Ritchey Logic WCS Carbon Curve

I wish wrapping handlebars was easier or that I was less lazy. There. It’s out. Now I can begin recovery. I’m such a nerd for ergonomics and comfort that if adjusting handlebar and lever position was anywhere near as simple as say, adjusting saddle position, I could spend whole weekends playing with lever and bar position.

In truth, while I do a very pro job of wrapping a bar, once I have taped the cables in place, I really don’t want to make any further adjustments. Like I said, I’m lazy and it’s too much work.

I’ll mount a bar, position the levers where I think they need to be and then go ride around my neighborhood for a minute with the cable housing flapping in the wind. When I roll back to the garage I might adjust the roll of the bar or the height of the levers, but once I tape down the cable housing, those levers aren’t moving another millimeter.

I love to look at how the pros set up their bars; I’ve seen some pretty surprising stuff. It used to be that the bottom edge of a lever was in plane with the bottom of a bar. Always. And the bottom of the bar was parallel to the ground. When I first learned to ride and work on bikes, I saw countless bikes set up just like Richard Virenque’s is above. It would be more than 20 years before I considered that other positions might increase my comfort. Eventually, you started seeing guys like Lance Armstrong roll the traditional bend bar up just a bit.

In the mid-1990s I saw Sean Yates’ bar rolled down. It seemed physically impossible for him to put his hands on the levers the way they were positioned. Later, in 2002, Johan Musseuw’s bar was positioned crazy low and the levers were rolled up so high they seemed just as impossible to put your hands on the hoods. Then I noticed how when he did place his hands on the hoods, there was no bend at the wrist. The combination of how bar and relatively short reach made the lever position workable.

The new Ritchey Logic WCS Carbon Curve bar gave me a chance to experiment with just what works best for me with a compact bar. The short/shallow bar is to the 2010s what the anatomic bar was to the 1990s. I haven’t been super-sold on the new shape for a few reasons.

My first reservation is the mindset that led to the bar’s design. It came about from riders getting rid of all the spacers between the headset and the stem and then realizing that riding in the drops wasn’t too comfortable. The solution? Give the bar less drop.

Many years ago some very experienced riders taught me that if you run a deep-drop bar fairly high you can maintain a flat back when in the drops and still enjoy a rather upright position for maximum climbing power when on the bar top. It’s one of the reasons I like the FSA K-Wing bar so much. But enough of that.

Little known fact: The compact bars on the market almost all feature a 128mm drop. Traditional bend bars, which to me are as comfortable as trying to wear a child’s shoes, are still surprisingly prevalent in the pro peloton and feature a 130mm drop—just 2mm difference. Reach on traditional bend bars is usually in the 87-88mm range, about 3mm more than most compact bars. So, on paper they don’t seem to different, but in practice, the difference in curve makes the difference in fit and comfort dramatic.

The Ritchey Logic WCS Carbon Curve bar I reviewed had a 31.8mm clamping diameter and a 42cm (c-c) width. Advertised weight is 206g and my bar weighed in at 208g. Pretty stinkin’ close.

To try to squeeze a little extra reach out of compact bars and to position my hand in the flattest portion of the drop, I roll them out until the reach is parallel to the ground. This seems to be a fairly common way to position based on what I’ve seen in the pro peloton.

Little known fact #2: Fabian Cancellara rode a compact bar on his bike in both Flanders and Roubaix. Go figure. Had I not seen it, I’d have assumed he would ride a deep drop bar, in part just because he’s so flexible.

For those of you who are still riding aluminum bars I can’t stress just how much a carbon fiber bar increases comfort for the hands by damping vibration that would otherwise travel through an aluminum bar. I really don’t ever want to have to ride an aluminum bar ever again. Which means I need to do something about the bar on my ‘cross bike.

In reviewing this Ritchey bar I realized that I’ve ridden at least four different compact bars and while I thought that the shape of the drop was virtually identical from manufacturer to manufacturer (at least, it was really close on the first three), the decreasing radius bend (the bend gets tighter the closer you get to the levers) of the bar is more comfortable to my hand than any of the others I’ve tried. The lesson: Not all compact bars are created equal.

