Corroded aluminum handlebar. Is carbon better?

I was about to swap my bar-tape (something I hadn’t done in at least a year) and I discovered some serious corrosion on my aluminum handlebar near where the heel of my palm rests while my hands are on the hoods. Here is what it looked like immediately after removing the bar tape:

And here’s what it looked like after cleaning it a bit with a wire brush:

There’s actually a hole where the corrosion made it all the way through.

I always drape towels on the “tops” of the bars (where I spend most of my time), but clearly that isn’t enough protection.

Would a carbon bar be less susceptible to this kind of corrosion?


What you are seeing is the result of “Galvanic Corrosion”. This is a known issue and there are a number of articles that touch on the problem. In short, carbon can be better, but it is not 100% immune either. Even if you sidestep it as a problem with a bar swap, there are likely potential issues elsewhere that you may or many not have already checked as well.

In particular, if you use a carbon bar with an aluminum stem, you need to be sure to prevent sweat from contact there as well, or clean it thoroughly since the aluminum/carbon contact is an issue with GC as a result of the salt element.

The best solution is to reduce sweat accumulation if at all possible. More and/or better fans indoors, AC or other considerations. Some people wrap plastic over bars or use protectors with plastic shielding. A towel only helps hold sweat in the area, but unless you also clean and rinse the parts under that soaked towel will you get rid of the harmful sweat/salt that is the root of the issue here.


Assuming the bike is only used indoors (since you say you always ride with a towel on the bars), does it matter? Carbon bars are pretty expensive, and unless you think the corrosion is bad enough that the bar is likely to snap, then on an indoor bike a bit of corrosion under the tape doesn’t really matter. If you did want to replace it then I would just buy the cheapest bar that has the right size and shape for you, since indoors you don’t care about weight, aero or compliance.

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Snapping the corroded bars in sprint effort might hurt a little!

To be clear, I always ride with towels on the bars when I ride inside. This is my only bike, and while I spend most of my time indoors I like to get out for a group ride or a gran fondo when I can.

I didn’t mention this originally since it wasn’t related to the corrosion issue, but I was already leaning toward a carbon bar for the aero & comfort benefit.

Ah, in that case yes try carbon and definitely do not ride those bars outside! (or do high intensity in the drops inside for that matter, as @AndyGajda said). Though as mentioned above carbon isn’t immune to these sort of issues so trying to protect your bars better or at least changing tape more regularly would also be a good idea.