The photo of Dirt's incredibly pink ride (I'm new here remember...) made me think a bit about aero bars and the possibility of adding another position to my riding. Does the aero position "play" with bike fit for riding on the hoods and in the drops or do you need to tweak the fit to make it work? Is it a more relaxing way to ride (when not maneuvering or starting from standstill)? Any bars to recommend?
Last edited by GuyContinental; 05-07-2012 at 03:24 PM.
Reason: can't spel "aero"
I don't have much time... gotta run in a few. Tim can also talk to this 'cause he's got more recent time on aero bars than I do. It end to add them to my bike for a month or two per year for a specific event. Tim's time on them is usually the opposite.
For me the positioning works well on a road bike. I've generally got very good flexibility though. My back position in the aero bars on my road bikes is almost identical to riding in the drops with with my elbows bent. It allows me a bit of flexibility with my positioning and helps me move around on the bike a little. I've been doing 7+ hour rides on the pink fixie and I need the chance to position in slightly different ways to relax and keep flexibility on the bike. They were really great on Sunday where we had long, flat sections and a bit of wind.
Word of caution: Not all handlebars accept add-on aero bars. Check with the manufacturer. Pay very good attention to the torque specifications when installing. Make sure you're comfortable and able to ride smoothly and in a straight line with them. They take practice. Don't ride them in a close group or traffic. You're too far from the brakes if something wiggs out.
The position on aero bars isn't always good for me. My position on the bike and crank length are such that when I really need to put down power in the aero position, I'm better off on the drops. When in the aero bars my legs really come all the way up to my chest and if I'm really trying to power through a section, my legs hitting against my ribs causes me to serpentine a bit as I move forward. At high cadence I could imagine that not being really safe. I get off the aero bars and grab the drops for big power situations.
I own three different sets of bars that I use on different bikes. The ones on the pink bike are Ritchey's from many years back. I've got more modern ones from Profile and Zipp. Buy them new. Installation instructions and knowing they have not been crashed is a very, very good thing. I know that means they're not always cheap.
Last comment before I gotta run: My position is COMPLETELY self-created. If you're really gonna do the aero thing right, a professional fitting is a good idea. Having the right fit on the bike with ANY bars makes it SO much easier to be in control and smooth.
Last edited by Dirt; 05-07-2012 at 03:37 PM.
Reason: Quick note. HA! Hahahahahaha. Bwahahahahahahaa Hahahahaha haahahaha *chortle*
In many cases, if you add aerobars to a road bike, you will need to add a forward-facing seat post too. This is because your body will be shifted forward. If you try to use the regular seat post, you may have to reach too far forward to get to the aerobars. This is inefficient and can lead to various muscle strains.
You can do a simple test of this while seated in a chair. Pretend that you're on a road bike and lean forward slightly as though you were on the drops. Now try to move your elbows up to the point where your hands are. You will have to lean even further ahead, putting a strain on your lower back.
Aerobars are used to put you into a more aerodynamic position, but it's a tradeoff of speed instead of stability. The bike will be harder to steer and control when riding in aero position. Aero position is best for extended steady-state riding, the type of riding you would do in a non-drafting triathlon. If you are riding in close quarters with other cyclists or maneuvering through bike and car traffic, it's not the safest position.
It's tough to switch back and forth between aerobars and the handlebars during a ride. While it can be done, you won't be in optimal position for both. At least that's the case with many people. Either the seat will be farther back, making it more comfortable to use the handlebars (or bullhorns on a tri bike). Or the seat is farther forward, making it more comfortable to use the aerobars.
There are shorter aerobars available. Those are used in draft-legal races like ITU triathlons, which are shorter than Ironman races. If you aren't going to specialize in non-drafting triathlons or individual time-trial races, then I don't think you would really need to get aerobars. I wouldn't recommend them for a non-triathlete or non-time trial specialist. They aren't good for group rides, because of the poor bike control.
It depends on your current fit, but I've found clip-ons on a road bike are quite comfortable and they are fairly adjustable. Once you go to even more aggressive position on a time trial frame, that's when things can start to become uncomfortable.
If you're just looking for a alternative position during commuting, go ahead and throw a pair on and see how it feels. If you plan on staying aero for extended periods of time (multiple hours) a proper fitting and maybe even a saddle change is in order.
PotomacCyclist covered the important issues, so I'll just give anecdotal info.
I had a short stint with both triathlon and clip-on aerobars, and the setup never felt quite right to me. Road bikes really weren't made to be ridden with clip-ons, so any adjustments you make will be something of a compromise. In order to get truly aero and have the hip and arm angle recommended for max comfort, power and lung capacity, I had to shove the saddle all the way forward. And mess with seat and bar height. And cleat position...It was a major undertaking to make it work. Anyway, I hated the resulting super twitchy handling, and the compromise just wasn't worth it to me. And as Dirt kinda alluded to, the aero position is for long stints in that one position, so it's not exactly ideal for things like climbing and sprinting.
That said, I do like to have them during the winter when I'm riding the trainer and perfect fit and handling aren't such a big deal (cuz I can't ride those things straight to save my life).
I have a bit of a short body, so I like more compact aerobars. I had Syntace C2s (too long). Profile Design Jammers fit much better.
Heh. I just jumped over to the forums to ask Dirt about the aero bars he had on his Big Dummy a couple of years back, and immediately saw a thread was already started today re: aero bars.
I was headed back from Leesburg to Arlington on the BD this afternoon and the headwind was killing me. Guess other people were having wind issues today too?
I suppose that a use case would have been good to include- I do the WO&D commute from Courthouse to Sterling several times a week and am really just looking for an alternate body position and a way to better hide from the wind. Also, I'm just getting a bit bored and adding a fixie/SS probably isn't in the cards this year- the wife says that at 6 (including two unicycles) I have enough bikes... I have no intention of the bars inside the beltway, in fact it irritates me when I see a Tri dude slaloming through bodies- I KNOW their control is limited, braking terrible and their acceleration sucks.
Do I gain much vs being in the drops? (or enough to justify the loss of brakes and shifting...) There are probably only 7-10 miles on that route where it would make any sense at all and even then I'd be in and out because of the innumerable road crossings.
Last edited by GuyContinental; 05-11-2012 at 12:21 PM.
If you've got any load at all on the Big Dummy, the aero bars make the bike too unstable to ride. There's enough wag on a loaded cargo bike that it was really scary when I got in the aero bars. I wouldn't bother installing them unless you need to use them when riding with virtually no load at all.
Originally Posted by brendan
You're probably not going to be comfortable in both positions (handlebars, aero position) on the same bike. The bike will have to be set up for either one or the other. If the bike is optimized for aero position, it's not going to be comfortable to ride with your hands on the handlebars for extended periods. You'll still be leaning farther forward than you would on a standard road-bike set-up. That means more pressure on your hands and wrists than usual.
Originally Posted by GuyContinental
Aero position obviously helps with aerodynamics a bit, but you're still going to feel the wind when it's blowing hard. The only way to hide from the wind is to draft off of a tractor-trailer. (But I wouldn't advise that because of safety issues!) I've ridden around Hains Point on a couple days when very strong winds were blowing through. Gusts of maybe 30 mph or greater on those days and minimal wind protection from trees. I could barely stay upright on the tri bike on those occasions and at the worst spot, at the bend on the south of the park, I had a tough time just hitting 10 mph. On a flat road on a tri bike!