The stock handlebar on my Merida Scultura 5000 is a FSA compact aluminium drop bar, which is a good drop bar that I also use on my Dahon Boardwalk. I usually stick to aluminium drop bars, as I don't have to worry about handlebar damage if the bike falls over accidentally and hits the ground. I have been told that carbon handlebars should only be used if you can afford to replace it if damaged. This usually holds true as good carbon handlebars usually cost more than 300 dollars each.
However, with a good discount available, I decided to go for it, just to try out a carbon handlebar.
FSA K-Force Compact Road Handlebar, with its own special pouch packaging.
Overview of the handlebar
Centre clamp diameter of 31.8mm, 400mm width, 125mm drop and 80mm reach. Typical compact drop bar dimensions, same as the FSA aluminium handlebar that I have.
Compact and shallow drop shape for easy and more comfortable access to the drop portion of the handlebar
Unidirectional carbon lay up design is used for this handlebar
Recessed groove under the handlebar for hiding the cables from the shifter
Extra rough surface at the centre clamp area for extra friction when clamped in the stem
Same rough surfaces at the bends, to allow the shifters to be tightened properly to the handlebar without slipping.
Very lightweight carbon handlebar, at only 204 grams!
Removed the shifters from the stock handlebar, and removed the handlebar from the stem.
The stock FSA Gossamer aluminium handlebar weighs 297 grams, almost 100 grams heavier than the new carbon handlebar
Comparing the compact aluminium handlebar with the new compact carbon handlebar
Similar shape at the drops
Similar handlebar dimensions too
The carbon handlebar has a groove under the handlebar for cables, while the aluminium version does not
A flatter profile on the top of the carbon handlebar.
When installing bolts, especially on carbon products, it is important to use a torque wrench to prevent over-tightening of the bolts.
With the new carbon handlebar installed on the bike!
Close up view of the carbon handlebar and the carbon faceplate of the stock Merida/ControlTech stem.
With the original Ultegra shifters reinstalled onto the carbon handlebar. I did not have to disconnect any of the cables from the shifters.
Reusing the original bar tape! This bar tape is nicely designed and is also comfortable.
Reinstalling the K-Edge Aero Garmin & Camera combo mount onto this new carbon handlebar
The new carbon handlebar has been successfully installed and the bike is ready to go again!
With the weight savings from this carbon handlebar, this lowers the weight of the bike by a bit.
Upgraded bike inclusive of PD-A530 pedals: 7.7 kg
Upgraded bike with no pedals: 7.3 kg
As for the performance, I can't detect any difference in stiffness between this carbon handlebar and the original aluminium handlebar. Both the handlebars are already stiff enough for my usage. What I do like is the flatter surface on the top of the handlebar which is more comfortable for gripping.
In conclusion, the carbon handlebar is very similar performance-wise, when compared against the aluminium version. If weight savings is not a priority, the aluminium version is good enough, and saves you quite a bit of cash. However, if you want to save weight, and don't mind paying more, the carbon version would be what you are looking for.