Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike Handlebars – A Complete Guide
After you have been mountain biking for a few months you may wish to upgrade your bike so that it is more personalized, and performs better for you individually. Whether this be upgrading your tires, suspension fork, drivetrain, derailleurs, or handles bars there are a vast amount of options to choose from when deciding what you wish to change. Handlebars are probably the most important non-moving components of a mountain bike and when you are looking to improve your bike investing in some carbon mountain bike handlebars can be a smart decision. Though they are pricy, the advantages to carbon fiber handlebars are huge, resulting in a more comfortable and high performing mountain bike.
Our Guide to Carbon Mountain Bike Handlebars
Throughout the rest of this guide I will be walking you through what exactly carbon mountain bike handlebars are, some benefits of using carbon fiber handlebars, a cost expectation for high quality carbon handlebars, and a few questions that I often get when talking to people about whether or not they should invest in new carbon fiber mountain bike handlebars.
So, what exactly are carbon mountain bike handlebars?
Well it may seem pretty intuitive but carbon mountain bike handlebars are exactly that, they are mountain biking handle bars that are made out of carbon rather than other materials like aluminum alloy or steel. Carbon fiber is made of long chain carbon atoms that are bonded together to form extremely strong, stiff, and lightweight fibers. These fibers are also very versatile and when produced by a skilled engineer, can be formed into nearly any shape or size.
Carbon mountain bike handle bars are simply mountain biking handle bars that have been made out of carbon fiber. There are numerous benefits of using carbon fiber as opposed to other metals and we will go other these in detail later in this article. Although this may be surprising considering how effective carbon fiber can be, the first carbon fiber ever produced happened all the way back in 1860, when Joseph Swan made carbon fibers to be used in lightbulbs. Since then the production of carbon fiber has been dramatically refined, and specialized to the point where we can make carbon fibers for nearly anything. The most common uses for carbon fiber though according to energy.gov, are for “specialized, high-performance products like aircrafts, racecars and sporting equipment.”
Carbon fiber is one of the most versatile building materials that we have in the modern world and you would think that it would be used more often in everyday items. However, although carbon fiber is a miracle of modern engineering, there are some drawbacks to the material which make it unfit for use in everyday products.
What are the Pros and Cons of Carbon Fiber?
The greatest benefit of using carbon fiber is its incredible strength to weight, and stiffness to weight ratios. The strongest carbon fiber is not only ten times are strong as steel, it also more than two times as stiff. That alone would make you think that carbon fiber should be used in place of steel in nearly every circumstance but that is not the end of its benefits. In addition to being stronger and stiffer than steel and aluminum, carbon fiber is also more than five times as light as steel, and 1.5 times as light as aluminum.
Combining both its strength and its low weight it is no surprise that carbon fiber is used in some of the highest performing products in the world. But if it is good enough for things like aircrafts, and high end sporting equipment, why do we not use it for everything. Well unfortunately there are some drawbacks to using carbon fiber. The first major drawback is that unlike steel and aluminum which do not have a single point of failure, if the pressure on carbon fiber exceeds its strength it will catastrophically fail. What this means is that when the pressure on steel or aluminum exceeds their strength they will bend, like when you squeeze an aluminum can, or bend a paper clip. This item do not maintain their shape, but rather than breaking they bend and conform to a new shape that was not in their original design. This does not happen with carbon fiber.
When pushed past its failure point carbon fiber will not bend and form a new shape, instead it will fail and completely break. This single point of catastrophic failure makes using carbon fiber a more risky proposition, especially for products where the cost of breaking might be too much to bear. For uses such as carbon handle bars this problem is not truly relevant as the strength of carbon is so great that you will never put enough pressure on it to break, however for use in things such as cars it takes much more contemplation. This lack of pliability means that carbon fiber cannot be repaired but instead much be replaced when damaged.
The other major downside to using carbon fiber is that it is expensive, very expensive. A pair of high end aluminum mountain bike handle bars will cost, on average around $80. While this may seem expensive a pair of specialized carbon mountain bike handle bars will run you a minimum of $180 in most cases. This extra price comes due to the difficult production process, as well as the high quality performance that you will get from your new carbon handlebars, however for some the high price may not be justified.
Should I Get Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike Handlebars?
In our professional opinion, only intermediate to advanced riders should consider buying carbon fiber handle bars. They are expensive and if you are looking to upgrade your bike you should only do so after you have purchased a high end mountain bike in the first place. There is no reason to add carbon handlebars to an entry level bike. With that being said there are numerous benefits to having carbon handlebars on your bike.
The most obvious benefit to having carbon handle bars is that they are lightweight, however this is not even close to the greatest benefit of carbon handlebars. Yes reducing the weight of your handlebars is important and switching to carbon can make a noticeable difference, however, unless you are looking to race mountain bikes this difference will not be very impactful.
The greatest benefit of carbon handlebars over steel and aluminum is their increased shock absorption. The added stiffness of carbon compared to aluminum and steel increases its shock and vibration dampening which leads to a much smoother ride over rugged terrain. If you are going to be hitting some intense mountain bike trails we strongly suggest that you look into investing in some carbon fiber handlebars, they will make a world of difference. However if you are doing mostly casual and beginner level trails, the benefits of carbon handle bars may be outweighed by the price that you pay.
Final Thoughts on Carbon Mountain Bike Handlebars
Here at mountain bikes lab only three of us use carbon handlebars and although there are certainly great benefits to them, for most of us the cost is too high for it to be worth it. In our minds if you are looking to upgrade your bike there are other factors that would increase your performance more, and cost you less than carbon fiber handle bars. However, if you are dead set on new handle bars we would recommend carbon mountain bike handle bars to an experienced rider who consistently tackles difficult, and rugged trails. This is where the added shock absorption of your carbon handle bars will truly shine and where we believe the cost of these handle bars is justified.
As always thank you for reading this informational guide on carbon handlebars, we hope that you found it entertaining and informative. If you have any thoughts on what you would like us to write about next please leave it in a comment down below and we will get to it as soon as possible.
Frequently asked questions
Are carbon handlebars worth it?
In our professional opinion the only people that should be investing in carbon handlebars are dedicated and high level riders that are consistently riding very rugged trails. The increased vibration and shock absorption of carbon handlebars will be best experienced on rugged trails.
Do carbon handlebars make a difference for mountain biking?
Over the course of a long or rugged ride the increase shock absorption of carbon handlebars can lead to a much more comfortable and smooth ride. The carbon handlebars decrease the vibration that your hands feel and can make the bumps of the ride feel much smoother.
How long will a set of carbon fiber handlebars last?
Depending on the brand of carbon handlebars that you buy, in our experience, and from asking professionals in the industry that use carbon handlebars every day, a good set of carbon fiber handlebars will last you around five years.
History of Carbon Fiber: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Wilson-Swan).
Properties of Carbon fiber: https://zoltek.com/carbon-fiber/what-is-carbon-fiber
Why isn’t Carbon fiber used more often: https://www.hotcars.com/this-is-why-carbon-fiber-isnt-more-widely-available
- Our Guide to Carbon Mountain Bike Handlebars
- What are the Pros and Cons of Carbon Fiber?
- Final Thoughts on Carbon Mountain Bike Handlebars
- Frequently asked questions