ProTaper C25 Carbon Handlebar is a Current Favorite [Review]

ProTaper's C25 carbon mountain bike handlebars are a knockout.

ProTaper C25 Carbon Handlebar

While one of the most seemingly simple components on a mountain bike, making a good carbon fiber handlebar is anything but simple. It must do a few things really well: A good handlebar should be ergonomical and deliver pain-free rides to your hands and wrists through both the sweep angles and the amount of rise. A good bar should also keep harsh vibrations to a minimum, enabled through the proper carbon fiber layup. Functionally, I believe these are the two most important pieces of the handlebar, and there are also a few other tasks which the ProTaper C25 Carbon Handlebar does well.

About the ProTaper C25 carbon handlebar

ProTaper makes a few versions of their handlebar. A C12 has a lower rise, their Hyperlite handlebar has no rise, and then there are aluminum versions of their bars too.

Their C25 comes with a 25mm rise in either a 31.8mm or 35mm clamp diameter. They have a 4° upsweep and 8° backsweep. ProTaper says the bars are made using a plastic foam lamination process to expand and shape the structure of the bars to use less resin and fewer plys in the carbon fiber, all resulting in a bar that is 15% lighter than… I assume their previous handlebar.

The $185 ProTaper C25 bars are 810mm wide and are marked so they can be easily trimmed. They also have guide markers on the clamp area for easy stem alignment and they have more guide markers along the bars to make it easier to set up your cockpit controls. The clamp area also has a gritty finish on it for confidence in your bar security.

In the cockpit

A lot of gear reviewers say they judge some gear by how much they don’t notice it. If there are no sticking points, the engineering is good, and it does its job well, then something like a good handlebar easily blends into the bike. This is my impression of the ProTaper C25 handlebars. They have been nothing but good and I have hardly noticed them. Thinking more on it though, there are plenty of notable positives.

First, compliance. I’ve ridden harsh handlebars and the C25s are not those. This is partly probably because of the narrower clamp diameter which allows for a touch more flexion than a 35mm would, but the C25s have been nice and butter and I haven’t experienced a touch of numbing or harshness to them. When buying a carbon handlebar, most are looking to lighten their bike up a little bit where they can, but that can sometimes come at the expense of comfort. Carbon handlebars that are too stiff remind you on every ride, while the C25s faded into the background.

So comfort on these bars is at a premium. But so are the accents. Anything that makes cockpit setup and adjustment quicker is appreciated and the markers on the C25s are clear and tidy, aiding users to set them up quickly and precisely.

Lastly, the bars stand out and the big, bold pop of chrome against black declares importance at the front of a steed and makes an attractive grip station.

The ProTaper MTB Stem

I used ProTaper’s MTB stem along with the bars and wasn’t as excited about the stem as the handlebars. The stem comes in both 31.8mm and 35mm clamp diameters and lengths range from 30mm-50mm in either “stealth” or yellow/black.

My main complaint is regarding the Torx bolts used on the steerer tube clamp. I can see why the use of Torx bolts on the bar clamp would be important to avoid cracking carbon bars, and I can see why they might use them on the steerer clamp too to simplify the setup process and keep wrenchers from having to swap from a 4/5mm hex bolt to a T25 and vice versa. But I have never had to correct my front wheel alignment so much as when I’ve been using this stem.

It may be that the inlets for the T25 bolts here aren’t deep enough and result in slipping or an unsure fit between the bolts and a T25 bit. Some carbon paste along the steerer tube helps keep the wheel where it needs to be, but it’s an added step. I’ll likely just swap back to a stem with 4/5mm bolts all around where I can get the needed torque and fit easier, which happens to be every other stem in my garage.

Pros and cons of the ProTaper C25 carbon handlebars


  • Comfortable
  • Light
  • Good looks


  • None noted

Bottom line

While I can’t say the ProTaper MTB stem was my favorite, the C25 carbon handlebars are my favorite bars I’ve tested in a while. They’re comfortable, have yet to cause me any discomfort on a ride, and produce a notable difference compared to other carbon bars.

  • Price: $185 handlebar, $105 stem
  • Buy from 365 Cycles.