Carbon or aluminum handlebar?
One of the hottest topics on MTB forums is definitely the dilemma between aluminum and carbon. If in the world of racing bikes carbon is certainly the best choice for frames, wheels, handlebars, etc. in mtb this is not yet obvious especially when it comes to handlebars and wheels.
Why is it so feared?
What distinguishes carbon from aluminum is its behavior in the event of breakage.
Due to its mechanical characteristics, an aluminum handlebar will tend to deform in the event of a violent impact, in fact it is not uncommon to see some crooked or deformed wheels in the MTB field. Carbon has a distinctly different behaviour, being a much stiffer material, a shock will not deform it but will cause it to break clean, a very dangerous event if the break occurs when we are riding the bike.
At this point the question to ask is: but then why should I prefer carbon?
Carbon has clear advantages in terms of weight, stiffness and strength, very valid reasons that make carbon the preferred material for mtb professionals where the primary objective is time.
Table in hand, the eye immediately jumps to the weight, a carbon handlebar is certainly lighter than the corresponding aluminum one and you know, for competitive athletes, weight is the first aspect to consider when you want to upgrade your bike, especially for xc bikes.
Rigidity is certainly the most sensitive practical aspect. The stiffness of carbon is immediately apparent, the initial sensation is precisely that of having a very stiff bike, which absorbs less vibration and is less forgiving, but with a precision and reactivity that had never been experienced before. If on the one hand the bike may be less "comfortable" on the other it will increase the reactivity of the vehicle and it will be possible to be much more precise in tackling the trails.
The breaking load of carbon is much higher, an effort such as to bend the aluminum will easily leave the carbon unharmed, but the unknown factor remains, a shock such as to break the carbon and end up with the body landing could be avoided with a aluminum component, which deforms but does not break.