About 50 percent of a triathlon takes place on your bicycle and on the bike leg the greatest force you’re fighting against is aerodynamics. Concentrating on getting fast on the bike should be one of your priorities in training and optimising your position on the bike to reduce drag is a “free” speed gain.
Because the aerodynamics of a cyclist’s body accounts for ~80% of all the forces a cyclist is pushing against this is an area where significant performance gains are still possible. So, it really does pay to get into an aerodynamic or “aero” position on your bike during your triathlon even if you are on a budget.
For triathletes without aero bars on your bike or if you don’t have a TT triathlon bike, you can fit tri bars them on to a standard road bike to make you more aerodynamic and shave time on the bike leg.
After installing aero bars, riders typically find that they’re going 1 to 2 mph faster at the same level of effort. Over a distance and time, this equates to about 1min 40s per 40km faster than without aero bars.
What are Clip-on Aerobars or Tri-Bars?
Aero bars, sometimes called “clip on aerobars”, “triathlon aero bars” or “tri-bars”, are handlebar extensions that mount close to the center of the handlebar and cantilever out over the front wheel. Aero bars allow you to get into a more aerodynamic position by lowering your upper body and bringing your arms in-line with your torso.
Unlike other handlebar positions, aero bars provide both hand grips as well as arm rests, allowing you to significantly reduce the pressure on your wrists and hands. The best clip-on aero bars offer a wide range of adjustments to the height and separation of the bars and arm rests, allowing you to find the right balance of aerodynamic positioning and comfort.
The key is to fit the right ones for you and your bike geometry, and this should involve a bike fit to get you into the best and most comfortable position. As mentioned earlier the geometry of a road bike is different from a triathlon TT bike so this will be a compromise but can save you money over buying a triathlon bike.
How do you fit tri-bars to a standard road bike?
If you want to fit your own tri-bars to a standard road bike you can do it by following these steps:
- Measure the width of your current handlebars: Measure the distance between the center of the handlebar clamp on your current stem, this will be the width of the base bar that the tri bars will be clamped to.
- Purchase the correct tri-bars: Purchase a set of tri bars that are compatible with your handlebar width and have the correct clamp size for your stem.
- Install the base bar: The base bar is the main component of the tri-bars, it’s the one that will be clamped to your current handlebars. It’s important to make sure it is properly aligned and tightened to the handlebars.
- Install the extensions: The extensions are the long bars that extend out from the base bar, they provide the rider with the ability to rest their forearms on the bike, reducing wind resistance. Make sure they are properly aligned and tightened to the base bar.
- Adjust the position: Once the tri-bars are installed, you’ll need to adjust the position of the extensions and the base bar to ensure they are in the right place. Make sure the height and angle of the extensions are comfortable and that the rider can reach the brake levers and shifters.
- Test ride: Before riding in a race or event, it’s important to test ride your bike with the new tri bars to make sure they are comfortable and that you are able to ride safely with them.
It’s important to note that installing tri-bars on a standard road bike may require some technical skills and tools, so it’s best to have it done by a professional bike mechanic or fitter. Also, some road bikes may not be able to handle the added weight and stress of tri bars, so it’s important to make sure your bike is compatible before installing them.
The advantages of putting tri bars on a standard road bike include:
- Increased aerodynamics: Tri-bars allow you to rest your forearms on the bike, reducing wind resistance and increasing speed.
- Increased comfort: Tri-bars allows you to change your hand position, reducing hand and wrist fatigue on long rides.
- Increased efficiency: Tri-bars allow you to be in a more forward-leaning position, which can be more efficient for power transfer.
- Increased versatility: Tri-bars allow you to use your road bike for multiple purposes, such as road racing, triathlons, and time trials.
The drawbacks of putting tri-bars on a standard road bike include:
- Decreased control: Tri-bars can make it harder for you to reach the brake levers and shifters, which can make it more difficult to control your bike in emergency situations.
- Decreased stability: Tri-bars can make your bike more unstable, especially when riding on rough or winding roads.
- Increased weight: Tri-bars can add weight to your bike, which can decrease performance and make it more difficult to climb hills.
- Decreased safety: Tri-bars can make it harder for you to look over your shoulder, which can make it more difficult to anticipate and avoid hazards.
It’s important to note that these advantages and drawbacks can vary depending on the individual rider, the type of riding they will be doing, and their personal preferences. It’s also essential to practice using the tri-bars in a safe environment before using them in a race or an event.