The stunning spread of carbon fiber to nearly every component on the bike and its accordant inflation of the cost of every single bike component in which it is used is nothing to cheer about. It’s how we went from $5000 bikes to $10,000 bikes in 10 years. So while I’m not wild about spending $284.95 for a bar, the Carbon Curve is lighter, stiffer, stronger and more comfortable than an aluminum bar. It is an F1 car competing against a Jeep Cherokee.

Virenque image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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31 comments

  1. Champs

    Bars parallel to the ground, blades to the bottom of the bar, housing continues the curve of the blades — all done as fashion mantras, rather than practical considerations. It’s the same way I feel about compact fitments (I’ll leave geometry aside) – meant to emulate the pro look, but maybe dumbed down too much or not necessarily the right choice for everyone.

    I suspect the aftermarket component industry isn’t big, so we’ll never see these innovations, but a little mix and match wouldn’t hurt. I’d like something less jarring than the drop from 50t to 34t. I love commuting on a wing bar set slightly higher for all the upright positions it gives, but the ergo bend seems to demand that my hands be exactly where I don’t want them. I might be unusual, but they are the people that brought this variety about.

  2. Souleur

    Good point about bars Padraig. There are so many variables to a proper bike fit and bars are an integral part of it, but oftentimes overlooked. Stems, stem length, rise/drop are another one that is overlooked alot or just a given but the bar drop, shallow…traditional…deep is just as important. It all is.

    I love the Ritchey WCS lineup, and have been riding them for ~3yrs now. I love the shallow drop and find that given the riding positions we find ourselves in now days(on the hoods, occasionally in the drops) is best accomodated for my by a shallow drop. Its more comfortable for a longer time for me, as I was taught that in a truly perfect position, one should be able to transition from the hoods…to the drop…to the top and in all 3 positions be equally comfortable all day long. The top and hoods are easier, the drops sometimes can be a harder fit. But, the power one derives from that position is unequalled.

    So, Padraig, how would you compare this to other bars you have used. Was it a worthy first, or second best to others you have used?

    I have to admit, I need to get the carbon bar though:-)
    Next component purchase…check.

  3. Lachlan

    I’m a compact carbon bar rider, but a very very reluctant convert to the brake hoods pointing slightly up… it looks like crap. I even wince when I see pros with their hoods pointing up. BUt I know thats mostly hangup from learning my aesthetic in the 80’s / early 90’s.

    After much painful (mentally not physically) trial I am prety much sold on the bars sert at you show them above… pretty much flat to the ground at the eng / slightly up. And hoods, very slightly up. but no more.. otherwise you just look like a fool, even if you’re lance ;+)

  4. SinglespeedJarv

    Interesting, I’ve never heard of the bar set-up mantra that you speak of. I was always under the impression that the end of the bar should point to the rear skewer and the lever should be positioned where you can reach it – radical, I know.

    But what is more important, function or form? I have recently been pondering the re-introduction of the classic bend and having only tried bars in the shop have decided that the compact bar shape will be the next one for me. But they have to look right as well, which is why I loath all those flat-top carbon bars that have been knocking around for the last few years, no class. I like the look of the Ritchey bars though, but I’d never buy carbon road bars, I just can’t justify it. Even if I was racing I wouldn’t buy carbon as couldn’t justify replacement costs in the event of hitting the deck.

    A brief reprise about bar set-up. All the time getting the bars to look and feel right, but how many people bother to level to two hoods properly?

  5. sophrosune

    I still use an aluminium bar because I am afraid if I dump my bike in a crash the first thing that will hit the ground is that $300 carbon fiber bar. Too vunerable and too costly to take that risk.

    I’m with Soleur, give us some ranking of the compact bars you’ve tried. I wanted to get the FSA Wing Compact but my LBS led me into a compromise: ITM Wing Shape Lite Luxe bars. The flat top is really not wide enough to offer a good flat surface for your hands, but it’s what he had. Sigh…

  6. crit rider 1

    you crash with carbon bars in a race, they break and you can’t keep racing. you crash with aluminum bars, they bend and you probably can (although not always). I have seen the carbon bars dangling in pieces being held together with only bartape twice this season already. carbon bars are great for training with the dampening qualities they no doubt have, but i’ll stick to the ritchey curve compact alum’s and the thomson stem for the racing. wouldn’t want to spend 200+ on bars to replace carbons when i can get alum’s for >100 at the local shop with a team discount. this is the mindset of a local crit rider.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks for the feedback everyone.

