Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Guitar Ted's Massive, Huge Flared Drop Bar Review

Flared drop bars for 'off road' have been in my wheelhouse for almost 20 years now. As a result, I have collected quite the pile of aluminum which has been shaped into tubing, bent into weird shapes, and sold as drop bars. I guess I didn't really understand just how many flared drop bars I had until I started poking around my shop and finding stashes of old drop bars here and there, stuck away in dark corners and forgotten. 

So, I decided after writing my post last week about flared drop bar usage in early gravel times that I should do a review of what I've got here. One- Because it might be of interest to those who once knew, have forgotten, or never knew and want to learn more. I know my "Archived Drop Bar Articles" page gets consistent hits, and so I understand that a certain amount of people get their kicks out of checking out what is out there. 

So here is how this review will work. I have a lot of flared drop bars! So, I will link to reviews I have done in many cases to keep the words short here. Secondly, this will be split into three categories: Early And Out Of Production Flared Drop Bars, Current Production Flared Drop Bars, and Innovative Flared Drop Bars. Obviously, as time goes on even handle bars I have listed as 'current' may fall out of production, so if you are coming here many months or years after this posts, don't take this as gospel for what you might be able to get your hands on.

Finally, many of these handle bars were review items sent to me at no charge. These will have asterisks by their names and this means that they fall under my Standard Disclaimer. I will, in any case, offer a short, pithy comment or three on whichever bar I show and my opinions are my own. You may not agree, and that is fine, but I've got riding time on all of these and I don't think I am changing my mind about any of them. So, there ya go.....

Now, on with the show!

Nitto standard road drop bars

Those are NOT flared drop bars!! Yes.....that is correct. I just thought it prudent to remind ourselves what classic road drop bars look like, and yes- I used these for a time on a road bike. Note that the extensions are directly underneath the ramps and the 'reach' of the drop is pretty far forward. These features were seen as 'problems' for the drop bar user who wanted to go off-road riding with drops. Thus shallow drop, short reach, flare, and sweep were introduced to solve the problems. I won't get into all the 'why' of these features, but I do have a page to help you see these terms in a visual sense here


The venerable Midge Bar. The one that got this all started for me.

The Midge Bar was once pretty much my favorite and only flared drop that I would use. I have my longest rides ever on Midge Bars, and I still have a gold anodized Midge bar in use. The two seen here have been around since the 00's! See a good comparison I did early on between this and the next handle bar on this list HERE. Amazingly, you can still buy the Midge Bar. It probably is the flared drop bar that has been in production the longest of any of them! 

Probably the second flared drop you could get that was widely available, the original Gary Bar.

There are many versions of the Gary Bar* out there, but this was the 'OG' of them all. It was similar to the Midge Bar, (see link above), but it had a wildly sloping 'flare' to it which the Midge did not have. This laid the brake levers out really weirdly. This is almost a mustache bar in that regard. A short intro for this out-of-production bar is HERE. I have this one and one I purchased which is still in use on my Raleigh Fixed Gear Rat-Rod. 

The Salsa Cycles Bell Lap Bar

The Salsa Cycles Bell Lap Bar* wasn't one that I wanted to review or even purchase. It was just what came on the Salsa Cycles Fargo Gen I when I received it. I never did a proper look at this bar, but I did compare it to its replacement, the Cowbell, in 2011 here. The Bell Lap had some degree of 'flare', but it had too deep a drop and wasn't really what many of us were looking for. However; a handle bar I have coming up is actually pretty similar to the Bell Lap. Stay tuned.....

The Origin 8 Gary 2 Bar was made to address the concerns with the original Gary Bar.

The Origin 8 Gary II Bars were out by 2011 and addressed the perceived shortcomings with the original Gary Bar. I wrote up a review for it here. I wasn't all that impressed as it appeared that Origin 8 went after the Woodchipper Bar which was kind of a mistake in and of itself. No longer in production. 

My old Singular Cycles Gryphon set up with Salsa Cycles Woodchipper Bars

The first big splash made in flared drop bars beyond the Midge Bar was the Salsa Cycles Woodchipper Bar. I definitely do not like Woodchippers. This was a fail in design, in my opinion, due to the radius the designers chose to use and the weird transition from the tops to the swept extensions. While I no longer have any Woodchipper Bars around, you can still get them today

Yet another variation of the Gary Bar, the Gary Sweep OS Bar.

