Whiskey Components Co. Spano Handlebar Assessment: Gravel Flare Accomplished Proper
There is certainly no shortage of “gravel-specific” handlebars on the market today, almost all with variations on a common theme: wider widths available, short reach, shallow drop, and some degree of flare. Yet despite the explosion of the category, most models ignore the fact that brake lever bodies are nominally positioned vertically.
The new carbon fiber Spano from Whiskey Parts Co follows in the footsteps of Superghiaia from 3T and a few others by incorporating a so-called “progressive” torch. More precisely, the upper part of the drops is flared at a modest 12 ° so as not to affect the hood angle too much, while the lower part sits at a more pronounced 20 °. This still gives riders that extra width below where it's most useful (6 inches more width at the end of the drops compared to the levers, measured center-to-center), but without forcing your wrists into any weird position or creating You dumb reach to the brake levers when you're on the hoods.
The Compound Flare offers the width and control that many gravel riders want, but without the silly lever angle that comes with many flare bars.
The tops are flattened "to help flex and reduce feedback from rougher surfaces," and the compact 68mm reach and 100mm drop are roughly what you'd expect. The ends are also drilled for internal Shimano Di2 cable routing and are available in five widths: 40, 42, 44, 46 and 48 cm (measured from center to center on the hoods), all with a 31.8 mm stem clamp diameter.
The actual weight of my 44cm sample is 239g and the retail price is $ 280 – not as low as I would have liked from a brand like Whiskey, but at least competitive with other options. Availability is limited to North America for now given limited initial production volumes, but Whiskey hopes this will change in the near future.
Out and about with the Spano
First things first: Handlebars are almost as personal as saddles or shoes, so take my comments here with a grain of salt.
I should make it clear right from the start that historically I was not a fan of the many bars on display for gravel. I've never liked the weird leverage angle and haven't always gotten to grips with the concept that the extra leverage from the extra bar width also requires you to go lower – which is the opposite of what I usually want when and when things get hairy will.
In this respect, the Spano seems to me to be a solid compromise and, to be honest, it surprised me a little.
By limiting the top of the flare to a modest 12 °, the levers end at a more natural angle for your hands.
For one, I think Whiskey, 3T, and all the other bar brands that use this type of composite flare design have the right idea. The slight outward slope of the levers created by this design still feels pretty natural to me on the hoods, and the difference between the top and bottom flare angles isn't so extreme that the brake lever blades land in an odd position when you're down in the drop. For me, the more typical exposed handlebars gain versatility in the drops at the expense of comfort on the hoods, but that's not the case here.
Great praise to Whiskey also for the segment-appropriate drop and reach values as well as the tight bend exactly where the levers click into place. While I prefer a big change in body position on road bikes as I transition between the hoods and drops, this setup maintains a more neutral stance for more control without shifting the weight distribution too far forward. However, I would caution against overclocking your levers as this can result in an uncomfortable grip on the brakes.
In terms of comfort, I found the Spano very pleasant, but not for the reasons whiskey claims.
The compact reach and flat drop feel just right for the intended purpose.
There's a bit of flex, sure, but it doesn't seem that dramatically different to me than most of the other carbon dropbars I've used over the years (and I ended up installing my trusty Redshift Sports ShockStop suspension stem to mine usual level of suppleness). What I quickly learned to appreciate, however, is how well the subtle shape fits my hands.
The tops are flat enough to distribute the pressure on the palms of the hands, but not so much that it feels weird holding them. In fact, the overall shape is almost round, taking into account the brake lines (and the derailleur housing if applicable) under the band, which I generally prefer. Also good to see is the tight radius bend at the ends of the tops to maximize the available width and the slight backward movement which makes for a slightly more neutral wrist angle. All in all, it makes the Tops a nice place to hang out if you're into some more casual cruising.
At the bottom of the drops, whiskey has also made the effort to subtly flatten the top and outer edge of the bar, which in turn makes for a more ergonomic shape in my hands and a more pleasant feel. It's by no means a dramatic difference, but one that is still noticeable when you switch back and forth between the Spano and something with a more rounded profile.
Yes or no
People often wonder whether a carbon handlebar makes sense compared to a good aluminum handlebar. This is a worthwhile question, especially given the 4-5x difference in price, the fact that falls are more common when riding gravel, and the annoying tendency for carbon handlebars to break rather than bend in a hard impact. From a purely practical point of view, the answer is pretty obvious.
However, carbon handlebars are generally lighter and drive a little better, and the construction allows a more elaborate design. I would argue that the weight and ride quality benefits are pretty small in this case, but it's the shaping that the Whiskey Spano plays its part in, depending on how much trouble you put your hands on. Personally, I find the Spano's nifty shape more comfortable to hold compared to most aluminum handlebars, but let's face it: some of this is negated simply by laying thick handlebar tape.
All in all, the Spano is a luxury choice. If you've already planned on a carbon gravel bar, this is one of the nicer ones I've used, and I suspect it will be sooner rather than later that more carbon models adopt this type of compound flare design . But otherwise, as good as the Spano seems, most people will still be fine with an aluminum bar.
More information can be found at www.whiskyparts.co.