Comfort Reviews Salsa Cycles

Salsa Cowchipper Handlebars Review

May 6, 2020

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Salsa Cowchipper Handlebars Review

Salsa Cowchipper Handlebars
4.9

Summary

After riding with Salsa’s Cowchipper handlebars for hundreds of miles, they’re perhaps the single most impactful upgrade I’ve made to my bike, in almost every aspect. They’re more comfortable, more stable, deliver better leverage, and offer a seemingly infinite variety of hand positions, depending on what the terrain demands. 

Their top profile isn’t as comfortable, though, and the Cowchipper’s pronounced flare results in narrow hoods that are less comfortable and result in twitchier handling. 

  • Installation
  • Comfort
  • Leverage
  • Stability
  • Price
  • Overall Value

Pros

  • Seemingly infinite hand positions available 
  • Massively improved comfort all around the drops 
  • Can remain in drops, even while climbing 
  • Much greater control on all surfaces 
  • Decreased hand/arm tingling/numbness 
  • Mostly positive online customer reviews
  • Salsa has a stellar reputation among cyclists 

Cons

  • Narrower hoods mean twitchier handling and less comfort 
  • Thinner top profile is less comfortable than thicker remainder of handlebars 
Sending
User Review
5 (1 vote)

Updated: June 16, 2020

About Salsa Cowchipper Handlebars

Released in 2015, Salsa’s Cowchipper handlebars are constructed from a strong 6061-T6 aluminum alloy that weighs just 322g, and at first glance, appear fairly similar to standard road bars. Newer versions are available in 7050-T6 series aluminum (Deluxe) that drops the weight to 293g, as well as a carbon model that weighs 247g.

Upon closer inspection, the biggest differences compared to road bars are the Cowchipper’s 24-degree flare angle and 12-degree drop angle, which Salsa advertises delivers “comfort, control, and efficiency for long days in the saddle, whether road touring, crushing mixed surfaces, or conquering the Great Divide.” The bars also deliver:

  • 116mm drop
  • 23.8mm outer diameter at the end of the drops
  • 68mm of reach, as measured from the center of the bar where the stem clamps, to the center of the farthest part of the drop bend
  • 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, or 52cm widths
  • 31.8mm clamp compatibility, including the Salsa Anything Cradle and aerobars

Despite the popularity of Salsa’s Cowchipper, choosing your “best” bike handlebars is as much about personal preference as anything else. To arm you with as much information as possible—and help you share the stoke, I’ll briefly discuss my experience with them.

My Experience with the Salsa Cowchipper Handlebars

I picked up a pair of 42mm Salsa Cowchipper handlebars from Competitive Cyclist in early April, and have logged more than 400 miles as of this writing. Here are my impressions so far:

Mounting the Cowchippers was as easy as any other handlebars I’ve worked with: I simply removed my old bars, replaced them with my Chowchippers, centered and leveled the bars and my brake hoods/levers, re-taped my cables, and re-wrapped my bars.

By far the most time-consuming part of the process was setting up my levers and hoods in a comfortable, natural position, as this was my first pair of flared bars. Even since I wrapped my Cowchippers, I’ve made some slight additional adjustments to get everything dialed in. This including adjusting the reach on my rear brake lever, which now feels easier to reach than ever.

Along these same lines, the Cowchipper’s additional width, courtesy of its wide flare, delivers massively improved leverage, stability, and control, especially on gravel and extended singletrack.

For real: the difference is night and day. I’m not sure why I remained on the fence for so long about picking up a pair of dirt drop bars.

Furthermore, the Cowchipper’s flair delivers more comfortable wrist positioning across the board, along with a seemingly endless number of hand positions available, regardless of what the conditions and terrain demand.

Personally, I’ve found that it’s super comfortable to place my hands at apex of the bar’s bend when cruising downhill, which I switch toward the end of the bars when cranking on the flats. Between variations of these positions, I can ride for hours while experiencing less frequent tingling and numbness.

Downsides? The Cowchipper’s steep flare angle pivots my hoods inward, making them less comfortable for anything other than short bursts. On the upside, this narrower positioning frequently reminds me to keep my arms and shoulders loose, lest they quickly tire and let me know that they’re not pleased. However, narrower hoods also result in twitchier handling.

With this said, because of the Cowchipper’s wide flare and relatively shallow drop (more next), I’ve found that I can comfortably climb without leaving the drops, unlike a more traditional road-oriented bar.

The only other nitpick I have regarding the Cowchipper handlbars is their thinner top profile away from the clamp, which I’ve found isn’t a comfortable place to rest my hands.

