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If you don't get on with your current drop bars and want to try something a bit different, then I can highly recommend the Ritchey WCS Evo Max. Its 12° flared design is something you'll probably either love, or hate. Me? I love it.
The basic idea here is that the drops on this bar are flared so that the drop section is wider than the tops. This means that there's more arm room when you're down on the drops, and it's made even roomier by the short 73mm reach (middle of the bar to the middle of the drop curve). There's a 4° backward sweep on the top section too.
These changes don't add up to a bar that's visually much different to a standard compact drop bar, but in terms of feel they're a very different beast. I swapped the stock bars on my Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR race bike for these Ritcheys and the improvement was immediate. The Boardman bars weren't bad but they're a basic alloy compact set. The Ritcheys save a few grams but the main difference is in the ride position and the bar feel. The triple butted alloy construction gives a bit of comfort on the drops but without sacrificing anything noticeable by way of stiffenss when you're stamping on the pedals.
The main improvement is the hand position, though. The 12° flare of the drops just feels like a more natural position for my hands to be in, and it's much more comfortable, meaning I spend more time down there. And the way the sweep of the drop works means there's masses more room for my arms than before, without sacrificing any of the comfort of the bars on the hoods. I really, really like the shape of these bars. They remind me of Salsa's excellent Bell Lap bars, unsurprising since they also have a 12° flare. The Ritcheys are more of a racing shape though, with the Bell Laps really more designed for cyclocross with a looser curve from the tops to the drops. I'd say these are better for a road or gravel build, although Ritchey say they should appeal across all kinds of drop-bar riding.
For me, these WCS Evo Max bars are definitely better than standard compact drop bars. They feel more natural to use in the drops and I like the extra space for my arms. If you've been having issues with either of those things on your road setup, check them out.
Really good alloy bars with a shape that's definitely an improvement (for me) over a standard compact
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey WCS Evo Max Handlebar
Size tested: 44cm, Black
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: "Bell lap is bell lap no matter where you are. Twelve degree flared drop means forearm clearance when in the drops and greater leverage than a non-flared bar. An ideal shape for on or off road builds from a mixed terrain road bike to cross to mountain!"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Triple butted 7075 alloy
40, 42, 44 and 46cm widths
12 degree drop flare
4.7 degree sweep, 0 degree flare
Finish: Blatte or Wet Black (Intl only)
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well: I liked the shape and they're stiff and comfortable
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
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 score
If you're having any issues with a standard compact drop bar then these should be near the top of the list. Not everyone will get on with the shape but I found it excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.