Bontrager Elite GR Handlebars – by Greg Gentle

Bontrager GR Elite Gravel Handlebar $99

A handful of products launched in 2021 really hit the mark for innovation and application. For this guy, one product stood out against the rest. Released in October, the GR Elite Gravel Handlebar quickly became my favorite test product for 2021.

At a glance, there is nothing revolutionary about the design and materials. However, a closer look reveals some unique features like Di2 routing for a bar end junction box and IsoZone EVA pads for a cushioned top bar. Constructed with 6061-T6 Alloy, the GR Elite bars are lightweight and affordably priced at $99.

Other features found on the GR Elite Handlebars

  • Available in 38, 40, 42, and 44cm widths
  • Light weight: (44cm bars weigh in at 330grams)                  
  • 13-degree flare, 75mm reach, 128mm drop
  • Low cost compared to expensive carbon bars

The GR Elite Handlebar hits the Goldilocks zone for my riding style. I’ve tried several flared bars in a variety of sizes. I typically ride a 42 or 44 cm drop bar on my bikes dabbling with a 48cm Thompson adventure bar and Salsa’s Woodchippers in the past.

While I like the variability of hand positioning offered by flared bars, I find the tweaked shifter placement to be less than desirable. I ride the hoods a lot and simply can’t tolerate the ergonomics of angled shifters.  The 13-degree flare on the GR Elite bars is enough to provide stability for off-camber, sketchy off-road action without compromising shifter positioning. It feels like my road bike set up with the advantages afforded by a flared adventure bar: varied hand positioning and rock-solid control under rough conditions.

I set up the GR Elite bars on my singlespeed Twin Six Rando. As a rule, I don’t try out new products on race day however the immediate comfort and feel I had from these bars gave me the confidence to give them a go. The Extra Filthy 100 followed by the Heck of the North provided over 200 miles of uninterrupted adventure to test out the GR Elite Bars. From the bone-jarring tote roads and creek crossings on The Heck course to the leg ripping climbs and long stretches of Minnesota gravel on The Filthy course, the GR Elite bars gave me confidence and comfort for seven to eight hours on the bike.

Final word

Riders looking for an adventure drop bar that provides all the advantages of a flared bar without contorting shifter positions and won’t empty your wallet should give the GR Elite Handlebars from Bontrager a hard look. Because I like fancy things, I’d like to see Bontrager offer the GR Elite Handlebar in a carbon edition for 2022.

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Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.