Coefficient Wave handlebar review: An open mind, relaxed wrists
The cycling world is often a slave to fashion: what’s cool, what looks right, what’s acceptable — and what isn’t any of the above. This has always seemed especially true in the road world, where the “rules” may as well be gospel.
The Coefficient Wave handlebar is decidedly unfashionable with its wacky angled tops, and no doubt, there are plenty of riders who wouldn’t give this thing the time of day. But it’s also super comfortable to ride, and I personally don’t care what anyone else thinks of me.
Screw the rules.
Humor me for a moment.
Whether you’re standing or sitting, allow your arms to hang at rest by your side. Then, bend them at the elbow so your arms are now at a 90° angle, but leave your wrists relaxed.
Notice the orientation of your hands? Does it seem like it should be more natural to grab a straight section of tube with those hands, or does it seem like something else might be more appropriate. Now, think about how the tops of your current road handlebars are shaped — or, more likely, not — and then think about whether that really makes sense.
It’s from that point forward that the shape of the Wave handlebar suddenly starts to make more sense, no?
A mix of conventional and unconventional
The Wave may look funny, but it’s not really all that different from standard road drop handlebars when you dissect its design.
Instead of tops that go across from left to right in a straight line, they’re swept rearward by 12°, and downward by 15°, in order to better match where your wrists naturally want to go. The cross-section is also ovalized to help fill your palms when your fingers are wrapped around the bar.
Despite appearances, the drops are in the same place they normally would be, with a very conventional anatomic bend, 120mm of drop, and 77mm of reach. There’s also a slight 1.5° of outward flare to the drops. Sitting in the middle of it all is a standard 31.8mm clamp area (with enough room to attach most accessories, but not aero bars).
The first time I rested my hands on the tops during a ride was eye-opening. Indeed, it just felt … better. The kink on the backside of the bar even provides a natural place for your thumbs, and at least for my large hands, the cross-section felt just right. That position is raised slightly higher than it would be with a conventional bar, but that’s just fine with me; I usually prefer bars with a more dramatic difference in position between the tops and the drops than what is typically offered, anyway.
And before you make comparisons with Specialized’s Hover and Aerofly bars, keep in mind that in both of those cases, the entirety of those models are raised or lowered relative to the stem clamp area, not just the tops.
I can’t say I was a big fan of the Wave’s drop shape, though, as I generally prefer something with a more traditional bend. As is, the Wave drops get you down lower, but no further out, and as with any anatomic bend like this, it can be difficult to reach the brake levers given how your hands are positioned. But to be fair, that’s a matter of personal preference, so take that criticism with a grain of salt.
Coefficient also fits the Wave with little divots in the drops, saying they provide another resting place for your thumbs when you’re charging hard. I’ll agree they are kind of neat, but hardly a make-or-break feature. I could have gone either way here.
More objectionable is how the cables are internally routed, though. As you can imagine, the shape of the tops can make it tricky to feed housing through, particularly given that the interior of the Wave doesn’t seem to be particularly smooth up there. The exit holes also place the housing at somewhat awkward locations and produce bigger loops than I’d prefer. Thankfully, Coefficient has already revised the exit holes to be closer to the stem clamp, where they should be.
Stiffness-wise, the Wave seems about decidedly average as compared to other high-end carbon fiber road handlebars: it’s neither noticeably soft and flexy, nor overly stiff. It’s impressively light, however, at just 192g for my 40cm-wide (center-to-center) sample. And as for things like long-term durability, fatigue strength, and impact resistance, well, let’s just say you’re going to have to take a leap of faith and hope that Coefficient’s manufacturing partners have done their homework.
Coefficient offers the Wave in four widths: 38, 40, 42, and 44cm (all measured center-to-center, at the hoods). Retail price is US$329 / AU$475 / £260 / €295. Currently, the Wave is only available consumer-direct.
The images I initially posted to my Instagram account produced the expected response (“Absolutely no reason to keep an open mind here.” “Is it another solution looking for a problem?” “Pre smashed into your garage.” “There should probably be a rule against having these bars and an SMP saddle on the same bike.”). But it also elicited a response from Zidaz Izaz, an entrepreneur with a shockingly similar handlebar that he’s been selling in Australia since 2017 called the Eyropro, and he supposedly first prototyped the concept back in 1992. Visually, it’s impossible not to see the similarities.
“It is more than likely Coefficient has ripped off my handlebar design, which is not cool,” Izaz told me. “As you know, my design has a long history and I have many people who can vouch for how we put the final design together. I feel deeply hurt and offended by this company.”
Of course, I contacted the folks at Coefficient about this, and they claimed to have known nothing about the Eyropro bar.
“This is a surprise as we also have a patent pending and neither our patent attorney nor the patent office uncovered Eyropro during due diligence,” said Coefficient COO Rick Sutton (who also happens to be one of the co-founders of the Sea Otter Classic).
Upon further inspection, Sutton said that there appeared to only have been an Australian design patent for Eyropro, which was abandoned some time this year, and no paperwork was ever filed outside of Australia until after this issue came to light.
“We had a meeting with our patent attorney and, with confidence, we are continuing to promote and sell our Wave handlebar with no concern that we are infringing on Eyropro’s USA design patent and design registration (not a patent) in the EU,” he said. “It seems a great idea blossomed twice, at about the same time and half a world apart.”
Izaz, naturally, doesn’t see it the same way.
So what really happened here? While it’s certainly possible that Coefficient CEO and Wave inventor Don Sheff lifted Zidaz’s concept, there are also plenty of examples in history of products with uncannily similar appearances being legitimately conceived independently. There’s even a term for this phenomenon: multiple discovery, or simultaneous invention.
I am a firm believer in the multiple discovery phenomenon (I even independently came up with a stem alignment tool around the same time as Tune’s Spurtreu), but I also can’t help but question the origins of the Wave design given how far back Eyropro’s concept dates. But then again, in fairness to Coefficient, it also seems unlikely that the people involved would have based the entire company’s existence on stolen intellectual property, particularly in this day and age when information travels so quickly and freely via social media.
So what really happened here? Your guess is as good as mine on this one, and I’m not in a position to pass judgment. I’m often one to assign benefit of the doubt, but the fact of the matter is this is something the lawyers are going to have to figure out.
Stamp of approval
Legal matters aside, I have to admit I’m convinced about the efficacy of the Wave handlebar design; goofy or not, it’s mighty comfy, and I’m personally not going to let some silly accepted conventions dissuade me from using a product that clearly has something good to offer. And at this point, I’m far too busy — and far too unmotivated — to pull that Wave sample off my bike to switch to something more conventional, so unless Coefficient wants this thing back, it’s there to stay for the foreseeable future.
Whether or not you’re that willing to take a chance is another question I can’t answer. But I’m reminded yet again that, sometimes, it’s good to keep an open mind because the result might be pleasantly surprising.
Screw the rules, indeed.