Fresh Gravel: Salsa Cycles “Cowchipper Bar”

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Drop Bar
The new handlebar from Salsa Cycles- The Cowchipper

Salsa Cycles, long a supporter of gravel road and adventure riding, has introduced a new handle bar dubbed the Cowchipper. At first glance the name might suggest a cross between a Woodchipper Bar, Salsa’s off roading drop bar, and the very popular Cowbell Bar which has become a darling of the gravel road racing set. However; as you will see, the Cowchipper is much more closely related to the Cowbell than it is the Woodchipper Bar. Let’s take a quick look…….

Flared Drop Bar
The flare and sweep of the Cowchipper is not as severe as a Woodchipper’s

Flare & Sweep: The Cowchipper features a 24° flare to the drop section, which you can see here in the image to the right which is a view from the back of the bar. That’s twice as much flare as a Cowbell Bar, by the way. The swept extension is also not nearly as extreme as the Woodchipper’s is. Essentiall, this strikes a  good compromise between the the Woodchipper and Cowbell, which is a definite plus for the Cowchipper Bar.

Flare and sweep are important for those riders looking for a drop bar that has a useable drop section hand position in rough terrain. The flare helps to clear the wrists and forearm while the swept section helps with control and ergonomic comfort. In concert with the flare and sweep, the reach, or the forward extension from the cross bar of the Cowchipper, is only 79.2mm. This means that when you mount brake/shift lever controls, the hoods don’t end up so far away from the saddle of the bike that an abnormally short stem might be required.

Of course, these bars have a 31.8mm diameter stem clamping area and that center section is 120mm in width. Good for mounting accessories like Garmin mounts, lights, or traditional computers. Cowchipper bars are also available in several sizes: 38, 40, 42, 44, and 46cm widths and that is measured from the “lever position” center to center. So, that doesn’t include the width that the extensions gain by being swept.

Gradations on the hook allow for easy lever positioning.

The hooks are also hash marked with white lines to allow you to position your levers at the same place side to side. Much easier than guessing or than doing measuring. This is something many handle bars should have, in my opinion. It’s a nice touch. Notice also that the drop from tops to extensions is shallow. That makes it easier to set up in a position where a rider can use both the drops and the hoods. By the way, the drop measures 129mm on the Cowchipper.

The bar I purchased to use in  this review is a 46cm one and it came in at a weight of 290gm. Retail price on the Cowchipper Bar is $74.99USD. Officially known as the “Cowchipper 2 Drop Bar” by Salsa, one would assume that another Cowchipper Bar is on the horizon. Using Salsa’s past numeration system for their models and by using the Cowbell as an example, I’m betting there will be a Cowchipper 3 Bar in 6000 series aluminum. This bar is AL-7050-T6 aluminum, by the way. That raises the possibility of a slightly less expensive alternative to this current bar.

The Cowchipper Bar is slotted into Salsa’s drop handle bars for rough terrain in between the Woodchipper and Cowbell bars. However; don’t think it is a “mix of both“, because it clearly is not anything like a Woodchipper Bar. In fact, you can think of the Cowchipper as a “more flared-more swept” Cowbell bar. The shape of the hooks and the reach and drop of this bar are similar to the Cowbell, and the radius of the drop is nothing at all like the Woodchipper, which is that bar’s main characteristic.

The Cowchipper has already been mounted and will be getting some miles thrown at it very soon. Well……perhaps I should refresh my Fargo a bit first after my Dirty Kanza 200 abuse of the poor machine! Stay tuned for a “Quick Review” coming soon.

NOTE: The Cowchipper Bar was purchased by Guitar Ted and is being reviewed here for your information and consideration. Salsa Cycles did not pay, nor bribe us for this review and we alwys 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


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.

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29 thoughts on “Fresh Gravel: Salsa Cycles “Cowchipper Bar”

  1. Great review. Wetting the appitite for some new bars. For the TCX or the Karate Monkey? Will have to look into availability in Australia. Heaps of pea gravel here.

