Every year the Tour De France takes place and if you happen to catch any of it you may notice the adapted front to all of the cyclist’s bikes are different from yours or mine. This adapted front part of the bike is called an aero bar.
This article will seek to explain just what they are and why those cycling around France every year and those that you see in triathlons are using them. If you have ever wanted to take part in that triathlon then you are going to need an aero bar fitted to your bike.
Or even if you have an empty area near you and you feel like you want to experience the view a little faster then read on as I try to explain why you should spend some time fitting one of these types of handlebars.
What are Aero Bars?
These bicycle bars are used to aid with aerodynamics. The meaning of aerodynamics is what happens when a solid object, in this case the bike meets the motion of air. These handle bars are designed in such a way that it allows the bike to travel through the air with the minimum of ease.
The first use of them in a competitive setting was in 1989 when the American Greg LeMond used what are known as Scott triathlon bars. This evolved over the years with the likes of Graeme Obree where he was more flat and angled his body in such a way his hands were breaking through the air.
After this position was soon banned it was Jan Ulrich who started to race with the bar extensions parallel to the ground. Ulrich found a more aerodynamically favoured position as he had moved forward on the bike enabling him to create more power.
There are various positions employed today and each with there own advantages and disadvantages. All of them though have the same common idea of trying to gain time on their opponents whether in a professional setting like the Tour De France or a small triathlon event.
The aero position and the bars are used by professionals including Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy who favours the ski type. These allow you to place your forearms and hands on them and therefore make it easy to create an aerodynamic position.
Use in Triathlons
These special bars, or as they are sometimes referred to as triathlon bars, are used frequently for racing bicycles in triathlons and other similar events. They enable the cyclist to move faster as when getting on the bike they are positioned at an angle that the person has to hold on to them in such a way that they are drawn forward into a tucked position. This position is also known as the aero position.
The so called aero position has been shown in studies that it makes the cyclist smaller therefore allowing them to move through the air quicker as there is less wind resistance. The cyclist is bent forward in an almost 90° angle and as a result of this the cyclist`s have become quicker and there times have improved.
Knowledge, Information and Guidance
When fixing these bars to your bike it is important to also adjust the rest of their bike as well. A failure to do this will result in an uncomfortable and unsteady ride. It can also be dangerous for you and those around you.
When fixing them to your bike the handlebar will move forward. To counteract this problem your saddle will need to be moved forward as well as risen. The movement of the saddle means your weight will be shifted forward and create the aerodynamic feel. It
is also very important to feel comfortable especially if you know you will be riding often or for long periods. If fitted incorrectly the cyclist is left having there back at a difficult angle and also it can put breathing restrictions on the lungs.
To ensure you avoid this a professional fitting may be necessary however if you want to fit them yourself try to fit them a shoulders width apart and try to adjust them so you are as small as possible while still remaining comfortable.
A common mistake people make after they have fitted them is that they stay in the 90° position even when going uphill. Experts suggest that to get the best out of these biking handlebars you stay in the 90° angle on flat surfaces and that you sit up in a more traditional position when going uphill as the aerodynamic advantages have decreased.
When installing them there are a number of things that you need to consider. If you intend on using them in a group race then there may be other riders who may frown on them in regards to seeing them as unsafe for use around other riders.
With these accessories the effect of riding over cracks in the road or contact with other riders is greatly enhanced. You have control more with your elbows and any effect on you can have an impact on your steering of the bike.
The way the bars are positioned, your hands are away from the brakes. There will be a time in the race where you will need to brake. If you have them fitted on your bike there will be a few split seconds where you have to move your hands from the bars to the brakes on the normal handle bar.
This may be the difference between causing an accident, or not, so think very carefully about the competition and be honest about your reaction time and skills before you enter a race with them fitted.
