Ritchey WCS Beacon gravel bar review
If you're looking for a bar with a wide flare, these could be the ones
The Beacon is a supremely comfortable bar that will have particular appeal to bikepackers and tourers who’ll benefit from the variation of hand positions it offers. Its super-wide flare also makes it a smart choice for gravel riders who like to tackle technical terrain where control, stability and feel are at a premium. All said, it’s a versatile bar with very little not to like and a welcome addition to Ritchey’s range.
Wide flare creates stability
Many hand position options
Lightweight and compliant
Brake hood angle
The WCS Beacon is Ritchey’s newest gravel handlebar. Aimed primarily at bikepackers and adventure tourists it has a distinctive looking design created to provide plenty of comfort across varied terrain. We take a look at how it compares to the best gravel bike handlebars.
Checking the Beacon’s specs reveals some pretty interesting numbers. The WCS model is made from triple-butted 7050 alloy, with a broad ergonomic top section and bio-bend on the drops. So nothing unusual there. But the bar’s dimensions tell another story. The tale of the tape shows a very shallow drop of just 80cm with an equally short 65mm reach. However, the figure that really jumps off the page is the Beacon’s eye-popping 36 degree flair on the drops. For comparison, Ritchey’s popular Venturemax gravel bar has a flair of 24 degrees.
Visually the numbers add up to a handlebar that looks pretty unconventional even by gravel bar standards. The wide flair puts the brake hoods at an angle that appears extreme to the eye while the fairly long yet shallow drop conjures up randonneur bars of yesteryear. First impressions had me wondering if twenty-plus years of riding nothing but traditional style drop bars would make the Beacon a step too far?
However, performance can often be at odds with aesthetics. With the Beacon bar this certainly proved to be the case.
I was quickly, and pleasantly, surprised that the angle of the hoods didn’t prevent me from finding a comfortable riding position. As someone who likes to ride on the hoods as my default setting it’s key that a handlebar offers me this - and the Beacon did so without too much issue. In fact, after just a couple of rides it was beginning to feel relatively normal. While it would be a stretch to say that I felt at home as I do riding on the hoods of my regular road drops, the switch to this new position was painless. All of which meant I soon forgot about the Beacon’s slightly weird appearance and instead began to enjoy its many attributes.
Transitioning from the hoods to the drops, the Beacon bar really came into its own. Thanks to its super shallow drop the change in hand position was effortless. A few rides in and it felt intuitive, meaning that I could focus on the road or path ahead, never having to compromise the bike’s handling.
When in the drops the 36 degree flair provided the stability that I expected it to. I was riding the 42cm version, which translates to a whopping 57cm drop width. Descending on less than stable surfaces felt incredibly solid. Equally, on more technical descents the added width translates to plenty of control and in turn bags of confidence.
Comfort and versatility
The long-ish length of the drops combined with its flare also creates two distinct hand positions down low - one at the end of the drops where the flare is at its widest point and another tucked into the hook where it’s a little narrower.
The lightweight 7050 alloy (my 42cm bars weigh in at 270 grams) also performed well. The bars felt solid but still with plenty of compliance that meant vibrations were kept to a minimum even on rougher trails. And while I didn’t take the Beacon on any overnight trips, its wide flair means that it provides plenty of space for pretty much any bar bag you choose.
Riding in the drops also felt agreeable on both flat gravel sections and on the road. And it’s when considering its versatility that the Beacon really shines brightest. I found it to be surprisingly adaptable; a bar that doesn’t just offer several hand positions, but rather several comfortable hand positions regardless of the terrain. I deliberately rode it on mixed-routes with plenty of long tarmac sections and it felt right at home at all times, as I moved from the ergo tops to the hoods and into the drops as required. It was easy to imagine the Beacon as a good friend on long multi-day tours where the ability to switch your grip on the bar is vital.
Price as reviewed: $99.95 / £89.95
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Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for twenty five years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He has been a cycling enthusiast from an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a keen follower of bike racing to this day as well as a regular road and gravel rider.
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