  2. Hi GuitarTed,

    I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to get a Cowbell or Woodchipper for the gravel bike I’m building up. This throws in a new wrinkle…

    In your Quick Review, you suggest that the Cowchipper is superior to both the Cowbell and the Woodchipper. My question is this: for gravel riding, is there any scenario in which you would suggest the Woodchipper over the other two? I live in the Cedar Valley and the bulk of my gravel rides are in Black Hawk, Butler, and Bremer Counties, so generally pretty flat country with a lot of hardpack. I’m thinking the Cowchipper may be the way to go, but some part of me still wonders if the Woodchipper would offer any advantages?

    1. Hello Erik. You weren’t on the Geezer Ride perchance, were you? If so, you got my take on the bar, but if not, yes- I wouldn’t choose a Woodchipper for our area of the gravel world. The Cowchipper is far superior in terms of useful bar positions and overall comfort.

  3. How do you size the bar? like a road bar or like an all mountain where wider is better. BTW been following your blog for a long time. I built up a drop bar Gary OS, SS 29er based on your concepts. Now I’m building up a Soma wolverine. Thx

    1. Tony- It depends upon how you would use it. If you are really going mountain biking, then maybe go wider, but be aware that the flare is not part of how Salsa measures this bar. I’ll repost the text here from above as a reminder:

      ” Cowchipper bars are also available in several sizes: 38, 40, 42, 44, and 46cm widths and that is measured from the “lever position” center to center. So, that doesn’t include the width that the extensions gain by being swept.”

      So, as a for instance, the 46cm bars I have are pretty dang wide. I cannot imagine wanting anything wider for myself.

      And thanks for reading!

  4. What would you chose for the trans am bike race. The cow chipper or the wood chipper
    Given the magnitude of the race.

    1. Personally, I am not a fan of the Woodchipper, so that puts me into the Cowchipper camp. That said, everyone must choose the bar that suits them ergonomically and for their purposes.

  5. Hi, from what I can find on Salsa’s and other sites, the Woodchipper has 26 flare and the Cowchipper 24° flare. The Woodchipper has 38° drop angle (is this what you call sweep?) but I can not find any mention of drop angle of sweep for the Cowchipper bar. Am I correct in thinking that the drop angle is the same as sweep? or is that something else, the upward slope of the drops maybe? I’m a bit confused with the technical terms, especially as the terms used seem to vary in the description from bar to bar even from the same manufacturer, or am I just being thick?

    Could you tell me the sweep angle of the Cowchipper bars, please.

    1. Iain- Sweep is defined as how the extensions bend outward from the hooks/drop sector of a drop bar. Obviously, the Woodchipper has a lot of sweep as compared to a normal road bar, which has extensions which point straight back, parallel to the top tube of a bike. Flare is the description of how the hooks/drops cant outward from the tops. A normal road bar’s drops are perpendicular to the ground.

      Cowchipper bars have very little sweep, actually. They do have a lot of flare, which is what makes them different. Otherwise, the extensions are almost the same as a Cowbell’s.

      “Drop angle” is the term Salsa uses to describe how their Woodchipper’s hooks have a very weird radius which makes the extensions point downward instead of being parallel to the ground, as viewed from the side, as a road bar would be.

      I have no exact measurement for the Cowchipper’s sweep angle, but it is no where near a Woodchippers and much closer to a traditional road bar’s “no sweep” extensions.

  6. Hey Guitar Ted, It looks like Salsa is currently having issues with stocking the Cowchipper, I cant find it in stock anywhere. So I was wondering if you could compare and contrast the Cowchipper from the Junebug and the Midge. I want to have a “plan B” if the Cowchipper is still not available buy the time i finish my new build.

    Thanks for the great info on all things gravel.