The best use for the general public when riding a bike equipped with this type of bar is to use it when biking alone as you can build up more speed and avoid accidents with fellow cyclists. It can take time when learning to ride in the aero position so a good way to start is to try it in empty, quiet areas where the likelihood of trouble is reduced. Trying it for short periods on flat surfaces for a short time is also a way to know if anything on your bike needs anything to be adjusted.
Reviews of Some of the Top Aerobars
Choosing the right type of bars for your bike is important. Not only can they be expensive to buy and fit but there is also the inconvenience of fitting one to your bike, getting out there just for fun or in a race, only to find out that the bars you have fitted doesn`t really suit your style of riding.
Maybe the aero position is too awkward for you or the type you have is good but there is a bar out there that can take you cycling experience to another level. Therefore it is vital that you research the different types available.
In this small review of some of this type of bike accessory I have chosen the bars at the lower end of the market. These are the minimum you should expect to pay for quality and you can if you wish spend a lot more.
Below are some of the aero bars which are considered to be at the top of the market and a brief review of some of the important points.
Tranz X Tri Bar
The first item of this type to look at is the Tranz X tri bar which weighs 460 grams. This is regarded to be one of the top tri bars around for those looking for there first aero bar and it is available for $70.
They are designed for easy fitting and can fit onto standard or oversize bars with ease. This bar has been designed in such a way that it enables the rider to fully customise there riding position which in turn creates a more aerodynamic feel.
The bar comes with detachable pads and also a clip-on arm rest. In technical terms there is an extrusion clamp for 31.8mm handlebar with an adapter for 25.4mm. It is also valuable to anyone looking to equip to an all weather training bike.
Profile Design Legacy Bars
The second bar to look at is made by Profile and is one that is mainly intended for triathlons and time trials. They are made from aluminium, so it is to be avoided though if you have carbon bars as it puts too much stress on the carbon.
They will fit a regular or oversized handlebar and the elbow pads can be rotated and set to different positions. Like the previous bar these are perfect for beginners and they are simple, effective and can be bought online for anywhere between $60-90.
Raleigh TRI002 Clip on Bar
This is another budget option which is made by Raleigh and it is made of aluminium alloy. This is a bar that is perfect for long periods, high speeds and they are easy to fit. The clip on bar helps maintain the aerodynamic tuck position and it has multiple adjustments to customise your riding position, all of which help reduce neck strain and improve comfort. It also has a polymer foam cover which is both durable and tough.
The bar fits most mountain and race bikes and is a light weight, coming in at 595 grams. Be aware though that it is not suitable for some oversize handlebars. These can be bought online for between $45-65.
RSP Road Bike/Cycle Handlebars Tri-Bars
These lightweight alloy tri-bars fit 25.4mm and oversized 31.8mm and they are made by RSP. Regarded by the cycling press as at the top of it`s category they feature a fully customisable riding position.
The bars include foam padding are easy to install and weigh 670 grams with pads and shims. This is the bar for someone with the time and patience to make careful adjustments. The bars are available for $50 online and these would be ideal for someone with some knowledge of this type of handlebar but is looking to make that first step in that world.
XLC Tri-Bar Attachment
The final bar I will look at is made from double butted aluminium it is one that is owned by a relatively new international cycling brand which has over 100 years bicycle manufacturing expertise. This bar is perfect for active bikers who value comfort and durability and it has an extension for triathlon participants.
There are numerous components and accessories included which will enable you to customise your purchase to fit your needs and there are also complex thermo transfer patterns and replaceable arm pads come with it. Whether for cross country or road this product is a high-quality product which is available for $40-£50.
Now it’s Up to You
Now you hopefully have a little better understanding of this type of racing handlebar and what they can do. As I have mentioned previously it is important for you to do research into the type of bar you want especially if you are racing competitively. This article was about introducing to you the idea of the aero bar and what you should know.
New models are being released constantly and new aero positions are being perfected by professionals as you read this. So if this type of accessory is something that piques your interest than keep a look out for the latest designs and releases as there is sure to be something that you can do to improve your bike and make your time just a little quicker.