What use is a set of drop-bar handlebars where you can’t reach the drops comfortably? The Specialized Hover handlebars tackle practicality head-on, and if you can withstand the occasional tease from your piers, present a good value, forward thinking and comfortable approach to bike controls.
Extended fit options
Slightly odd looking
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Ever see a handlebar that splits opinion like a hover bar? The obscurely shaped riser style originally appeared on some of Specialized’s most aerodynamic platforms with the S-works Aerofly bar, it featured a foil shaped top section raised above the stem to provide their racers with top flight speed advantage with condor-esque silhouette. The unique shape seemingly trickled down from the professionals to a somewhat different audience however; landing at the feet of the gravel bike crowd.
Once fitted as stock to the now out of production Sequoia do it all bike, the subsequent Hover bar became the talking point for many - “why not just run a few more spacers?”, “it’s just ugly” and “whyyyyyy!” are just a few of the regular comments I’ve received over the two or so years I’ve used and abused these bars. Well fellow riders, this is why.
The tagline reads ‘15mm rise plus flare’, and like with any good movie poster it gives a pretty good impression of the key offerings of the Hover bar in an instant; before we get to what sets these bars apart though and how they compare to the best handlebars for gravel bikes let’s look at the basics.
This is a set of aluminium handlebars, regular 31.8mm clamping diameter at the stem, tapering to a thinner gauge throughout the rest of the bar for the sake of ergonomics and available in widths of 38cm through to 46cm by increments of 2cm - making the 42cm wide handlebars on test smack bang in the middle of average-town. There’s no claim of dampening built-in, no internal routing; the Hover bar is as plain jane as the next set of butted aluminium steering controls, but then we get to the fit.
The fit is where these bars come into their own. The twelve-degree flare on the drops provides the rider with a more planted stance when down low, and is minimal enough that your chosen lever/shifter combo looks and performs less like a mandible and more like a regular bicycle component. And then there’s the rise, emerging from the stem-like Dracula realised in 6061 butted tubing. The 15mm vertical difference between the clamping point and the tops 'accommodates for a wide fit range’ in the words of Specialized, and while that’s hard to dispute, it maybe doesn’t really sell effectively why running a set of funky looking handlebars is more than just a cry for help and actually a really smart and informed decision.
I mentioned briefly I’ve been riding these for two years; they form part of my customised Sequoia where I’ve changed most of the components to create my ‘one-bike’; It works as a road light tourer, an out and out gravel bike and a commuter super-hauler amongst others. While I - like many an observer - have looked down to my handlebars and lamented for my street credentials, try as I might I cannot find it within to swap these handlebars for others.
The ride is comfortable, and the feel is most certainly that of an aluminium handlebar, stiff and assured but with the smallest amount of compliance. The shape is well thought out too, I’ve never found the 70mm reach to be too long, and that places the drops at 103mm lower within comfortable reach also; and at 42cm wide the bar isn’t winning awards for aerodynamics either but is slim enough that it won’t ruin a group ride and wide enough to comfortably fit a handlebar roll for a weekend adventure, you may see a theme of practicality evolving here.
When affixing that handlebar bag you’ll notice that because of the upward sweep you now have room for your hands on the tops, and the same in the drops thanks to the perfect amount of flare. You may also notice that now your bike is loaded up it has a tendency to fall if left unattended for more than a second, but that’s fine too because the construction has proved robust enough to withstand two years of misgivings thus far, not even a scratch.
Now naysayers and keyboard warriors prepare because here’s where the whole argument becomes tenuous based on what you value. Slammed stems look cool. I said it, and deep down you agree with it too although I don’t expect you to admit that publicly.
The reality is however that many of us lack the flexibility to be riding something that looks like a fighter jet and more than likely rely on a few headset spacers to help us out.
The Hover bar somewhat mitigates that, delivering rise without the need for so many spacers. It could be that you’ve already maxed out all other options and the Hover bar is the final piece to the puzzle, and if so then perfect; but if like me it’s more of a style thing then that’s fine too. Every time I look at my -12 degree stem and it’s parallel to the ground I want to ride my cool looking bike, thanks to the Hover bar I can do that comfortably, and if that’s not a good reason to continue using them then I don’t know what is
For the £50 RRP the Hover handlebar sits alongside many other aluminium bars in the category, and over the two year test period have proved to be excellent value for money standing up unequivocally to the rigours of real-world use, if you can learn to love the shape.
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