Zipp Service Course SL70 bars and SL Speed stem review

Improve fit and shave bike weight with these top-shelf components

Parts
The SL70 has a great, middle of the road bend, with a mild flare to the drops.

The SL70 bar has a great, middle of the road bend, with a mild flare to the drops.

Lowdown: Zipp Service Course SL70 Bar and SL Speed Stem

A great bar for riders who like a hybrid anatomic/compact bend and have medium to large hands. There is nothing drastic or quirky about the SL70s, instead they are a good all-round option. And if you’re looking for a lightweight, stiff stem for your carbon race bike, Zipp’s SL Speed is a fantastic, if expensive, option. For the weight weenies, aluminum models can actually be lighter for much less coin.

Stat Box: Zipp Service Course SL70 Bar
Weight: 258 grams size 44cm Price: $110
Options: 36, 38, 40, 42, 44cm (tested) center-to-center widths, High Polish w/white logos (tested) or Beyond Black finish Rating: 4.5 Stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Pluses
Minuses
  • Good size run. Nothing super wide
  • More expensive than competition
  • Clip-on aerobar compatible
  • Not the best for small hands
  • Bend works well w/modern shifters

Stat Box: Zipp SL Speed Stem
Weight: 132 grams size 120mm Price: $265
Lengths: 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 120cm (tested) Rating: 3.5 Stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

Pluses
Minuses
  • Light and stiff
  • Expensive
  • T25 titanium fasteners are great
  • Bad look on steel bikes with smaller tubes
  • Good look for modern bikes

Review: Zipp Service Course SL70 Bar and SL Speed Stem

It used to be that you bought traditional round drop bars, and picked deep or shallow and the width of your preference. Things are a bit more complicated these days. Options abound, not only in width and drop, but in material, color, bend, and flare. While certain manufacturers still produce bars similar to those used by Eddy Merckx (and modern greats such as Peter Sagan still prefer that style), most of us are more comfortable with anatomic incarnations such as Zipp’s Service Course SL70 bars.

The Service Course SL70 bar is offered in widths from 36 to 44 centimeters and in the High Polish with white logos shown and Beyond Black.

The Service Course SL70 bar is offered in widths from 36cm-44cc, in the High Polish with white logos (pictured) and Beyond Black.

Unlike many drop bars currently in production, the SL70’s use a segmented drop, eschewing the progressive rounded compact bends that dominate the current market. I was hesitant at first. I was never a fan of the first anatomic bars that hit the market in the 1990’s, sticking with my round drop bars for several decades until the latest batch of compact bend bars hit shops. They used a flat section of tubing in the drop and then transitioned again near the end of the bar. If it worked, great, but it locked you into a position that might not be ideal. Like most things bike fit related, you had to experiment.

Zipp’s Service Course SL70 bar offers a hybrid anatomic/compact bend.

Zipp’s Service Course SL70 bar offers a hybrid anatomic-compact bend.

Zipp’s SL70 bar is a bit of a hybrid bend, though, and it works splendidly for me. I like the shallow 128mm drop and the 70mm reach is close to what I’ve ridden comfortably in the past. I played for some time with the placement of my Shimano shifters before I taped them and the extra care paid off. I had initially placed the levers too low. Putting them higher than I expected made for a great transition to the hoods while still allowing for good access to the brake levers in the hoods. I don’t have especially large hands, so I run my reach pretty far in. For those with exceptionally small hands you might want to look at other bar options. I would say the SL70s are best from medium to large hands.

The small, 4-degree flare of the drops is barely perceptible but something I appreciate. I like a flared drop as it opens up the arms a tad when most extended. This helps with breathing (I think) but also creates more forearm clearance.

When in the drops I find myself putting my hands right in the transition section and it feels something like my vintage round bars. Moving them farther up the drop requires me to bend my elbows, assume an aggressive, corner-attacking position and gives easy, secure access to the brake levers.

The 70 in the SL70 refers to reach of the bar.

The 70 in the SL70 refers to reach of the bar.

The tops are fairly squared at the curve to the drops, but not drastically so like on bars such as PRO’s PLT Compact II and some Ritchey bars. This means that you can use more of the width of the tops for climbing and rough sections of road. Some bars transition in a more rounded fashion (think Cinelli Criterium or PRO Vibe 7S), making for more forearm clearance but also rendering the tops somewhat less usable.

Though I’m fairly slight of build, I went with 44cm bars as I like the breathing room and wanted to match the width on my cyclocross and gravel bikes. After taking my time during installation, I’m very happy with Zipp’s Service Course SL70 bars. They’re fairly affordable, though there are certainly cheaper bars on the market. They are also quite light for an aluminum bar, though there lighter options on the market. I like the look of the bars as well as the fit. The SL70s are offered in the High Polish with white logos that I tested or a blacked out Beyond Black for those seeking a low-key look. I guess the best endorsement I can make is that I can’t see taking them off anytime soon.

Continue to page 2 to read our review of the Zipp SL Speed Stem

About the author: Nick Legan

Nick Legan is happiest with some grease under his nails and a long dirt climb ahead. As a former WorldTour team mechanic, Legan plied his trade at all the Grand Tours, Spring Classics, World Championships and even the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In recent years, gravel and ultra-distance racing has a firm grip on Legan’s attention, but his love of mountain biking and long road rides hasn’t diminished. Originally a Hoosier, Legan settled in Boulder, Colorado, 14 years ago after finishing his time at Indiana University studying French and journalism. He served as the technical editor at VeloNews for two years and now contributes to Adventure Cyclist, Mtbr and RoadBikeReview.


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  • serious reviewer says:

    #1 comment EXPENSIVE. Face it, if you spend a ton, you can get everything you want including custom made equipment. Nearly $400 for a stem and bars is BS as it will not take sufficient time off (most could lose a lb in a day or two which is far more better weight reduciton than the minor weight these components provide when compared to significantly less expensive components with similar aerodynamics). We may love riding, but as one Cat 1 rider put it, how many people buy Tour d’ France level bikes or close? How many have the ability to ride them in similar fashion? How many could even tell the difference if you gave them one or two models down with no markings? Answers: Many. Few. Damn few. Might be better to spend the few hundred paying off a loan, donating to charity…like you can buy a cheap bike for $400 and give it to a needy kid. Now, there is a gain!

    • Keith Miller says:

      Good grief. I can say the same about your phone, eating out, your computer, or whatever you spend your money on. I would recommend you get a Huffy and I will refrain from starbucks, pizza, and crap food so that I can invest in something I can enjoy while riding so that I don’t have to spend the last chapter of my life doing nothing because I am too unhealthy to give my time to a charity, serve the needy, or help a neighbor.

      • Keith Miller says:

        Oh, and thank you for the thoughtful and informative review. I just ordered this stem along with the Zipp Ergo bars. I had to order the bars because this past week I was struck by a motorists who was not paying attention. All of my bones were unbroken, but my Ritchey bars were snapped in two.

  • Imright says:

    You forgot to mention that now you would need a worthy bar tape to rest your hands on.

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