Weight weenies rejoice, the Ritchey VentureMax is now available in carbon fibre! James bolts a set onto his test rig and hits the gravel.
When first unveiled, Ritchey’s Venturemax flared bars probably caused a few die hard roadies to faint. A handlebar designed specifically for off-road riding rather than a rehash of traditional road thinking would have been too cavalier for some. Those more accustomed to riding on dirt liked what they saw.
Fast forward to the present day and the Ritchey VentureMax is a firm favourite with the bikepacking crowd and even racing snakes have seen the benefit in it’s broad flare for control in the technical stuff. With the ‘fast and light’ brigade in mind, Ritchey took the next logical step reimagined the WCS VentureMax in carbon.
Available in 4 sizes ranging from 400mm, 420mm, 460mm and as tested here, 440mm. Our test bars weighed in at 240g saving around 50g over the WCS alloy version. The graphics are typically Ritchey. Subtle, stylish and should suit numerous bikes without making any fashion faux pas or colour clashes.
Ritchey apply the same concept as the original alloy design with 76mm of reach, 102mm drop, flare is 24° and 6° of sweep. Switching to carbon has enabled Ritchey to add full internal cable routing and drilling for a Shimano Di2 junction box.
Free of the limitations of bending pipes, the carbon version introduces some swoopy new features. The most noticable is the 38x20mm aero top wing to give a broader perch for your palms when hacking along. Paired with the Bio-bend of the original, the Ritchey Carbon WCS VentureMax boasts a multitude of hand positions.
I installed the VentureMax on my Bombtrack Hook EXT with SRAM Force levers and shifters. Other than the internal routing, which involved a multitude of swearing, cursing and tool throwing, the bars are simple to set. You could of course skip the internal routing, but for a clean look, it is definitely worth the extra effort. I chose to finish the bars with a wrap of LizardSkins DSP 2.5 tape for cushion and grip.
One thing to note with the flat top profile of the aero section is that it leaves precious little bar space for mounts. If you run a mount for your light and another for your GPS, then that’s about all you’ll get. I ditched the out-front mount for a stem mount to free up precious real estate for accessories.
With a couple hundred miles on the bars over different types of terrain, I can say that I have gotten to know them pretty well. The main feature of the VentureMax whatever alloy or carbon, is the ergonomic Bio-bend in the drop. There are two distinct camps, those who love it and those who just hate the shape. They curve in the drop does dictate a lot as to where your hands must be instead of allowing you to position them where you instinctively choose. It’s worth experimenting with tilt angle to find your perfect position – setup with the VentureMax is not for the impatient!
Although the aero top makes it a bind for accessories, the shape more than makes up for itself as the perfect palm rest. Just having extra hand positions is good for any long-haul ride, but the additional width and different shape of the tops is an added benefit.
The carbon construction has enough give to mute the jarring of bumps and vibrations while still being plenty stiff enough for out-the-saddle efforts. The fit and feel is superb and the Bio-bend gives an extra degree of comfort to your palms when in the drops. Once you get it tweaked, it isn’t obtrusive and just somehow… works.
The width of the VentureMax is much broader than standard bars. The width is measured at the initial bend rather than at the hood. Rather than being unwieldy, the bars are a choice for gravel cyclists who relish hustling their bike through more technical terrain and twisty singletrack. I usually head for the drops as soon as things get technical. But even on the hoods I found myself in more control of the bike than with more road biased styles.
The Ritchey Carbon WCS VentureMax has the magic combination of generous flare and just the right level of sweep to differentiate it from more ‘wacky’ flared bars. The balance of comfort and and useful hand positions makes them a versatile bar and the lighter weight and stiffness makes them more attractive to the racer fraternity. The VentureMax does require more fine tuning due to the Bio-bend, but the results are well worth the effort.
Hopping between this carbon model and an alloy WCS version I’ll be honest, I couldn’t spot any discernible change in ride comfort. Maybe a little less vibration… maybe. Though the flattened tops are a nicer place to be than on the original. The real reason you’d splash near £260 on these is for trimming grams over the alloy version. That’s significantly cheaper than the 3T Superghiaia, which is similarly broad, flared and carbon.
Bikepackers will have less concerns about marginal gains and for that, Ritchey have something else. The WCS VentureMax XL, measuring a broad 52cm across. Think of the bag you could mount on that!
Ritchey WCS Carbon VentureMax£259.95
Last modified: 26th March 2020