Who doesn’t love a head-to-head comparison? As racers, we’re always looking for the next best thing to help us go faster.
Today we’ll look at traditional Chromoly bars vs. the seemingly new standard of performance, Carbon bars. For this comparison we’ll be pitting our Carbon Pro Handlebar vs. our beloved ‘Flatline’ bar. These two are the best selling handlebars in the store and there’s gotta be a reason for their popularity. Through this article we’ll uncover the Pros & Cons for each bar type so by the end, you can know which is best for you!
Also, this article will focus on comparing PRO sized handlebars. We aren’t going to touch on carbon bars for the little guys.
Over the course of the next few sections, we’ll be comparing specs, discussing material make up, and procedures for production. If you’re looking for a quick answer without the in-depth look and science, scroll down to “So which is Right for me?” where we provide our personal recommendations for each bar. But if you’re a nerd like me for this stuff, keep reading!
Before looking at anything else, it’s always important to spec out geometry as two bars with different sweeps will feel/perform completely different. Thankfully, the two bars that we’re looking at today feature the same bend and shape across sizes so there’s not much to report here.
Perhaps this why they’re such great sellers? A simple yet tried and true geometry!
Just for reference, we’ll list the geometry below:
Width - 28" Rise - 8" Back Sweep - 6º Up Sweep- 2º
Note: Carbon bars also come in a 7.5 rise & 8.5 rise but still feature the same backsweep, upsweep, and width.
So one handlebar is made from carbon and the other chromoly. There you have it, materials covered!
Of course I’m kidding! We learned long ago that not all carbon fiber is created equal. Two carbon fiber components can feature different characteristics depending on the material and how the fibers are laid.
The Pro Carbon Bar sports Toray’s T-700S material with a High Compaction Construction. Longtime Supercross fans know this is the same material we used to produce the Legendary Envy BLK and extremely popular BLK Carbon Forks. Both products have proved their worth and durability over the past 8 years with the Envy BLK hitting the shelves in 2014. Now that same award winning DNA is packed into every Pro Carbon Bar that leaves the shop. And of course, to keep weight to a minimum, each bar features monocoque construction, meaning it’s one solid piece of carbon fiber.
For more details on monocoque construction and it’s benefits click here
The Flatline Bar features 4130 heat-treated Chromoly. Without getting too far into a chemistry lesson, the number 4130 actually explains the make-up of the material.
The number 41 represents a low alloy steel containing chromium and molybdenum. The 30 indicates that the material has a carbon content of 0.3%. So in long form, 4130 means an alloy steel with chromium and molybdenum that has a carbon content of 0.3%.
This probably means absolutely nothing to most people, and really isn’t that important unless you plan on making your own bars or something one day. But, I figured we’d throw this in there for anyone wondering where we get our numbers from.
The second piece, ‘Heat treatment’ is where we use extreme heating and cooling to change the properties of the chromoly material. After cutting, bending, and welding chromoly, it may start to form weak points due to the stress placed on the material. The heat treatment process produces a stronger bond which then makes the material stronger throughout and able to withstand higher tolerances from impacts and stress put on it during riding.
Again, all of this probably means nothing to you, but in my defense, you asked about the materials, so I gave it to you!
Weight is always an important consideration for any type of racing component. Anytime you can retain an item’s strength while making it lighter, it always results in a faster product.
As you can see, the clear winner by a long shot is the Pro Carbon handlebars. These are nearly HALF the weight of our most popular chro-mo bar which are already considered to be one of the lighter alloy bars on the market. The Carbon bars blow every other bar away in terms of weight and is one of the biggest reasons you’ll start to see more carbon bars in the future.
Similar to comparing a cro-mo chassis to a carbon chassis, Cro-mo bars have a bit more flex than Carbon bars.
Cro-mo bars will slightly dampen track noise and soften rider feedback (bumps & vibrations transmitted from the track, through, the front end, and felt in the rider’s hands). The result is a slightly plusher ride with a laxer steering profile.
Some riders may prefer the dampened effects of a cro-mo bar as it can make for a more comfortable experience. Also, it’s the type of steering profile that most riders are a-custom too as the majority of racers are still on Cro-mo bars.
With that being said,
Carbon bars provide a more responsive and agile steering profile. we’ve engineered these specifically for the wants and needs of high-performance bmx racers. In the mountain bike world, carbon bars are tuned to provide more compliance and plushness when compared to alloy bars. But through our time working closely with top notch riders, we found that BMX racers prefer a stiff and responsive bar. So we used the carbon material to help us achieve a stiffer profile.
As a result, the Carbon bars provide the opposite steering profile of a Cro-mo bar. A carbon bar is stiffer and more reactive to rider input. Similar to carbon frames, a carbon bar will amplify your achievements but also amplify your mistakes. So you have to be pretty in-tune with your bike to achieve the full benefits from a carbon bar
For this section, there’s no clear winner, because it comes down to personal preference. It’s more about which steering profile is most comfortable to you. We will say that the responsive steering profile of the carbon bars is faster on paper, however, we also found that whatever a rider deems to be comfortable is always the fastest! So it’s up to you on this one, which one do you like?
