I would like to upgrade my handlebar to a new wider type, but I am still unsure whether to pick aluminum or carbon.
Which are the pros and cons of aluminum and carbon?
Should I go for cheaper aluminum bar offerings over lighter and more aerodynamic carbon bar options?
These questions are very debated especially when choosing new frames or components. The aim of this report is to guide the customers through his decision-making process by defining the most important points (comfort, cost, stiffness, weight and durability) that should be kept in mind before choosing in between carbon or aluminum.
Most comparisons of carbon over aluminum centered around this feature. Carbon is generally more consistent in damping or absorbing vibrations from trails irregularities while aluminum still tends to transmit more of those vibrations into your hands. On trails with big kids, carbon bars can save plenty of energy since hands are less likely to get rattled compared to aluminum bars. As a result, one would normally find carbon bars more comfortable to handle compared to aluminum bars
Regarding price, aluminum bars normally come out on top. Carbon can easily cost twice as much as aluminum as the material is lighter and more aerodynamic.
Carbon and stiffness are normally related to each other and that explains why carbon bars are as stiff or stiffer than aluminum bars. The common belief is that aluminum components and bars are stiffer than carbon because they normally feel harsher than carbon bars even though the reason is linked to the differences in vibration damping of the 2 materials. In addition to this, aluminum bars tend to flex much more when pushing down on the grips compared to carbon bars.
Carbon has a significant advantage in terms of weight lightness since carbon fiber bars are usually lighter than aluminum bars and they ensure lower weights and faster bikes.
Concerning impact resistance, broadly speaking there is not much difference between carbon and aluminum since both can support a lot of abuse without breaking. However, high quality aluminum bars are more likely to deform if the impact is great. Consequently, aluminum can give a more precise indications regarding the amount of fatigue life that is left. On the other hand, carbon bars would not normally bend, and they will break only when they reach the end of their fatigue life. Life fatigue can shrink only if using extremely light weight carbon bars meant and used for enduring bike racing.
To conclude, carbon bars are generally more costly, more comfortable, stiffer and lighter than aluminum bars.