Archive | Handlebars

Bontrager Race VR-S 31.8 Compact Handlebars

For the six months I rode a Trek 1.2 , the single most outstanding feature on that bicycle was the Bontrager compact handlebars.

Moving from the top of the bars to the drops was effortless, and because of the proprietary 40mm bend in the compact (classic) curve, my small hands were able to reach the brake
levers easily–key components in boosting rider confidence.

The drop and reach on these bars is the smallest of any available, and they are specifically designed for smaller hands. They even come in a 36 cm width and should be widely available online or through your local Trek dealer.   These  handlebars are made of aluminum — unfortunately, they do not come in carbon.

Even after I sold the Trek, and tried and reviewed other handlebars on this site, I longed for the feel of the Race VR-S compact bars and am grateful to Bontrager for giving me the chance to review them!

The MSRP is $49.99 which is a great value. Try them–especially if you have problems reaching your brake levers.

Modolo Venus Handlebars for Women



Over a year ago, I reluctantly gave up my shock absorbing Ritchey carbon handlebars to test the Venus alloy handlebars made by Modolo and imported from Italy.

In the interest of serving all petite women riders, I felt compelled to review more handlebar options. Modolo claims their Venus bars are made for people with small hands, with a shape that brings the brake levers nearly 9mm closer.

How could I resist?

I also was intrigued because the Venus handlebars are not an “ergo” bar but rather have a “compact design.”
They retail for  $79.99

The smallest width available is a size 38 cm in a 31.8 mm diameter. If you have an older set-up requiring 26mm diameter bars, they are available in 34 and 36cm widths.

Here’s what I think:

The Venus bars have a medium and reach and drop as compared to the other 38 cm bars on the market, which is a good thing if your hands are more medium sized than small. (Take a look at the info on this page for more info) There is ample room to make micro adjustments with your hands without feeling cramped, particularly in the drops.

Of greater concern is the distance from the bars to the brake levers. My confidence as a rider goes up when I know my stopping power isn’t dependent on the tip of my middle finger.

The following diagram from the Modolo product catalogue shows how the deeper curve of the bars brings the web of your hand 9mm closer to the brake levers.

My bike is equipped with Campagnolo Veloce .  To shift gears, I must push down on a lever located on the hoods using my thumb. The placement of that lever is almost as important as the position of the brake levers. The combination of the Campy levers and brakes on the Venus handlebars caused me to experience pain in the basil joint of both thumbs from shifting. I had to move the hoods several times to alleviate the pain.  My perception of the 9mm reach advantage was clouded by this experience.

In all fairness to the bars, this was a problem unique to me (and possibly other people with a predisposition to osteoarthritis in this joint).  It developed over time and may eventually require a switch from Campagnolo to Shimano.

Clearly the Venus design offers a special reach advantage to the levers to make braking with more than one finger possible.  The design offers plenty of room for adjusting your hand positions in the drops. The bars I tested were alloy and didn’t absorb shock like carbon.

The list of available handlebars in the 38 cm width is not long, so by all means add Modolo to your list of handlebars to try when your shopping for new ones. As a side note, Modolo also manufactures the Venus bars in carbon fiber.

Ritchey Handlebars

Why would I spend time discussing handlebars when your bike already comes with a pair? A set of alloy handlebars weighs about 50 grams less than a large potato. We’re talking about something so light it almost seems silly to discuss, right? Wrong.

Handlebars in widths less than 40 cm were not even available until around 1998. Even now, some ten years later, only a handful of companies produce them in size 36 and 38 and Ritchey is one of them. In 1999, Ritchey also introduced their “Ergonomic” or “anatomic” handlebars, designed to support more natural hand positions in the drops, and tops of the bars. Ritchey’s WCS Logic II alloy handlebars felt great in my hands. So why, after going to the trouble of wrapping them with pretty pink tape and riding with them for a week, did I upgrade to a set of carbon bars, costing nearly five times as much? It wasn’t because they weigh less. The difference between the two is only 10 grams–a mere fraction of the weight of 8 oz of water. Although carbon fiber is lightweight, it’s also strong and can be molded into shapes otherwise unattainable with alloy without substantially increasing weight.

However, the most important reason carbon fiber is used for handlebars is comfort.

If your bike is mostly aluminum, which has a notoriously stiff ride, and you’re riding more than 40 or 50 miles at a time on surfaces paved with chip seal, or those resembling an old-fashioned washboard, you’ve felt the hum in your body long after you gotten off your bike. This “road buzz” is the reason you might seriously consider investing in carbon fiber handlebars. Carbon fiber, well known for its shock absorptive, vibration dampening quality, is nothing short of miraculous. Adding carbon fiber to your bike as a fork, seatpost or handlebars, will definitely improve the quality of your ride.

Are these handlebar choices just another trend in excessive bicycling consumerism? Until recently, I thought so. Each woman has her own preference for shape, size, and manufacturing material. But remember, comfort should be your first consideration. The best way to decide what’s right for you, after determining your correct handlebar size, is to get your hands on as many bars as possible– not always an easy task.

Ritchey’s handlebars offer an ergo design with just a little extra room to move around. I love the ergo bend in the curve as it matches the same position of my hands with a slight angle forward and down.

They also offer an ergo carbon alternative with a slightly wider, flattened top bar for upright riding comfort. Both of these bars gave me a feeling of confidence and control especially while in the drops. Many racers still prefer to ride with alloy bars. In the event of a crash, alloy will bend rather than shatter and they’ll still be able to ride. I don’t know about you, but if I crash and either shatter or bend my handlebars, chances are I’m not pedaling anywhere. I ride a Rodriguez that offers a good deal of shock absorption (it’s made of S3 steel), and I have ridden with Ritchey WCS Carbon Evolution handlebars on rides of extended distances on unpredictable road surfaces.  Switching from alloy to carbon was simplified by the calibrated transition lines on the carbon drops for even brake lever placement.  Check out Ritchey’s website at and read about their innovative president and lead designer, Tom Ritchey, who first taught himself to build frames as a teenager thirty years ago. He still logs 10,000 miles a year on his bike. I’m impressed. For a comparison of different handlebar options and how to determine your correct size, click here!

Some Hanky Panky has forced Me to Ask again

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