The best carbon mountain bike handlebars

Get your hands round a pair of these

Words: James Smurthwaite/ Ed Haythornthwaite

The feedback you get through your handlebars is so important to the micro and macro adjustments you make while riding. Bars have to be stiff and light but at the same time compliant enough for you to not be stopping to stretch out your hands every time you reach a fireroad – in short, a good set of carbon handlebars is really hard to get right.

It’s true, too, that you can’t have it all. Stong, light, cheap – pick two. Carbon handlebars are most often more expensive than aluminium ones but, as upgrades go, they’re far from the most expensive. This, plus the fact they look super blingy on the front of your bike, probably led to handlebars being the first widely accepted use of carbon in mtb.

Bars are an immensely personal choice, preferences on everything from width, sweep, rise and even styling can be dependant on your body type or bike. Really, there’s no such thing as one perfect bar. Instead here are a list of bars we’ve wrecked and rated as the top out there. In no particular order, here are our favourites:

Enve Composites Downhill

There’s not much room for bars in the Dirt 100, most years only one or two make it in. This year the Enve Downhill bar was the top choice for one reason. When testing the Canyon Sender, Ieuan had a monumental crash that saw him in a cast for weeks.

The bars took a fair chunk of the impact and we expected them to be a write off, when we took it apart they were barely scratched and good to go. So yes, you’re paying a premium on these bars but we’ve gone further than any other mag testing them and still couldn’t find a fault.


Read the full review here

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Pacenti P-Dent

This one’s a bit of a cheat as it only really makes sense if you run the bar and stem together. the P-Dent is one of those simple ideas that has you scratching your head and asking why nobody thought of it earlier. The P-Dent has a dimple in the bar that means it conforms to the steerer tube on your fork.

This gives you the option to run a proprietary 25mm stem allowing you to splice 5mm off the shortest standard stem on the market. Pacenti feels this is the way forward and will bring the best out of many correctly sized bikes. Weighing in at a combined system of 360g and priced in line with components of a similar quality it’s a set-up we can truly recommend you try.


Read the full review here

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Renthal Fatbar Carbon

The 2016 Dirt 100 features both the Integra direct mount stem and the Carbon Fatbar both products that not only appear on our own personal bikes but as original equipment now on many brands such as YTCanyon and Orange. The tight range of products that Renthal focus on producing means that nothing is overlooked or rushed to market. Bars, stems, grips and chainrings are all up there with the best on the market and their prices are realistic considering the pedigree and quality that comes with the Renthal brand.

This year, 35mm lamp sizes were added as was 10mm either end for some extra width, welcome additions for gravity riders, although the fact remains there’s always something reassuring about a cockpit with Renthal branding on it.


Read a full review here

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Answer ProTaper SL

If you’ve been in it since the early days of mountain biking, then you’ll remember that Answer have been a key player in handlebars since the start. The Hyperlite, Taperlite and soon after the Protaper bar all adorned the best bikes and was the go-to upgrade right back into the early 90s.

The quality remains to this day although this bar. It is probably best suited to a trail or lightweight enduro build rather than full-on downhill bikes but a rider looking for good dimensions, low weight and high strength from a bar that will be comfortable over a long day stage racing or out on the hill will find there match here.


Read the full review here

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Raceface SixC

A bar that paved the way in 2011 still remains one of the best out there today. Back when it was released we were impressed with the textured clamp area and reinforced grip area, both of which have now become standard issue on most carbon bars. At 820mm width and weighing in at 210 grams they’ve not been left behind anywhere else either. Plus it’s the cheapest one here!


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Hope carbon handlebar

Hope initially turned to carbon on its bars so it could take production of its handlebars away from the Far East and back into Barnoldswick. In conjunction with the HB160 bike, Hope now has a good grasp of carbon manufacturing and the quality of the products are telling. Production runs are quite small at the moment and Hope have been inundated with orders so there’s a three month wait to get your hands on them at the moment (when was the last time you could say that about a pair of bars?!). We’ve only ridden them on the Hope HB 160 but we’re suitably impressed.


Deity DC 31 Mohawk

Ever since we first tried their Blacklabel bars we’ve been big fans of Deity bars thanks to their great shape – that’s why they were in the Dirt 100 2014-16. What we really wanted though was a carbon version, and that’s exactly what we’ve now got in the shape of these ones. Deity reckon they are the strongest carbon bars on the market, and with them being the heaviest here we don’t doubt that. It would be good to see a few rise options alongside the standard 25mm, but apart from that we love them.


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Bontrager Line Pro

Yes, Bontrager may be an in house brand, and it’s easy to sneer at them, but Trek’s exacting standards ensure the highest quality bar with a sweet gloss finish. We’d recommend going for the 820mm width version, the 750 just feels too short to be of any real use to us.


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