Mountain bikers tend to fall into two camps when it comes to carbon handlebars – those who appreciate the ride feel and low weight and those who regard them as pointless and too expensive.
Unfortunately (for my bank balance) I’m firmly in the former category – having discovered the wonderful vibration-damping qualities of the black stuff years ago when suspension was a lot less effective than it has now become.
And like nice beer or salty snacks, it’s been a habit that I’ve been unable to break since – upgrading to a slightly wider bar every year or so and sometimes carrying the same bar across three bikes.
Previous favourites have included Easton’s DH-flavoured Havoc offerings and the awesome Race Face Sixc low-rise bar – but my attention was piqued when the 780mm-wide Lithium bar appeared on Superstar Components’ website.
Retailing at a penny under £70, the price is on par with some of the high-end aluminium handlebars out there – but is made from 100 per cent high-modulous carbon (for superior strength-to-weight) and tips the scales at a light-but-not-silly 280g.
It has a fairly standard 25mm rise combined with a five degree upsweep and an eight or nine degree backsweep (the Superstar website states both numbers on different pages).
The main benefit of carbon for me is the solid-yet-damped ride feel, the way the material tends to take the edge off of hits better than an aluminium bar, while also feeling like it’s deflecting less. I’d be happy to pay extra for a carbon bar even if it weighed the same as a metal one.
And I’m happy to report that the Superstar bar is in the same ballpark as Easton or Race Face’s premium bars when it comes to ride feel – which is praise indeed.
I’m happy enough with the shape of the bars (plural because I bought two pairs when they were on offer for £50), and eight or nine degrees (whichever it is) seems to be pretty standard – however I do prefer the slightly less backswept shape of my RF Sixc.
I’ve only really noticed this on bikes which are on the borderline in terms of frame length though – on a proper sized bike it’s not been an issue.
Superstar’s critics (there are always a few) might claim these are cheap Chinese carbon and that I’m risking my life, but the company promises that each bar is individually tested as part of the QC process.
The website states: “As carbon is hand laid up there is scope for mistakes. To eliminate any issues 100 per cent of our products are put into a special test rig where they are cycled 100 times with a load of 200kg. This is far in excess of normal use and provided deflection information to the datalogger. If the deflection remains consistent then the product is structurally perfect, if there is a change then this indicates a problem and the bar is rejected.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel far safer buying from them than picking up a “bargain” premium brand bar from eBay and risking getting a knock-off.
I’ve even managed to crash test one of my Lithium bars with a fair few tumbles, and aside from a couple of scuffs they’ve shrugged everything off.
If you’ve found this post useful or interesting, please follow the blog on social media via the icons at the top of the page.