The Ritchey Bullmoose WCS integrated bar stem is a throwback to a design first used by Tom Ritchey way back in 1978 after he found that regular handlebars would often slip in the stems of the day.
The original Bullmoose bars were constructed from steel, but these thoroughly modern ones are a monocoque carbon design, with the two ‘stems’ bonded to the handlebar and an alloy steerer clamp.
Ritchey claims that this setup has two main benefits, and the first, and perhaps most key to the weight-conscious XC racer crowd, is that they’re very light at 281g (claimed*) for a 80mm ‘stem’ and 730mm wide bars.
*It's a long story, but the test bike these were fitted to was stolen before I remembered to weigh them...
You could hardly describe the Bullmoose bars as bargain-tastic, but at £250 / $260 / €280 they cost considerably less than some exotic, equally feathery cockpit setups.
Secondly, Ritchey claims that the ‘Bullmoose’ arrangement allowed it to tune the ride quality of the bars to be more resistant to twisting forces while maintaining a good degree of trail-buzz-taming flex.
Ritchey Bullmoose WCS ride impressions
I have to say that I drank up the Bullmoose flavoured Kool Aid on my first ride with the bars — compared to the stock alloy cockpit that came with my Bianchi Methanol long-term test bike, I found that my hands felt far less painful after gnarly descents, but equally never found myself thinking that the bars felt noodly when hoofing it up even the steepest climbs.
Compared to other carbon cockpits I've used the Bullmoose bars didn't feel drastically more compliant, but definitely didn't have the sideways flex associated with some cheaper composite bars.
I generally get on well with bars that have a little more backsweep and the Bullmoose bars were no exception — the 9-degree backsweep put my wrists in a comfortable position on longer marathon-style races without compromising technical handling too much.
I’m not suggesting that Ritchey had this particular use in mind when designing the bars, but I also became quite fond of hooking my thumbs on the inside of the ‘stems’ when trying to go #fullaero on long gravelly descents while racing.
I hate to imagine what the consequences of crashing with my phalanges thoroughly jammed in there would be like, but safety be damned, I’m only interested in improving middling race performance.
Of course, the bars cannot be rotated to perfect fit and you cannot swap out the stem for a different length, so fit refinement is limited to raising or lowering the bars.
For the oddly large number of our readers that like bar ends (seriously, what is it with you guys and bar ends?), you will be sorry to hear that the Bullmoose bars are not compatible with them.
Unsurprisingly, the unique look of the Bullmoose bars has divided opinion at BikeRadar HQ — as a bit of retro-ista I’m rather fond of the throwback aesthetics of the bars, but others have not shared my enthusiasm.
Ritchey Bullmoose handlebars overall impression
As long as you can get over the fit and aesthetic quirks, the Ritchey Bullmoose WCS bars are a genuinely compelling and a relatively affordable way to significantly lighten your XC cockpit and improve comfort.