The Easton EA70 AX bars are well-suited to the gravel and adventure rides for which they are intended. The 16-degrees of flare offers a decent amount of additional width in the drops, promoting a stable ride when it's most needed. Plenty stiff and fairly lightweight the aluminium bars were comfortable across a number of hand positions but could perhaps benefit from ergonomic tops for those longer days in the saddle.
16 degree flare aids control when riding in the drops
Short reach and shallow drop promotes a comfortable riding position
Bars allow for a neutral lever position despite the flare
Lack of ergo tops
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Building on the solid reputation of its SL and Aero road bars, US brand Easton has created a trio of additions for its gravel and adventure series, which it calls AX. Here we’ve got the EA70 AX in for a closer look to see whether they should be considered as one of the best handlebars for gravel bikes.
Easton EA70 AX handlebars - the construction
The EA70 AX is made from the brand’s lightweight EA alloy and sits in between the more expensive carbon version and the cheaper EA50 AX alloy version.
It’s offered in 40, 42, 44 and 46cm widths, with our size 42cm weighing in at 290 grams; that makes it around 70 grams heavier than the carbon version but it is less than half the cost. It retails for £80/US$99.99.
Like all of Easton’s drop bars the EA70 uses its MCD technology, which stands for maximum contact drop. What this means in real terms is an ergo shape with a shallow drop of 120mm. This is combined with a reach of 80mm, which Easton says promotes a comfortable wrist position.
The top shape of the EA70 AX mirrors that of the brand’s SL road bars. It’s a round affair with no hint of an aero or flat surface that some riders enjoy. However, if you’re used to the feel of classic bars when you’re on the tops then you’ll probably be right at home with the EA70 AX.
It starts to get more interesting when you look at the drop flare. As you’d guess with a pair of bars aimed at the booming gravel market the EC70 AX has a wider flare, measuring at 16 degrees. Compared to some gravel bars out there this will look relatively tame but Easton has arrived at what they say is an optimum degree of flare when aiming to balance improved stability in the drops with an efficient use of the shifters and brakes in both the hoods and drops.
Certainly when setting the bars up the flare didn’t seem overly pronounced and I was able to get the levers in a position not too dissimilar from how I position them on my road bars. If you’re transitioning from spending most of your time on the road or aren’t keen on the extreme hood angle that some gravel bars promote, then the EA70 AXs could well fit your eye, and hands.
In terms of fitting, the bars were straightforward to set up with clear markings on both the drops and the stem clamping area to help with alignment. There’s no internal routing option here so it would have been nice to see a recessed area to help keep the cables tidy and out the way. The classic round shape made wrapping the bars a doddle.
Easton EA70 AX handlebars - the ride
After a few rides using the EA70 AX bars it was clear they were the result of plenty of consideration. While brands will always extol the virtues of its vigorous R & D process, the notion that Easton had arrived at the 16 degrees of flair after plenty of testing seemed valid. It did promote a natural hand, wrist and arm position when in the drops; the flare, and the extra width it brings, providing a bit of extra control when descending trickier, or steeper, trails.
The level of comfort continued when riding on the hoods. The pretty neutral position of the levers means that everything felt normal. There were no obvious adjustments that I needed to make when braking or shifting, which hasn’t always been my experience when riding flared bars.
Riding on the tops I did wish for a little bit of ergo styling. This is certainly a preference rather than a criticism, after all we rode round bars for years with no complaints. But having ridden ergo tops for some while now I missed that little bit of additional comfort for my hands that a flat top provides me.
The bar’s reach and drop made switching hand position easy. Moving from the hoods to the drops felt intuitive. One of the benefits of the flared bar revolution is that you essentially get two clearly defined positions in the drops, with the additional width towards the end of the drops aiding not only control but also comfort. When riding longer distances on the Easton bars I enjoyed the variety of hand positions it offers, slipping down into the wide drops to ‘open up’ my elbows a tad, helping to shake away a few niggles in the shoulders and neck.
As for feel, the EA70 AX bars felt plenty stiff but still with some forgiveness. In this respect they are pretty typical of a higher end aluminium bar; not quite as luxurious as carbon but far cheaper.
At £80 / US$99.99 the Easton EA70 AX compare favourably with other aluminium gravel bars. Zipp's SL-70 XPLR are made from a similar grade alloy and cost £115 / US$112, while Ritchey's Butano bars, again similar in material and build quality, retail for £82.99 / US$104.00.
Overall, the Easton EA70 AX handlebars performed admirably. The shape is well considered, with soft lines that felt immediately comfortable and which made switching hand positions feel entirely natural. Suited to your gravel bike as well any all-road machine, it would be hard to imagine them letting you down in any terrain that these two areas of riding are likely to throw up.
- Weight: 290g (42cm)
- Sizes: 40, 42, 44, 46cm
- Clamp diam: 31.8mm
- Drop: 120mm
- Reach: 80mm
- Flare: 16 degrees
- Contact: eastoncycling.com
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