Carbon generally does a better job of damping or absorbing vibrations from trail irregularities, while aluminum transmits more of those vibrations into your hands.
Editor's Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art's Cyclery. The original post can be found here.
So you are looking to upgrade to a wider handlebar, but are not sure if you should go with carbon or aluminum, and are wondering what are the benefits and drawbacks of each?
Whether you're looking for road handlebars or mountain bike handlebars, there are a few important points to consider which will help guide your decision making process. Check out this video to learn more.
Most comparisons of carbon to aluminum center around this feature. Generally, carbon does a better job of damping or absorbing vibrations from trail irregularities, while aluminum transmits more of those vibrations into your hands. On trails with lots of big hits, carbon bars can save you a lot of energy, as your hands don't get rattled as much as they would with an aluminum bar.
Comfort and stiffness are closely linked, but carbon bars are generally as stiff or stiffer than their aluminum counterparts. Many people think that aluminum bars are stiffer since they feel harsher than carbon, but that is because of the aforementioned differences in vibration damping of the two materials. Light weight aluminum bars often flex noticeably when pushing down on the grips.
Here's another category where carbon wins. Carbon bars are almost lighter than aluminum bars. Aluminum bars that approach the low weights of carbon are often quite flexy.
Aluminum bars come out on top when it comes to price. Carbon often costs twice as much as aluminum.
When it comes to impact resistance, carbon and aluminum are evenly matched. Both can take a lot of abuse without breaking. However, quality aluminum bars will dent, bend, or otherwise deform if the impact is great enough, giving you some indication of how much abuse they have endured and how much fatigue life they have left.
Carbon bars, on the other hand, will not dent or bend. When they have reached the end of their fatigue life, they simply break. This is only an issue if you crash a lot, or use extremely light weight carbon bars meant for XC in aggressive enduro or DH conditions.
Besides materials choice, you'll need to settle on the bar that best meets your look and style preferences.
To sum up, carbon bars are generally more comfortable, stiffer, and lighter than aluminum bars. However, carbon bars are typically more expensive than aluminum, and give no indication if they have sustained an impact large enough to make them unsafe to ride.
Head over to www.artscyclery.com to see their full array of mountain bike handlebars.