    1. I’d go Midge then. Slightly wider, and the original. The Cowchipper has a “deeper” hook, in that you feel that there is more room to move around. The Midge and Junebug are a bit more “one dimensional” in comparison. That said, I really like the Midge Bar.

  7. Hi Ted, excuse me I’m writing from Italy, and I’m not that expert about technical aspects.. my shoulders are 44cm and i’m going to purchase the Cowchipper which i will install on my new Genesis Vagabond; I will use it for on/off-road touring; should I go for the 44cm or the 46cm? I really don’t know, thanks in advance


  8. Mattia- Hello from the U.S.A.! I hope all is well in Italy/

    Traditionally, drop bars are to match up with shoulder width, and as the Cowchipper is measured in a way that does not include sweep, I would advise going with the 44cm bars for you. The swept out extensions will be slightly wider, which will aid you in stabilizing your bicycle when riding off road in the drops.

    I hope this helps!

  9. Thanks for the review. I’ve have as Origin8 700cx that is now setup flat bar now and would like the option of moving my hands into the drops or just around more, so I’m hoping to change out to Cowchippers. I can’t find the bar thickness online. Can I swap over my deore 10 speed shifters and breaks? I like this gear is cheep and easy to fix and works just fine for my level of riding (just getting into gravel riding).

  10. @Kevin Winslow: Unfortunately those flat bar controls won’t work on Cowchippers. However; if having multiple hand positions is the aim, why not consider using a Jones Bar? They give you all the same benefits of drop bras, as far as positions, fit mtb controls, and will work best with bikes designed for flat bars anyway. I’d encourage you to check that out instead.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion.I think the Jones bars are just what Im looking for. Now on to 24h of Cumming training.

  11. GT,

    Are you running 3×9 on that Fargo? I am building one up I have the cowchippers, wheels, brakes and getting ready to pull the trigger on shimano 3×9 setup with the shimano bar end shifters. Thanks for any info.


  12. hello there, gt! always enjoy reading your blogs. thank you! question….salsa has the drop of the cowchipper at 116mm and the reach at 96mm. has the bar been redesigned or something since your review?

    1. @matthew: If I recall correctly, I measured the reach myself. Salsa could be using a “total reach:, meaning from the outside to outside of the bars, whereas I always use a center to center measurement. That could easily account for the 20mm difference in measurement here.

      1. @guitar ted: thank you kindly for replying so quickly! I see what you’re saying. really, I wanted to know how the reach compared to the cowbell. love the cowbell, but the cowchipper has my curiosity. I’ve a friend that, I believe, has them on one of his bikes. I think you know him, actually. nickel potter of Fayetteville, AR (phat tire bike co.)? anyway, I don’t see him very often living in different town, but I may have to track him down

  13. I am thinking of converting my salsa cutthroat from cow chippers to a jones bar. Any suggestions or reasons that this will not work. I understand I will have to adjust the stem and get new controls. The cow chipper that are on it (42s) are to narrow. The other option is to get wider bars.

    I typically mountain bike and have found that the drop bars are giving my shoulders and elbows issues.

    1. @Crystal- As long as you have an understanding of what it takes to get there with Jones Bars, (as you said- controls would have to be switched up, possibly a few other minor bits), then I see no reason this conversion would not work. The Cutthroat is basically a “carbon Fargo” and lots of examples of Fargo’s converted to Jones Bars exist and seem to make their owners happy. I would say, “go for it”.

  14. Hi GuitarTed,
    I’m undecided between size 44 and 46. I currently use the Nitto Noodle 44 but i think that considering the cowchipper’s flare, the brake levers may feel a bit narrower if i go for the same size, so maybe the 46 could be more comfortable? I’m 5’11, average build, but not sure how to measure my shoulder width. Any suggestions?

    1. @Santiago – If you are using 44cm Nitto bars the 44cm Salsa Cowchippers should put your brake levers at almost exactly the same width. They shouldn’t feel ‘narrower’.

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