Aliexpress is legendary with hard to execute warranties and dubious quality control. When buying bicycle parts, it’s not the money you put at risk. Yet here I am, with another set of handlebars, this time for my gravel bike.
Disclaimer: This is not a review. Treat this as more of a story, not recommendation. With Aliexpress you’re buying a pig in a poke. You might get perfectly fine item, a worthless piece of crap or nothing at all. Simply put, your milage may vary.
Sure, if those chinese-branded cheap things break under you, you will lose a few bucks. You can lose a lot more than that, though, when your face will suddenly connect with the road surface after your upper body no longer has support.
That’s why I was always reluctant to buy bicycle parts from Aliexpress. And yet here I am, with both my bicycles, road and gravel with a chinese-branded carbon handlebars.
The reason is simple - because I got bored. I’ve been changing parts on bicycles for looks, comfort and funcionality multiple times. I’ve seen different saddles, handlebars, wheels, etc. I simply wanted some more flair on my road bike and ended up wanting the same for the other one. Here’s the results!
They are basically the same brand and model. The difference is the width. Road ones are 38cm, gravel is a bit wider and comes in 40cm. Both have internally routed cables and flat tops, which makes them look cool and aerodynamic and much more comfortable.
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How do you choose the handlebars to buy on Aliexpress, you’d ask? You basically look at what’s available and looks nice. Maybe go through some reviews, especially with pictures, because that gives you some overview on what people actually got. If you believe those reviews are not fake, of course. When you make up your mind, you simply YOLO it! Pay and pray you will get what’s advertised.
Behold, the handlebars!
I was lucky enough, when I ordered bars for the road bike. I’ve paid around €50, free shipping. The package came quickly and it was wrapped so well, it took me some times to unwrap it. The model I’ve got is RLX SL matte carbon black line finish. The only reason I’m linking to it is that this is the same seller and offer I’ve got the second set and it hasn’t disappeared since then. That kinda makes it more reputable.
I think it’s important to mention, that before I was even thinking to actually mount them, I spent a day trying to bend them in all directions and lean on them with my body weight. Only then I decided to get on with it. I also inspected the item for obvious imperfections. Oh! And if you care about the product weight, compared to 38cm Pro Compact Ergo bars (250g) it saved me around 50g. That’s kinda impressive.
The process of putting them on the bike was, honestly, a pain in the ass. I’m usually not in for a handlebars tape wrapping, which is already annoying and I almost never get it right. The internal cable routing was the most difficult part of it. The space for the cables and the bend you have to go through are so tight it was a real struggle. It took me at least an hour just to thread the cable housing, not to mention the recabling of the entire bike. I think, despite the low price it’s ment for more modern setups with hydraulic brakes and electronic shifting.
The gravel ones were even more tedious, because the holes seemed to be even tighter and it was nearly impossible to even start two housings in one entry port. It would be best to have a third hand to make it doable. I even ended up asking my six years old son for help for coordinated push-pull action!
On the good side, the stem and hoods contact surface is covered with special friction thing. I was able to torque everything up to spec without any suspicious noises. I finished it up with annoying handlebar wrapping and that’s about it.
Well, on one side it’s handlebars. You sort of hold it to control your bicycle. On the other hand, I’ve been used to bars with round profile and flat tops design is something different. It feels like bigger surface gives you a better support and that improves the situation of my usualy numb hands (I have really weak circulation).
The internal cable routing is really neat and makes the handlebars more streamlined. The exit ports being really close to the stem allowed for less slack of the housings and it makes it look more organized.
The last aspect of it is that it just makes the bike look cooler, more aggressive and I really like how it came out to be.
Would I buy the same handlebars again? I think, yes. My bicycles ended up looking better and feeling nicer. I had no issues with them whatsoever and I say it after a few months of use.
Do I recommend you to take a chance and buy a sort of random chinese carbon fiber part of potentially dubious quality? I think the answer is in the question. But in case you wan’t to blame me later for your poor decisions, the answer is no. If anything, do it at your own risk!