It's one of the cheapest carbon components you can put on a mountain bike yet a set of carbon MTB handlebars can easily cost $250. Is it worth the extra expense or should we stick to the dependable alloy handlebar? We investigate so you can make the right decision for your mountain bike riding needs.
Weight is the easiest one for us to clear up, it's black and white, a good carbon handlebar is lighter than a nice alloy bar. An example is the Renthal Fatbar, 35mm clamp / 20mm rise. The carbon model weighs in at 225g compared to the alloy model at 305g. It may only be an 80g difference but shaving weight off your bike in a cost effective way is not easy to do so taking the little wins when they arise never hurts!
Although harder to gauge without an industry standard / measurement of flex this is one of the most important factors that riders should consider when choosing their handlebar. A stiff MTB handlebar will beat up your wrists / upper body greatly, increasing fatigue. After a long day of riding your once free and mobile wrists will feel like that of a ninety year old arthritis victim. Carbon fibre is able to be manipulated greatly in the manufacturing process so engineers can actually incorporate a large amount of flex into the handlebar. When executed correctly a carbon bar will be far more comfortable than an alloy bar, providing great relief to many 'arm pump' victims out there.
There's no point in having a light, comfortable MTB handlebar on your bike if it's putting you at risk when riding! So how strong are carbon bars? When made correctly, pretty damn strong. The We Are One Composites 'Da Package' in the video above is taking 225kg of downward force each side, 450kg total! I'm not sure about you but I can't think of the last time I put 450kg of force through my bars mountain biking.
Who comes out on top in the test of time? You will get good life out of both carbon and alloy bar but should be aware that because of the extreme forces you put through your bars when they start ageing it's best to replace them for safety reasons. Alloy bars do have an advantage in the fact that when you crash they will dint and deform before snapping. Although carbon bars have great strength as shown above if you crash hard enough they can break, everything can break!
If you're still honing your craft and taking a few spills while doing so then stick to alloy bars for now to maximise durability. But, if you're looking for maximum comfort and optimal feel while riding you can't go past a good set of carbon bars, the weight saving doesn't hurt either!
Check out the range of handlebars at For The Riders Brisbane MTB store online here.