the Wave bar. It was given a soft intro at last year’s Sea Otter and we’ve steadily started to see riders sing its praises.
The Wave Handlebar from Coefficient Cycling differs from the K-Wing in a few ways, all of them significant. So the bar rises beyond the clamping zone. The amount the bar rises from the clamp varies according to the size of the bar; wider bars rise more because of all of the bars are built with a 15-degree downward slope toward the bend. The bar also bends forward briefly before sweeping back at a 12-degree angle. The upshot of these two dimensions is that the bar top has never been a more comfortable location for your hands. The top is also flattened slightly to further increase comfort.
Hold your hands out in front of you. In all likelihood, what you will notice is that your palms are not parallel to the floor and that your knuckles do not lie in a plane parallel to one passing vertically through your torso. Your knuckles sweep back toward you at a roughly 12-degree angle and your palms naturally sit at a roughly 15-degree angle relative to the floor. It’s as natural a hand position for the bar tops as anyone has ever created.
Notable in this is that the changes don’t end there. The Wave features a drop slope of 1.5 degrees, meaning that the bottom of the bar sits slightly wider than the hook where the levers are clamped. The bar also includes a 1.6-degree flare, meaning that when a rider is in the drops, they have just a little extra leverage on the bar.
Also worth mentioning is the recess in the hook which makes a terrific place to hide SRAM shifting blips. Alas, I mounted the bar on a bike with Shimano GRX.
I know that sounds like a whole lot of monkeying with a handlebar. And anyone concerned with their fit is rightfully asking some questions right now. Not many riders who already have a good fit are going to go online and order one of these if they think that the bar’s arrival will necessitate a visit to their fitter. And that’s where the particular genius of this bar shows through. The Wave is still built around a 77mm reach and a 120mm drop. Given how many bars on the market are built around those dimensions, the Wave is nearly plug-and-play.
The Wave includes four ports so that cable housing and/or hydraulic hose can enter and exit the bar for clean internal routing. This brings me to one of my very few criticisms of the bar: I wish those oval holes were just a bit larger. Trying to feed stiff hydraulic hose through the bar along with Di2 wires was hellish. Of course, most anyone ordering this bar will simply have a shop install it and they will do it in a fraction of the time I was forced to devote to the project, but the fact remains, bigger holes = easier routing.
The Wave comes in four widths: 38, 40, 42 and 44cm, measured center-to-center at the hook. Retail cost is $329, which is a little pricier than some bars, but how do you put a price on comfort, amiright?
I’ve been riding this bar on a gravel bike for the specific reason that it is in gravel events that I encounter the longest, most arduous climbs I ride. I also wanted to see what it would feel like to use the top of this bar for the GRX group’s inline brake levers. The feel is quite good, though I must confess, I am still more comfortable descending in the drops. On flatter singletrack, all that could change. Flat and singletrack is something in short supply ’round these parts.
Because muscle tension in my shoulders has led to a host of problems for me, anything that helps me relax my upper body is welcome. Trying to get a scientific fix on how much more comfortable I am using this bar is nearly impossible to quantify, but there is no doubt that I’m more comfortable on this bar.
My one other observation about the Wave bar is that I’d love to see a version that does all the things the Wave does, but incorporates the deep drop (160mm) of the Cinelli 66, known as the Merckx bar. I’d like to be able to sit even more upright when climbing, but still have that low position in the drops. The higher position for the hoods has no real downside, either.
This is, in all likelihood, the most intelligent and thoughtful handlebar design ever brought to market.
Final thought: Anyone who can dream something like this up has more ideas up their sleeve.