Road Handlebar Review

We’ve designated 2014 as the year of testing here at Fair Wheel and this is the 3rd test in the series, road handlebars. We’ve once again brought back our favorite engineer, Jason Krantz. Jason’s a mechanical engineer whose graduate work focused on the intersection of composite materials and finite element analysis. Jason has worked for several companies in the bicycle industry and never fails to amaze us with the depth of his cycling related knowledge. He adds real value to all of the tests we perform.

Disclaimer: A lot of typing and numbers have gone into this article and we apologize in advance for any typos, but would warn that the possibility of mistakes is present.

Why do deflection testing on bars?

We don’t believe that there is any efficiency to be gained through a stiffer handlebar, so why test for that? Losses in efficiency are minimal but a stiff handlebar and stem can make the bike feel especially responsive to rider inputs, especially out of the saddle. we’re unconvinced of any performance benefit to a stiffer bar, but many people like the feeling one provides. What we are convinced of is that the additive effect of parts that deflect more does at some point become a problem. The point at which it becomes a problem is different for different riders and terrains. Conversely, a flattened bar like the new 3T Aeronova or Enve SES models will provide increased deflection (and therefore bump comfort) compared to a bar with a round cross-section.

If you combined a very flexible, frame, steerer, stem, bar etc… into one bike you’d more than likely notice a lack of confidence in it’s handling. If you mounted the most rigid pieces you could find in one bike many people would find a lack of comfort. The ideal is some moving sweet spot in between that is different for each given set of circumstances.

About the Testing Method

Each handlebar was mounted in the fixture and the testing performed 3 times and then averaged. All bars tested were as close to 44 cm as could be. Each bar was mounted with recommend torque specs and preloaded with 20 pounds of force applied in the drops. Once preloaded the equipment was zeroed and another 50 pounds of force was added and a measurement recorded. The measurement was taken at the point of load

Notes about the loads tested: The actual load doesn’t matter because the response of the structure is linear. That is, a handlebar that deflects 5mm under a 25-lb load will deflect 7.5 mm under a 75-lb load, 10 mm under a 100-lb load and so forth. This assumption of a linear response to loads is valid roughly until an aluminum bar bends permanently (plastic deformation) or until a carbon bar breaks (brittle failure). These bars were loaded with 50 pounds because it’s a nice round number and a fairly realistic approximation of real-world conditions.

If a sprinting rider is pushing on the left pedal with 200 lbf (in other words, he can squat 400 lbs), he must create an equal and opposite moment (twisting force) via the handlebars. The pedal is about half as far from the frame centerline as the handlebar drops are, so it would take a reaction force of 100 lbs at the right-hand bar to counteract the pedaling force. This is the same as applying 50 lbf up on the one side of the bar and 50 lbf down on the other; the total moment is the same.

Stiffness to weight ratio: This was calculated using =((1/avg. defl) / weight) * 1000

Notes about bar width: Widths were recorded at the curve where levers would mount and were measured center to center.

Notes about reach, drop and flare: One thing that has always bothered us is that there is no standard system for measuring reach and drop. Actual vs. claimed reach particularly can vary dramatically, in this test alone the bars range by almost 3 cm in length. 3cm can be the difference between needing a 9 cm or 12 cm stem, yet many people don’t consider reach on their bars when making a choice. We decided to level the field here by measuring them all to the same standard. With the drops horizontal to the ground the reach is measured from the center of the top (where the bar mounts into the stem) to the leading edge of the vertical drop (where the lever would mount). Drop is measured with the drops horizontal to the ground and from center to center. For some companies our measurements may match up with what is claimed, but for others it may differ significantly because the manufacturer used a different measurement method.

We have a separate listing for flare. Flare is how much wider a bar is at the drops than where the levers mount. For some bars the widths in the locations are the same, but for others they may be as much as 4 cm wider at the end of the drops.