      Champs: I’m totally with you on the wing bar set up rather high. It’s especially wonderful for recovery rides. You know, some riders run 50/36 to improve shifting performance and make the jump less dramatic. You might consider that.

      Souleur (and Sophrosune): Overall, I’d say this is my favorite compact bar so far, though compact bars aren’t really my first choice. The Zipp is a close #2. Most of the others I just didn’t like at all, but that may have been because I was trying them on bikes that were already set up and I couldn’t make many adjustments.

      Lachlan: Why is it for you the look of the bar set up trumps fit? I’m curious about your perspective on this. I’m still trying to understand why some riders will put the appearance of the bike ahead of actual ergonomic considerations. I’ve seen some things that looked a little odd to me and then when I rode them discovered to my surprise how comfortable they were. I don’t have the hoods angled up as high as they were set up from the factory, but that position was surprisingly comfortable.

      SinglespeedJarv: I have heard (and seen) the end of the bar pointing at the rear skewer plenty, but that was never popular in the shops I worked. Getting the hoods equal to each other is something I go to great lengths to ensure. I’ve had to take some funny measurements to make sure they are dialed.

      Sophrosune and Crit Rider 1: It’s been 10 years since I was last on the deck, largely because I don’t race crits anymore. Crashing isn’t a big issue for me; I avoid dicey situations in group rides as well. When I was racing crits, I never, ever saw a rider allowed to re-enter a crit with a bent bar. If a crash is hard enough to damage a carbon bar it will very likely damage an aluminum one as well. Put another way, if you crashed hard enough to break a carbon bar, you’d be silly not to replace an aluminum one following the same crash. That said, if I was still racing crits, I might race an aluminum bike with aluminum bar and save the nice stuff for my group rides.

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  8. Souleur

    Thanks Padraig!
    So I gather your a traditional drop type guy, and compact/shallow drop is ok.

    I actually get Lachlans point quite well. I am perhaps the dude that would trump style and lines over function;-) Afterall, one must ride w/style, with the right angles, the proper bend, the perfect curves in honor of tradition and respect for our pedigree. When all is said and done, if she is right, any (and yes I mean any) cyclist would rather risk being a little uncomfortable and have someone take a double look, step back and nod as they complement the ride and recognize that the lines are right…every single one, the stem matches the post, the saddle perfectly angled w/proper fore/aft, the drop…perfectly in harmony w/the TT….versus the rider who is so stinkin comfortable, ergo, saddle down, bar up, with the lines don’t match, and everyone looks at it awkwardly…wonders how it works, why and scratches their head and mumbles. It is indeed a deep issue to consider, on which side to err when not in perfect harmony…form and function or style and sex appeal.

    I myself fall into the style first category…then quietly refit in the shop later having learned my lesson on what I really need so it continues to match up:-) Done it many times and now know to the mm what it takes.

    Its a no brainer for me and yes, its another subject but Lachlan brings up a good point.

  9. Hurl Everstone

    Good points all, but two things not touched on.

    #1. Why the dearth of 46cm bars? To paraphrase, “wide bars save lives.” Maybe it’s the single speeder in me, but for true comfort on all day rides, wider is better. God help me if Ritchey ever does away with the WCS Pro Logic 46cm bar

    #2. The 31.8 clamp diameter is an abomination, if you’re concerned at all with aesthetics, let alone placement of computers, etc. Stiffer? Really? I suppose if you’re the Tuesday Night Crit World Champion, sure. Go nuts. But was anyone really clamoring for a larger clamp diameter? I guess I better stock up on that WCS bar….

  10. Frank

    Over at Velominati, we’ve been discussing bar shape and taping techniques. It’s funny how that goes ’round and ’round; we have a few readers (and, writers, like myself) for whom no-padding benotto handlebar wrap is still the bees knees, at least on a nostalgic level.

