Carbon Mountain Bike Handlebars are one of the most expensive parts of a mountain bike. A good set will cost you upwards of $100 easily and even more for some high-end models. So when it comes to switching your mtb handlebar to carbon, there’s no going back if you make a mistake!
Do they really offer any advantages over aluminum or steel? And is the investment worth it?
Here’s what I found out…
If you’re looking for a way to improve your mountain bike’s performance and comfort, then carbon handlebars might be the answer. They are lighter than aluminum bars, which means they’ll make your ride somewhat easier on those long climbs. And because of their stiffness, they also offer more control while riding. Carbon bars will even reduce vibration from trails so that you can enjoy a smoother ride without any discomfort in your hands or wrists.
Now I know that might not be enough to convince you, so let’s look into the details of carbon handlebars.
Are carbon fiber handlebars safe?
There is a general concern about the safety of carbon fiber handlebars. The worry is due to scary stories about how fragile carbon fiber handlebars can be and how they show damage.
I’m not going to lie to you; carbon fiber bars can break under certain conditions without you even realizing it. But chances are you won’t ever realize the conditions to snap a carbon handlebar.
However, there are two factors that you need to consider:
1) Carbon fiber is much more brittle than steel or aluminum on impact.
2) Carbon fiber handlebars can have small imperfections that are not visible to the human eye, and they will only become apparent when you make a hard landing.
Apart from those two factors, there aren’t any other real issues with carbon fiber handlebars. The risk, as I mentioned, is not the same as some would make it seem. Without a catastrophic impact, a carbon handlebar will be more durable to fatigue(through regular usage) and can last even longer than an aluminum handlebar.
You can see it being tested in the video below:
What does carbon fiber do for mountain handlebars?
Carbon Fiber Handlebars make a mountain bike more comfortable to ride. This is because they absorb some of the vibrations from the trail, unlike steel or aluminum bars which will only transfer it back to your hands and wrists. Therefore, a carbon handlebar can help you reduce arm fatigue during long rides.
Not having excessive vibrations in your arms will allow for better control over the bike while riding on the trail. In addition, it will allow you to be more precise with your movements, especially when riding on technical terrains. So the handling of your bike will improve as well!
Carbon vs Aluminum Handlebars
To better grasp, if carbon handlebars are worth it, here’s a quick comparison of the exact differences between an aluminum handlebar and a carbon handlebar.
Comfort: Are carbon handlebars more comfortable?
Carbon bike handlebars are more comfortable than an aluminum bar, especially if you’re looking to improve the feel of a mountain bike.
It all comes down to the material’s stiffness and how it controls vibrations. The carbon fiber absorbs the vibrations from the trail rather than transfer them back into your hands as much as aluminum does. This way, your hands will experience less fatigue during long rides, and you can enjoy a more comfortable ride.
Durability: How long do carbon mountain bike handlebars last?
Carbon handlebars last for a long time, as simple as that.
If you’re the type of rider who doesn’t put much stress on his bike and isn’t into aggressive mountain biking, then you could set yourself up with some carbon handlebars and not even have to replace them for 2 or 5 years!
But let’s say you like to ride aggressively, do jumps, and have an irregular style, you will still get a durable bar. The only point to note is that if you have a horrible crash, the bar might be damaged.
A carbon handlebar is like a small rock: it can break if you hit it hard enough, but with normal usage (even aggressive), you’ll be able to ride for many years without worrying about your handlebars’ endurance.
The stiffness of a carbon handlebar is significantly higher than an aluminum bar. A stiffer handlebar makes you feel more in control and improves your handling qualities. It can also boost your confidence to push the limits without worrying about losing control over the bike.
Carbon fiber mountain bike handlebars have some flex, but they are made so that it’s not noticeable to the rider.
Carbon Fiber handlebars are significantly lighter than aluminum bars. In general, they weigh around 25% to 50% less. This is especially good news for your comfort if you’re into long rides and don’t want to feel exhausted after only 20 miles.
Carbon mountain bike handlebars cost more because of their manufacturing process and the time involved in making them.
And this is where it gets tricky…
Compared to aluminum handlebars that require very little effort to manufacture, carbon mountain bike handlebars are often twice as expensive.
That’s why if you buy one, it’s a good idea to treat it carefully by avoiding major impacts to the handlebar.
Is it worth upgrading to carbon handlebars?
Many cyclists will upgrade their handlebars to carbon fiber if they do a lot of mountain biking. This is because carbon fiber handlebars are much more comfortable, durable, and lighter than their aluminum counterparts. But this can also depend on the type of riding you plan to do.
If you are not going to do lots of biking downhill, or if you are not going to be in situations where you will ruin the handlebar, then you should upgrade.
When should you replace carbon handlebars?
As mentioned earlier, carbon handlebars are just as durable as other handlebar types. So they typically have the same lifespan as any other material. However, if you ride aggressively and have an accident, then you should definitely replace your carbon handlebars as soon as possible.
This is because carbon handlebars show damage in a peculiar way that might not be immediately visible. Once that happens, the bar can snap under certain pressures without you being aware that it will fail.
Bottom Line: Are carbon mountain bike handlebars worth it or not worth it?
Carbon mountain bike handlebars are worth it because they are lighter, more comfortable, and provide better control.
The weight and stiffness benefit heavily affect one’s choice when switching between carbon fiber and an aluminum bar. So if those benefits matter, then you should go for carbon mountain bike handlebars.
If not, there are other weight-saving techniques that you can apply to improve the performance of your ride without having to upgrade to expensive materials.