Finally, we reach the section that some may base their entire decision on, cost. It comes at no surprise that the Pro Carbon bar cost significantly more than our traditional Cro-mo bar.
Carbon fiber is more complex material. Not to mention, we’re also leading the way in Pro-sized carbon steering technology so the brunt of R&D work falls on us. We also sourced top-quality materials to produce both handlebars, however, top-shelf chromoly is quite a bit cheaper than top-shelf carbon fiber.
And I could continue to list out excuse after excuse for the pricing. But the fact of the matter is that the Carbon bars features more expensive materials, and are much harder to produce. As a result it cost more, buuuuut… “you get what you pay for”
So Which Is Right For Me?
These are always my favorite sections to write (not really) because a lot of times it comes down to personal preference and your specific situation. The Carbon bar is perfect for some and not so good for others. Same goes for the Flatline. So while we can’t tell you the definitive winner and boldly claim “this bar will make you (X) times faster” We can layout the recommendations for each bar and let you decide for yourself!
Why You Should Ride A Carbon Bar
The first and probably the biggest point has to be the sheer weight difference. If you even remotely care about bike weight, then the carbon bar is a must.
It’s the pinnacle of our handlebar collection and is designed for peak performance. If you’re looking to squeeze every ounce of performance out of your front end then the carbon bar (again) is a must.
Reasons to go Carbon include:
More responsive steering
Increased track-to-rider feedback through stiffer handlebar platform
31.8mm clamping area providing increased clamping grip and stiffness
Carbon material + Monocoque design significantly decreases weight
Meticulously inspected and crafted T700s material produces a bar you can trust
Why You Should Ride A Cro-mo Bar
If you’re looking to keep things simple or just want a handlebar that works, then the Flatline is the perfect for you. Sometimes in BMX we just want to ride and have fun. Cro-mo is perfect for that and it’s why our cro-mo frames are called ‘fun machines’
Reasons to run a Cro-mo bar include:
Tried and true design produces a simple yet dependable bar
4130 heat treated material is an industry standard proven to work
Provides a plush ride and laxer steering profile
Cheaper than carbon bars
Simple installation (no torque wrench or carbon paste required)
The Wrap Up
Hopefully you’re getting the picture here. And if not, I’ll paint it for you!
The first and most common argument for Cro-mo has to be, “because we’ve always ran cro-mo bars and they work!” And it’s true, they do work! But for how much longer?
Yes, a Carbon bar is more expensive, trickier to install, requires more attention, and is a bit finicky. HOWEVER, to some, these are small prices to pay for the relatively large performance benefits.
On the other hand
Chromoly bars are easier to install, cost less, and are more popular. HOWEVER, they aren’t advancing, improving, or even really changing. The chromoly bars of today are pretty much the same bars of 10 years ago. So while a chromoly bar may be the most popular option today, I’d argue that it isn’t the future and it’s days are numbered.
Racing technology is supposed to continually push the envelope and get faster each year just like the athlete’s it’s designed for. As the tracks get faster, and the sport continues to change, technology will also need to adapt to the new challenges. (I know I’m sorta ranting here, but hang on!)
At one point, a bmx frame produced entirely out of carbon fiber seemed rediculous. It was more expensive, trickier to work, required more attention, and was a bit finicky! (sound familiar?) At the time, chromoly frames were cheaper, easier to work on, and relatively popular (sound familiar?)
At this time, Carbon frames seemed to be pointlessly over-engineered and not worth the trouble they brought. Fast forward to 2022 and you’d be pretty blown away to see a rider on the World Cup tour making a final on a chromoly chassis.
In my personal opinion, I feel that history is repeating itself again with carbon bars. There’s no denying the performance benefits for when things are working well. At the moment, one could argue that chromoly is more dependable. But again, a chromoly frame is still considered to be more dependable today than a carbon frame but you don’t see many Cro-mo frames winning races!
The Main Point Being: We believe Pro sized Carbon Bars to be the future standard for high-end performance just like how Carbon Frames are the current standard for high-end performance.
With the previous comments considered:
The bar you choose should be based on your racing goal. If your bike is a ‘fun machine’ and you just love riding and aren’t really concerned with high-end bike performance, the cro-mo bar is all you’ll ever need. It clamps to a stem, works well, and let’s you ride! It’s perfect for someone who just needs a functioning bar for cheap and no concern for weight.
But if you’re someone who’s seeking the latest and greatest, trying to keep the bike as light as possible, and looking for every mechanical advantage possible, then carbon is the clear choice. It’s not as ‘simple’ as a cro-mo bar, but as we’ve highlighted in this article, it does perform better. So are you willing to take on a little added installation difficulty in the name of improved performance? I don’t know, that’s a question you’ll have to answer.
Either way you go, both the Flatline & Carbon Pro bar are fantastic options with identical geometry. They’re the two best selling Bars in our shop for a reason. And lucky for you, we have both models in stock! So don’t walk, RUN to those product pages and pick up set to experience the benefits yourself!
Need help Installing those shiny new carbon bars? Click here
Looking for the best stem to pair with your new bars? Click here
Every wonder if you’re on the right frame? Click here to find out!
Written by: Jonnie Vance
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