The Bontrager GR Elite is a handlebar aimed at gravel bikes that gives geometry numbers that will be familiar but a slightly different shape. The aluminium bar comes with EVA foam pads for the flat tops that aim to improve comfort and come at a price that makes them good value.
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The GR Elite is available in widths of 38cm up to 44cm at 2cm intervals, covering most riders preferences except those who prefer a very wide handlebar. The 42cm bar that we have on test weighs 336g, a little heavier than claimed and around average, but not exceptional, even for an aluminium bar.
Designed for gravel riding, the GR Elite features 13-degrees of flare with all sizes with 75mm reach and 128mm drop. These figures do not stand out (except for the laser etching on the bar end section), but the shape of the bar does vary slightly to others. The shape is similar to a road handlebar through the top and into the start of the bend, with the flare that kicks out more towards the bottom of the bar. While not as dramatic as the 3T Superghiaia, it follows the same principle of keeping the shape of a more traditional bar that allows the levers to be mounted vertically but still has the wider bottom section for extra control downhill or simply for comfort. An extra potential benefit of the shape will be that the shifters will not be angled out to make them easier to catch and mark when resting the bike on walls.
The flat clamp area stays wide for enough width to clamp various items if required on our 42cm wide bars at least. After this clamp area, the bar diameter reduces and is quite narrow with indents within the alloy bar that aim to give space to route the cables and make them more comfortable. At times during testing, I had a GPS mount, light mount bracket, and additional GoPro style mount with just enough space available before the bar narrows at the point the bar tape will most likely begin. I found them partially successful, but I was still able to feel the rounded gear and brake cable through generously thick bar tape.
There are laser-etched markings on the bend to help mount the levers in identical places on each side. However, they extend very far into the drops and are likely to be far lower than most people need. I mounted mine at the very top marking with the hoods set up to continue a flat transition to the hoods, and this is similar to most other handlebars that I have used and tested that also feature similar markings. For anyone who likes to have the hoods pointing upwards, you may run out of markings to line up.
I doubt many riders who are looking at budget-friendly handlebars will be interested in having wiring to suit a Shimano EW-RS10 bar-end Di2 junction box. Still, if you do, then you are in luck as the GR Elite has the required hole to fit one. This is simply a small circular hole close to the end of the bar that allows the di2 cable to exit and route to the shifter, and if you don't run Di2, there is no downside to it being there. The bar does not support any other form of internal gear routing, although this is not something that would be expected on what is a budget handlebar.
The handlebar comes with EVA isozone pads for the top section of the handlebar, which is stuck down before the bars are wrapped. It adds a bit of thickness and is designed to reduce vibrations, and while it can be somewhat effective, the positioning is not an area of the bar used that often, especially when comfort is most likely to be needed. If comfort is a priority, I'd simply recommend a good quality handlebar tape with padding within it.
Handlebar shape and comfort is often a very personal affair, and I found the bend to the end of the drops a little too tight, with the flare kicking out at an angle that you can feel and while this might suit some, for me, I prefer the more standard flare shape.
The retail price of £65 does put it against several other options, including the PRO Discover 12 handlebar, but a little cheaper than the Ritchey Butano that retails at £83, although available for the same price currently.
The Bontrager GR Elite is a handlebar that offers reasonable overall value with weight and comfort that sit among other similar bars. The shape is slightly different to some others, and it could be a love/hate thing or simply takes some time to adjust to the shape. It is a reasonable bar for the money with all popular widths covered and a nice clean finish.