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Best carbon handlebars: upgrade your bike to be lighter and faster

Cyclist magazine
2 Nov 2020

Whether you want aerodynamics or enhanced comfort, there’s a set of carbon bars here with your name on them

If you want to tune your bike for fit, ride feel or both, then upgrading your handlebars is a great way to do it.

And while certainly a more expensive way of doing things, there can be little doubt that a set of carbon handlebars will enhance the aesthetics of your bike.

Among carbon’s advantages are that it can be moulded into any shape you can think of which allows for fine-tuning of aerodynamics or ergonomics, for example.

But while all those featured here are, broadly speaking, designed to do exactly the same job, there are differences between them that are worth thinking about carefully before making a purchase.

Are you looking to save weight, add or reduce stiffness or reduce your wind resistance? Whatever your needs, there’s something for every option here.

In making our assessment, we looked at the technology used, the weight and style or ethos behind the bar’s design as well as the important details of width and reach, plus anything else peculiar to the bar in question.

The best carbon handlebars for road bikes

1. 3T Superergo Team Stealth Carbon Handlebar 

Carrying the heritage of the original 3T ergonomic handlebar, the SuperErgo stands on the shoulders of the Ergonova with updates that make the most of the latest carbon fibre technology and the changes necessary to optimise fit with the latest shifter hood shapes.

Specifically, the top radius has been tightened to allow the shifter to integrate more readily while the corner of the bar has been opened out to fit the rider’s palm better, and the ergonomic flattened top section either side of the stem remains.

Available in the usual choice of four sizes from 38-44cm, the 42cm version has a claimed weight of 200g, while the all-important reach is 77mm and the cable routing tucked inside the tops. A quality product from a company with a reputation for creating first-class components, you can read our full review here

Buy now from ProBikeKit for £185

2. Prime Primavera X-Light Carbon Handlebar 

The money the Wiggle-Chain Reaction house-brand Prime wants for these carbon handlebars will likely make many riders sit up. About half the price of their rivals, they’re nevertheless backed by a proper warranty, and at just 169g undercut many alternatives when it comes to weight too.

Round in profile and ergonomic in their shape, they’re compatible with Shimano's Di2 junction box for neater integration with electronic set-ups.

Striving for the middle ground, they feature a moderate 125mm drop and 78mm reach which should suit everyone from sportive riders to all but the most aggressive racers. Aspiring time-triallists or triathletes will also be happy to find out they can also be used with out-front aero bars.

Well able to cut down buzz from the road, they're extremely comfortable. However, competitive types might be put off slightly by the higher than average degree of flex. Rarely troublesome it's nevertheless not what you want for an all-out sprint.

Still, given their good looks, superb comfort, low weight and minimalist pricing, these still represent great value. 

Buy now from Wiggle for £129.99

3. Enve Compact Drop Carbon Handlebar 

Don’t ask us why but something is most definitely ‘right’ about the Enve’s Compact carbon bars perhaps it’s the proportions, the subtle styling or knowledge they are approved for gravel roads, whatever, they’ve got it.

With a reputation for technical nous thanks to its carbon wheels Enve has created bars with plenty of detail.

Most notable are the integrated bar-end plugs that finish off reverse-wrapped tape so cleanly.

Recessed brake and gear cable grooves flow organically to give clean, lump-free bar tape. This latest version will also play happily with Di2 electronic cabling. Coming in five sizes from 38 to 46cm – the slight outward flare of the drops means that they measure 2cm wider at the ends compared to the hoods.

The compact design has a reach of 79mm yet only weighs 206g for the middle size. 

Buy now from Tweeks for £360 

4. Zipp SL-70 Aero Carbon Handlebar 

With all the know-how gained from years as one of the leading lights in carbon wheels and the complexity of an aerofoil that is spinning, you’d imagine the Zipp engineers could have knocked out the SL-70 Aero bar in a lunch hour, but they assure us it took much, much longer.

All the same, the wheel CFD program was tasked with making the bars as sleek and aerodynamic as possible the upshot of which is a bar that is said to require 6.4watts less than a round bar at 30mph, a small but worthwhile gain.

A 70mm reach it features internal cable routing, has an outward sweep of 4 degrees, comes sizes in from 38-44cm and has a list weight of 240g. Although not the lightest option, this is one for speed-merchants thanks to its superb aerodynamics. 

Buy now from Tweeks for £249

5. Deda Superleggera Carbon Handlebar 

A super-light bar from Italy, this one comes from the stable of Deda Elementi.

Made from what Deda describes as a revolutionary carbon, HR40, the 180g list weight certainly makes these the lightest bars in this round up.

Deda like to do things their own way, with their own bar clamp diameter of 31.7mm so you have to use a Deda stem.

They also measure the width differently – outside to outside (other brands are centre to centre), so the 42, 44, 46cm widths match others more standard measurements.

A 75mm reach combines with the 130mm drop to form the RHM (Rapid Hand Movement) bar shape that’s proved to be very popular over the years. 

One for the weight weenies, be careful not to be caught out by the quirky sizing. 

Buy now from Wiggle for £199.99

6. Cinelli Neos Carbon Handlebar 

Constructed as a monocoque, Cinelli’s Neos bar is a seriously pared-down option with a conventional shape, which is to say it’s round in profile rather than tweaked for aerodynamics or ergonomics.

The benefit is clear on the scales as its listed weight is just 185g for the 42cm size, which is great if you’re looking to shed every possible gram from your dream build.

Gear and brake cables will need to run under your bar tape but if you are using these on a bike equipped with electronic shifters, that’s less of an issue than traditional mechanical gear cables, and there’s a flattened front section with an indentation to help minimise routing issues and unwanted bumps.

With a 70mm reach, the bars come in three sizes 40, 42 and 44cm. Impressively low weight, though their external cable routing feels a bit like a compromise.

Buy now from Fawkes for £156.65

7. Bontrager Pro Isocore VR-CF Carbon Handlebar 

Carbon is an incredibly versatile material so when used innovatively can be both stiff and comfortable and that’s where Bontrager has gone with its IsoCore product.

Using inner-laminar technology it claims to mute 20% of vibrations, rather like the council filling in the potholes just for you!

To enhance this they come with replaceable IsoZone EVA pads to place under the bar tape. A variable radius curve has been used on the drops and a slight outward flare, externally contoured at the front and rear to take cables.

They come in five sizes from 38-46cm, with the 42cm weighing 249g, the reach is 93mm. A perfect choice for endurance riders who seek hand comfort on long rides over rough terrain. 

Buy now from Trek for £299.99

8. Syntace Racelite Carbon Handlebar

 

It’s a real testament to the quality of the Syntace engineers work that despite the Racelite bar having been on the market some time, it’s still regarded as one of the best.

A subtle ergonomic design, it starts at the stem clamp with a visible titanium mesh, which serves to reinforce the area and allow the use of clip-on tri bars – something most carbon bars can’t accommodate.

Brake and gear cable recesses run along the front and rear of the slightly ovalised top sections, which have a six-degree rearward sweep for improved hand and wrist comfort.

Flattened sections on the drops also provide pronounced hand positions. 40-44cm sizes have a 78mm reach, the 42cm weighs 210g and there is also a 46cm, XL, version, too. 

Buy now from Syntace for €289

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