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The Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL is a fabulously wide, ergonomic bar that's brilliantly suited to long days, rough trails and wide luggage. At a great price and with the most comfortable drops I've ever ridden, it's a winner on all fronts.
As is the case with tyres, when it comes to handlebars for cycling fast on rough surfaces, wider is better. And at 615mm at the drops, the Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL is one of the widest drop bars around. I remember racing national-level downhill courses in full Dainese body armour with triple-clamp forks using narrower bars – this sucker is wider than Del Boy trying to shift a container of genuine-only-one-user PPE.
Stu really liked the top-spec WCS version of the Venturemax XL. The €99.95 WCS is triple-butted 7050 alloy and weighs 325g compared with the €54.95 Comp's double-butted 6061 alloy and 350g. So in going for the WCS-spec bar you're paying €45 to save 25g. That's €1.80 per gram.
The Comp Venturemax XL comes in the one 'XL' size of 52cm, as measured at the hoods. But never mind the width, feel the flare – that's a whopping 24 degrees of drops angle there, meaning it's very comfortable to sit in the drops, no need to bend your wrists around the tops to get a grip. Then there's an extra six degrees of flare out at the bottom of the drops, all adding up to that stupendous 615mm centre-to-centre width at the bar ends. There's also a 4.6-degree backward flare on the tops, to aid reaching the hoods and better-aligning with the natural angle of your wrists.
The tops are also aero profile, with tape measuring 42mm front to back – plenty of real estate to rest your paws on.
Back to the drops... At just over 10cm they're pretty shallow and therefore easy to get into or out of – important for long days in the saddle. The ergonomic upward curve of the drops fits perfectly into the palm of your hand, and for me with my large hands means I could have a single index finger at the bottom of each brake lever, pulled slightly back to take up the free stroke. Thus I was afforded pretty much effortless braking ability and control from a very wide, comfortable drops position – perfect for hardcore descending over surfaces where a dropper post wasn't a luxury, it was the only way to get down with the bike the right way up.
A benefit of being this wide is there's a huge 46cm free inside the hoods to carry luggage, specifically drybags, tents or other wide stuff. The backwards sweep helps a bit here too, giving a smidge more room for fingers.
Across the centre of the bar there's about 14cm in which to mount accessories before it begins to flare into the aero profile – so about 5cm either side of a normal-width stem. You'll be needing a 31.8mm clamp stem to secure the bar, and there are deep channels under the tops for cable routing so you don't feel them under the tape.
Another nice feature is the Ritchey logo markings to help with aligning the bar perfectly centred.
One point to be aware of if you're interested in the Venturemax XL – you might need to replace your brake or gear cabling because of the extra width of the levers. This isn't a shortcoming of the bar, rather the natural implication of going wider. Finally, there are no markings on the curve of the drops, so you'll need to be sure you've got your eye in or your measuring game on for hood positioning.
And that lack of markings is the only thing I can mark the Venturemax XL down on – not that it matters that much, as given the vagaries of anatomy, stem and bar alignment you should go by feel of what's right for you rather than forcing your body to comply to exact measurements. For long days riding rough trails, possibly with luggage, everything else is perfect.
I really liked the PNW Coast Bar in its 48cm version, and PNW does a 52cm that pretty much matches the Venturemax XL. But there's no ergo hand bend, the tops profile is round instead of aero, and it's £16 more expensive.
Rob found the 52cm Salsa Cowchipper took a while to get used to but still very good, so that's another option – and £1 less than the Venturemax XL – though again there's no ergo hand bend and the tops profile is round instead of aero.
Is the Comp Venturemax XL for you? Not necessarily. Your shoulders might be too narrow to comfortably support your weight with arms spread that wide; your arms might be too short; or you might prefer a narrower bar to reduce your aero cross-section or for ripping through narrow, twisty trails.
As with everything cycling, there's no absolute right or wrong answer, just what's right for you. If you want oodles of extreme terrain, high- and low-speed control, super-comfortable and grippy hands, loads of luggage space, and all at a sharp price, the Ritchey Comp Venturemax XL could be the answer.
An exceptionally wide and comfortable drop bar for massive adventures
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey Venturemax Comp 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?
It's a drop bar for people wanting to go fast and far over rough terrain with lots of luggage, in great comfort and control.
Ritchey says: 'It's all in the name – this economical handlebar is made for adventure. The VentureMax is just as applicable on a cross country tour as on cross country singletrack. Intended to ride wider than typical drop bars, the VentureMax is measured at the initial bend rather than at the hood. While it boasts a number of attributes including multiple hand positions, it's the return of the Bio-bend in the drop that adds to the signature look and feel of this bar.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: double-butted 6061 alloy
Bend shape: bio-bend
Top section: ergo-aero
Drop flare: 24-degree
Flare out: 6-degree
Back sweep: 4.6-degree
Clamp diameter: 31.8mm
Accessory mount diameter: 31.8mm
Compatible with Shimano EW-RS910 junction box
Clip-on compatibility: yes
Compatible with Ritchey C260 stem
Color: BB black
The build and finishing is great.
The control on offer is as good as I've ever seen.
I have no reason to believe it won't last decades.
The weight is on a par with bars of similar width, for the price.
The comfort, particularly in the drops, is first class.
For just under £50 it's a fabulously good deal; just £1 more than the Salsa Cowchipper, and £16 less than the already good value PNW Coast. Neither of those have ergo hand bends or aero tops.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Can't fault it – I love this bar. It makes your bike and riding it a nicer experience.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The ergo hand bends in the drops. I relish getting into them, every time.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Very sharp – the PNW Coast is close in spec but it's £16 more. The Salsa Cowchipper is £1 less, but as I pointed out in my review of the PNW, most wider bars that rate this well are closer to £100.
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
Everything about the bar excels – width, shape, price, features. It's excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.