Friday, January 30, 2015

Evaluated: 2015 Ritchey WCS Streem II Alloy Aero Bar

Photo courtesy of Ritchey

The quest for comfort on a bicycle does not end at the saddle, chamois, or shoes.  It also includes particulars such as seat posts, stems, and yes, even bars.  I, for one, find that the almost-perfect bar setup is rather elusive, especially for those of us genetically predisposed with larger hands.  For us, there is no substitute for surface area, and that means larger diameter bars.  In plain language: The more bar there is for our paws to grip, the more comfortable the ride over the long-haul.

To date, pretty much all of the wing shaped “Aero” bars on the market have been constructed from carbon fiber.  That is a nice idea, save for those whom do not like the hidden specter of cracks and possible delaminations of the material under the bar wrap (I am a proud member of that group).  Construction of an alloy wing shaped bar has been a bit trickier than its composite brother, and the minds at Ritchey have met the challenge, and produced, I believe, a winner with the WCS Streem II aero bar.   I mounted up the test subject with my now favorite red, Fizik Microtex tape, a PRO Vibe 7S 120mm stem, and took off.  That was four-months ago. 

                                                    The anatomical bend of the 128mm drops.
So, what did I discover?  Well, my goal was to ride with the bars for an extended period of time before pronouncing judgment on them.  While many evaluators give their opinions upon a single, seat-of-the-pants, ride, I don’t do that.  The only way to truly get real-word feedback of a product is to live with it for awhile under real-world conditions.  Thus, after the months I have used the WCS Streem II’s, I have to honestly give the bars two, big “Thumbs-Up.”  The Streem's have brought me the closest to perfection I have come yet in my quest for an all-around-bar.  The flat portion of the tops is an excellent perch for my hands, with the 4.5-degree sweep back oddly adding to said comfort, and there is just enough hint of flex while in the drops to keep the hands from going numb over the garbage which masquerades as road surface’s in Southern California.  The only thing I did not like much was the shallow, 128mm drop.  About 10mm more drop, and these would be my go-to bars for life.  However, remembering not to be too nit-picky, the tops and transitions to the hoods gave me all-day comfort, and that was the real purpose of my evaluation.   

                          Real-World testing. There is no substitute. Note "Aero" section and sweep.

In summation, the challenge riders’ face is the discovery of that setup which leads them to the cyclist’s nirvana, aka, the “Sweet Spot.”  Finding the correct components are a large part of that quest.  Truth be told, I really liked these bars, however, I cannot fathom why Tom Ritchey believes we all have tiny hands necessitating the extremely narrow diameter of most of the Ritchey catalog bar offerings.  The PRO Vibe 7S bars I previously tested had a constant 31.8 diameter along the tops, with a deeper drop than the Streem II’s.  And, while I really loved the PRO’s, I was looking for the comfort of a flat-topped, wider, aero bar, and the Streem II’s provided that. 

In my perfect world, I would have a bar with the drops of the PRO Vibe 7S, with the tops of the Ritchey Streem II.  Oh well, one can dream.  Or, maybe even try a set of 35mm bars.  Hmm…

The Specs:
  • UCI approved 38 x 22.5mm wing section for improved aerodynamics and a great feel for climbing.
  • Short reach, shallow drop with anatomical bend
  • Triple butted 7050 alloy
  • 40, 42 and 44cm widths
  • Drop/Reach: 128/78mm
  • Stem diameter: 31.8mm
  • 4.7 degree sweep, 1 degree flare
  • Finish: Matte Black
  • 275g (42cm bar)
  • Retail: $99.00 USD

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