Carbon Fiber vs. Aluminum: While carbon offers little or no weight savings when applied to stems, the lightest handlebars are usually made from laminated fiber. Handlebars are stressed primarily in bending, and 0-degree carbon fibers take these loads very, very well. When you throw in a few layers at 45 degrees to deal with torsional loads and maybe some circumferential reinforcements where the levers mount, you often end up with a bar that’s a bit lighter than the equivalent aluminum bar.

As noted above, aluminum bars tend to fail by bending permanently (ductile failure) while carbon bars usually snap into pieces (brittle failure). While “shattered” carbon bars make for shudder-inducing post-crash photos, keep in mind that a strong carbon bar will shrug off loads that would bend its aluminum counterpart. Ductile failure is not necessarily a better failure mode than brittle failure.

Reduced weight is a wonderful thing, but carbon bars offer another advantage: they tend to damp high-frequency vibration better than aluminum bars. Composite structures generally damp vibration better than metallic ones, and many riders have found real-world damping benefits when they fit a carbon handlebar. It would be interesting to quantify carbon bar damping; one way to do so would be to wire an accelerometer to the drops and then gently strike or pluck the bar, letting it “ring” at its natural frequency. One could then read the accelerometer data to see how quickly the vibrations dissipated. This ring-down test may be on the Fairwheel menu for a future article, but is outside the scope of this test.

Opinions on the bars: Most bars are obviously similar in concept, but still very different in execution. Finding a bar that is comfortable to a rider involves personal preference as to the shape and depth of the drop as well as reach, flare and sweep. Because of this we’re going to keep our opinions on fit and shape to a minimum, leaving those up to each individual to find what is right for them. We’ll focus this review on weight, stiffness, reach, finish, price etc…

Now Onto the Results

*You’re viewing a truncated table since we can’t fit all the data on a cell phone screen. To see all ten columns and eight data points we collected on every bar please re-visit our site on a desktop or laptop.
Model Weight (g) StW
Ergonova 223.2 1.03
Aeronova Team 213.3 0.89
Ergosum 205.1 1.05
Newton Deep 274.4 0.93
Aero 239 0.9
Compact 202.1 1.09
Standard 197.4 1.11
Mcfk 171.8 1.28
Evo 182.4 1.12
Vibe Carbon 236.5 1.41
WCS Carbon Logic2 202.2 1.08
WCS Classic 239 0.99
WCS Logic2 254.2 0.99
TLO 148.4 1.52
Full Over 158.1 2.03
SL 178.4 1.03

A Few Graphs for Your Viewing Pleasure

Thoughts on Each Handlebar

3T Aeronova

3T Aeronova Road Handlebar

3T Aeronova

The Aeronova is a flat topped bar that fills the reach/drop gap between the ErgoNova and ErgoSum. However the
flat top comes at a price either weight or deflection. The Aeronova is the lightest fully flat topped bar in the
test, however that causes it to be 2nd from the bottom in terms of deflection. Like the other 3T bars this one
too is very nicely finished with a pretty neutral shape in terms of reach and drop and is also available in
several finishes.

  • Make: 3T
  • Model: Aeronova Team
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 1 cm
  • Weight: 213.3gms
  • Avg Defl: 5.28mm
  • StW: 0.89
  • Drop: 138mm
  • Reach: 94mm
  • Price: $325
  • Material: Carbon

3T Ergonova

3T Ergonova Handlebar

3T Ergonova

Overall a well balanced bar. Price, and reach fall in the middle of the field but weight and SxW are below the
midpoint in the bottom half of the field. Deflection is better than average being 6th out of 16. Nicely finished
with multiple graphic options including the ever popular black on black stealth.

  • Make: 3T
  • Model: Ergonova
  • Width: 43 cm
  • Flare: 1.5 cm
  • Weight: 223.2 gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.37 mm
  • StW: 1.03
  • Drop: 119 mm
  • Reach: 90 mm
  • Price: $325
  • Material: Carbon

3T Ergosum

3T Ergosum Road Handlebar

3T Ergosum

Like the ErgoNova the ErgoSum is also nicely finished, decently priced and includes the same graphic options.
The ErgoSum though is a longer reach bar, being 3rd from the longest in the test. It’s also lighter than the
Ergonova which gives it a better stiffness to weight ratio, 9th out of 16.

