Aero Bars – Do You Use Them?

I’ve got a time trial coming up next week, and I’m feeling pretty good about my chances at beating my personal best – if it doesn’t rain. And if the wind stays down. And if I don’t get a stitch from drinking too much water before my run.

A friend suggested another way for me to beat my PB. He said I should get a set of aero bars for my bike. That’s something I had never considered. I’m considering it now, but doubt that I’ll do anything about it just yet.

One guy in my club says the aero bars on his bike are good for an extra 2 mph. There’s got to be some support for that, or all the hardcore TT riders wouldn’t be using them. But what about regular riding?

The aero bars on Bob's bike.

My friend Bob, who I rode with on the MS 150, has aero bars on his bike. When he was ahead of me on straightaways, he would get down into sort of an aero tuck. Not only did he start to slowly pull away from me that way, but they also gave him another position on that long ride. Getting down on the bars from time to time helped keep him fresh.

But while it’s a different position, it’s also an unstable position. If you watched the Tour de France opening time trial, you probably noticed that the riders stayed in their aero crouch as long as possible, but when they came to turns, they had to get on the handlebars.

That’s why a lot of organized group rides prohibit aero bars. They want to prevent crashes that can happen if someone on aero bars gets too close to another bike, and accidentally bumps it, or even if they hit a bad piece of pavement and get knocked off their line. It’s not easy to get instantly from elbows on pads to hands on bars and regain control before the bike goes over.  Besides, if you’re riding in a group, you don’t even need aero bars. The peloton will pull you along.

What’s your take? Have you used them? Do you like them? Will you try them? Or have you decided they’re just not worth the bother?

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17 thoughts on “Aero Bars – Do You Use Them?

  1. I’m interested to see the discussion that comes from this. Yes, I believe that aerobars will help increase your overall speed for the purposes of TT’s and best used in that situation.

    I have a shoulder that starts to ache after being on the bike for long periods of time, so I tried out aerobars once to see if it would help take the stress off my shoulder. I used them on a 90 mile ride and found that I didn’t end up using them very much so I took them off.

    I’ll check back to see what others have to say.

    Darryl

  2. I have aerobars, but since I got them on clearance they’re not quite the right size, so sometimes I found them uncomfortable.

    I think if I got a new set I’d be able to use them more.

  3. I’ve never used Aerobars. When I was out in Dallas it seemed everyone had them for riding around the lake. If I were to get some I’d have to lose the spare tire in order to get in to a tuck. And still be able to breath.

  4. I don’t have them…and can’t ever see myself buying them. It’s possible to get into an “aero” position without the bars by resting your elbows on the handlebars.

    If I were you I wouldn’t put them on right away. Do you want to beat your best time because you invested in your bike or because you personally improved? I’m betting it’s the latter :-)

  5. Echo Jared’s comment!

    Wouldn’t focusing on riding in the drops more also put you in a (slightly) more aerodynamic position? Or are you always in drops in cases like this anyway?

    I’m not a roadie… so I may be making bad assumptions here… feel free to point them out!

    @ Darryl – have you tried changing the type of bars you’re using? Not all bars are the same, and some may be kinder to your shoulder than others.

    • Hi Jared,

      I actually had a professional bike fit done this spring and we changed up the stem and a quite a few other things. It has helped, but I sometimes still get the aching shoulder. I might have to try handlebars sometime.

      Darryl

  6. All of the cogent points have been made already. I don’t have them. My key concern is my and others safety. I’d rather not crash at 18 mph than crash at 20 mph.

    After getting a professional fit which included advice about riding form, I am learning to ride in the drops with a nice bend in the elbows to reduce wind drag. The more time spend in the drops, the more natural and comfortable it feels.

    I saw Jared’s suggestion above of riding with elbows on handlebars and noticed Cancellara doing just that for maybe 10-15 seconds in the TdF within the past few days. It looks especially dangerous to me as any bump in the road would tend to bounce the elbows right off the handlebars leaving the rider holding nothing.

  7. I’ve tried aerobars on my bike for TT’s and just couldn’t get used to the feel of them. I’m sure that with more practice I would get better at them. I also think that I put them on the wrong bike – my aluminum bike that tends to feel a little twitchier than my carbon bike.

    It’s interesting to see regular people riding on aerobars in group settings such as organized charity rides. I’ve had people tell me that it gives them a chance to “rest” on the bike. This seems foolish to me because when I’ve been in that aero position it takes more core strength for stability to ride steady so resting isn’t really an option.

    I also cringe to see people using them in group settings because if they needed to brake quickly they are unable to do so. It’s dangerous and hard to get people to realize that if they aren’t used to the group riding dynamic.

    I agree with Foster’s comment, riding with the arms on the top of the bars is a dangerous compromise.

    Aerobars definitely give you an aerodynamic edge. It’s evident in photos I have seen of others on aerobars and me in the drops. Even in the drops my upper body is still catching more wind than others stretched out on aerobars.

    Certainly give them a shot and it will improve your time immensely. If you get really serious about TT’s then invest in a TT bike – that will give you an even better aero position than the clip-on aero bars.

    If you aren’t sold on the aerobars at this point, try an aero helmet. You might find that will help you improve your time as well.

  8. Also before you run out and buy aero bars if you have carbon bars you will void your warranty on most if not all if you attach them on. One other thing to consider is if your bars are shaped, typically on top the tubing is not round but more spherical than completly round you’ll have to see if any of the aero attachments will work on them. I’m not sure if they manufacture ones that will attach to those bars or not.

    If/when you do put aero bars on you’ll need to adjust your seat height and possible the fore/aft of the saddle as well.

  9. If time trialing is something you will be doing often definitely get a pair of aero bars and learn how to ride with them. They definitely will give you a speed boost. They key is to minimize your front profile by both making your back flat and to bring in your arms.

    However, I would never use them in a group ride because as other people have said when you are on them it definitely affects the time it takes you to garb your brakes.

    On standard bars I use three different positions to get aero:

    - I hang my wrists over the flats. It takes some practice, but once you get use to it it is pretty stable. It also helps if there is a lot of drop and reach from the saddle to the bars.

    - I ride with my hands on the drops.

    - I ride with my hands on the hoods but with the palms of my hand covering the top of the hood. My forearms then rests on the bars and are parallel to the ground. This is arguably more aero than the drops because there is less arm frontal are exposed to the wind.

  10. my wife saw some AB’s today and remarked that the guy was riding with his elbows on his bars. Is that for speed she asked. I commented that yes, and they were called Aero bars. though not the chocolate type, they would melt. She hit me. Oh well! (http://www.aerochocolate.co.uk/home/ for those who don’t get the gag…do you get these in the states?)

  11. far out you got some bad advice here.

    If you want to go fast in a TT then get some bars, only time you wouldn’t use them is on a hugely technical course with lots of corners and barely any straights and also a super hilly course.

    It goes without saying you can get Aero Bars and improve your performance by 15-30% without increasing your power output. Or you can improve your Power by 15-30% just to get the same time.

    Summary: Be crap at TT’s all your life then use your drops. Be good at TT’s use TT bars. It’s not rocket science.

  12. I echo Ben’s comment. To add, I would check out this calculator that will show you your speed in any position at any weight and any power output. Although the calculator is not 100% perfect it should give you a good idea of the savings. I hope this helps future readers of this post.
    http://bikecalculator.com/

  13. Aerobars are great. I even used them on a touring bike around south america. The ones I had were padded at the elbow and great for resting on. Nobody seems to mention this aspect of the aerobar. After a few thousand miles you start to wish you had a cross between aero,drop,flat and butterfly bars just to move the pain around.

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