Can you use tri-bars that you fit on a standard bike in all triathlon races?
It is possible to use tri-bars that you have fitted on a standard road bike in triathlon races, but it may not be allowed in all races.
In most triathlons, the use of tri-bars is permitted, but it’s important to check the rules of the specific race you will be participating in. Some races may have specific rules or regulations regarding the use of tri bars and aero equipment, and it’s important to follow these rules to avoid disqualification.
Additionally, there are certain governing bodies, such as the International Triathlon Union (ITU) now World Triathlon, that have specific rules regarding the use of aero equipment in elite-level triathlons. These rules can vary depending on the level of the competition, and it’s important to check with the race organizer or governing body to ensure you are following the correct rules.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while tri-bars can be helpful in terms of increasing aerodynamics and speed, they can also make the bike less stable and harder to control, especially on technical courses. It’s essential to practice using the tri-bars in a safe environment before using them in a race, and to make sure you are comfortable and confident using them in a race environment.
Clip on Aero Bars Choices
There are many types of clip-on tri-bars that can convert your humble road bike to an aerodynamic mean machine!
As with all things it comes down to your budget, what is comfortable for you and if you get on with the tri-bar rising position. I have a dedicated training bike which I have fitted with tri-bars so when I’m training indoors, I can get used the aero position. Teaching your body and muscles to keep in this aggressive position for hours does take time – don’t rush it!
Top Tip from Gustav Iden, IRONMAN World Champion: “Buy a TT suit and wear it on the turbo when cycling as it will keep you in the aero position as it is uncomfortable if you sit up!”. This is after he spent 5 hours continuous on Zwift on a training camp in Sierra Nevada.
I had a bike fit on my training bike and race bike to ensure when I’m indoor training I’m replicating my race bike position and building the all-important “muscle memory”.
My clip-on aero tri-bars are pretty basic but work for me and get me in a comfortable aero position and are by Profile Designs. You can get them on Amazon for $113.49 and are money well spent if you can shave time off your bike leg and ride 2mph faster!
Best all-rounder: Profile Design Sonic Clip-on Aero Bars
$112 at Amazon.com
$183 at Profile-Design.com
$183 at REI.com
- Material: aluminium
- Weight: 1.232 pounds / 559g
- Width: 124mm to 290mm in 18. 5mm steps (with extensions at 100mm)
- Price: $113.49
I love the hand positioning design of the bars from Profile Designs, as they encourage natural wrist positioning without any unnecessary forward twists like other straight bar options. They also provide generous range for shorter or more extended aero positioning.
They are of aluminium so are mid-range in weight but also very durable and won’t rust.
Best Light Weight: Controltech Sirocco Carbon Aerobar
The Controltech Sirocco Carbon Aerobar may be a good option if you want something lightweight and compact plus conforms to many race regulations. Also, you get to say they are Carbon Fibre!
The thing to watch out with these is that they are not very long so it’s worth measuring where they will sit on your bike and if you would find them comfortable.
The design does take into account aerodynamics but it’s always more important to make sure your body is in the right position as it accounts for 80% of the drag on your bike!
- Material: Carbon Fibre
- Weight: 1.21 pounds / 548g
- Handlebar Clamp Diameter: 31.8 mm
- Length Max: 213mm
- Price: $219
Best Value: Profile Designs Legacy II
$72 at Amazon.com
$103 at Profile-Design.com
The entry level Profile Designs Legacy II bar features improved ergonomics and added hand positions to create a more dynamic clip-on aerobar The armrests feature width adjustment along with rotational adjustment The simple, yet adjustable design of the Legacy II adds versatility to any road bike for that first triathlon or time trial. Replacement pads are available as a spare.
Note they are plastic, and this does mean they are on the lighter side but it also means they can snap and change in hotter weather. If your race is very cold or very hot take some tools so you can tighter them or loosen them if they expand or contract.
- Material: Plastic
- Weight: 0.243 pounds / 110g
- Handlebar Clamp Diameter: 31.8 mm or 26mm
- Length Max: 336mm
- Price: $71.89
Most Versatile: Redshift Sports Quick Release Aero Bars
$200 at Amazon.com
$200 at RedShiftSports.com
Redshift Sports Aero Bars offer a unique quick-release feature that allows you to attach and remove the aero bars in a matter of seconds, without using any tools. In the same amount of time that it takes to fill a couple of water bottles, you can switch between a pure road bike for group riding and a tri-bike setup for training or racing. Road bikes are more versatile than dedicated triathlon or time trial bikes and adding quick-release aero bars lets you take full advantage of a single bike.
