Carbon vs. Aluminum: Which handlebars are strongest?

Step inside the Controltech factory to witness some serious fatigue testing

Parts Video
Carbon vs. Aluminum: Which handlebars are strongest?

Extreme fatigue testing in process.

For years, riders have preferred aluminum bars to carbon, as they believed carbon bars had the potential to fail. But how often does this actually happen? Are carbon bars actually stronger than aluminum? The crew from the Global Cycling Network went to the Controltech factory, and were given free reign of their fatigue and impact testing machines to test aluminum and carbon handlebars to destruction! The results were really quite surprising. Press play to see for yourself.

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  • Alan B says:

    What about doing the fatigue test and then the drop test with the same bars to see how they compare?

  • jj says:

    Excellent video.Thanks!

  • Rex P says:

    Surprisingly little weight difference between the two bars. I think the ControlTech premium aluminum stem is actually lighter than their premium carbon stem.

  • Matt says:

    A riding buddy of mine had an aluminum bar break clean off at the stem after using it only a few seasons. He was descending at around 50mph on good roads and ended up in the hospital. The bar was from a major manufacturer. I will never use aluminum again after that.

    • Johan says:

      it’s more likely that a carbon fiber handlebar will break straight off (“catastrophic failure”) than an aluminum one. Just because you have seen something specific happen does not mean that it is the thing that happens most often statistically. Aluminum too has bad breaking characteristics, but in many/most cases it bends and stays together long enough so you have a chance to react, before something really bad happens. The video illustrates that.

  • Max McAllister says:

    I thought it would be a better drop test if the bar was held vertically… simulating the bike landing on the bar on its side… the drop tests were “pulling down” on the bar, which doesn’t seem like it could ever occur. At the least, the bar shoud be upside down when the drop it.

    I wish they had explained what the force meant in the real world… such as “dropping from 48cm is the equiavlent of hitting a brick wall at 40mph”. We don’t really know what those forces meant.

    • Brian says:

      I think the drop test was to simulate hitting a pot hole, where your body weight would suddenly load the bar at the grip, not really an impact test in my opinion.

  • Terrence Bennett says:

    I’d go with the aluminum bars. In my years of racing, I’ve seen too many carbon bars fail to count. Aluminum fail? Yes, I’ve seen only a handful of those at best. That makes sense why most pros use aluminum bars. They can get a hold of any bars they want, but they still stick with aluminum.

  • Conscience of a Conservative says:

    but when aluminum fails it bends, when carbon fails it cracks and shatters. in a race condition it might be the difference between stopping and finishing

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