The triathlon is the ultimate test of speed and endurance requiring athletes to be proficient in running, swimming, and cycling if they want to succeed.
It is a challenging race but if you are considering competing in one it is important to remember that you don’t need to be a master of all three parts. If you lose time in one section, it is very possible to make it back in another and still get a good overall time.
There are many different types of cycling races, but the triathlon can be one of the hardest because you will have just finished swimming up to 1.5km. Even if you are very good at cycling, you will need to take every advantage you can to not fall behind.
This is why it is essential to have the right equipment if you want to guarantee a good time. Riding in the time trial position with your chest over the handlebars and your head in line with your back and bum will help massively, but riding in this stance is easier on some bikes than others.
No, you don’t need a top of the line sports bike to do well. However, there are some small modifications you can make to even an ordinary road bike that will considerably increase your speed.
Aero bars are a simple handlebar attachment that can transform any regular bike into a racer. These extensions point forwards and have elbow rests attached at the base so you can comfortably assume the ‘time trial’ position while riding.
This stance will make you more aerodynamic, which will decrease wind resistance and air pressure, two of the main things that slow a cyclist down.
In this article, we will break down the different types of aero bars available as well as list some of the best ones available to buy for your road bike.
The Different Types Of Aero Bars
Many aero bars can be clipped onto your existing handlebars with a bike torque wrench or a small screwdriver. These clip-on varieties can be removed any time you aren’t using them, and some of them can even be flipped up while riding so you can switch back to your normal position.
You can also buy full aero bars that come with horizontal steering bars as well, which will require you to remove your old handlebars to install the new set. Extensions come in a variety of different materials including carbon fiber, aluminum, and steel.
Aluminum aero bars are only slightly heavier than carbon ones, and they are generally much more durable. Thanks to the toughness and strength of this material, many bike parts are already made from aluminum alloys.
They may not look as sleek as carbon extensions, but they will function just as well and may last significantly longer.
Professional tri-athletes tend to avoid steel bars due to their weight, which defeats the aero-bars main purpose of making your bike more aerodynamic.
However, this option is still popular for riders who want durable handlebars that won’t break during long-distance cycling. Steel handles are also some of the most affordable aero bars on the market.
These are the lightest aero bars you can buy and the low weight will help your bike to move considerably faster. Some athletes even swear that carbon handles offer more responsive steering.
This makes up for the biggest disadvantage of aero bars, which is that they make it harder to steer around tight corners. Unfortunately, the carbon extensions are slightly less durable than those made from metal and as a result, you may need to replace them more often.
In this article, we will mainly be focusing on full carbon, clip-on bars as these are the easiest to install and use, and will be the most suitable for cycling in most races and triathlons.
Now that we have covered the different types and materials, let’s have a look at some of the best full carbon aero bars for clipping onto your road bike.
OUR TOP PICK
The TT in the name of these bars indicates that they are designed for ‘Time Trial’ bikes, but with a bit of tinkering, they can easily be fitted to a standard road bike as well.
These full carbon aero bars are built to be clipped onto handlebars with a diameter of 31.8mm. Together both handles weigh 320g, making them super light and perfect for increasing your max speed on a bike.
These bars have an s bend, which will help you better combat wind resistance and build up a higher speed. Getting maximum efficiency out of the time trial position requires pulling up on the bars, which means your body has to be in a position to exert leverage.
For this to work, the extensions need to be strong enough to withstand this leverage without snapping, which is why these aero bars are made from an extra-strong carbon weave.
The extensions are 340mm long and sadly there is no way to adjust the length. There are sponge pads at the base for resting your elbows on, and they are easy to remove whenever they need to be washed.
- Made from lightweight but durable carbon fiber weave
- Sponge pads can be removed for cleaning.
- Easy to clip onto any handlebars with a diameter of 31.8mm.
- You can’t adjust the length of the bars or the height of the pads.
These 14 ¾in extensions can be attached to any bike with handlebars that have a diameter between 26 and 31.8mm.
You can adjust the length of the bars for maximum comfort or if you want to make your time trial position even more aerodynamic. The armrests have sponge pads and can also be adjusted to be shorter or lower as necessary.
There is an ergonomic S-bend so you can adopt an aerodynamic position without putting unnecessary strain on your wrists. Aluminum J4 brackets are included so you can attach these extensions onto thinner handlebars.
