While the decision to spend £425 on a bar/stem combo will always be a big one, what can't be questioned is the quality of the Ritchey MonoCurve Carbon Integrated carbon bar and stem.
Light, stiff and above all, extremely comfortable, the Monocurve has certainly raised my expectations as to how a top notch cockpit should perform.
First, let's address the elephant in the room. Yes, these bars cost £425. No, they aren't 10 times better than a £40 item, but that's how things work at the upper end of the market - you get increasingly little, for increasingly more. So with that out of the way, let's see how some of that asking price is justified.
The Monocurve's carbon bar and stem are moulded as a single monocoque, as opposed to two individual components wrapped together, which is then mated to an alloy steerer clamp. Their overall shape is what Ritchey call their 'Curve' bend, which is common to a number of other bars within the Ritchey range.
This short reach, short drop shape (128mm in this case), commonly termed 'compact', is becoming increasingly popular as it moves all the hand positions closer together, enabling your average Joe to spend more time in the drops.
Up on top, the Monocurve's shaping provides a nice wide platform for your palms and the 4 degree backsweep will help to relieve any wrist pain by allowing the arms to sit in a more natural position. Reach is progressive depending on bar width, but is on the short side as mentioned previously. For a full breakdown of the bar widths/reach and stem lengths, see the tech box at the bottom of the review, but it looks like they've got most options covered.
Out on the road, it's the added vibration damping provided by the bars which makes the first impression. In a similar way to some carbon frames, the Monocurves really 'deaden' the road feel as high frequency bumps are soaked up with aplomb. Depending on your preferences, this can either be a good thing or a bad thing, as some people prefer a little more feedback through their hands. Combined with the oversized tops, this characteristic made cruising over rough roads a lot more bearable.
Down in the drops, it's easy to find a comfortable hand position with the double radius bend sitting somewhere between a traditional bend and the 'ergo' style bend. Once again, this shape of drop is becoming more and more popular and I for one, found them comfortable. Despite the shallow drop speaking to a more comfort oriented crowd, the Monocurve's minus-7 degree stem certainly lets you set up the bars in an aggressive position.
One of the big drawbacks with a bar/stem combo such as this is the lack of adjustability. You'll either like them, or you won't, there's no rotating the bars to fine tune things. Setting them up with Shimano di2 shifters, I was able to achieve a nice level transition from bar to shifter which is how I tend to set mine up. With Microshift shifters on the other hand, I just wasn't able to dial in the fit, rendering the bars pretty much useless.
Paligap, the UK Ritchey distributors, don't offer any sort of test ride for these, so it's really a case of buyer beware. A good bike shop should be able to let you get a feel for them, and maybe even test your shifters out. A better option might be to get hold of some other Ritchey bars which use the 'Curve' shape and give them a ride to see if they suit, bearing in mind that bar angle must be fixed.
At 360g actual weight for the 44cm and 120mm stem length combo, these Monocurves are light, but not THAT light if you compare them some of the lightest bars and stems on the market. Those other options are likely to be significantly cheaper to boot. There's no doubting the stiffness of the Monocurves though, and despite what some traditionalists may say, they do add that all important 'bling' factor to your bike.
A final point of interest with the Monocurves is their unusual 3 bolt clamping system, designed to reduce the forces both in the stem and the steerer tube. As with all carbon components, it's advisable to closely follow the torque recommendations, though you'd expect that the small m4 bolts would shear first before any damage was done to the steerer tube.
Not cheap, and not adjustable, but we loved the way these bars feel and handle.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey MonoCurve Carbon Integrated carbon bar and stem
Size tested: n/a
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 tout the Monocurves as "The ultimate carbon cockpit -- the MonoCurve system blends the fit of our most popular bar bend with sublime ride quality of stiff and lightweight integrated bar/stem combo"...so there you have it
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-Monocoque EvoCurve bar molded to a carbon stem and C260-style forged alloy steer tube clamp
-Extended ergonomic upper section with 4 degree sweep
-Shallow 128mm drop with smooth "curve" transition
-Logic II style progressive reach
-86 degree stem angle for aggressive positioning
-C260-style curved steer tube slot radically reduces steer tube stress
Really excellent. Ritchey's extensive experience with carbon bar and stem manufacturing really shines through in these.
In use, the Monocurves are hard to fault helping to reduce hand fatigue whilst being plenty stiff and light.
As with all carbon bars, durability post-crash is an issue as sometimes micro-cracks can be hard to spot. The replacement cost of breaking a set of these doesn't even bear thinking about.
Yes these are light, but it's possible to buy other bars and stems which combine to be lighter than these Monocurves. This really isn't the main selling for these bars though.
Comfort is excellent if you can get your shifters set up correctly and if you get on with the compact shape. That is a big if though as there's no adjustability whatsoever, so they either work, or they don't.
£425 is a lot even if they do perform extremely well.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Unfortunately, these are out of my price range.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Only if they had to have the best.
About the tester
Age: 20 Height: 190cm Weight: 70kg
I usually ride: Giant TCR Advanced 2 My best bike is: Canyon Ultimate CF7
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, sportives, mtb,
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.