High Road: A Redshift Top-Shelf Handlebar First-Ride Review


High Road: A Redshift Top-Shelf Handlebar First-Ride Review

Just when you think handlebars can’t get any weirder, Redshift Sports drops the Top Shelf. But after riding them for a week, Travis found they actually felt pretty normal. Whether that’s a good thing is up to you.

If you saw “solutions-oriented” on a resumé, it might sound like any other vague accolade like “highly motivated” or “no recent criminal record.” But in the cycling space, I think it means something specific. Solutions-oriented brands make products for riders who don’t fit neatly into a mainstream box. Redshift’s new Top Shelf bar is clearly that type of product, as are the rest of their offerings. The brand launched in 2013 with the Switch Aero System, which Hailey Moore spent some time with last year. In fact, she spent time with a whole suite of Redshift components, and much of the blue hyperlinked text you’ll see here will take you to her reviews. Briefly, the Switch Aero System comprises quick-release aero bars and a seatpost that can easily notch the saddle forward into a triathlon-optimized position. Redshift then expanded to suspended cockpits, light-up pedals, and some pretty unorthodox handlebars.

How did we get here?

The Kitchen Sink bars are available with or without their signature aero-bar-like extensions. Both have a 20 mm rise, much like the Ritchey Corralitos bar. It’s a decent solution for riders who have reached the maximum height to which they are able—or willing—to raise their stems. But 20 mm is not that much if you want to significantly change your bike’s character. Like, maybe you’re doing leisurely multi-day tours, but your road or gravel bike were built for racing. Plus, riser drops look weird. They interrupt the elegant, organic shape of a well-wrapped handlebar in a way that calls attention to itself. Though I’m not going to say the Redshift Top Shelf bar doesn’t look weird, it at least tries to be subtle about it. And they’re available with a towering 70 mm height, though I tested the 50 mm version.

That cross-bar, even if only for a split second, tricks your eyes into telling your brain that this is something familiar. Sure, we all know what we’re looking at. It is an unholy cross-breed between gravel and BMX. But it takes a moment to realize it. I was intrigued, and since my existing setup was already an unholy cross-breed, I wondered if the Top Shelf could actually look a bit more normal than what I’m currently rocking.

My Otso Fenrir is meant for a stubby MTB-style stem, and this top-load monstrosity was the best way to get me comfortable on long days on the hoods and rowdy descents in the drops. With a Top Shelf bar, I could return to my slightly less offensive Industry9 stem, and in the process, hack off a chunk of steerer tube. Of course, this being a product test and not the real world, I did not hack off a chunk of steerer tube. I wasn’t sure where this all would end up, so my apologies for the varying amounts of excess spacers in my cockpit. While I  argue that the Top Shelf bars actually have a lower kook factor than it may seem, please use your imagination and picture a cleanly flush-cut steerer tube.


Installation was a bit of a journey. I tend to rock my bars back a couple extra degrees, but I didn’t have that luxury given this much rise. At my default angle, I found the Top Shelf bars tilted too far back towards me. Thankfully, though, the short reach and classic curve almost made that a non-issue. There was no sharp introduction to the drops that might have forced my levers into ergonomic lock-step. I could put them just about wherever I wanted, and they felt familiar.

Speaking of setup, kudos to Redshift for the position markers on the sides of the drops. More bars need this. It helped my trial and error process have a lot less error. I didn’t have to break out my bike-hacked gravel version of the straight-edge method for lever alignment. Really, the only slight nitpick I was left with during setup was that the cross-bar design crowds the flats a bit, making it hard to maximize grip space up there. But I suppose most people my size will opt for the 50 cm width. I chose the 47 because my Ritchey Beacons are 46, and these also felt familiar. And quick side-note about that cross-bar. It’s 25.4 mm, so it should be easy to find accessories to fit it. And it’s wide enough that aerobars can clamp to effectively the same spots they would on a traditional bar. Most aerobars are 31.8 these days, but that’s what shims are for.

Quick Hits:

  • Price: $139.99
  • 50 mm or 70 mm rise,
  • 44, 47, or 50 cm width
  • 70, 68, or 65 mm reach (respective to 44, 47, and 50 cm widths)
  • 31.8 mm clamp
  • 25.4 mm crossbar
  • 110 mm drop
  • 25° flare
  • 7° backsweep
  • 499 – 545 grams, depending on configuration
  • A custom-fitted handlebar bag will be available from Redshift, summer 2024 for $89.99

Ride Impressions

There’s nothing too crazy about the Top Shelf’s backsweep, outsweep, or drop flare. It’s not as radically flexed as a Salsa Woodchipper, nor as conservative as a Zipp XPLR. Maybe I’m just restating “familiar” yet again in a different way, but they feel quite natural in the hoods. They’re not clinging to a road-bar feel, and they definitely aren’t edging towards an alt-bar feel. And although they really should feel harsh given their burly design, I can’t say I noticed a significant difference in vibration damping from my Beacons. Which is good, because I’d really rather spend more time talking about the Top Shelf’s height.

