Aero bars are essentially handlebar extensions that can be attached close to the center of your bike’s handlebar. They’re particularly popular among triathletes who look to prioritize speed and comfort.
But, just how much of a difference can they make to performance? And are they worth the added effort and money?
This article will take a look at eight of the most important things to keep in mind before buying aero bars for your bike. What’s more, we’ll also look to answer some of the frequently asked questions related to the popular handlebar extensions.
1. Plenty Of Choice
There are several different types of aero bars available on the market, so it’s important to become familiar with all of them before deciding on the best-suited one for your specific needs.
- One-piece vs. two separate bars – some aero bars have the two bars fixed together which makes installation significantly easier. Just be mindful that one-piece bars are harder to make adjustments to compared to models with two separate bars.
- Short vs. long bars – short aero bars are used by elite triathletes on short-distance events. In non-drafting races and events, longer aero bars are more commonly used.
- Shape – aero bars can be curved differently depending on the exact position you want to hold. The most popular choices are bars that follow either an S or L curve, although it’s best if you try all of the available options before making your decision.
- Carbon vs. aluminium – this comparison is mainly weight-related and is reflected by the asking price for both types of aero bars.
2. More Efficient Body Position
The second factor to take into account is the fact that aero bars can make you travel faster by allowing you to lower your upper body into a more aero position. In other words, this enables you to create less drag and go faster for the exact same amount of effort.
In terms of timings, recent studies have investigated the difference between riding on the drop and riding with aero bars, with results indicating that as much as one minute and 40 seconds can be gained per 40 kilometers when using aero bars.
3. Changing Gears
Perhaps one of the biggest disadvantages of adding aero bars to a road bike is the difficulty of changing gears. Since aero bars don’t modify the placement of gears, you’ll be required to remove one hand from the aero bar in order to access the gear shifter.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a problem for triathlon bikes as the gear shifters are positioned at the end of the bars, allowing you to easily shift gears while still in the aero position.
4. Difficult Fitting Process
When adding aero bars to a bike, you’ll need to adjust your entire bike set-up accordingly for an effective aero position. This is much more complex and time-consuming than simply moving your saddle up and forward to fix your body position.
Fitting aero bars on your own at home is a challenging task – even if you have a mirror for assistance. This is why many people either ask for help from their triathlete friends or go to a professional bike fitter to complete the task.
5. Using Them In The Correct Situations
The next factor to take into account is the importance of using aero bars correctly, and in the right situations. You need to be mindful that you won’t have direct access to your brakes when using aero bars, therefore your reaction time will be a little slower.
With this in mind, there are a few situations where it’s highly recommended to avoid using aero bars. These include steep downhills, traffic-filled roads, group rides, bumpy roads, and sharp corners.
So, once you’ve installed your aero bars, make sure you test them out and get properly used to riding with them on quiet, straight roads. It’s highly likely that you won’t be as secure as being on the drops or hoods, but don’t be deterred – it’s a skill that needs a fair amount of practice and patience.
6. Excellent Comfort
Not only do aero bars help you travel faster on your bike, they’re also more comfortable – particularly over longer distances. So, if you often feel the need to change between different positions while you’re cycling, the addition of aero bars provides another useful option.
Just be mindful that while many cyclists report a more relaxed feeling when using the aero position, it takes a fair amount of time to get completely used to the new position. Therefore, it’s important to be patient and not expect instant results.
7. Great For A Budget
While a typical set of aero wheels can cost well over $1,000, aero bars are priced considerably less. This is ideal if you’re working to a tight budget, as there are an abundance of options available, ranging from as little as $30 to $200.
As is the case with pretty much every bike component, it’s only reasonable to pay a higher price if you’re interested in getting the lightest carbon version.
While a carbon set isn’t entirely necessary, it’s a good idea to look for aero bars that can be adjusted in all directions as this makes the fitting process significantly easier.
8. Potential For Versatility
For triathletes who want to add some aero bars to their bike but still want the ability to easily switch between a standard road position and a tri-position, there are options available.
Take for example, the aero system from Redshift. Models such as these enable you to add or remove aero bars, as well as change the seat position, all within a matter of seconds.
The Bottom Line
As this article has shown, there are a number of factors to take into account before buying aero bars for your bike. However, taking the time to research all of the important considerations is highly beneficial, and will ultimately allow you to make the right decision for your individual needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are aero bars good for long rides?
As mentioned above, aero bars offer a completely new riding position which is beneficial for long rides where you spend an extended period of time in the saddle.
This is because they allow you to get yourself in a more comfortable and efficient riding position, removing a significant amount of the stress on your arms, hands, and wrists.
Can using aero bars reduce the risk of injury?
Injuries are a common part of the cycling world, and a huge number of these come from poor positioning and posture as you ride. Therefore, by attaching aero bars to your bike, you’ll improve your posture, stresses, and comfort levels, thus reducing the likelihood of developing back and neck problems.
What other adjustments do you have to make when using aero bars?
Once you’ve installed your aero bars, there are a number of other adjustments you can make to improve your aerodynamics and make the bars even more effective as you ride.
For example, you can adjust the height of the handlebar to make sure it sits at a comfortable level so you don’t have to strain your back and shoulders to reach. What’s more, you can update your clothes and helmet to further reduce drag and improve your speeds.
How do I stop my aero bar from slipping?
This is another one of the biggest problems that cyclists face when using aero bars on their bike. To prevent an attached aero bar from slipping it’s a good idea to try a wrap of either friction tape or electrical tape (to avoid metal on metal).
Furthermore, a small torque wrench is also useful, although these can cost a fair amount of money.
Can you put aero bars on a mountain bike?
Yes, aero bars can be attached to a mountain bike, and can be useful for long distance and adventure racing. This is because they provide an additional option for changing posture during a ride.