The bars themselves have been drilled and are Di2 compatible so you can easily add shifters to your extensions. This allows you to be able to change gears without constantly switching your hands between the two sets of handlebars.
Although they are slightly heavier than other full carbon extensions, the Profile T2+’s are still a great choice for athletes who need to utilize their bike’s maximum speed.
- Fully adjustable extension bars and elbow rests.
- J4 brackets allow for an easy fit on most handlebars
- The bars have been drilled and are Di2 compatible.
- Slightly heavier than other brands.
RICYRLK has designed these aero bars to make riding long distances over roads much more comfortable.
While they can’t be used on mountain bikes, these 13.4-inch extensions are very ergonomic, with a gentle s bend to reduce strain on your wrist while riding. These make a great set of aero bars for first-timers looking to try them without breaking the bank.
The clamps are big enough to fit around 31.8mm handlebars but with larger screws, they can easily be adapted for other sizes as well.
At 330g they are very lightweight but still incredibly sturdy. End plugs are included to make these aero bars even more durable and will prevent them from being damaged in the event of a crash.
The sponge cushions on the elbow rests can be removed for cleaning, although you shouldn’t do this too often as they are a little on the thin side. RICYRLK promises to provide a refund or replacement for any faulty products.
- Durable bars made from high-grade carbon fiber.
- Ergonomic and very comfortable for those riding long distances over roads.
- Lightweight and affordable.
- Great customer service.
- The sponge elbow pads are a bit thin.
- Not suitable for rough terrain.
This design utilizes a steeper JS-bend for a perfectly ergonomic set of extensions that will make riding in the time trial position much easier. With this unique design, you can place your hands further up or lower down the bar depending on what suits your riding style.
Holding the ends will put you in a better position for maximum speed while gripping the diagonal section will put your wrists in a more comfortable position for long-distance riding.
The armrests can’t be moved up and down like they can on other brands, but they can rotate between 0-13° to provide more support.
The extension bars themselves are fully adjustable and can be anywhere between 230-290mm long. This means that even amateur riders will have no problem finding a configuration that works for them.
The underside bolts on the clamps make these extensions very easy to set up. They are best suited to handlebars that are 31.8mm in diameter, but they can be easily adapted for larger handles with a set of longer screws.
There are holes in the bottom and at the top for feeding cables through and these bars are Di2 compatible.
- Unique JS-bend, allows you to easily alter your hand position.
- Adjustable extensions and armrests for maximum comfort.
- Di2 compatible.
These premium one-piece aero bars are 340mm in length and only weigh 320g. They are suitable for handlebars with a diameter of 31.8mm and their sleek design is built to be both ergonomic and very comfortable.
While they aren’t adjustable, they are very cheap and make a great option for those who want to experiment with aero bars before adopting them.
You can only use these extensions while riding your bike on the road, as bumpy or mountainous terrain will likely cause them to break.
They can be a little difficult to install because the screws have to line up with very small bolts that are difficult to get in place. You can get around this by turning your bike upside down to get a better view of the clamp.
Holes have been drilled for feeding cables through and attaching a gear shifter to the bars. The sponge pads are attached to the armrests with velcro so they can be easily removed and washed.
- Very lightweight and durable.
- Holes have been drilled in the bottom for inserting cables to install gear shifters.
- Sponge pads can be removed from the armrests for cleaning.
- Difficult to install.
Best Full Carbon & Clip-on Aero Bars For Road Bikes Buying Guide
Aero bars come in lots of different shapes and designs. While they may look simple, a lot of thought and research goes into making them do their job properly.
We have only covered the full carbon, clip-on extensions, but there are many others as well that may be better or worse depending on your riding style. Here are some tips for how to choose the right aero bars for your road bike.
The most important factor to consider when buying extensions is how long they are. Typically you would place your hands at the very end of the aero bar meaning you will be reaching across the full length of the bar.
Shorter bars can put you in a better position for moving much faster, while the longer models are better for staying comfortable during long-distance rides. Some races will even have rules about what length of extensions you are allowed to use.
Cycling is mainly about overcoming wind resistance and air pressure to move as fast as possible. Drafting is a technique that involves one cyclist riding directly behind another one.
The person in front will take the brunt of the wind resistance, while the one behind will be able to keep up the same speed with less effort because of the lack of air pressure left in the forward cyclist’s wake.
