I’ve seen a number of posts on various winter biking and especially fatbiking groups asking if upgrading to carbon handlebars are worth the considerable price premium over aluminum bars. So, are they worth it? And why?
The general consensus on Facebook groups and other discussion boards is “Yes”, they are worth the upgrade in the winter. But why? Aside from being a bit lighter, many people mentioned that the carbon handlebars seem warmer… but how is that possible?
Kristan M Roberge from the Ottawa Fatbike Society Facebook group laid it out very nicely in his reply to one poster’s question:
It comes down to three properties for carbon bars over titanium, steel or aluminum ones. #1 is weight, #2 is vibration damping, #3 is thermal conductivity. Carbon bars are usually the lightest for a given size. They offer the best vibration damping properties of the four materials listed (magnesium is better still, but nobody makes any bars out of it for bicycles that i can recall). Finally of the four materials, on a strict along the fiber lines basis carbon is the best, and this is why its desired in disc brake rotors… but across the lines of the fibers its much lower, and that’s before you take the epoxy used to hold it all together into the equation.
In practice, as we see the material used for handlebars, its a lower conductivity and this is why when you touch it, its perceived to be “less cold”, because its not trying to conduct the heat away from your body as quickly as aluminum might attempt to do so. If you leave your aluminum frame fat bike trimmed with carbon parts in your car outside for six hours… every bit it of is going to be the same temperature… but if you pick it up by the top tube and a carbon bar with bare hands… the frame is going to feel colder as heat conducts from your flesh to the aluminum frame faster than it does to the carbon bar.