The Beacon bar I’m coming off of had a very shallow 80 mm drop, while the Top Shelf has 110 mm. That meant I had some decisions to make. I thought at first that my priority should be to keep the drops high, since that’s where my hands are on my roughest, fastest, funnest descents. As such, I set up the Top Shelf so its drops would be no lower than they were with my Beacons. On this 50 mm model, I was able to ditch my top-load stem, along with 10 mm of headset spacers, and the tops and hoods still ended up about 30 mm higher than they were. But I learned pretty quickly that this was missing the point.

For one thing, if I weren’t on a drop-bar MTB with an à-la-carte build and a garage-hacked 85 mm-travel fork, I probably would have approached this differently. My bike’s front end is already pretty tall, so it’s not difficult to find a traditional bar that’d allow me to be upright when I cruise the streets and confident when I shred the steeps. But for another thing, I don’t think shredding steeps is what the Top Shelf bar is about.

I called the shape of the drops themselves, “classic.” That is, they’re not “ergo.” They don’t transition to straight diagonals in the spots you grip while covering the brakes from the drops. Instead, they maintain a simple curve. That meant, wherever I put my hands down there, it felt consistent. I could get in an aero tuck and choke up towards the front of the drops, or just post up near the tips and lean forward for a stretch. All positions welcome. But the problem is, when I was covering the brakes in an aggressive descent, my palm wasn’t supported. When pulling the levers, the squeezing force would team up with my body’s inertia, wedging my hands into that curve, sacrificing comfort and security.

Flash back to my setup process, and this was less of an issue on my first attempt when I had my levers lower on the bar … probably closer to where a professional bike fitter would suggest I put them. With the lever tips lower and closer in, more of my hand was on the flat part of the drops, not in the crux of the curve. I was more comfortable, but no more confident. Without a flat section of bar sitting perpendicular to my body’s momentum, I had a similar trouble keeping a firm grip in steep, technical sections. This, of course, is one reason why the classic-versus-ergo divide will always exist. Each has its merits, and I faced none of these problems when simply controlling speed on a road or fire-road descent where I could safely maintain a lighter grip. So, I took a new approach and took to new terrain.

I migrated another 15 mm of headset spacers, which brought the hoods and tops down to where I was used to on my old bars, letting the drops fall where they may. The result was a much more well-rounded experience, so to speak. And it was a surprise. Something about the Top Shelf’s moto looks had me assuming it had moto intentions. But I don’t think that’s what it’s about. Sure, it’s every bit as versatile as a gravel handlebar should be. But that type of versatility means it wasn’t tailor-made for drop-bar MTB. It’s more like any other modern gravel bar, just taller. It reminded me why not all drop bars have shallow 80 mm drops. Beyond the obvious aero advantages, I appreciated the stretch I felt in my back and shoulders on long rides. And that classic bend made for a roomy horizontal section down there. It was a surprisingly comfortable place to hang out on extended stretches of flat terrain. And it’s especially comfortable if you enlist some of Redshift’s other solutions.

I know I led with an argument that the Top Shelf bar actually looks normal if you squint. But that’s out the window now that I added their Cruise Control grips. It kinda makes a drop bar look like it got silicone bicep injections instead of going to the gym. Except they really do work. Hailey already covered them in greater depth, but I’ll nutshell my own experience here. The lower grips create a firm but wide platform, which offered a moderate but noticeable benefit during long cruises in the drops. The top grips add some cushioned support just behind the hoods, which helped a lot given my big hands and the Top Shelf’s short reach. They also make the tops feel a bit more like they have a flat-wing shape, though because the upper grips lack the secure aluminum clamp used in the lower grips, I did notice some squirm if I leaned on them a bit too much. I spent time with and without the Cruise Control augments, and I think they’d be a welcomed luxury if I were to permanently swap to the Top shelf bars. But, about that…

After this test, I’ll be going back to my Beacons. Don’t get me wrong, the Top Shelf bar is a stellar little piece of kit. It’s just not meant for me. And the only reason it’s not for me is that I spent thousands of dollars building a bike that doesn’t really benefit from what this bar offers. But there are a lot of bikes out there that would. I touched on this in my 27.2 mm seatpost Dust-Up, but a lot of mainstream gravel bikes still cling to racing in a way that just isn’t relevant to many of the people buying them. Some of them might be happier on an Otso Fenrir, or a Tumbleweed Stargazer, or a Marin Four Corners. But maybe that Giant Revolt or Specialized Diverge was what grabbed them. As our relationships with riding evolve, we need our bikes to evolve alongside us. The Redshift Top Shelf bar is part of the solution.


  • Eliminates the need for unorthodox stems
  • Crossbar actually makes them look kinda normal
  • Familiar sweep, flare and drop numbers
  • Short reach pairs well with forgiving height
  • Ample room for accessories on the 25.4 crossbar


  • Traditional shape and drop depth aren’t ideal for aggressive terrain
  • Crossbar design makes for less flex, but no discomfort was noticed during testing

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