We know, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But there are some questions you might not want to ask your local shop or riding buddies. AASQ is our weekly series where we get to the bottom of your questions – serious or otherwise. This time it’s all about gravel bars with Ritchey Logic! Hit the link at the bottom of the post to submit your own question.
You asked, Ritchey delivered! Fergus Tanaka at Ritchey Logic has the answers to all of your gravel bar technology, fit and set-up questions right here. He recorded a video to answer ten of his favorite questions.
Will an alloy gravel bar ever be as comfortable as a carbon counterpart? How wide is too wide? And how exactly does bar width and drop flare relate to the recommended stem length?
Fergus answers these questions and more in this week’s Ask A Stupid Question! You guys threw in a couple curve ball questions too – check out Fergus’s face when someone asks about a Ritchey full suspension steel frame…
Was your question not answered in this video? Don’t worry! You’ll find answers to more reader questions below!
Gravel Bar Technology & Fit Questions
What is the best way to measure/compare a flared drop bar? I want to be able to compare my position on the hoods to a regular straight set of drops. But, when I think about leverage I am really thinking about my position in the drops, not the outside-to-outside position at the ends where I don’t ride, since you can’t reach the brakes from there.
Ritchey: We measure our gravel bars at the initial bend before the hood, so our bars at the hood are about 1cm wider than stated. If you can, you want to compare your hood to hood measurement between your current favorite set up and your new gravel set up and adjust from there. Most people ride a size wider on their gravel set up than on their road.
How does gravel bar flare affect the ergonomics of your brake levers? I can’t imagine any of them were designed to be angled out at 25°! Does it impact one group set more than others, maybe those with more squared edges to the hoods that increase pressure on your hands? Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo, Rotor?
Ritchey: Shimano seem to be pretty good with ergonomics of their hood and lever in relation to the drop of a gravel bar. SRAM ones seem to stick out a little, but I don’t mind it. Campagnolo run similar to Shimano, in that their ergonomics seem unaffected by the flare. But, to be honest, I haven’t run anything more than 12 degrees of flare with them. Rotor, I’m unsure. Maybe someone in the comments has experience with them?
I see a lot of aero bars on adventure racing bikes. Should I put TT extensions on my gravel bike too? What options do I have, and is it safe to hang a handlebar bag on them and then go ride bumpy dirt & gravel roads?
Ritchey: The aero bars on gravel or even shorter TT extensions, like our Sliver mini clip-ons, seem to have been introduced as a result of these longer gravel races of 100+ miles. Some people will say they’re a life saver, while purists may beg to differ. If you think you need aero gain, do it! More positions on your bike isn’t bad, in my opinion. Not sure I’d hang a bar bag much further out than where the stem clamps – you want to keep that weight close to you and your frame.
Last year I had 42cm ErgoMax bars on an all-road bike, and occasionally felt the (R9120) brake hoods were a little narrower than ideal, due to the slope. However, the flat tops were great! Now I need some bars to go on a drop bar MTB, and am wondering about the VentureMax WCS v2, or perhaps the Beacon. I’d like to keep the drops as high as possible without the tops getting too high, so less drop would be good. The VentureMax has flat tops (good) while the Beacon has less drop but more flare and I can’t tell what shape the tops are from pictures. I’d prefer the tops of the (Shimano) hoods to be ~42cm apart. Suggestions?
Ritchey: If you like the top section of the ErgoMax, go with the VentureMax. It is also a shallow drop, so you won’t have to worry about going too deep when changing hand positions from the hoods to the drops.
I’m guessing a wider bar would give me more control on rough roads, but for the long stretches of straight pedaling, would having my hands out wider cause shoulder or arm fatigue more quickly? And how much wider should I go compared to my regular road bike’s bar width?
Ritchey: Most people start by going a size up from their road set up with their gravel bike. If you go for a bar like the VentureMax, you’ll want to get a size shorter stem to accommodate for the width of the drop of the bar and keeping a similar relationship to the front end of your bike. You might also benefit from using TT extensions like the person above was asking about.
