Ritchey Design VentureMax Handlebar: Quick Review

<Back to News Home |

Ritchey Design VentureMax Handlebar: Quick Review- by Guitar Ted

A decade ago when the gravel cycling scene saw its rise to popularity begin, there were very few choices in handlebars with flare and sweep. Flare and sweep, you say? Yes. That is what makes an off road oriented drop bar design different than a traditional road design.

If you stop to think about a traditional road bar, the “hook” part is perpendicular to the “top” which is the cross bar between the hooks. On a flared drop bar, those hooks are slanted outward at the bottom. With “sweep” added in, the extensions of the hooks back toward the rider are splayed outward as the rider looks down at them. This is all done to give the wrists and forearms more clearance for off road maneuvers when a rider is in the drops. Gravel road riders gravitated to these wider, flared, and swept bars due to the greater control these bars give a rider over loose, rough surfaces.

Now with the ever increasing influence of gravel riding on the cycling world we’ve seen many handlebars introduced with flare and sweep. Handlebars meant for gravel riding or the ubiquitous “adventure bike” genre which use drop bars. One of the newer entries to the fold is the Ritchey Design VentureMax.

Venturemax drop bar
The Ritchey VentureMax bar.

Technical Specs: The Venture Max is a triple butted, 7050 alloy bar with 76mm of reach and 102mm drop. For comparisons sake, this is similar to a Salsa Cycles Cowchipper bar. The reach is a tad bit longer here. The flare is 24° and the sweep at the extensions is a 6° figure, which is barely noticeable. The clamp diameter is 31.8mm and here is what Ritchey’s site has to say about the bar:

It’s all in the name – Ritchey’s newest addition to their rich handlebar lineup 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.

Ritchey Venture Max drop bar
The “Bio-bend” was very different from what I am used to here.

The VentureMax comes in five widths: 38cm, 40cm, 42cm, 44cm, and 46cm. The test sample sent was the 46cm width and compares well with what I am familiar with for 46cm off road type drop bars. Weight? Well, I was too eager to mount these samples up, so I did not get a weight, but they are light enough. Definitely in the ball park for this type of bar. Also, the bars will accept bar end shifters.

The bar was installed on my Raleigh Tamland Two with the recently tested Gevenalle HYDRAULIC levers and shifters. The VentureMax bars were then wrapped in Salsa Cycles blue tape and the set up was tested on local gravel roads I am very familiar with and on the course of Gravel Worlds which is around Lincoln Nebraska. With well over two hundred miles on the bars over different types of gravel roads and dirt roads, I can safely say that I have gotten to know them quite well.

Ride Impressions: The experiences I have had with “ergo” bends in drop bars have varied but mostly they have been on the negative side. The bends put in many bars seem to be in the wrong places, (for me), and many times they were actually dictating where your hands must be instead of allowing you to position them incrementally wherever you want to. Now, I admit, I am a person that cannot do the same dance step more than three times, so your mileage may vary here.

Ritchey Venture Max Bars
The Venture Max bars mounted to the Raleigh Tamland

So, as you might guess, the Bio-bend thing was looked upon with great skepticism by me at the onset. However; I found that I didn’t mind the bend, and after a test ride or two in which I adjusted the tilt of the bar slightly, I found a satisfying setting. Subsequently I decided to use the bars at Gravel Worlds, which is a 150 mile gig. No small ride! I was that confident they would be agreeable with me.

I found the bars not only to be agreeable, but with the triple butted aluminum construction, they had enough give that bumps and jarring were muted more than it might have been with a stiffer bar. That said, more important was the fit and feel over the eleven plus hours I rode the bars the day of Gravel Worlds. These bars fit into my hands well and the Bio-bend bit never impeded my comfort or hand placement choices to a degree that was bothersome. The Bio-bend does take a bit of getting used to; however, and getting the angle of the drop section correct for your ergonomics is critical. When I first tried the bars, the Bio-bend thing was a bit annoying. As stated above, after  tweaking the angle of the drops a bit, and as a side effect, moving the levers as well, the Bio-bend suddenly made more sense to me.

Ritchey VentureMax
The Bio-bend bit on the extensions requires a careful angle adjustment to really come into its own.

