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  1. #1
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    Why to MTB pros use carbon handlebars but not road pros

    Look at any road UCI event and you will see mostly cheap alloy handlebars, the reason cited is that they will survive a crash and allow you to continue to race without waiting for the team car (and perhaps prevent catastrophic failure), I guess there is tradition to consider too. So why don't MTB pros follow the same thought process? Are roadies just misguided?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quinner View Post
    Look at any road UCI event and you will see mostly cheap alloy handlebars, the reason cited is that they will survive a crash and allow you to continue to race without waiting for the team car (and perhaps prevent catastrophic failure), I guess there is tradition to consider too. So why don't MTB pros follow the same thought process? Are roadies just misguided?
    Many pro road races are stage races. Getting dropped by the peloton early in a stage from a mechanical means you may miss the time cut for the stage, which means you are out of the event and all subsequent stages. That's a real PITA for a pro road team to be missing key helpers on the team roster that are supposed be be helping a team leader who often makes millions of dollars per year conserve energy.

    In most MTB races, if you break something you can't fix you just call it a day, although in UCI World Cup MTB XC events and some other races they now have "tech zones" where you can get equipment repairs and replacements. The course loops for World Cup XC are relatively short and running with your bike to a tech zone often might not be that far away. Whether it's worth it as a pro to blow away a few minutes to get fixed up and then hop back on for a backmarker finish position is another question altogether. Pros have different considerations that mere mortals on this point. Based on many years of reading pro race reports around the world, I'm not recalling broken carbon bars as being a common issue anyhow.

  3. #3
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    I would guess that part of the reason might be that it's too easy for a road race bike to be UNDER the minimum weight limit set by the UCI, so they selectively use heavier bits to ensure they meet that minimum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    I would guess that part of the reason might be that it's too easy for a road race bike to be UNDER the minimum weight limit set by the UCI, so they selectively use heavier bits to ensure they meet that minimum.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    I would guess that part of the reason might be that it's too easy for a road race bike to be UNDER the minimum weight limit set by the UCI, so they selectively use heavier bits to ensure they meet that minimum.
    This and a lot of the pros do not like the carbon bars because they believe they are too flexy during sprints.

  6. #6
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    Hey, it's obvious!

    They can't afford carbon bars


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    Not convinced by the weight theory, and sprinters can be treated as a special case.

    Whats more I don't understand why a MTB racer would risk dropping out due to a cracked bar anymore than a road racer would whether it be stage race or not. If nothing is broken on the bike you jump back on, simple.

    In 20 years of watching cycling I've never seen anyone drop out because of a cracked bar, however it's not confidence inspiring riding a carbon bar after having crashed and bars often take the brunt of a fall. Whether alloy is actually more likely to fair better after an impact with the road/rock is another debate.

  8. #8
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    Of course this is speculation unless you asked every pro why they set up his or her bike the way they want. Since we can't do that, here are a couple of interesting articles that gives a few insights:

    Analysis: Eliminating the UCI bike weight limit is overdue

    Note that this article points out the stock (high end) Madone is under the UCI limit so it has to get bulked up to meet the weight limits. Considering the frame is set, no changes are possible. Pros aren't going to go cheap on the gruppo, so that is going to be as light as possible. They aren't going to go with a grossly overweight wheel set. What's left? They could hang a steel water bottle cage on the frame and they can swap the bar. Since the bars are tapped and make for a poor place to hang a sponsor logo on, this is the only logical place to increase weight if the bike is under the limit and nobody will care or talk about it.

    Here is the justification of Fabian Cancellara's build for the cobbles:
    Pro Bike: Fabian Cancellara's Leopard Trek Team Issue Madone 6-Series SSL Paris-Roubaix | Cyclingnews.com

    Given the amount of carbon already on the bike and the fact that if they crash, they generally swap bikes without hesitation, I don't think there is any concern regarding failed materials after crash. Best case is to replace.

  9. #9
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    I have broken a carbon bar, but I have also broken two alloy bars, and I have been using carbon bars longer then I have been used alloy bars.

    It would be interesting to see some data on actually sheer strength of a carbon vs. alloy bar. Is there any basis to common belief that carbon is weaker then alloy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quinner View Post
    Not convinced by the weight theory
    It's not a theory. Have you weighed a high end road bike lately? Very easy to go under the UCI weight limit. There's a weigh-in for the bike prior to every race to make sure it at least meets the minimum. Too light, you don't race. I knew a shop owner in the early 2000's who had a project bike to beat the UCI weight limit. He did so...easily...and even strapped a bunch of electronics to the bike. That was 10yrs ago, and stuff is only lighter now by comparison.

    Why are you not "convinced"?

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    My friend's Trek Madone with Shimano 105 with upgraded wheels comes in just a quarter pound over the limit. That limit needs to be killed. Along with most of the UCI's rules governing bicycle design.

  12. #12
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    Weight is correct, that's why you see quite a few "heavier" saddles on pro bikes too... If you "have to" add weight might as well do it where you get comfort as a side benefit.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quinner View Post
    Not convinced by the weight theory, and sprinters can be treated as a special case.
    Weights glued to a Cannondale in the 2003 TdF to make the bike legal to ride.

    And I am by no means a sprinter and I flex the heck out of every carbon road bar I've ridden. It's unnerving.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaFred View Post
    Weight is correct, that's why you see quite a few "heavier" saddles on pro bikes too... If you "have to" add weight might as well do it where you get comfort as a side benefit.
    Post ^^^ wins.

