Not that long ago, flared handlebars were a bit of a novelty. But not any more. Practically every manufacturer has found space in their lineup for a flared bar nowadays, but not everyone has done it well. For many, it is simply a case of making sure they have something in the range and that is it. Predictably, some of the results are distinctly average while others are downright uncomfortable.
We had big expectations for the Ritchey WCS VentureMax flared bars when they arrived on test. There is no doubting Ritchey’s offroad pedigree and we were keen to see if they lived up to their promise.
The Ritchey WCS VentureMax has a 24° flare. That’s a much more pronounced than one of our favourites, the Easton EC70 AX Adventure Bar, and puts the levers at quite a wonky angle. Fortunately it doesn’t take long to become accustomed to it, or for it to become second nature. Beware, your levers are going to be more exposed than on a standard shaped bar. Take care when squeezing through tight gaps, or you could be in for an expensive repair bill!
Our test bars are 44cm width and with the flared drop. The end to end measurement (tip to tip of the drop) is 56.5cm, which makes them very wide indeed. If that isn’t wide enough for you, they also come in a whopping 46cm option. For those of less gargantuan proportions, the VentureMax comes in as small as 38cm.
Ritchey describe the VentureMax as having an ‘ergo bio bend’. In practice, this means it has a shallow drop and, as you follow the bar along its length, it kinks up again, before finally dropping once more. It is easier to understand if you have a look at the profile. As you can see, it looks as though the bars have been in a bit of accident during delivery, but it gives your hands an incredibly comfortable platform when on the drops.
The overall shape feels great and the drop shallow enough to be comfortable for protracted stints in the ‘race’ position. In fact Nigel, of the ADVNTR parish, used them on his London-Edinburgh-London Audax, so there’s your long distance credibility! I used these bars on the Dirty Riever and can confirm that they certainly dampen the trail buzz off road.
The massive flare comes into its own when you ride more technical trails. Consider the current vogue (among mountain bikers) for massively wide handlebars. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that there is a direct correlation between width and control. While obviously a lot less pronounced than on your average MTB, as soon as the trails become twisty and you get into the drops , you will soon be hustling your gravel bike with precision.
I am a self confessed carbon junkie. So I initially greeted the alloy VentureMax rather with a less then fervent ardour! Wrapping the bars with Ritchey’s own WCS Race Gel Bar Tape, meant that concerns over comfort were misplaced. As my Dirty Reiver experience revealed, trail buzz is superbly damped and, when things get seriously bumpy, the subtle flex of the bio-bend makes the drops the place to be for extra comfort. Weight is pretty good for such a wide alloy bar too: 292g against the 355g of the OEM bars fitted to my Bombtrack Hook EXT-C. Shaving weight off a build is always a good thing!
The Ritchey WCS VentureMax offers excellent comfort and the wide flare offers great control when things get technical. If £89 is a little too spendy, consider the Comp version which gives you the same shape for half the price. The penalty? A small increase in weight and perhaps comfort.
Ritchey Components are distributed in the UK by Upgrade Bikes.
Last modified: 24th April 2019