    I’m also trying to decide on bar shape at the moment, having fallen a bit out of love with my K-Wings as well. Classic round bend? That seems to be the way I’m leaning these days.

    You can read our ramblings here:
    http://www.velominati.com/blog/category/bike-setup/

    And, I might point out as well that there are various Rules about bar tape:
    http://www.velominati.com/blog/the-rules/


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Hurl: While I understand how some riders prefer wider bars, wider isn’t automatically better. A wider bar changes how a bike handles and changes fit as well, unless you shorten the stem. To me, a 44cm-wide bar feels kinda cool, but when I’m in a pack, I always find myself feeling more comfortable on a 42. The lack of 46s just comes down to statistics: Not many folks ask for them.

      I wasn’t a fan of the 31.8mm clamp when it came out. I don’t really need the extra stiffness—and yes, it really is stiffer, there’s no doubt. But trying to buck that trend is like trying to tell the big companies to go back to 1″ headsets. It’s just not going to happen.

      Frank: You’re a true dyed-in-the-woolens if you still enjoy Benotto tape. I save my nostalgia for movies and Campy groupos. Your old K-Wing is welcome here.

      I’m with you on the right way to address bar tape. Some things must be done right.

  11. wvcycling

    @Padraig – Ritchey WCS is one of my requirements on a bike. It is light enough for the price to be reasonable. The products last, and they are flat out classy.

    I was using a WCS Logic ?II? bar for some while on my main steed, enjoying it, but not so hot about the ergo drops as I expected it to be.

    I purchased the WCS classic, and love it. I wish it had a little bit more of a flat top, but with a bit of angling, and my wonderful SRAM levers, it is ideal.

    If you ever feel apt to part with that bar, give me a ring… I’d love to have the opportunity to review it~

  12. Henry

    A road bar geometry comparator:

    http://ruedatropical.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/road-drop-bar-geometry/

    another for currently manufactured traditional bend bars:
    http://ruedatropical.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/modern-classic-bend-drop-bars/

    Note that the profile of the hooks/drop is identical in all the modern shallow bars. Only Deda has a larger radius curve on the tops (which I like). I’m finding with brifters my bars got much lower and I went from deep to shallow drop.

  13. Lachlan

    I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek above ; – ) But I also have to admit, not least to myself, that I do care more than is at all rational about the look of my set up.

    I’m all for the “ride what works best” argument… its ultimately all about efficient power production for however long you ride for (ie kinda different for a track pursuit than for most of us, or for a grand tour).

    But I also love the aesthetic of bikes and riding… and the beauty of the bike sest up for me is a bit like the beauty of a well executed hairpin decent, or a perfectly smooth pedalling action, or the perfectly timed dart through a gap in the wheels to get to the front of the bunch. It’s part of a great effort, part of the efficiency ideal.

    On an individual evaluative basis, then of course you ride and set up however works best for your body (windtunnels and power meters at hand if possible!!!).

    However as a general view of set up, the beauty of a rider with a flat back, perfect reach, stem flat, bars and hoods square to the ground, and body rock solid as they power along is (for me) the ideal. It speaks to great physical condition, to meticulous set up, and to an bike and rider in perfect efficient harmony.

    All in reality subjective bollocks based on certain rider anatomics and 1980’s heroes of course! ; – )
    But give me Dave Z or David M to watch over the more ungainly riders in the bunch and I’m happier. Then it’s like looking at an art form as well as an athletic endeavour.

  14. Lachlan

    ps on the 31.8 thing… I’m not a big rider (54 frame as reference) but find that the 31.8 bars are much much more comfortable to hold than the older narrower sizes. I cant go back now without thinking I need to double wrap the bars just to have a comfortable grip.

  15. rich_mutt

    i’m about to buy a set of the “new style” anatomic bars with rapid hand technology, and i’m going aluminum- why? for the aforementioned fragility of carbon in a crash. i’m racing crits and stage races, and durability is key for me. i use aluminum in my bars, stem, a seat post- and i am racing a caad9.

