Carbon handlebars are becoming more and more commonplace on bikes sold across the world and they are often one of the first upgrades cyclists seek when they are looking to upgrade their compenents.
Many professionals use carbon handlebars but there are a significnat amount that prefer the older style aluminium handlebar - so why would you upgrade to carbon handlebars?
Carbon Handlerbars: The Pros
The increase in popularity of caron fibre, along with the technological advancements that go with it, mean that carbon fibre handlebars can be an excellent upgrade option.
The manufacturing process of carbon means that the handlebars can be moulded into any shape the manufacturer wants, leading to better aerodynamics and the ability to closely integrate with other components such as the headtube to a much better effect than standard metal casting.
The other benefit of carbon handlebars is the weight difference. Aside from the frame and wheels, the handlebars are the heaviest metal object on the bike so there is a lot of potential for saving weight. To put this in perspective, a standard set of Deda alloy handlebars weighs 248g, compared to a mid-range set of Deda carbon handlebars which weights 220g. Whilst not a huge difference, in the world of marginal gains this speaks volumes about about the popularity of carbon bars.
A third benefit of carbon handlebars is it's ability to be created specifically for a purpose. Unlike aluminium or alloy bars, carbon bars can be ceated using different carbon lay-ups to allow for different characteristics. They can be created to be stiffer to handle the power of sprinters pulling on them, for example.
Carbon Handlebars: The Cons
Whilst carbon is increasing in use, even amongst the professional peloton there is a significant number of riders and teams that are still using aluminium and metal alloy bars on their top end bikes.
One of the advantage aluminium has over carbon is its durability - carbon handelbars are much more likely to break in a crash or bump, even something as inconsequential as accidentally dropping the bike can cause the carbon to crack, rendering the bars useless.
There is also the financial cost to consider - whilst aluminium bars can cost as much as carbon bars, the top level aluminium versions are significanlt cheaper than their carbon equivalents. Considering that many cyclists won't be considering the 10-20% weight differential as a crucial factor, the high cost of carbon handlebars could be the decider.
From a professional racing perspective, the lighter weight of carbon handlebars can actually be a hindrence to many teams in the peloton. UCI regulations state that all bikes must weigh a certain weight, a weight which already has many teams adding weights to the riders bottom brackets and pedals to meet due to the advancements in component technology. Adding more weight-saving components, for these teams, means more hassle to make the bikes meet the weight regulation.
So, should you buy carbon handlebars? If you want to get the best upgrades technologically, then yes. Carbon handlebars are the latest in handlebar technology, so if you like having the latest innovations on your machine then go for it.
If you are considering them for the lighter weight, but aren't a competitive cyclist, then the extra cost of carbon handlebars is more likely to outweight any potential improvements the weight saving makes to your riding.