Niner Carbon Handlebar vs. Niner RDO Carbon Handlebar

As promised yesterday, I thought it might be helpful to make a quick post comparing these two bars.

First, the obvious differences- weight and cost. There’s a 20 gram and $40 difference between the two. The way I see it, this isn’t really something you should be worrying about at this stage in your decision-making process. If you’re at the point of shopping for a carbon bar, you’ve already spent a bunch of money on a very nice bike. What difference is $40 going to make? If you want the RDO bar, just spring for it, and go out to eat ONE LESS TIME this month. I mean, come on- that’s not even the cost of sushi dinner for 2 people.

Now for the more important part- what about performance/flex/etc?
Of course, all of that is pretty subjective. The bars I’ve ridden in the past before the Niner Flat Top Carbon bars were released were mainly aluminum and carbon Easton Monkey light bars. I’ve also test ridden a customer’s bike with a Crank Brothers carbon bar. I eventually stopped riding the Easton carbon bar soon after I started riding singlespeed. I could feel the Easton bar flex a lot on hard, almost-stallout efforts, and I was a little weirded out by that, so I made the switch to the first alloy version of the Niner Flat Top 9 bar.
Fast forward a bit. I was racing the Shenandoah 100 in 2011 and wrecked going pretty fast on one of the descents. One end of my bar dug into the ground (yeah- bar end and all), and the bar ended up bent (somehow, I escaped with only minor cuts and bruises). When I replaced it, I ended up (under the “you’re not putting another alloy bar back on that nice carbon bike” advice of Mike, the Niner Rep) getting the fancy new carbon bar (the RDO version of anything was not yet released).

I was very pleased with it. It didn’t have scary flex like the Easton bar, but it was much more shock-absorbing & comfy than any alloy bar I’d used. I put it on all of my bikes.
Fast forward again- I ordered my new moondust frame a few weeks ago. Along with it, I decided I’d give the RDO Carbon bar a try. Now that I’ve had a chance to ride the hell out of it in the two most bar-stressful situations (singlespeed on steep/techy stuff and a SS Strength Workout on Wednesday), I have to say, it’s does have more flex, but it’s still not discomforting like the other lightweight carbon I’ve ridden. Do I want to put it on everything? Time will tell. I really love the “non-harsh alloy” feel of the original bar, so I’m highly likely to move the RDO bar to my Air9 RDO and put the stiffer bar back on the singlespeed. The RDO bar is a very nice ride, though. They’ve found a very good balance of stiffness and shock absorption that, unlike my previous experiences, isn’t scary as shit.

So, which one should you buy? Personal preference. The weight and cost are close enough to each other that you should just go with the ride quality you like. The original bar is incredibly stiff-  I’ve never noticed it flex on hard pulls, but it’s still a much nicer ride over rough terrain than an alloy bar. The RDO bar is even moreso a nice ride over rough terrain, and, at the same time, the amount of flex I can feel under load doesn’t make me think that I’m about to rip the end of the bar off and punch myself in the face.

I don’t think you can really go wrong with either one, but hopefully, this info on my experience is helpful for those of you who are still trying to decide.

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