In my opinion, replacing my stock handlebars with a pair of Cowchippers was the most impactful customization I’ve made to my bike. Granted, adding Panaracer Gravelking tires has proven to be a close second.

I feel like I’m piloting a glider, watching the ground move underneath, while I retain total control of the situation up top. Five stars, and highly recommended — especially if you’re looking for an upgrade that could provide the most bang-for-your-buck.

Salsa Cowchipper vs. Soma Junebug, On-One Midge, & Other Dirt Drop Handlebars

With the skyrocketing popularity of gravel riding and bikepacking, the lines between strict bike categories (e.g., road, touring, mountain, etc.) has become increasingly blurred. And to meet the demand, many manufacturers have released their own dirt drop and flared handlebar versions.

Here are some of the most popular, as well as how their high-level details compared to the Cowchipper (including other Salsa models):

Model Dimensions Widths Available Notes 
Salsa Cowchipper 116mm drop, 68mm reach, 24° flare angle, 12° drop angle, 23.8mm outer diameter at drop ends, 31.8mm clamp compatibility, 322g 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, or 52cm Available in 2 aluminum versions as well as carbon, works with Salsa Anything Cradle and aerobars  
Salsa Woodchipper 114mm drop, 56mm reach, 25° flare angle, 38° drop angle, 322g 42, 44, or 46cm 6061-T6 aluminum alloy only, requires a unique brake/shifter setup for optimal comfort 
Salsa Cowbell 115mm drop, 68mm reach, 12° flare angle, 12° drop angle, 281g 38, 40, 42, 44, or 46cm 6061-T6 aluminum alloy only, closest option to conventional road bars 
Soma Junebug 112mm drop, 65mm reach, no flare/drop angles listed, 20mm outer diameter at drop ends, 31.8mm clamp compatibility, 300g 56cm only 6061-T6 aluminum only 
On-One Midge 112mm drop, 64.5mm reach, 13° flare angle, no drop angle listed, 31.8mm clamp compatibility, 299g 55cm only 6061-T6 aluminum only 
Ritchey Venturemax 102mm drop, 76mm reach, 24° flare angle, 24° drop angle, 31.8mm clamp compatibility, 275g 38, 40, 42, 44, or 46cm Triple-butted 7050 alloy, “bio bump” shaped ends 

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, selecting a new pair of handlebars for your bike is a highly personalized process based on your specific combination of needs and preferences. Still, you can use some of their high-level details above to point you in the right direction.

Related: 5 Steps for Buying the Right Pair of Bicycle Handlebars

For example, Salsa’s Cowchipper bars feature a deeper drop than many competing models, although we’re mostly talking about just a few millimeters. The Woodchipper is also the only model available in carbon, although the Cowchipper and Woodchipper are the heaviest models among close competitors.

The trade-off, depending on where you place your emphasis, is that Salsa offers the Cowchipper in far more widths than any of the other models in our list.

At 76mm, Ritchey’s Venturemax provides the greatest reach, as well as the lowest weight among aluminum competitors, followed closely by Salsa Cowbell. The Venturemax is also the only model that offers “bio bumps” for potentially greater comfort.

Finally, the Salsa Woodchipper has the greatest flair angle (25°), as well as the most pronounced drop angle (38°). It’s not even close, if your top must-have is the biggest drop.

Where does all of this leave you when choosing whether or not to buy the Salsa Cowchippers?

What’s the Bottom Line When It Comes to Salsa’s Cowchipper Handlebars?

To say that I’m blown away with Salsa’s Cowchipper handlebars would be an understatement. Their wider flair delivers stability, leverage, and confidence by the boatloads, whether I’m cranking on tarmac, shredding singletrack, frying up some tasty gravel, or—most commonly—a combination of all three, they’re an improvement in almost every facet compared to my stock setup.

Be sure to bookmark this review, and I’ll update as I put more miles on these amazing handlebars!

Derek has more than two decades of experience as a cyclist, and is the founder of TreadBikely. He currently travels full-time with his family via RV, enjoying the country's best biking destinations. A secular Buddhist, Derek frequently explores the intersection of cycling, mindfulness, and compassion in his writing. #rolloutblissout
2 Comments
  1. Justin Olson

    Just out of curiosity, what angle are you running your Cowchippers? First time installing drop bars and looking for a reference.

  • Derek Lakin

    Hi Justin - I'm unsure about the specific angle, as I just adjusted them until they felt most comfortable. Eyeballing it, I'd say my bar ends are more or less at 90°.

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