The theory behind such a wild bar shape is that it allows a fairly efficient and aerodynamic position on the tops, but greater leverage and stability on the wider drops for downhill. Ritchey makes the VentureMax and super wide 52cm Venturemax XL with 24 degrees of flare, which is already a fair bit, but the Beacon goes a step further with a 36° flare.
The shape means the hoods acquire quite a dramatic tilt, and it's a bit love/hate. While you can (probably) adjust for the extra brake reach it creates, the shift levers are stuck higher and further away than standard, and it's more difficult to shift. It does take some getting used to, even when you're not riding – I must have scraped my levers on gates, posts and walls far more than before.
The Beacon has a short 80mm drop and very short 65mm reach. I found myself using the drops far more than normal on a gravel bike, and even using them on steep and technical climbs. The leverage is a benefit and they're quite comfortable to climb in.
I like how long the bars are in the drop section, as it gives plenty of space and a really comfortable position for the downhills, while the backsweep is a mountain bike-like 4.5° for a good wrist angle on the tops.
The finish is very good, almost looking like a matt UD carbon finish, and there's a rough texture on the hood mounting points for security and alignment marks for getting them symmetrical.
The bars maintain the 31.8mm diameter for the entire top section, which is very comfortable and makes mounting lights, luggage or computers very simple.
Ritchey says the bars are Di2 compatible, but in reality there's just a small hole near one end to allow the cable to come out – it would then have to run externally and into the hoods, and there is no provision for internal cable routing.
At 275g for in the 42cm width, weight is good. The Easton EA70 AX is close at £80 and 289g for the set Stu tested, where as the FSA AGX Pro is a little heavier at 310g.
The Ritchey WCS Beacon handlebar will divide opinions, both on looks and performance. It takes time to get used to but proves ideal for certain kinds of riding – it's never going to suit every bike, but where a little extra width and stability is a priority, and you don't need a deeper drop, the Beacon is a great choice.
Matt is an endurance nut who loves big rides and big events. Former full time racer and 24hr event specialist but now happy riding off-road on gravel bikes or XC mountain bikes and exploring the mountains and hills of Mid Wales.