Ritchey’s WCS alloy handlebars come in a number of different varieties. There’s the Neo Classic that we’ve got here, the Logic II and the Evo Curve, which are also £77 each, and the Streem II, which is a little more expensive at £83. I don’t want to be too reductionist, but to simplify things the essential difference between all four bars is the type of bend in the drops, except for the Streem II, which has a more aero profile to it.
Weight obviously varies depending on size of bar, length of reach and depth of drop, but the claimed range for Richey’s alloy bars is between 233-275g. The Neo Classic had a claimed weight of 260g, and our 42cm bar was almost bang on, coming in at 263g. All in all, that’s pretty good for an alloy bar.
Put it this way, if you buy Ritchey’s £230 Carbon Evo Curve bar, you’ll save 40g, as they weigh in at 220g. Go a step further and aim for the very top of the range – the Superlogic II bar – and they tip the scales at a claimed 190g for an outlay of £265. What that means is that for £188 more, you save 70g which roughly translates to just over £2.60 per gram saved. Now the Superlogic II bars and stem are fantastic, beautiful bits of kit and incredibly stiff, but it’s a prime example of how quickly returns can diminish.
Straight out of the proverbial box, what that struck me most about these was the feel. They’re aluminium, but feel so close to being carbon that we had to double check. Part of this is the gorgeous ‘blatte’ (matte black) finish, which feels under the fingers much more like carbon than your bog standard set of OEM alloy bars. Not that it has much to do with performance, mind you, but they look superb for a comparatively budget set of bars. If that’s not to your liking then the Neo Classic is also available at the other end of the black colour palette in a ‘wet black’ finish.
We tested these bars in conjunction with a 110mm Ritchey WCS c220 alloy stem, that came in at 129g (1g heavier than the claimed weight for the £220 Superlogic stem for anybody that might be interested). Interestingly, the c220 stem gets its name from the slightly unusual clamping system. The back half of the stem wraps around 220 degrees of the bar, and the front plate fits in for the other 140 degrees. This means that the screws are inserted at upward and downward angles (for top and bottom respectively) and the pressure applied on the bar is less like the front to back crushing of standard stems. It’s not such an issue for alloy bars, but if you were to use this stem with a carbon bar, it would, in theory, be harder to damage the bar by over clamping.
Back to the handlebar, and the Neo Classic has a 73mm reach and 128mm drop, with a traditional round bend. The drops extend quite far as well, which is something I’ve always preferred, as it effectively gives you two flat sections to rest your hands on when you’re riding along, taking pressure off the wrists. It’s a sensible reach/drop combo – short and shallow – and it means you don’t have to have the flexibility or riding style of the pros in order to get the most out of the handlebar.
The bend of the drops is very natural, which means there are plenty of options when it comes to where you rest your hands, although Ritchey do have the Logic II bars (mentioned at the top) if you wanted something with a more ergo-styled drop. There’s plenty of space on the tops if you want to rest your hands there too, and the 31.8mm, rounded central section is designed to make it easy to attach computer mounts, lights and so on, as well as clamping the stem.
All this combined to mean that we had no comfort issues at all riding the Neo Classic. While they’re not quite ‘shallow drop’ in compact bar terms, the 132mm is a perfectly sensible amount, and certainly makes it comfortable to ride in the drops, meaning I used them more. And that’s basically what you need to go for with handlebars. Sure, having more drop than Adam Hansen might look cool, but if you never get down on them for more than two minutes at a time because your hands, back or anything else hurts, then you may as well just chop them off. Find something comfortable and practical and stick with it. Plus, braking is easier from the drops in the sense that the further away from the pivot of the brake lever you are, the less force you need to apply to get a powerful response (that’s Archimedes’ law of the lever in action, right there).
And there’s nothing to worry about in terms of stiffness either. Even out of the saddle on the drops really going for it there was nothing that suggests anyone short of Andre Greipel could get these to flex. Plus, a lot of pros do actually ride aluminium bars – partly because their bikes need to reach the weight limit, and partly because they’re a little more crash-friendly (bending, not breaking) – and if someone sprinting in the pro peloton finds them good enough then the stiffness differences between aluminium and carbon aren’t anything that should keep me awake at night.
This is a superb handlebar. So good, in fact, that I’m tempted to wonder if Ritchey have shot themselves in the foot because there’s no need to consider going big and grabbing a set of their £200 bars when you can get this much quality for half the price – unless, of course, you’re dead set on carbon fibre. Plus, with four different styles and reach/drop profiles available over the four aluminium models I mentioned at the top, there’s almost certainly something for everyone in the range (all four are made from the same triple-butted 7050 alloy). Pair the handlebar up with the Ritchey WCS C220 stem (also £77) and you have an excellent cockpit that would grace almost any ride, and make for a superb upgrade to an off the shelf bike.