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Ritchey has gone wide with the XL version of its WCS Venturemax handlebar, a massive 52cm at the hoods to be precise! Designed for the bikepacker, the Venturemax XL brings extra stability and loads of hand positions – you'll need a lot of bar tape, though.
Dave tested the standard width WCS Venturemax bar (44cm) back in 2016 and, to be fair, this XL version isn't much different.
You are getting a shallow drop, with multiple, comfortable hand positions throughout. I especially liked the 'ergo bio' bend at the bottom of the drops where the bar kicks back up to create a sort of flat section to rest your hands. I used this a lot, most notably during long, flat sections into the wind.
If you've bought a gravel/adventure bike over the last couple of years then it more than likely came with a flared handlebar, where the drops sit outboard of the hoods. The reason for this is that the wider stance you get when riding in the drops gives you more stability thanks to the way it changes your weight distribution, and it also slows the steering down a touch – perfect when you are moving at speed on a loose surface and you don't want any twitchiness.
Loading a bike up with bags/racks/panniers changes the way it behaves, and this is why Ritchey has developed the Venturemax XL. (The photo below shows the width in comparison to the 44cm Venturemax.)
It really steadies the steering when descending and the huge 24-degree flare from hood to drop means your hand position puts a lot less stress on your wrist when steering and braking; well, it did for me anyway.
When riding on the hoods, the wide position seemed to cause less fatigue in my shoulders, too, when negotiating rough terrain – the width of the bar also allows a decent amount of flex, promoting comfort.
As well as the flared drops, the top of the bar kicks back towards you by 4.6 degrees either side, which reduces the reach to the bar.
There is also loads of room for bar bags, lights, GPS devices and so on with the 140mm central round section.
If you are spending most of your time off-road on large, open gravel trails, then to be honest there aren't many downsides. When you first fit it to your bike you are going to need to redo the gear cables and hydraulic brake system hoses because of the extra distance needed to get from the components to the levers. You'll need to choose your bar tape carefully as well.
Other than that, if you find yourself in a wooded section on a trail you really need to watch the distance between trees and things – it's easy to forget how wide this bar is, a massive 647mm at its widest!
It's the same in an urban environment – filtering through traffic can be a challenge and the steering can often feel a little ponderous at low speeds.
Tight turns need to be well planned too.
Priced at £95, the Venturemax XL isn't cheap, and unlike most components in Ritchey's range this bar doesn't come in different materials to lower the price, like a Comp option rather than just this WCS one.
Quality gravel bars do command this sort of price though. The Deda Gravel Zero 100 comes in at £94.99. The one I tested was 42cm wide, so with the Venturemax XL you are at least getting a lot more material for your money.
Overall, if you spend a lot of time out in the wilds with a fully loaded bike then you will definitely see the advantages of going wide. The Venturemax XL is also a very well made and comfortable handlebar.
Top quality gravel bar that offers plenty of stiffness and comfortable hand positions
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey WCS Venturemax XL handlebar
Size tested: 52cm
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Ritchey says, "Tom Ritchey has been riding off-road and riding far - and designing products for such adventures - decades before anyone thought to call it "gravel riding" or "bikepacking." His real-life experiences directly inform every product made by Ritchey – such as the beloved VentureMax handlebar. With its short reach, shallow drop and purposeful flare, the original VentureMax offers comfort and confidence to legions of riders looking to settle in and have some fun on those dirty drop bar adventures.
'Bikepacking adventures demand components that deliver unmatched comfort, practical features and logical design. Taking the idea of the original alloy WCS VentureMax to the next level, or rather width, the WCS VentureMax XL features all of the goodness of the original bar but widens it way up to a full 52cm. Appealing especially to the bikepacking community, the WCS VentureMax XL offers ergonomic tops for a more comfortable hand position, and the wider grip ensures more off-road control and stability when fully-loaded. Plus, there is plenty of real estate on either side of the stem for mounting accessories and bags. Additionally, the WCS VentureMax XL also features a 4.6° back sweep, aero-shaped 38x22.5mm tops, and drilling for a Shimano EW-RS910 junction box.
'While the 52cm WCS VentureMax XL boasts a number of attributes including multiple hand positions, it's the return of the Bio-bend in the drop adds yet another design element that is practical and comfortable for whatever surface you choose to ride upon and for however long your adventure endures."
It does what it is designed to do very well.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: triple-butted 7050 alloy
Bend style: Ergo Bio-Bend
Top style: ergonomic
Drop flare: 24°
Flare out: 6°
Back sweep: 4.6°
Clamp diameter: 31.8mm
Accessory mount diameter: 31.8mm
Compatible with Shimano EW-RS910 junction box
Clip-On compatibility: yes
Other features: C260 compatible
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Ritchey bar works really well when you are meandering along on wide open gravel tracks.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Loads of choice for hand positions.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Tight turns can catch you out.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There aren't that many extra wide gravel bars on the market, but those there are tend to cost around the £100 mark. PNW's Coast is a bargain at £66 though.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The WCS Venturemax is very well made and comes with loads of neat design features to create a very comfortable bar.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!