  16. SinglespeedJarv

    @Lachlan Subjective bollocks. Amen, Brother. Although comfort and ergonomics have their place, style is where it’s at if performance doesn’t matter. Physiology always has some impact, causing some people to ride like they have baboon arses. I’m not exempt, according to bike-fit (or whoever it is all the top riders use) if I had a frame built to fit my freakish proportions I’d need a 63cm top-tube and a 160mm stem, all on a 57cm seat tube. It would be like riding a super-tanker.

    The only performance that matters about bar set-up is that you can actually reach the levers from the drops. Hoods should be an extension of the bar tops, with a degree of slack to allow optimum comfort. Everything else is about fitting your body to your bike and checking in the mirror/shop-window that you look damn-good.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Henry: Nice job on all the bar graphics. That said, I’ve ridden a bunch of the modern shallow bars and while the basic elements of reach and drop might be identical from one to the next (and some manufacturers’ bars may be coming out of the very same molds as their competitors) to say that the bend of all of those bars is identical is just incorrect. Some of them look identical to my eye and I can only tell a difference once my hand is on them. The differences are real.

      Lachlan: In some instances that which looks right to the eye is what is right. Your point about a well-executed hairpin turn is just such a case. I’d just like to see people give more thought to weight distribution, flexibility and reach than just what the stem looks like. It’s the same with some pros; I couldn’t believe it when I found out Paolo Bettini refused a perfectly sized bike and went down one size just so he could run a 14cm stem on a 49cm frame. To his eye, that stem is what looked right and that’s an example, to me, of style trumping good sense. Of course, if someone’s handlebar is higher than their saddle, please, go take a yoga class.

      Rich Mutt: It’s a shame to have to ride so much aluminum, but I do understand the choice. I’d probably cry if I shattered one of my bikes in a crash during a race.

      SinglespeedJarv: Dude, I know guys who will build that bike for you. Happily, at that. So, are your knuckles calloused? (Kidding.) I did used to think there were some absolute musts in bar position but am continually surprised to find arrangements of bar/stem/levers that look odd but feel comfortable. These days, for me, the jury is out until I ride it.

  17. SinglespeedJarv

    Padraig, totally agree that Bettini was wrong about the bike, he was a PRO and should have had a set-up that worked properly. Oh, I know he won a few races here and there, but think about how much better he could have been. He was wrong on many things though and I hope for Italian cycling’s sake he doesn’t become national coach.

    As for my shape, I’m no knuckle-dragger I just have an incredibly long body, either that or really dumpy legs. But heading way off-topic here. Bars, bars, bars. On width, I used to run 44 back in the racing days, then when returning to road bikes bought a bike that came with 42cm. Borrowed a bike with 44cm, much happier, then had a Bike-fit to be told that I should be on 42cm. So that is where I shall stay. Except I bought a ‘cross bike and it has 46cm bars. They are far too wide, not to mention uncomfortable and ugly. They will be replaced. Incidently, Chris Boardman used to ride 42cm bars, he reckoned that the aerodynamic advantage outweighed the loss of performance from not opening your chest up quite so much.

  18. SinglespeedJarv

    Henry, that bar work is fantastic. It is the one area of bike-set up that I have struggled to model with pen and paper. But reading the article immediately set me to work at realising what I do and don’t like about bar set-up.

    I like ramps that are more towards the horizontal, it was only the last photos that really highlighted this. If I was riding on the hoods, with those bars with the end horizontal to the ground, it would feel like I was sliding off the bar rather than the hoods supporting my weight.

    I don’t hold the outside of the ramps, so my brifter hoods have to be slightly raised, but only very slightly, from the horizontal. This allows a nice cradle for the hand to sit in.

    It takes me forever to get the right position on new bars. I run the bike for weeks without bar tape, just to get it right.

  19. Touriste-Routier

    The only good bar is one that serves a proper Guinness (as well as some fine Belgian Ales). It must be parallel to the ground, otherwise your drink slides off… Just a little humor while everyone is geeking out over their preferences ;-)

    I wish I could relate, but since I herniated some disks in my neck 12 years ago, I’ve been stuck riding on upright bars (Rivendell Albatross); I rock it Zimmerman style! Since I used to ride track, I liked my bars narrow, with a deep drop. My wrists never felt comfortable with ergo shapes; they seemed to offer less hand positions than traditional drops, and sprinting with them always felt odd- the leverage seemed off.

