This week, Ritchey released a super-wide Beacon handlebar with 36-degrees of flare in the drops, complete with ergonomic tops. The Beacon is available in two grades of alloy: the Comp Beacon (double-butted 6061 alloy, $46.95) and the lighter WCS Beacon (triple-butted 7050 alloy, $99.95). The WCS appears to also have a less glossy power-coated finish to it. Each is available in four different widths: 400mm, 420mm, 440mm, and 460mm.
My first thought was to compare the specs of these to the Salsa Cowchipper I currently ride on. By comparison, the Beacon has a bit shorter reach (65mm vs 68mm), quite a bit shorter drop (80mm vs 116mm), significantly more flare (36 degrees vs 24 degrees), but with a bit less outsweep (6 degrees vs 12 degrees). Along with that, unlike the Cowchipper, the tops have an ergonomic shape and 4.5 degrees of backsweep. All this adds up to a bar that will have quite a different ride feel than the Cowchipper.
The main advantage of these specs is the short distance between the three main positions: the tops, hoods, and drops. As Ritchey points out in the description of these handlebars, the goal is to allow for changes in hand position with minimal disruptions to the handling of the bike. Plus, for longer rides, the ergonomic nature of the tops and drops should improve overall comfort.
As others have pointed out, the disappointment is in the minimal widths available. Calling them “super-wide” is a bit of a misnomer. As I’ve learned with my Salsa Cowchipper, adding flare to any road handlebar requires that the hoods be angled in. I initially was riding on a 44cm Cowchipper but quickly switched it out with a 46cm bar. I can’t see riding on anything less than 46cm even with the Beacon.
In a previous post, I talked about the effect that gravel handlebars have on a bike. With flared drops, one of the effects is a loss in width at the hoods. As such, you have to widen the bar a bit to make up for that loss in width. In my case with the Cowchipper, I noticed a 2cm loss in the middle of the hoods. So, going from a 44cm to a 46cm bar helped correct that problem. Beyond that, with flared handlebars, some riders simply like them to be wider. Salsa picked up on this and added 48, 50, and 52cm widths to the Cowchipper line.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the Beacon. With the Beacon’s 36 degrees of flare, I’m not so sure that the max 46cm wide bar will be enough to compensate for the extra flare. Since the hoods would need to be angled in a little more, my concern is that a wider bar would be required to compensate for a greater loss in the hood width. Otherwise, when in the hoods, your hands might end up being farther in than your elbows, which reduces leverage and puts even more stress on the shoulders. They really need to add wider bars to the mix. With a max width of 46cm, some riders might have a hard time finding a sweet spot for the width at the hoods. For me, a 48cm bar would likely be needed.
Aside from that, I do like what I see. The Beacon appears to include all the things that I feel are missing from the Cowchipper, namely a more ergonomic bar with shallower drops. I might pickup the cheaper Comp version in a 460mm width just to try out and see if I like it. Who knows...maybe 460mm is just right. Hopefully that’ll be the case. If not, my hope is that Ritchey learns from it and, like Salsa, adjusts accordingly.