FSA Wing Pro Compact White Handlebar
We've long debated where handlebars should be set. Our feeling is the drops should be as low as you can handle for an hour of hammering. It's ideal to get your back flat and parallel to the ground. And the other positions should have particular values. The tops should be good for noodling and climbing. The hoods should be reachable for long periods of time, but need to be forward enough so that when you get out of the saddle, you move your butt forward enough of the saddle that you both clear the saddle nose and feel like you've moved your body into a fresh position for more power on climbs. Bars should be mated with just the right length and rise stem; switch stems to one too short or too long, and you'll feel it within a few minutes. When this sensation hits, you'll be counting the seconds until you can get off the bike and make a change.
If you've poked around this site, you know we're fans of classic-bend handlebars. We like the multitude of hand positions the classic shape offers. The FSA Wing Pro Compact is definitely not a classic bend, but it's unlike any other ergo-bend bar we've seen. The drops are semi-ergo, perhaps. And the top is pointedly modern, with a wing-like shape that promises to be faster and more comfy than the traditional cylindrical shape that handlebars were limited to back when bars had to pass through the stem before they were mounted. The basic shape is the bar that carried Danilo Di Luca to victory at the 2008 Giro d'Italia. The little killer loved the way they fit, and FSA was almost criminally negligent in how they didn't totally didn't play up this success.
The bars we got have a 31.8mm clamp section, a 80mm reach and 125mm drop. We went with the 42cm center-to-center width,as that's what we have on all our bikes. This pair weighs in at 270g. Since shallow drops are typically 135mm or so, calling the drop compact is entirely appropriate. Between the wing-like tops and gently-curved drops, these might be the first truly ergo bars we've experienced. And there's one more design feature that cements this bar as one of the few true ergo bends: a 1.5-degree splay between the tops and the drops.
One of the many things FSA was trying to do with these bars was create a long flat section from where the tops of the bars turn forward and extends to the end of the brake levers. This is made clear in their mounting instructions. The top of the lever body should be parallel to the top of the bars. And the top of the bars should be parallel to the ground.
Our first wrinkle came with lever mounting. We couldn't get the bottom of our Campy Ergo' brake lever as high as specified in the instructions. Where the clamp exits the lever body makes it impossible. We checked with FSA, and they suggested mounting the levers as high as we could. Their main issue was stopping people from mounting them too low; they were referring to an old style, seen on bikes back in the days of Merckx and used well into the 90s where the bottom of the brake lever was lower than the bottom of the bars.
Second issue was cable routing. With the Campy internal routing, we found it impossible to mount the shift cable housing in front and below as we do on cylindrical bars. So we ran the cable housing on the trailing edge of the tops. Makes for a wider top platform, and looks more aero, too. Taped 'em up and hit the road.
We ran into a friend on the road on our first ride of the bars. He thought they looked fine when we were on the drops, but the drops looked smushed when we were anywhere else. Another friend saw these bars on our bike when it was standing still and he was above them. "oh, they're just like my old crit' bars." We hadn't thought of that. When we first rode with the bars, we thought, "oh, they're like the old randonneur bars we saw on touring bikes."
Both impressions are right. The FSA Wing Pro Compact handlebars have a transition from the top to the forward part of the drops that is markedly less "square" than most handlebars on the market these days. They do hearken back to the days when criterium handlebars swept down and forward from the center section, allegedly to give the rider more wrist and forearm room for sprinting out of the saddle. With the forward and lower section of the bars splaying outward by 1.5 degrees, the end of the drops is wider, by 2cm, than the area where you clamp your brake levers, they do act a bit like randonneur bars.
This splaying outward does have a very nice benefit. Our hands were in a great position for riding the drops. It does feel very comfy leaving our hands there for a long time riding slow or fast and sprinting does feel a bit more powerful. Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen, world champions both, seem to have ridden FSA bars that do this. We're not sure which bars they ride, they seem custom, but suffice it to say some of the fastest finishers in the business like the outward sweep.
The splaying also had a drawback for us. The tops and hoods are much narrower than we're comfortable with. The hoods were 40cm apart, and with the round curve of the bars from the top to the forward curve, the tops seemed to be a bit under 30cm wide, compared to the 33-35cm widths with a sharper curve we measured on our other bars. This is measured over several different handlebars we ride, all measuring 42cm c-c at the end of the drops. We had never measured the widths of the bar tops before this, it's not a measurement we've found anywhere. Next time, we might try the 44cm c-c width so we can get the 42cm width on the hoods.
We remained fairly sensitive to this narrow width on the tops. It could be because we have been switching our bikes around quite a bit lately, going from our 'cross bike to our commuter, to our road bike, to our winter bike, and back, sometimes a different bike each day.
Our sensitivity to the width was mostly an issue when we were climbing. Typically, we spend most of our time in the saddle when climbing. Depending on the pitch of the rise and how hard we're going, we alternate between the hoods and the tops. With the Wing Pro Compacts, we felt too constrained on the tops while climbing hard. So we climbed almost exclusively on our hoods. Not a bad thing, but we would have liked a bit more variety.
Another drawback to the bars was how short the reach was. Having but 80mm of reach with our 120mm stem was not enough when we were out of the saddle and climbing on the hoods. This is something we should have been smart enough to account for, and swapped in a longer stem accordingly. Oval's Shallow Drop bars, we experienced the same problem. And then we decided the solution was a longer stem. D'oh! On us.
The biggest surprise about the Wing Pro Compact was the following. Super-shallow drop bars with an ergo curve are not for people with small hands. We have relatively long fingers, but when we rode on the coldest of days, with our thickest ski gloves protecting our digits, the insulation under our palms and under our fingers made the reach to the levers from the drops almost tricky.
Despite our qualms with these bars, we definitely see a place for them. There seem to be no shortage of cyclists who barely ride the drops. There are others who want a little more meat under their palms on the tops. And there are plenty who want more control when riding the drops. All in all, we think if you haven't been satisfied with ergo bars and shallow drop classic-bend bars, the FSA Wing Pro Compact could be a great solution.