What You Really Want To Buy Part III: Road Handlebars

Upgrade this key contact point to shave weight and increase comfort

Parts
Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Editor’s Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art’s Cyclery. The original post can be found here.

Name your contact points: handlebar, pedals, and saddle. We’ve already suggested that you upgrade your pedals to some power meter pedals in Part II of “What You Want To Buy”. And because a “saddle upgrade” usually means shaving grams more than anything else, we’re focusing on handlebars as the third thing that you might want to buy, but haven’t yet found a reason to.

The best way for you to upgrade your handlebars is to get carbon. Not only will this save weight, but more importantly, it will increase comfort by reducing road vibrations and chatter, making for a much better ride experience. Carbon bars will also offer more torsional stiffness during out-of-the-saddle sprint efforts.

Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Up first is ENVE’s SES Aero Road Handlebar, which is designed to maximize both comfort and speed with its shape and construction.

Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

When you need a stiff handlebar for your sprint effort, this carbon bar won’t let you down. But ENVE wanted more. It needed to be light, stiff, and forgiving. In working with an F1 aerodynamicist, they were able to design a handlebar that would also chew up extra road chatter and rattle to ensure comfort for the long haul. The drops are a full 25mm outboard from the hoods, helping widen your stance for maximum command of your bike.

Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Next up is 3T’s Ergonova Team Stealth Carbon Handlebar. This handlebar is a classic. No fancy polishes or weird carbon layups, this handlebar set a benchmark for the modern handlebar’s reach and drop as short and shallow.

Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Though the ergonomic perch up top is more comfortable than a standard round, 3T made sure this handlebar was still clip-on compatible should you need to make some changes down the road.

Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

Finally, we bring up Shimano’s PRO Vibe UD Anatomic Carbon Handlebar. A handlebar for the serious roadie or powerhouse sprinter, these bars are incredibly stiff. They’re not the lightest, but they’re arguably the stiffest carbon bars around.

They sport a short reach and a moderate drop. Both positions in the drops are natural, and the flat transition into the hoods makes these bars comfortable no matter where your hands end up.

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About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on ArtsCyclery.com to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.


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  • Brian Nystrom says:

    I beg to differ with the glowing remarks in the second paragraph. Unlike frames, where you can build in lateral stiffness AND vertical compliance, a handlebar is either stiff or compliant, it can’t be both. Much like early carbon frames, the emphasis in carbon bars seems to be on stiffness and those that I’ve tried have been very harsh riding. All the hype around the “vibration damping” of carbon fiber is largely nonsense, as a really stiff bar doesn’t damp vibrations in the frequency range that matters. While such bars may be a boon to heavy riders and sprinters who can generate huge wattage, they don’t serve the average rider’s needs all that well, unless you happen to live somewhere with perfect roadways. FWIW, I live in New England, where roads are know for having a fair amount of “texture”.

    Carbon fiber has two advantages over aluminum, it can be made in almost any shape and it’s lighter. It COULD be designed to flex and provide some degree of comfort, but that hasn’t been the emphasis…yet. Hopefully that will change and handlebar manufacturers will start producing bars with various degrees of flex for different applications.

    Personally, I’m sticking with aluminum bars for several reasons; they provide enough flex to take the sting out of rough roads, they’re stiff enough for MY needs and they’re a lot cheaper. For racing, they also survive crashes better (a bent Al bar can still be ridden, a broken carbon bar can’t). To me, the extra 50 grams in weight compared to a comparable carbon bar is irrelevant compared the the advantages.

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