The Gary Sweep OS Bar was another variation Origin 8 had made on the flared drop bar concept. I reviewed this one here, and I found it to be 'okay', but it was now a time when bars like the Cowchipper and others were popping up that just were better designs. Had this bar come out five years earlier, it may have well been a classic. It's close, but no cigar. I think this is still available.

The Ragley Luxy Bar, (lower) and a Woodchipper for comparison.

 The Ragley Luxy Bar* was a collaboration between myself, Sam at Singular Cycles, and Brant Richards of Ragley Bikes, (at that time). Not much of anything I gave input on was retained, but anyway- they asked me! Had they done what I was requesting we would have ended up with a Cowchipper-like bar before the Cowchipper, but as it was, it came out really well. I was sent two Luxy Bars to check out and they are fantastic. Since then I've tracked down another couple and one I gave away. This bar reached cult-like status after Ragley discontinued it after only one run of them was made. You can read all about it here.

Current Production Flared Drop Bars

The SOMA June Bug is pretty much a knock-off of an On One Midge Bar, but a good one at that.

The SOMA June Bug Bar* was pretty good and a bar I liked well enough. No big surprise as it is nearly an identical bar to the On One Midge Bar. I reviewed the bar here. Good design, good handle bar, but it certainly is not an original design in any way to SOMA. 

You can find this design sold under various names. This one is branded "Gary Ergo Sweep OS" from Origin 8

The next bar up is branded and sold under various names, but probably most notably by Velo Orange and Origin 8. The one I tried out is called the Gary Ergo Sweep OS* and it was a chore to get on with. The drops are weird and they put my wrists at a strange angle which was uncomfortable. Your mileage may vary. I didn't like them and so I did not write up a review. 

The SOMA Gator Bar

The SOMA Gator Bar* might just be the oddest bar ever made in this genre. I wrote a review here. Nuff said....

The Salsa Cycles Cowbell

This handle bar is probably largely responsible for the adoption of flared drop bars for gravel cycling. The Salsa Cycles Cowbell II is an amazingly comfortable bar which is about as close to a traditional road drop bar as you can get in a flared drop bar. I wrote a review here.

The Salsa Cycles Cowchipper is a Cowbell with more flare and a bit more sweep.

In my mind, the Cowchipper from Salsa Cycles pretty much set the bar for any other flared drop bars for gravel to meet or exceed, if that is possible. It is darn near the perfect gravel bar, in my estimation. I wrote a review here

The PRO Discover Big Flare handle bar

Of course, the Cowchipper also influenced a lot of following designs, and one of them is the PRO Discover Big Flare Handlebar*. I wrote a review in tandem with MG on this bar here. Still one of my favorites although it isn't currently on one of my bikes. 

The Ritchey Venturemax Handlebar

Remember that Salsa Bell Lap bar above? Well, here is the bar I was referring to in my description of the Bell Lap. It is the Ritchey Design Venturemax Bar*. This handle bar was a good one, and I have been thinking about putting it on a bike again for a long time, but these other handle bars keep coming out and I only have so many bicycles! Anyway, here is my review on this handlebar

Whiskey No. 9 24° handlebar on my BMC MCD

 Eventually there were carbon fiber flared drop bars and one of them is the excellent Whiskey No. 9 24°* flared drops. I got these as a gift for my BMC MCD build. They are pretty much carbon Cowchippers, (yes- I realize there actually are carbon Cowchippers) and they feel a lot like them, but better. 

Innovative Flared Drop Bars

Spank Industries Flare Vibrocore 25 Handlebars

Another cool handle bar I got to check out is the Spank Flare Vibrocore 25* Handlebars. These are kind of different from the aspect of the vibration absorbing foam which is inside of these. Another interesting aspect of these is that they have a 31.8mm diameter from the stem to the ramps. I reviewed these here. Pretty cool handle bar that I am still using. 

