The desire to go fast on a bike lies within most of us. Especially the roadies out there. If so, you’ve probably considered taking part in Time Trials or Triathlons. In order to go fast, you need to be fast. Not literally – you do need strength and stamina, but you also need to be aerodynamic. When it comes to speed and being able to sustain it, aero is everything.
Do you know what the biggest factor holding you back is? You guessed it, it’s your own body! On a flat road, aerodynamic drag is by far the greatest barrier to a cyclist’s speed, accounting for 70 to 90 percent of the resistance felt when pedaling. These days cyclists invest in super aerodynamic gear that cuts down drag by a huge margin – skinsuits, aero bikes, aero wheels, and even helmets. All these components help reduce drag and improve speed and time in a big way. The position you adopt on your bike also plays an important role in how fast and how efficiently you can cycle.
In 1984, when the first aerobars were invested – people truly understood the advantages and benefits of the aerobar.
Nowadays people extensively use aerobars in Triathlons, Time Trials and even some road races (Aerobars are illegal in may road races).
WHAT ARE AEROBARS?
Aero bars are quite simple in their design but it’s what they do for the rider’s position that gives them their fame. Anyone who’s ridden long distances or tried to improve their speed on the road will know how important it is to achieve a narrow/compact position and keep the wind from slowing you down, and that’s exactly what aero bars help you achieve.
Aerobars are aerodynamic handlebars that help the rider gets into an aerodynamic position while riding. Aerobars are also referred to as TT/Triathlon bars. They are essentially handlebar extensions with padded forearm rests that allow the rider to get into a more aerodynamic position by drawing their body forward into a tucked position, with a dropped torso.
WHY GET AN AEROBAR?
1. SPEED – The most popular benefit of aero bars, and why so many professional cyclists use them. These bars improve your aerodynamics and improve your speed, which is precisely why LeMond used them in the famous time trials of the 1989 Tour De France.
2. COMFORT – Attaching aero bars to your bike can have dramatic effects on your posture and comfort levels so you’re less likely to develop ongoing conditions like back and neck problems when you’re using them on your bike.
The elbow pads found on aero bars add another level of comfort for your elbows than compared to riding a regular bike. These pads can help absorb some of the shocks from riding on the road as well.
3. EFFICIENCY – Especially in triathlons, you need to save up as much energy as you can for the Running leg that follows the biking leg. By allowing you to spend less energy to get to faster speeds, aero bars can be extremely energy efficient.
Studies have shown that clip-on aero bars can reduce the rider’s power output by 29.4 watts which means over a forty-kilometer distance you can expect to shave 2.5 minutes off. That is a huge saving!
CLIP-ON VS INTEGRATED: WHICH IS BETTER?
There are essentially two types of aerobars, Clip-on and Integrated. Both have their own pluses and minuses which we will take a look at.
Contrary to the name, clip-on aero bars aren’t usually attached with a simple clip but rather clamped on by screws that allow them to secure firmly to your bike. A Clip-on aerobar is one in which the aerobar itself is an additional external fitting that can be fixed onto a standard road bike handlebar. This is the cheaper and more popular alternative amongst amateur riders. Being able to fit it on any standard road bike handle is a major advantage – this is possible because they don’t interfere with brakes or shifters. Integrated bars have the brakes mounted to the base bars and shifters on the ends of the extensions, which makes changing your set-up far more time-consuming and expensive. Clip-on bars have proven to be quite effective too but lack the adjustability that integrated bars offer.
In 2014, Specialized conducted a test in their own purpose-built win tunnel to investigate the speed differences between using clip-ons and riding on the drops. They calculated that their test rider would save 1:40 mins over a 40km Olympic-distance bike leg using the clip-ons.
While an integrated tri-bike cockpit will invariably be more aero, the advantage of clip-on bars is they can be adjusted with minimal fuss. Another big plus for clip-on bars is their affordability, with a basic aluminum setup costing you just north of Rs 4,000/-. Integrated setups on the other hand, can cost you anywhere from Rs.14,000 – 60,000. The integrated aerobars are ideal fro triathlon bike – that’s when the rider is fully able to utilize the adjustability and ergonomic features of an integrated bar.
Clip-on aerobars are arguably one of the most cost-effective ways to go faster.
Whether you’ve tried and tested aero bars before or are completely new to this innovative device, there’s no doubt that they are game-changing. It’s all a matter of finding the bars that best suit you and your riding needs.
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING
I’m an avid mountain biker and I like riding fast and flowy singletrack. As I keep riding, I continuously work on honing my riding skills. I like to ride whenever possible, especially with friends. I also like to influence folk into getting to ride more often.
Working on bicycles has also been a keen interest of mine for quite some time.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain biking and Road biking
CURRENT BIKE: Merida One Twenty 9.600 & Specialized Allez Elite DSW
DREAM BIKE: Santa Cruz 5010