  20. Michael

    Great write-up Padraig. I have been looking at that specific bar and am glad to read some good feedback. I have been hemming and hawing about going carbon on a bar for some time now. My 30 mile bike commute to work is over roads that would charitably be described as being rough, and my aluminum Easton bar is just not cutting it (not to mention the mistake of getting a bar with an ergo bend placed right where I rest the palm of my hand all the time). Now just might be the time to make the switch!

  21. Clam Chowder

    I have the alloy version of the Ritchey Curve and it is a terrific bar. Allows me to spend much more time in the drops compared to my Reynolds deep drop bar. I set mine up so that the top section is parallel to the ground with a flat transition to the levers. Allows for a comfortable wrist position on the tops/hoods and great feel when in the hooks. This bar has less area in the tops than my Ritchey Classic but I think I prefer it because of the nicer transition from tops to drops.

  22. Dan O

    Back in my bike shop daze of the ’80s – set up many bikes as first described in your post. Bottom of bar level with ground, bottom of brake lever level with bar. Even used a wooden ruler as a level to make sure the bottom tip of lever was indeed where it should be. Oh yeah, then finish off with cloth tape. Taping bars was my favorite part of bike assembly. The finishing touch to it all.

    Even though I now angle my bars up just slightly, still don’t angle the brake levers up – just looks wrong. I’d agree modern headsets pushed this position, since stack height has shrunk over the years – now replaced with “Stack-O-Shims”. On some bikes, this looks damn weird as well – at least to my old school eyes.

    I’d be curious to try a set of compact bars, since at times my road bike(s) seem a centimeter too long. Other days, feel great. Guess that depends on how flexy the old back feels that day. The compact bars may be the cure without changing stems, by getting the brake hoods up a tad – without the angled look.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Dan O: Based on my conversations with some product managers in the industry, the compact bar was created with you in mind. It’s a great way to cut down reach without changing any other aspect of a bike’s fit. Of course, any time you change your fit on the bike, the handling is going to change a bit as well. It’s not idea, but then aging isn’t ideal either, huh?

      What I’m finding is that the change in lever shapes have made angling levers up more comfortable, sometimes even preferable compared to the past.

      You bring up an important point regarding stack height; head tube lengths have decreased as well, making it hard to establish a reasonable bar height without lots of spacers. Because manufacturers place a limit on how many centimeters of spacers can be used (sometimes it’s only three or four), sometimes our only options can be angling up the stem or going to a larger frame.

  23. Ron

    I haven’t been riding nearly as long as a lot of you, but when I went from some anatomic deep drop Cinelli bars to a pair of shallow drop, traditional bend/curve Deda Newton bars, my life was changed. I not that big and with the Cinelli bars + 1998 105 shifters, I could hardly reach the levers in the drops.

    On my build project last summer I used the Newton shallow drop with the newly curved/designed Campag Centaur shifters. WOW! What a revelation. I can reach the levers from the drops quite nicely.

    As for positioning – yeah, it should be whatever is the most comfortable for sure. For me, I tip my bars up just a bit, a little out of parallel, rolled back. Then I put my levers nearly level, but also rolled up a bit. Nothing radical.

    How nice are the measure marks on the bar clamp area? On the shifter area of the bends? I LOVE this simple yet smart addition some bar makers include.

    And yeah, moving the shifters are taping your bars sucks. I hate this! I’ll move my bars before I do this. Ugh. To avoid this I will ride around without any tape for a week or two though. Kind of stinks, but then getting the tape back on and having the cushion back is quite nice.

    Good write-up!

  24. sophrosune

    It’s a little late for a comment on this one, but this piece has been bouncing around in my head ever since I read it. I finally bought carbon fiber handlebars (FSA Wing Pro Compact) and one aspect that I didn’t expect was that it makes me much more confident in descents. I feel I can really push the envelope so to speak. Thanks for providing your service to us all, Padraig.

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