I’ve started seeing some handlebars getting really abrupt, almost right-angle bends at the ends, where they go from the flats to the hoods. All of your bars seem very rounded at that point, what’s better?
Ritchey: If you’re referring to that initial bend, then we’re talking about forearm clearance on your bar. We think our design is better, but I’m sure someone else feels differently. Nothing wrong with that.
How are drop bar width and stem length related? Wider the bar shorter the stem?
Ritchey: Great question. Yeah, that’s an accurate assessment. The wider you go, the more you diminish your reach, so you’ll want to accommodate for that with a shorter stem.
Are you planning to introduce Beacon XL? Love mine in 460mm, but wouldn’t mind wider handlebars…
I currently use two handlebars for my gravel bike. One is a conventional compact road bar, and the other a gravel bar with 15 degrees flare. The road bar has a comfortable bracket position but doesn’t have the stability in the drops. Oppositely, the gravel bar has a stable drop position, but the brackets are angled and are uncomfortable on long rides. I think a handlebar like the 3T Ghiaia, or the new Enve AR, with small to no flare, and an out sweep from under the brackets would be my dream bar, but they are super expensive, and don’t have enough mounting space at the center of the tops, either. Do you have any plans to make a gravel bar with a similar shape, or any other recommendations?
Ritchey: I had to look up those bars. Cool to see all the options in the market. Sounds like you want a very shallow bar with a lot of clearance for your hands. We can look into it, but no promises. My only recommendation would be to try as many bars as you can. Hopefully you have a local bike shop or two who may stock some bar options – including Ritchey.
When will we see a WCS carbon Curve with a flat top and no back sweep (I’m not a fan of the EvoCurve)?
Ritchey: Gosh, where were you 2 years ago? We don’t offer the Carbon Curve anymore. There might be some old stock somewhere, but as of right now we’re out.
Is vibration dampening a marketing hype?
Ritchey: Pepsi clear was marketing hype. Not having numb hands is all too real. If you compare extremes, like using a track specific bar like the Nitto B127 compared to the Carbon VentureMax, there are noticeable differences in ride quality.
Granted, they are for very different purposes, but material and design go a long way when talking about vibration dampening. So, even comparing our WCS alloy EvoCurve and its carbon counterpart, I’d put dollars to donuts you’d notice the dampening qualities of carbon over alloy.
I want to build a Ritchey Outback 2020 and have no idea what to do when it comes to it. Currently I ride a 2010 Raleigh Record Ace size 53cm and it’s too small (I’m 5′ 10″ with a 31″ inseam and weigh 160lbs). I live in NYC, but my goal is to ride all around the parks here, trails upstate and in NJ. I need to know what size frame, handlebar width, stem, wheels and group set to get. The entire set up. This stuff can be intimidating!
Ritchey: Oh boy, can it ever be overwhelming! There is a lot to choose from and I get how that can be daunting. While I can make a recommendation for you (large, 90mm stem, 42cm bar and WCS Zeta Disc), your trusted local bike shop would be a good resource for dialing in your fit and what group you may prefer. As always, you can shoot us questions on our info line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Will the Butano handlebar become available in a carbon version? Are you comfortable safety wise with carbon bars in the gravel market?
Ritchey: I keep asking for a carbon Butano *fingers crossed*. And yeah, carbon bars on gravel? They’re great!
Not a question per se but, I would love to see a Ritchey option for multiple position alt bars like the Surly Moloko, Velo Orange Crazy Bars and Koga Denham. Maybe something in carbon fiber and aluminum for different options. The Koyote is neat but a little too much sweep and no forward/aero bar-esque position.
Ritchey: Oh boy.
Thanks to Fergus Tanaka from Ritchey Logic for helping us get all the answers above! Got a question of your own? Click here to use the AASQ form to submit questions on any cycling-related topic of your choice, and we’ll get the experts to answer them for you!