This new Ritchey Comp Ergomax handlebar is a great upgrade for your gravel or adventure bike, offering plenty of width at the drops thanks to a large flare for aiding stability when travelling across loose terrain. It's a decent weight, too, and all for not a bad price.
- Pros: Loads of hand positions, plenty of stiffness without being overly harsh
- Cons: Limited clamping space either side of the stem for lights and suchlike
We've seen quite a few of the latest gravel bikes coming with flared handlebars and I find it makes a lot of difference to the handling when you are really motoring across varying surfaces.
The Ergomax is available in four widths, the 42cm option we have here, plus 40cm, 44cm and 46cm. This is measured from centre to centre at the top of the drops, but the Ritcheys have a 12-degree drop flare top to bottom each side, plus the drops flare out at an angle of 3 degrees sideways, which increases their size (to 50.3cm on the 42cm) outer to outer at the bottom of the drops. You can see the full dimensions and shape here.
This gives you quite a wide stance which seems to make the steering more stable when the ground is moving around underneath you, while keeping the lively feel of a narrower bar when sat up on the hoods.
From the 31.8mm diameter clamping area there is a 10mm rise up to the tops, which gives you a slightly more relaxed, upright position; if you don't want to go any higher you could always whip out a 10mm spacer from beneath your stem – after all, fewer spacers means better stiffness.
The clamping part of the bar is only 80mm wide, and once you've taken into account the width of a stem that doesn't leave you much room for fitting light brackets or computers, which could be an issue.
The tops have a flat aero section to them which gives you a great platform to rest your hands on, and they also sweep back by 5 degrees, giving you shorter reach to the bar.
The drop shape is curved rather than having any flat sections, but the radii change continuously to create quite a shallow drop of 128mm and a reach of 73mm. This makes them more usable, even if you aren't that flexible to spend a lot of time crouched over.
Comfort-wise things are pretty good. You want a little bit of give for when you are rattling across bumping surfaces and that's what you get from the 6061 aluminium alloy tubing used here. It just takes the edge off but still feels plenty stiff enough when you're out of the saddle or riding along on the road.
With Shimano now offering a bar end plug control box for Di2, Ritchey has future-proofed this bar by drilling a hole in the bottom of the drop to allow the wires to come out and pass beneath your bar tape.
The Ergomax is a well made bar and a pretty decent weight too. This 42cm came in at 313g on our scales, which is 7g lighter than Ritchey claims.
It costs £52, which is good value for money when taking into account the quality and everything else. A look around the internet shows that the Deda Gravel 100 bar is lighter than the Comp Ergomax – 260g claimed – but costs £94.99. That matches very well against Ritchey's lighter, more expensive WCS Ergomax, weighing 270g at £94. We tested the WCS Venturemax road bar a couple of years back, and that's now £89, while the Comp Venturemax is £47.
On the whole, I really like the Comp Ergomax. It offers a good all-round package for your gravel bike or any other where you want a bit of width added to the handlebar.
Loads of hand positions and a quality piece of kit for your adventure bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey Comp ErgoMax handlebar
Size tested: 42cm
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, "The evolution of Ritchey handlebars continues with the Comp ErgoMax. This new bar enjoys a rich history of handlebar design and development, and combines it with the modern demands of discerning riders who enjoy riding varying surfaces.
"Designed to enhance control and comfort when riding along loose surfaces, the ErgoMax is ideal for a gravel bike since it places the hands in a wider, more stable position while in the drops. The ErgoMax is just as perfectly situated on road bikes that are built for endurance, its ergonomics delivering unparalleled comfort.
"The bar tops employ a 10mm rise at the clamping area, which offers a slightly more upright riding position. They are then ovalized and have a slight 4-degree rearward sweep to more evenly distribute the weight of the rider's hands and wrists, also putting them in a more natural position.
"Continuing with an eye towards ergonomics, the ErgoMax also features drops with a nice 12-degree flare to keep the rider's hands in a comfortable and confident position, while also adding a bit more unobstructed stability when turning or sprinting.
"The new Ritchey ErgoMax bar delivers more control, welcome comfort and increased confidence when riding gravel, setting out on multi-day adventures or rolling along those long miles of tarmac."
The design is great for using on or off-road.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
40, 42, 44 and 46mm widths
Di2 Cable Routing
Drop Flare: 12-degrees
Flare out: 3-degrees
Color: BB Black
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It has an excellent shape for use off-road.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Wide hand position when in the drops.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Limited clamping space for accessories.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
For a quality aluminium alloy handlebar it is right in the ball park.
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 Comp Ergomax bar is well made and offers a decent balance of stiffness and weight.
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
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.