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  • Are carbon bars worth all the money?
  • Are they strong enough?
  • What are the differences between them all?
  • What sort of bars should I bring on my Alpine holiday?


Are They Worth It?

Carbon bars seem to be a lot more expensive than alloy handlebars. So why should we spend the extra cash?

The main reason is the feel that they give you.  Depending if you like a spongy soft feel, just want to have a little less chatter for your hands or want the stiffness like a pro, it’s worth trying a pair of carbon handle bars today.

Carbon handlebars are expensive but unfortunately they have to be to create the feel and strength that we need.

Your bars must be able to be deal with all the small nano movements you need to control your steering.  They also need to be able to give you the feedback information for making direction changes as soon as you can.  They have to be stiff enough for all of this feel but yet soft enough so that your hands don’t get too much vibration. We don’t want to have the claw experience after every section of single track.

Are They Strong Enough?

The real question is, are they any different in strength to an alloy handlebar?

Strength wise, both alloy bars and carbon bars are both tested in the factory and have to pass a fatigue test of international standard (ISO4210). Now most reputable brands will go above and beyond this standard making the lightest and most durable handlebar they can. Most carbon handlebars are actually more likely to withstand a significantly longer duration in the fatigue test than alloy bars.  Result 1-0 to carbon bars!


The second means of testing is an impact test.  In this test the handlebars are checked after every impact to measure the damage. The carbon bars were the first to break, but only after a seriously large impact. Even though the carbon handlebars failed first, the way in which they did was different to what you would imagine. They showed cracks at the weakened spots and did not break completely. This is a win for the alloy bars but in no way a danger for injury using the carbon bars, unless you intend to crash hard all the time.

The key here is, you should always check your bike before you ride it every time, especially the controls.


What’s The Difference? Size, Length, Rise and Sweep

There are many differing compatibility options for different bikes. Depending on whether you ride a DH bike, Enduro, or an XC race bike, you will need to decide what fits and what you want.

  1. The first thing to look for is your stem to bar diameter. This is not optional if you want to keep the same stem on your bike. Most bikes for Trail and Enduro riding are 31.8mm clamping diameter. Some more aggressive Downhill bikes are larger, and old school XC bikes are smaller.Handlebars
  2. The second thing to consider is the length of your bars, or the distance between your hands.  This is a preference thing depending on your body build.  Some smaller riders may choose a slightly narrower bar 740mm-760mm.  A wider bar will give you more leverage and control, allowing you to not suffer from fatigue as quickly.  Most Downhill bike riders choose bars 780mm-800mm and bigger for a great standing and strong feeling position on the bike.
  3. The amount of rise on your handlebars is the distance raised above the stem.  You want to be at a comfortable ride height when you pedal and descend.  Usually a taller rider would go for slightly more rise and a smaller rider would have slightly less.
  4. Finally the amount of sweep on your bars make a big difference to the comfort and feel to the ride. This is the part that mainly differs between manufacturers.  The up sweep is the angle the bars have in the upward direction away from the stem. This helps with the stiffness or softness feeling of the handlebar, also adding a little more rise.  Back sweep is the angle of which the bars are formed back horizontally away from the stem. This brings more comfort to your wrists when you run slightly wider bars.  The feeling of the sweeps are what gives a handlebar it’s individual feel and is a very personal thing. Handlebars


You just need to go out there and try as many as you can.  Some companies even offer demos for its products.


Bars To Bring On An Alpine Holiday.

I would suggest to anyone that they should purchase a pair of carbon handlebars for their mountain bike.  All handlebars do fatigue after a certain duration of time, alloy ones more quickly than carbon.  So its always worth a check before you ride!

Especially if you are visiting the alps on a week mountain biking holiday, with or without a mountain bike guide, then you can increase your fun and minimise your hands getting tired by buying a set of carbon handlebars.

If you get to Verbier and decide to buy a set of carbon bars then Mountain Air have Renthal in stock and these are a personal favourite of many riders and worth every penny.

As a Guide here in Verbier I was using an alloy handlebar (RaceFace) for one season and then tried a carbon one. There was no looking back after using the Deity Tmo carbon enduro bar.  It was so much more comfortable with a heightened sense of control.  Now after some years I have switched to the Renthal FatBar Lite Carbon for this season.