In triathlons where you are allowed to draft (known as draft legal events), you can only use aero bars that are connected in the middle and don’t extend further than your brake levers.
Longer aero bars are permitted in all other races where drafting is illegal, so check what kind of race you will be running before you buy a set of extensions.
Aero bars come with a range of different bends in the middle. The three main types are S-bends, J-bends, and L-bends and it is easy to distinguish one from the other because the shape of the bar will match its respective letter.
The S shape puts requires you to bend your wrists more, which will give you more leverage on the bars and allow you to move faster. Because your wrist is flexed, these aero bars will be less comfortable to use for extended periods of time.
J and L-bends put your wrist in a much more ergonomic position and are therefore great for long-distance events. Since you will be riding for so much longer, the slight speed reduction is worth it for the massive boost in comfort.
All extensions will feature spongy pads at the base for resting your arms on while you are in the time trial position. Since you will be sweating a lot it is good to make sure these pads are removable so they can be washed after heavy use.
Some aero bars will allow you to adjust the rotation of the armrests so you can find the position that is most comfortable for you.
If you are doing long-distance races you should look for extensions with nice thick pads so you can avoid cramps and other pains while riding.
Are there holes for shifters?
Naturally, if you are using a different set of handlebars you want to make sure you don’t lose the ability to use your gear shifters or brakes. There aren’t many aero bars that will accommodate brakes without major reconstruction on your bike.
This means that while you are practicing time trial position you should also practice switching between the two sets of handlebars so you can brake quickly when needed. After a few weeks, this motion will become second nature to you.
Some aero bars have holes drilled into the bottom for feeding cables through, and these will allow you to install a gear shifter on your extensions.
This feature is extremely useful as it allows you to maintain control of your speed without having to lose valuable seconds switching position to do so.
What kind of race are you running?
As we said above draft-legal and draft-illegal triathlons will have different rules about what kind of aero bars you are allowed to use. It is vital to always check the rules of the race you will be running to see what restrictions they have on modifications to your bike.
Also, consider the type of terrain you will be cycling on. Carbon fiber aero bars are best suited for roads and may break if you use them on a mountain bike over rough terrain.
Steel extensions are a much better choice for off-road events since they are incredibly durable and unlikely to break, even in the event of a crash.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do aero bars work?
Aero bars make it easier to assume the ‘time trial’ position where your body is leaning over the handlebars with your head in line with your back and bum. This stance will help you to move much faster on your bike and is much better for racing.
The first reason for this is that you can exert far more force down on the pedals. This allows you to build up higher speeds with less effort and will help you conserve your energy for the final lap of the race.
The main benefit of aero bars though is in the name. These extensions put your hands much closer to each other, which reduces the width of your shoulders. With your head down and your back straight, your chest isn’t as exposed to the air.
The end result is that your body will be significantly more aerodynamic while riding, which will cause you to experience less wind resistance.
With a streamlined helmet on, aero bars and the time trial position will make you slice through the air at much higher speeds than you could with normal handlebars.
Are aero bars safe?
The first problem people may encounter when using aero bars is that they may find it more difficult to steer.
Having both hands pointing forwards will make it much harder to accurately turn the bike around tight corners, and since your brakes are on the original handlebars they will take slightly longer to reach and use.
Overcoming these difficulties is a matter of practice. Most professional triathletes will switch between their extensions and their regular handlebars whenever they need to perform complex maneuvers or slow down.
After a few weeks of using aero bars regularly, you will be able to swap between both sets of handlebars at a moment’s notice.
However, it is worth noting that aero bars are not suitable for all types of races. Shorter courses that take place on more complex tracks will be a nightmare to navigate without instant access to your brakes.
Aero bars are great for comfort and moving at high speed, but that kind of velocity will be dangerous and possibly inappropriate in races that incorporate lots of fast turns.
What is Di2?
When shopping for aero bars you may frequently encounter the phrase Di2 compatible. Di2 is a form of electronic gear shifting that allows cyclists to switch gears at the push of a button.
Since it is so much faster and more convenient than a traditional shifter, this setup is very popular among racers.
Di2 compatible means that there are holes in your aero bars suitable for feeding cables through, which will allow you to install a Di2 shifter. This will enable you to quickly change gears without having to move your hands or alter your stance.