  • Make: 3T
  • Model: Ergosum
  • Width: 44 cm
  • Flare: 1.5 cm
  • Weight: 205.1 gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.62 mm
  • StW: 1.05
  • Drop: 126 mm
  • Reach: 103 mm
  • Price: $325
  • Material: Carbon

Deda Newton Deep

Deda Newton Road Handlebar


The Deda is one of only 3 alloy bars in the test. This too has it’s pros and cons. Being alloy it naturally is less
expensive than carbon offerings, but also heavier. The Newton is a very classic style bar with long reach (longest
measured in the test) and fairly deep drops. The Newton is also the heaviest bar in the test, but this extra weight
gives it one of the best deflection results in the test rating 3rd in deflection. However this extra stiffness isn’t
enough to overcome the weight penalty which puts it 3rd from the bottom in terms of stiffness to weight.

  • Make: Deda
  • Model: Newton Deep
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 0cm
  • Weight: 274.4 gms
  • Avg Defl: 3.90mm
  • StW: 0.93
  • Drop: 137mm
  • Reach: 106mm
  • Price: $150
  • Material: aluminum

ENVE SES Aerobar

ENVE SES Aerobar Road Handlebar


Opinion: The Enve SES Aero is one of only 2 fully flat topped bars in the test (3T Aeronova being the other) Enve
chose to add some weight to the bar to help keep it from deflecting as much so it is heavier than the Aeronova but
also stiffer with a slightly better stiffness to weight ratio. Since this bar is intended to be aero, Enve opted to
flare it significantly, 4cm to be exact, which is 2.5 cm more flare than any other bar in the test. This actually
separates it quite well from most of the bars giving it a very narrow profile while on the hoods and still plenty of
width when in the drops. The bar is very nicely finished and is the only Enve bar available in the popular black on
black combo and at 85mm reach is the shortest reach of the 3 Enve bars.

  • Make: Enve
  • Model: Aero
  • Width: 40cm
  • Flare: 4cm
  • Weight: 239.0gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.64mm
  • StW: 0.90
  • Drop: 121mm
  • Reach: 85mm
  • Price: $400
  • Material: Carbon

ENVE Compact

ENVE Compact Road Handlebar


The Enve compact is without a doubt a super well balanced bar. In testing 16 bars, this compact finished 7th in both
overall weight and stiffness to weight, as well as 8th in average deflection making it probably the most well
balanced bar in the test. Being the compact version puts the bar in the shorter end of the reach spectrum with only
4 bars having shorter reach and 3 bars with shallower drops. The $350 price puts it just slightly above some of the
other carbon bars in the test, but still well off the most expensive ones. To date this bar is still not available
in black on black, which is one of the requests me often see.

  • Make: Enve
  • Model: Compact
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 1.5cm
  • Weight: 202.1gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.52mm
  • StW: 1.09
  • Drop: 121mm
  • Reach: 88mm
  • Price: $350
  • Material: Carbon

ENVE Standard

ENVE Standard Road Handlebar


Opinion: The Enve classic is similar to the Enve compact in most of it’s test results. 6th in weight, 8th in
stiffness to weight and 9th in average deflection puts this bar just behind the compact in terms of being the bar
that balances the traits most evenly. Which is why these two bars are probably some of the most popular that we’ve
seen in this class. The Standard is basically the compact with a longer reach and deeper drop for those looking for
a more classic fit in their bar. Like the compact the standard has great finish quality and looks.

