For this year’s national hill climb (on long hill – 4.4 miles, average gradient 3%) , I am going to experiment with some clip on aero bars for my road bike.
Clip on aero bars are the cheapest way to go faster on your road bike. The reason is that by bringing your arms closer together, you improve aerodynamic draft considerably. It can be worth an extra 1mph at around 25mph. (source: google.com and cycling internet forums )
One thing worth mentioning about clip on aero bars is that, despite the fact they make you go quicker, ‘real’ cyclists rarely use them. The reason is that they are banned by the UCI in road racing. Unlike many UCI regulations, this does actually make sense as when you are riding in a big, fast moving pack, it is better to have your hands close to your breaks (on the hoods) and not out-stretched on some clip on bars. If there is a crash, tribars reduce your response time – not much, but it would cause more accidents in road racing.
If you do ride with aerobars, you do have to be a little more thoughtful, and anticipate when you need to move off the tribars and get ready to brake.
If your new to cycling, it is a definitely a ‘Faux Pax‘ to go on a group ride / chaingang and ride with your clip on aero bars. Even to have them on your bike, means you run the risk of people muttering ‘…he must be a triathlete…’
Making the Most of Aero Bars.
To make the most of aero bars, you would ideally want to bring your arms in line with your legs. It is by bringing them closer together that you will save wind resistance. Also the lower your back is, the less wind resistance you will face.
However, there is a trade off, it still needs to be reasonably comfortable to ride. If you make them too close together you may constrict your breathing a little. Also, if they are too close together, it can be more difficult to control bike. It is better to move them closer gradually as you get used to it.
Aero Bars and Comfort.
On long distance rides, some people find having aero bars make a more comfortable ride. It gives a different riding position, and enables you to take the pressure of your hands. Therefore, they can make sense for long distance riding. But, again, they may be frowned upon if you participate in some group long distance rides. I don’t know too much about the culture of Audax rides, but I’ve never seen aero bars on those stately Audax tourers. For cycle sportives, the volume of riders will generally make it an unpopular choice.
Trying Time Trials.
Aero bars are the best bet for people who want to try a time trial, but without forking out for a full time trial bike. If you get your stem lower and use the aero bars to bring your arms closer together, you will get quite close to a time trial bike position, and it will be £1,000+ cheaper.
One important note. Some tribars end up lifting you higher than the previous bar position. When buying I look for tribars which don’t lift you up, but are close to the handlebar stem. (see below)
Profile T Plus system is very good at keeping pads close to handlebars
Tri Bars in Hill Climbs.
Generally, people won’t use tribars in hill climbs because the extra weight reduces the small gain in aerodynamics. However, on something like long hill, the average speed of the climb (23mph) means aerodynamic savings are potentially quite high.
Another factor in hill climbs, is that tribars potentially make your position awkward and can slightly reduce your power output. Therefore, it is not always as simple as weight v aerodynamics.
I will buying the lightest aero bars I can find, and then probably cutting them down as much as I can. If I’m lucky I will get some aero bars which only add 250 grams to the weight of the bike. If I can get comfortable, then I think it will be quicker than without.
Recommended Clip on Aero Bars
- Profile T2 Aero bars – £82 from Wiggle. Aluminium, 520grams, I like the fact they are low and fully adjustable
- Profile Sonic – £230 from wiggle. Carbon fibre, just over 300 grams, I will probably cut a little off too. The lightest I can find.
- Token Alloy bars (Evans Cycles)- An example of a relatively cheap tribar which can get you going for less than £40
Buying Aero bars
If anyone can recommend a super super light clip on aero bar, I will be grateful.