I recently went looking for a set of carbon handlebars for my hardtail 29er mountain bike and by some lucky accident I ended up with the ProTaper Carbon 720 AM bars from Answer. Although my bike isn’t anywhere close to “all-mountain,” I really like these bars and I almost shudder at the thought of going back to the uncomfortable, timid world of straight XC handlebars.
The “ProTaper” part of the Carbon 720 AM bars is actually a patented design and manufacturing process that tapers the bar diameter to provide more strength where it’s needed while stripping unnecessary weight from other areas. Answer has proven this design in aluminum bars over the years but the Carbon 720 AM is one of the first products to feature ProTaper in a carbon fiber handlebar. The result is a strong, lightweight carbon bar that won’t leave you cringing every time you tighten your stem bolts (though you still need to be careful). At just 205 grams, this is one of the lightest all-mountain bars you’re likely to find.
Speaking of stem bolts, the Carbon 720 AM handlebar features a rough, grit grip area in the middle for a no-slip stem grip. The upshot is you can get the same level of grip at lower stem bolt torques, saving the agony of cracked carbon tubes. Answer offers a 1-year warranty against breakage, though unsurprisingly the warranty doesn’t cover “non-riding damage.”
Mountain bike handlebars are sorta like saddles in a way – you need to choose the shape and size that works best for you. I went with the middle-of-the-road, 1-inch rise version based on my bike’s geometry but 1/2″ and 2″ rise versions are available as well. All three sizes feature 4-degrees of up sweep and 8-degrees of back sweep which may not mean much to most riders but Answer claims this combo is both “competition and race proven.” Suffice it to say it’s a comfortable set-up that feels natural on the bike (more on that later).
As the name implies, the Carbon 720 AM bars are 720mm wide which is a good bit wider than say a traditional XC handlebar. Wider bars give you more control over the bike at speed and I noticed they also allowed me to open my chest a bit on lung-searing climbs. If you’re not into the wide bar scene, Answer provides cut marks to make it easy to trim the bars down to size. I did find myself clipping more trees than usual with the bars at full length so in the future I may choose to lop off a few centimeters.
I’ve been riding with these bars for a couple months now and I have to say I really love them for a number of reasons. First, the unidirectional carbon seems to take a lot of the sting out of rocks and roots. At the end of epic rides with more than 4 hours in the saddle my arms didn’t feel completely spent and beat up and I noticed less shoulder pain as well. Of course this could be thanks to the refined shape of the bar as well.
Coming off a straight XC-style bar, this medium-rise bar is much more comfortable and made my regular rides more enjoyable. As I mentioned earlier, the wide bars and 8-degree backsweep also helped open up my chest and lungs on climbs (though serious climbers will still prefer the more powerful position offered by an XC-specific bar).
The Answer ProTaper Carbon 720 AM is only offered in black so if you’re working on building that all-white rig you might have to skip these bars for now. The oversized Answer graphics are pretty dope, though I’m not really feeling the gold 1980s Donald Trump color scheme. Fortunately looks aren’t everything.
Whether you’re all-mountain or even cross-country, the Answer ProTaper Carbon 720 AM handlebars have a lot to offer the modern mountain biker. Lightweight, strong, and high performance, these bars won’t disappoint on the trail. Perhaps best of all, these bars offer superior control without sacrificing comfort. Looking for a new set of bars? Here’s your Answer.
Thanks to the folks at Answer for providing these bars for review.