Thomson has a well earned reputation for its top end CNC machined mountain bike and road components, but these Carbon Road bars are their first foray into making carbon fibre drop handlebar and they certainly impress with fantastic stiffness, vibration damping and a very low weight.
The US company, is best known for its seatposts and stems in the mountain bike market, with a little cross over into road with compatible versions of their CNC machined aluminium products. The company has now decided to get more involved in road cycling with the release of two carbon fibre handlebars, which is a departure in two ways: their first drop handlebar and their first carbon product.
Thomson work with Toray, a huge manufacturer of carbon fibre, to produce the carbon handlebars as one-piece (many road bars are made from three component pieces) using an expanded polystyrene mandrel - much the same stuff as helmets are made from - which is made to the exact shape of the bar. This process, compared to using an inflatable bladder, produces a smoother internal surface with less wrinkles and a uniform thickness, so they can be lighter. The weight for these bars is 200g.
The road bar is available is available in four widths from 40 to 46cm, and the drop is specific to each size. I tested the 42cm bar - I like a narrow bar - and the drop is 140mm, which I found to be comfortably aggressive. The reach has been kept short at 78.5mm, with the ends of the bars extending a long way back. This means the stretch is limited and there's also no interference between forearms and the outer edge of the tops. There's a slight wing shape across the top section which makes for a comfortable place to place your hands when cruising. The reach and drop
Installing the bars was a straightforward job, with the underside of the bar shaped to route the cable outer housing from the brake levers. The centre of the bars have several white markers for lining up the bars and centering them. A grippy material is applied to the bends to ensure the hoods don't slip.
There's a vast choice of handlebars on the market, all manner of shapes, sizes, reach and drops, so getting a bar to suit your personal preference isn't impossible. It can take time to find a favourite bar though, but the Thomson has instantly become a hit. I find the shape just right with a drop that isn't overly aggressive but still places you low enough for an aero tuck.
A little vibration damping is noticeable compared to the Ritchey aluminium bar they replaced, making them comfortable on longer rides on rough roads. They feel much more solid too, something I wasn't expecting. During hard attacks, accelerations and sprints for the finish line in recent road races, they turned out to be exceptionally stiff with no unwanted flex or twist. Attacking riders will like them for that.
At £240 the Carbon Road bars are one of the most expensive handlebars we've tested, but not outrageously so - they're in the ballpark for a high end carbon handlebar. They're £30 more than than the FSA SL-K Compact Carbon handlebars, we tested last year but they're also lighter and stiffer too. Perhaps a closer comparison is the 3T ErgoSum Team Bar, £40 cheaper and about the same weight and available in a choice of shapes.
I really like these handlebars, would I buy them if I was paying my own money? They'd certainly be in the mix, but I'd also be sorely tempted by the 3Ts on both performance and, crucially for me at least, price (many a mickle makes a muckle when you're being paid by road.cc). That said an extra £40 for the right, light, stiff bar is not going going to be a disincentive to many people in the market for a 200 quid handlebar.
Really good light, stiff and comfortable carbon handlebar, you wouldn't expect it to be cheap... and it isn't
road.cc test report
Make and model: Thomson Carbon Road Bar
Size tested: 42cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Our road bar features a mild wing shape on top, clamping area wide enough for aero bars, mid-compact reach and drop. This is the modern bar for the modern road bike. Our road bar wing section is small enough not to restrict hand movement when riding on the top and allows bar angle adjustment with out 'locking out' your wrists. Shaping on the bottom side of the wing allows housing to be taped out of the way without the use of narrow housing channels or internal routing, both of which shorten bar life. Certified to EN, tested to DIN+.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Bars are moulded over an EPS mandrel to avoid wrinkles inside the layup during molding. Most other bars are molded over inflatable nylon bladders.
Reach for the Road and Cross bars is the same at 78.5mm. Drop is proportional. Road drops are: 40CM 137mm, 42CM 140mm, 44CM 140mm, 46CM 143mm. Cross drops are: 40CM 131mm, 42CM 133mm, 44CM 135mm.
Impressive carbon fibre manufacturing
They're exceptionally stiff under sprint with great vibration absorption when cruising along, with a really nice shape and drop
I haven't been testing them long enough to asses their durability
They're one of the lightest carbon bars available at bang on 200g for a 42cm wide bar
Was impressed with how well they smoothed out rough roads
They're more expensive than other very good carbon bars with similar performance characteristics something to bear in mind if you're operating on a budget, but probably won't be an issue if you're not.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I was really impressed with Thomson's first carbon road bar
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A very nice shape, drop and reach
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.