  • Make: Enve
  • Model: Standard
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 2cm
  • Weight: 197.4gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.55mm
  • StW: 1.11
  • Drop: 147mm
  • Reach: 96mm
  • Price: $350
  • Material: Carbon


MCFK Road Handlebar


The Mcfk bar definitely stands out in several ways. Most noticeable is the short reach. At 77mm reach it’s almost a
full cm shorter than the next shortest bar tested. This is partly achieved through a nicely back swept top. The
drops also have a very distinct shape being perhaps the ergo-ist (if that could be a word) It’s also the shallowest
drop of all the tested bars. Weight wise Mcfk did really well coming in 3rd lightest but still managing to hit 10th
in deflection giving it the 4th best stiffness to weight ratio in the test. However the superlight weight and good
S/W ratio come at a price, both monetarily (3rd most expensive) and in terms of a 100kg rider weight limit. However
it’s hard to deny this as a top contender for the rider that likes a short reach and shallow drop light weight bar
that still has plenty of stiffness.

  • Make: Mcfk
  • Model: Mcfk
  • Width: 43cm
  • Flare: 1.5cm
  • Weight: 171.8gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.56mm
  • StW: 1.28
  • Drop: 112mm
  • Reach: 77mm
  • Price: $550
  • Material: Carbon

New Ultimate Evo

New Ultimate Evo Road Handlebar

Ultimate Evo

The New Ultimate Evo slots into the test as the least expensive carbon bar tested. It has a very short reach tied
for 2nd (with Enve SES Aero) and a very average 126 drop. The Evo has an ovalized top section, but certainly not a
full flat top. In terms of weight it does very well coming in 5th overall but it’s deflection is 3rd from the
bottom, due to the decision to ovalize the tops as well as keep the weight so low. However when looking at stiffness
to weight ratios the light weight more than offsets the deflection putting the Evo into 5th overall in the category.
It’s available in both nude carbon as well as white and both have a very nice finish to them but with an 88 kgs
rider weight limit.

  • Make: New Ultimate
  • Model: Evo
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 0cm
  • Weight: 182.4gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.92mm
  • StW: 1.12
  • Drop: 126mm
  • Reach: 85mm
  • Price: $270
  • Material: Carbon

Shimano Pro Vibe Carbon

Shimano Pro Vibe Carbon Road Handlebar

Shimano Pro Vibe Carbon

The Shimano Pro Vibe Carbon topped the test in terms of average deflection. It is significantly stiffer than all the
other traditionally diametered bars in the test. Only the oversized Schmolke gave it a run for it’s money. However
it seems that this stiffness is due mostly to added material since this bar also topped the test in another
category, being the heaviest carbon bar in the test with traditional round or oval tops. The stiffness is enough
that it overcomes the added weight putting this into the 3rd spot in terms of stiffness to weight ratio, but this
bar is definitely catered more toward the sprinter or heavy rider who is more concerned about stiffness than weight.
Reach and drop both hit very mid field and the finish on the bar is very nice.

  • Make: Pro
  • Model: Vibe Carbon
  • Width: 43.5cm
  • Flare: 0cm
  • Weight: 236.5gms
  • Avg Defl: 2.99mm
  • StW: 1.41
  • Drop: 127mm
  • Reach: 91mm
  • Price: $370
  • Material: Carbon

Ritchey WCS Carbon Logic2

Ritchey WCS Carbon Logic2 Handlebar

Ritchey WCS Carbon Logic2

The Ritchey WCS Carbon Logic is also a bar that targets a balancing of characteristics. 8th in terms of weight, 11th
in terms of deflection and mid field 8th in terms of stiffness to weight ratio. Pretty average reach with a deeper
than average drop. Nicely finished and with a decent price.

  • Make: Ritchey
  • Model: WCS Carbon Logic2
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 1cm
  • Weight: 202.2
  • Avg Defl: 4.57mm
  • StW: 1.08
  • Drop: 139mm
  • Reach: 94mm
  • Price: $300
  • Material: Carbon

Ritchey WCS Classic

Ritchey WCS Classic Road Handlebar

Ritchey WCS Classic

The Ritchey WCS Classic is exactly that, a classic shaped alloy bar. Along with another test alloy Ritchey the
Classic is the least expensive bar in the test and is the lightest of the 3 tested alloy bars. It’s the least stiff
of the 3 alloy bars, but with it’s lighter weight it is tied for 1st in stiffness to weight ratio of the alloys.
Medium reach and deep drop.