    On some pro bikes they literally add weights with no functional value to make sure they are over the minimum weight by at least a touch. They usually do this toward the bottom bracket to keep the handling positive with low center of gravity. If they are using any heavier components higher up, they must think it has some benefit. Saddles are an obvious are (saddle sores in a 3 week stage race don't sound very fun), or for the bars performance (stiffness for sprinters) and perceptions (maybe unfounded) of improved crash resistance versus carbon, given that many flyweight non-sprinting climbers use Aluminum bars too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    It's not a theory. Have you weighed a high end road bike lately? Very easy to go under the UCI weight limit. There's a weigh-in for the bike prior to every race to make sure it at least meets the minimum. Too light, you don't race. I knew a shop owner in the early 2000's who had a project bike to beat the UCI weight limit. He did so...easily...and even strapped a bunch of electronics to the bike. That was 10yrs ago, and stuff is only lighter now by comparison.

    Why are you not "convinced"?
    Even my wife knows that road bikes can easily get under the UCI weight limit - off the shelf. I personally ride a road bike way under the limit, so you are way off the mark with your understanding of my response. I'm not convinced that weight is the real reason why road pros use alloy bars, although it may be welcome secondary consequence. If that were so why don't they use alloy pedals or seatposts as well rather than dropping weights down the seat tube? I think it's tradition and fear of breaking them/overtightening that is the principal reason, and for larger riders/sprinters it maybe flex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shayne View Post
    Weights glued to a Cannondale in the 2003 TdF to make the bike legal to ride.

    And I am by no means a sprinter and I flex the heck out of every carbon road bar I've ridden. It's unnerving.
    Well done we all know that they add weights to road bikes, you miss the point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quinner View Post
    Even my wife knows that road bikes can easily get under the UCI weight limit - off the shelf. I personally ride a road bike way under the limit, so you are way off the mark with your understanding of my response. I'm not convinced that weight is the real reason why road pros use alloy bars, although it may be welcome secondary consequence. If that were so why don't they use alloy pedals or seatposts as well rather than dropping weights down the seat tube? I think it's tradition and fear of breaking them/overtightening that is the principal reason, and for larger riders/sprinters it maybe flex.
    re: bars -- You are right. We are sorry that we suggested otherwise.

    re: pedals--that's easy. You have to spin them so weight really matters

    re: seatposts--who knows, but dampening would be my guess.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    It's not a theory. Have you weighed a high end road bike lately? Very easy to go under the UCI weight limit. There's a weigh-in for the bike prior to every race to make sure it at least meets the minimum. Too light, you don't race. I knew a shop owner in the early 2000's who had a project bike to beat the UCI weight limit. He did so...easily...and even strapped a bunch of electronics to the bike. That was 10yrs ago, and stuff is only lighter now by comparison.

    Why are you not "convinced"?
    The bikes are light enough that the pros can run "heavy" power meter cranksets on their race bikes and still be under the minimum.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    It's not a theory. Have you weighed a high end road bike lately? Very easy to go under the UCI weight limit. There's a weigh-in for the bike prior to every race to make sure it at least meets the minimum. Too light, you don't race. I knew a shop owner in the early 2000's who had a project bike to beat the UCI weight limit. He did so...easily...and even strapped a bunch of electronics to the bike. That was 10yrs ago, and stuff is only lighter now by comparison.

    Why are you not "convinced"?
    It's actually pretty rare for the UCI to actually put the bike on a scale. The only time I've ever seen it happen was for an uphill TT

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    I have broken a carbon bar, but I have also broken two alloy bars, and I have been using carbon bars longer then I have been used alloy bars.

    It would be interesting to see some data on actually sheer strength of a carbon vs. alloy bar. Is there any basis to common belief that carbon is weaker then alloy.
    it isn't weaker then alloy, the issue on the rd is in a crash generally the brifters twist on the bar, the clamp has a very high potential for scoring the bar, which is then carbons weak point.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by peabody View Post
    it isn't weaker then alloy, the issue on the rd is in a crash generally the brifters twist on the bar, the clamp has a very high potential for scoring the bar, which is then carbons weak point.
    I follow you. But I do wonder if in practice this the issue we believe it is (carbon is more vulnerable then alloy). I am not a material engineer, really all I know about the materials is "folklore".
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  22. #22
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    So with all this talk recently of carbon bars being so fragile. I guess I should be concerned of my Easton Monkeylites. They have only survived some 2000 and some odd crashes with my 210lb heft over 12 years of use. I better head out to the garage and strip them off the bike because apparently they're not doing their job.
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  23. #23
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    I think the issue with the road bars is that when hitting the ground they have a nice flat spot (the hooks) in which to sit while another mass lands on the other flat spot (the other hook) and they break. In mountain biking, if you land on the bar that way you will have a lot more problems than breaking a bar. An AL bar will bend with a racers weight on it and while it might not be perfect they can get back on and ride. A carbon bar or an aluminum bar might not get damage from hitting the ground as they will hit and turn the bar. If you land on it as I a said before you will be mightily hurting and be off to the hospital or more than likely.

    Plus mountain bike racers rarely ride in large pelotons where someone might crash ahead and take down 20-30 people all landing on each others handlebars.
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    Theories on carbon is probably a mute point for many riders, they will probably go with a traditional tried and tested bar option i.e. an alloy one. Maybe because the consequences of bar failure would be pretty gruesome on a descent. Also think of Hancapie snapping his carbon steerer in (2008?) paris roubaix or Cancelarra breaking his carbon zipp 303 in 2010 paris roubaix (though he still won). I know its PR, but still...

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quinner View Post
    Also think of Hancapie snapping his carbon steerer in (2008?) paris roubaix
    No help there. It was 2006, and that steerer was aluminum.

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