Many years ago, I bought an FSA K-Wing handlebar and instantly fell in love with it. The shallow drops, tops raised above the clamp, and curve of the top flat section were really comfortable, but it was the corner ‘notch’ that made it the perfect bar for me. There is a flat section that holds the heel of your hand and transitions perfectly to the lever hoods. I experimented with double-wrapping from the hood to the corner, and this small section made a plush, comfortable place to perch my hands for countless hours on Colorado’s finest chunky pavement.
A couple of years ago, FSA released a newer variant of the bar under its sister label, Vision. The Metron 4D at first appeared to be the same bar with different graphics, and I bought one because the colorway matched a new bike I was building. When it arrived, I saw immediately how different it was.
Whereas the K-Wing’s bartop swept slightly aft, the Metron swept forward. I found that the sweep opened my elbows and that it relaxed my upper body a bit. The difference was subtle, but very comfortable. I really liked the bar, and eventually one made it to my gravel bike. I think this was around 2016, but as those of a certain vintage are aware, time preceding the last 15 minutes or so tends to blend, so maybe it was 2017 or 1978.
In any case, it was before GRAVEL became a ‘thing’. It was when gravel was a ‘road surface’. In 2018 (or so), FSA showed a new bar targeted at users of this new-fangled road surface, a flared carbon bar called the K-Wing AGX.
Being a fan of both the K-Wing and Metron bars, I wanted one. Plus, it was bright and shiny, and I’m easily distracted by bright-and-shiny objects. Sadly, I had to wait for the 46cm version to be in stock, as the 44cm version was available, but is clearly not large enough to support my substantial bulk. I have had flared drop bars in the past, and really liked them, particularly on singletrack. However, after becoming accustomed to the FSA flat-top design, holding any round bar felt like a piano wire carving through my palm, so I foisted my last flared, round-top drop bars off on Uncle Crusty.
The bar arrived yesterday, and I quickly removed the 44cm Metron 4d off my bike. The immediately obvious difference (besides the flare) is the matte finish of the AGX. I have slipped off the gloss finish of the Metron, so the matte may offer a bit more grip.
The drops appear to be pretty much the same, with a slight kink in the AGX. (Metron is the shiny one).
The 10-degree forward sweep of the tops appears to be the same, although the corner flat spot is much larger on the Metron 4D.
The central clamping area is also very similar, with enough space for a computer mount and bell on opposite sides of the stem.
The flared AGX is 44cm at the top and flares at the bottom. Based on the photos above, you could assume they are the same bar except for the flare. And kind of, they are. There are some really nice subtle differences, though.
Internal hose and cable routing is much better on the AGX (top). Note that the grooves are swept. This makes a really big difference for hose and housing routing. The ‘tunnel’ is also pretty roomy- I was able to push my SRAM hydraulic hoses through with olive and locknut still installed. I did need to use a fine needlenose pliers to help it exit, but it was quite easy, even with the bars loosely installed in the stem. The hose settled into the exit groove very cleanly. I hope that they update the Metron 4D bars with this change.
The clamping area also has cable exits which are probably compatible with their new aero stem design, which allows cables, Di2 cords, and housing to enter the frame thought the stem to the steerer tube. Rounded forms are aero, so I will rely on my impressive shape and bypass this system. For those who are skinny and angular, or who need an aero advantage on fire roads, this is a nice feature for coordinating systems and products.
And finally, the right side also has a pass-through molded in. I like my SRAM eTap, so I will let you Shimano owners play with this. In this photo you can also see the great design of the cable/hose channel.
Swapping the bars was easy, with minimal fuss to get the hoses and eTap blip wires passed under the tunnel. Despite the nice matte surface, I decided to wrap all the way up for added comfort and grip. Plus, I wanted to cover the blips. For this, I selected FSA’s Powertouch bar tape.
I’ve used cork and cork blended tapes for years, and I like them because they are comfortable, relatively inexpensive, and well-proven. That said, I decided to give the Powertouch tape a try, because I could. It’s the benefit of having a job.
The tape is wider than traditional cork, and is made of a rubbery-feeling 3mm thick biodegradable polyurethane, which hopefully won’t start degrading under my sweaty palms. Installation is easy; the tape does not stretch as much as cork, but unlike traditional tapes, this has a grippy silicone-like strip instead of adhesive. The strip holds the bar, and allows you to wrap and re-wrap without tearing the edge of the tape. The pack did not include the short pieces for the shifter clamps, so I snipped off about 2″ and used that. I overlapped fairly tightly to keep things cushiony, but I think you could open the spacing and go all the way to the stem if so desired. There was plenty of tape to get past to the center of the tops, and that’s where the remarkable part appears: the finishing tape.
Included in the box are two pieces of finishing tape, made of a similar material, and with adhesive on the back. They are stretchier than the bar tape, and went all the way around the flat bar with some overlap. In all my years of fussing with bikes, I’ve never used the finishing tape, mainly because it’s less adhesive than the glue on an envelope. And no, licking it does not help. Instead, throwing the finishing tape into the trash and using Scotch electrical tape is the traditional method, but with Powertouch, the finishing tape actually works.
Ride quality: that’s what it’s all about, really, and it’s excellent. I love the K-Wing and Metron 4D bars for their feel both in my hands and on the road (and road-like surfaces). This bar has a bit of vertical flex, and the angle of the flare is comfortable. It’s not as extreme as my previous pair of flared alloy drop bars (they were some variation of a WTB Dirt Drop or clone thereof), and the hoods are not kinked sideways as they were on the alloy bars. Holding the ends of the drops in really rough stuff, you can feel a gentle vertical flex, and this is my preferred position in bouncy tracks where I don’t need to touch the brakes. In the drops with one finger on the levers is also comfortable, and the flare makes it a bit easier to control the bike on moderate singletrack. Resting both on the flat tops as well as the sculpted corners is great, and both positions are easy to keep your hands relaxed. It’ll take me a bit of time to get used to the blip position (they were previously stuck to strips of velcro as I played with the ideal location), but since the Powertouch tape isn’t stuck to the bar, I can always unwrap without shredding the tape. The next test is to see how the tape travels in my Co-Motion Copilot case, particularly if I end up weaving the bar through the spokes of a wheel (I don’t really know how it will pack up yet).
UPDATE August 13, 2019: I have more rides on these bars and am very happy with them. The flare is wide enough to add stability and control on singletrack, and the upper bar does not contact my wrists while I am in the lower part of the drops. Overall, I find the bar to be very comfortable, even to the point where I might consider using it on my roadbike. Since the flare is not super-wide, it also packs in my travel case pretty easily- there’s not a significant difference in packing. One side goes through the spokes of one wheel, while the other goes outboard of the tire, basically the same as the original Metron 4d.