  • Make: Ritchey
  • Model: WCS Classic
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 0cm
  • Weight: 239.0gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.25mm
  • StW: 0.99
  • Drop: 133mm
  • Reach: 90mm
  • Price: $100
  • Material: Aluminum

Ritchey WCS Logic2

Ritchey Pro Logic Road Handlebar

Pro Logic

The Logic2 is the 3rd alloy bar in the test and is very similar in test results to the Classic but with a longer
reach and deeper drop. The 2nd heaviest bar in the test but also the 4th stiffest put this one into a shared spot
with the WCS classic for best stiffness to weight ratio of the alloy bars.

  • Make: Ritchey
  • Model: WCS Logic2
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 0cm
  • Weight: 254.2gms
  • Avg Defl: 3.94mm
  • StW: 0.99
  • Drop: 135mmRit
  • Reach: 93mm
  • Price: $100
  • Material: Aluminum

Schmolke TLO


Schmolke TLO 31.8

The Schmolke TLO is definitely a standout in the weight category and also the price category. We don’t think this
weight should come as a surprise though considering that Schmolke produced the very first full carbon handlebar and
has been focused on developing and refining that design for just about 25 years. The TLO really is the pinnacle of
how light a carbon bar can be yet still be safe for most riders. Even at the lightest of all tested bars it still
finished just better than mid field in terms of deflection being 7th out of 16. In terms of stiffness to weight it
finished 2nd being bested by only a uniquely designed Schmolke bar. The stock TLO has a rider weight limit of
75-80kgs, but they will make bars specially for heavier riders. The TLO has a longer reach and deeper drop than most
of the bars in the test.

  • Make: Schmolke
  • Model: TLO
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 0cm
  • Weight: 148.4gms
  • Avg Defl: 4.43mm
  • StW: 1.52
  • Drop: 134mm
  • Reach: 102mm
  • Price: $640
  • Material: Carbon

Schmolke Full Over

Schmolke Full Over Road Handlebar

Schmolke Full Over

The Schmolke Full Over is a bit of a different bar. Typically a bar is 31.8mm at the stem clamp and then tapers down
to about 24mm. To keep weight down but increase stiffness you need to increase tube diameter. Assuming a constant
wall thickness, increasing a tube’s diameter increases its weight directly with the diameter, but the stiffness of
the tube increases with the cube of the diameter. The Full Over takes advantage of this principle, keeping a larger
diameter, about 27mm, all the way to the end of the drops. This larger diameter makes a significant difference in
stiffness. The Full Over was the 2nd lightest bar in the test and the 2nd stiffest. However it did so well in both
of these that stiffness to weight ratio is almost 25% higher than the next bar (the TLO). Having a larger diameter
bar means that standard lever clamps do not fit so the bar comes with it’s own carbon lever clamps, which increase
the price yet again, but also knock another 5-10 grams off the total system weight.

  • Make: Schmolke
  • Model: Full Over
  • Width: 43cm
  • Flare: 0cm
  • Weight: 158.1gms
  • Avg Defl: 3.11mm
  • StW: 2.03
  • Drop: 133mm
  • Reach: 86mm
  • Price: $750
  • Material: Carbon

Zipp SL

Zipp SL Road Handlebar

Zipp SL

We should preface this by saying the Zipp bar we tested is not the latest model and newer models may test
differently. We’ll include newer models in future tests. The Zipp SL is one of the lighter bars in the test, 4th
overall in weight. Unfortunately it was the least stiff of all tested bars which drags down it’s stiffness to weight
numbers making it 10th overall, just below mid field. It does however have a long reach and the deepest drops for
those looking to have a more aggressive position on their bike.

  • Make: Zipp
  • Model: SL
  • Width: 44cm
  • Flare: 0cm
  • Weight: 178.4gms
  • Avg Defl: 5.45mm
  • StW: 1.03
  • Drop: 148mm
  • Reach: 102mm
  • Price: $300
  • Material: Carbon