Whiskey Spano Bar

Of course, carbon fiber affords you all the shaping and layup possibilities which aluminum is limited on or cannot do similarly. This is exemplified in the excellent Whiskey Spano Bar*. I have been pretty enamored of this one since I have had it and I don't plan on it going away anytime soon. I wrote a review here

Redshift Sports unusual Kitchen Sink Bar

Well, if you cannot form aluminum like carbon fiber, and you want some ergonomic benefits, the Kitchen Sink Handlebar by Redshift Sports* may be the option for you. Now I have to admit that I really did not think I would last very long after the review period with this bar, but I cannot seem to find any reasons to take it off. It is just that comfy with the extras in the grips that are accessories for the bar. I wrote a review here. It is heavy, and the aero section is sort of useless, but it is so good with those grips. Anyway, it's pretty nice from an ergonomic place. 


And that is a wrap for now. If I get anymore bars to add to this, I will jump in and do that. this is in no way exhaustive, representative of now, or what have you. This isn't even all the drops I have ridden. (I can think of a couple others I have tried off the top of my head) But this represents a good overview from the worst, to the best, and from the weirdest to the commonplace designs. It's historical and interesting, I think, and I hope that you enjoyed this look at the flared drops I have tried.


Big Woods Biker said...

I think you have a typo in the description under the Cowchipper bar where you refer to it as the Cowbell. Pretty confusing.

Guitar Ted said...

@Big Woods Biker - Thanks for pointing that out. I edited that to be correct. Sorry that you were confused.

wp said...

I’ve been using my gen2 Fargo for singletrack bombing since covid and switched to the Ritchey Beacon bar - really tight drop and a flare treat fits my big oafish mitts. Highly recommend it if you’re looking for something more dirt-oriented….

Sam said...

Great re-cap GT! Like you, I started with the Midge and my current favourites are Cowchippers and the Spank Flare. Haven't tried the carbon Whiskys, but have some Al ones which are also very good. For properly technical off-road riding the Luxy is still the best.

FixieDave said...

How many of these have I tried, thanks for the trip down memory Lane

Guitar Ted said...

@Fixie Dave - You're welcome!

Guitar Ted said...

@Sam - Thanks for the comment! Any chance we could ever see a Luxy type drop bar again?

Guitar Ted said...

@wp - Woo! That is a LOT of flare!

wp said...

@ Guitar Ted - I run the narrowest 40cm version - I can't imagine how someone could do the 52. But it has totally changed my Fargo (especially on tight single track) and it's the first bar where I feel that the drops are able to be my primary position.

Litcrazy said...

@ Guitar Ted. I love the detail you've provided here and elsewhere on dirty handlebars, for lack of a better term.
I have a specific question, that likely you're the perfect person to ask.
I like the Salsa Cowchippers I've put on my Ala Carte drop bar confusion, except for the radius of the turn from the flats to the ramps. The gradual turn means there isn't as much of a wide flat or long ramps position when compared to the Velo Orange Neadeau Randonneur and Spank Wing 12 (but they lack the flare I want for more singletrack).
Do you know if the Pro Discover 30 degree or Spank Flare 25 has that sharper turn up top? A comment you made about the Pros in a tape review makes me think maybe.
Thanks! Z

Guitar Ted said...

@Unknown (Z) - Thank you for the kind words and for reading the blog!

On your question: Yes, that Pro Discover Big Flare bar has an abrupt transition from the tops to the ramps, as you have picked up on. It probably has the widest 'tops' section for its width of any bar I have tried. A close second is the new whskey Spano bar, which comes highly recommended by me. That is, if you can spring for a carbon bar. The Spano also has less flare than the Pro Discover, if that is appealing to you. In fact, it has a compound flare degree starting at 12° at the lever sand increasing to 20° at the bottom of the drop. Kind of a hybrid there.

The only downer for you might be the short-ish ramps on the Spano. The Big Flare has a bit more length there.

Litcrazy said...

Thanks! That was exactly the feedback I was looking for. I will keep an eye out for the Pro Discover Big Flare as I'm a metal kind of guy and that looks to offer what I'm after.
It's always nice to ask dirt drop handlebar questions and have you and Shiggy drop your wisdom.