At The Finish: With a generous amount of flare and a not too radical amount of sweep, the VentureMax bar strikes a great balance between comfort and useful hand positions. Kudos to Ritchey Designs product engineers for getting the drop’s radius correct so the tops, levers, and drop extensions are all usable positions. Unlike a few off road drop bars which have either too open a radius, too severe a constant varying radius, or are featuring too deep a drop, all things which impede the rider’s choices for set up. The VentureMax does require a bit of fine tuning to bring the Bio-bend part into focus for the best ergonomics, but the results are well worth the effort.

The results of my testing were that this bar, once tweaked to my satisfaction, was definitely a winner in promoting good handling, providing comfort, and the overall aesthetic is not displeasing. They do look a bit odd, with that funky kink, but I’m saying it gives the VentureMax some character. Your eyes may judge differently there. At $94.95USD these are a bit spendy compared to some other bars, but the design is everything with these flared off road drop bars and Ritchey nailed this VentureMax’s design. It is very well done, comfortable, and with Ritchey’s reputation in handlebars, a good choice for rough roads and gravel travel.

NOTE: Ritchey Design sent over the VentureMax bar at no charge to RidingGravel.com for test and review. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum 

[adrotate group=”1″]


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

Related Articles

19 thoughts on “Ritchey Design VentureMax Handlebar: Quick Review

  1. I’ve been using them since late April, including DK200 and Crusher. Put on 38’s rather than my usual 42’s since the flare is so wide. Once I got the drop angle dialed in, I think they’re the best gravel bars I’ve used. Rode them in CO during the summer and was surprised how much I climbed while riding on the drops, especially while standing. Another well thought-out component from the folks at Ritchey.

  2. I put one on my bike a couple months ago, and I think my hunt for the “perfect” gravel bar may be over. The width (44cm), flare and radius tick all the right boxes for me. Like others, I had some reservations about the “bio bend” but it isn’t obtrusive or limiting at all, in my experience. I’m sold on this bar.

    1. Hi, i was curious, given the massive width of this bar, did you have to down size from your usual roadie dropbar width?

      1. Would also be keen to know this. I have the Ritchey Evo Max handlebars (stock on the Jamis Renegade) and keen to know if I should get the same size in the Venturemax or size down.

  3. Curious as to what Topeak top tube or what I call Bento box that is. I have tried a Jannd and have a different model on my road bike but not real happy with the Jannd as it seems to sway on the top tube too much.

  4. It is also important how the brakes are designed and can be mounted. The tektro rl520 for example can not be mounted an a way that the hoods and top section are aligned except when the drops are angled downwards too much. I had that same issue on a woodchipper and a midge. I have sram s500 ss brake levers now on the midge that brought a lot already. If you see how the sram levers on the current salsa spec can be mounted you see that the tops and hoods are aligned with keeping the drops almost horizontally.

    What I like about the.venturemax is that they keep the.brake levers more vertical. The midge angles outwards much more so that your hands are not really on the hoods but more on the sides of the levers.

    Thanks for the review.

  5. Thanks for very informative and user friendly review. I’ll be getting a pair of these. The one thing I think is incorrect in your review is that the reach for the Venturemax is actually shorter than for the Cowchipper, not longer; the Cowchiipper is listed as having a 96mm reach on the Salsa website. It’s the Cowbell handlebar that has the shorter reach at 68mm.

  6. Guitar Ted! I just ate your detailed article about the bar, thank you for that! What im asking is this beautiful TRP brake lever on your bar, where can you get it from? I cant find it on TRP’s Homepage. Greetings from Switzerland

  7. Great info in this review. To clarify, the bars are measured c to c at the top of the hooks? I’m wondering if I should go narrower than my standard drop bar.


    1. @Dave- Thank you!

      Yes, the measurement is center to center at the “top of the hooks” which does not include the extra width created by the flare and sweep of the hooks and extensions in the drops.

  8. Hi Ted, I know this question is for an old review, but do you know if the VentureMax bars will accept barcons?

      1. @wintermute and @ saintruggler – Sorry! I swore I answered this, but obviously I didn’t. Anyway, yes. The bar end shifter I used, an older Sun Tour one, went right in the end of this bar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.