The convenience of quick release does come with a weight penalty and the heaviest in our line-up.
- Material: Aluminium
- Weight: 1.41 pounds / 639g
- Handlebar Clamp Diameter: 31.8 mm or 26mm (with shims)
- Length Max: 338mm
- Price: $199.99
Most Adjustable: Zipp Vuka Alumina Aerobar Extension Race
$159 at Amazon.com
$151 at PerformanceBicycle.com
- Material: Aluminium
- Weight: 1.1 pounds / 499g
- Handlebar Clamp Diameter: 31.8 mm or 26mm (with shims)
- Length Max: 360mm
- Price: $143.00
These clip-on tri bars are the most adjustable we have found and have a great price point. Tri-bars are all about the body position you can achieve based on your physical dimensions and flexibility levels. These can adjust in pretty much every area so can help you get into your specific sweet spot position. You can adjust length, relative width, and angle of the extensions; width, height, fore/aft and angle of the pads; angle and – with the freedom to use any stem – height and fore/aft of the base bar.
Best mini-bar: Vision Team Mini TT Handlebar, 170mm
$132 at Amazon.com
$174 at VisionTechUSA.com
The Vision brand is well known in the world of tr-bars so you know these will be good quality and build to last. If you are looking for a small bar and want to get in the “puppy dog paw” position in comfort, then this is a good option. Small bars are allowed in more races and don’t stick out if you are using your road bike every day. The price point and weight also good.
If you are a taller rider, then these probably won’t be for you.
- Material: Aluminium
- Weight: 0.62 pounds / 285g
- Handlebar Clamp Diameter: 31.8 mm or 26mm (with shims)
- Length Max: 170mm
- Price: $129.99
Conclusion: Which Clip-on Tri Bars are best for me?
We have looked at the best options for clip-on bars and as you can see there are many choices.
The best clip-on Aero bars for you will depend on several factors, including:
- Compatibility: Make sure the clip-on Aero bars you choose are compatible with your bike frame and handlebar setup.
- Adjustability: Look for clip-on Aero bars that offer adjustable armrests, extensions, and elbow pads to ensure a comfortable and customized fit.
- Aerodynamics: Choose clip-on Aero bars that have a sleek, aerodynamic design to reduce wind resistance and improve speed.
- Durability: Consider clip-on Aero bars made from high-quality materials that are built to withstand the demands of a triathlon race.
- Weight: Lighter clip-on Aero bars can help to reduce the overall weight of your bike and improve handling.
Every triathlete is different, and you have your own needs and requirements based on your physical size, how flexible you are, your race distance and race conditions. Hopefully this guide will help you find the right one for you.
If you need any training of race tips please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, Aero bars can be used in triathlons. They are handlebar extensions that allow the rider to adopt a more aerodynamic position on the bike, reducing drag and improving speed. However, it is important to note that the use of Aero bars may be restricted in some triathlons, so it is always advisable to check the rules and regulations of the event before using them.
Triathlon bikes often have aero bars because they help the rider to achieve a more aerodynamic position while riding. By reducing the amount of wind resistance, the rider encounters, Aero bars can result in faster speeds and more efficient use of energy, which can be particularly important in a long-distance triathlon event where time and endurance are critical factors. The use of Aero bars can also allow the rider to maintain a more comfortable posture for longer periods of time, reducing fatigue and improving performance.
You do not need Aero bars for an Ironman triathlon, as the use of Aero bars is optional and not required. Some riders may choose to use Aero bars in order to achieve a more aerodynamic position and reduce wind resistance, while others may prefer to not use them for various reasons, such as comfort, handling, or personal preference. The final decision on whether to use Aero bars in an Ironman race is up to the individual rider, and it is important to choose a setup that works best for you and your specific needs.
When choosing Aero bars for triathlon, there are several factors to consider, such as:
· Compatibility: Ensure that the Aero bars are compatible with your bike frame and handlebar setup.
· Adjustability: Look for Aero bars that offer adjustable armrests, extensions, and elbow pads to ensure a comfortable and customized fit.
· Aerodynamics: Choose Aero bars that have a sleek, aerodynamic design to reduce wind resistance and improve speed.
· Durability: Consider Aero bars made from high-quality materials that are built to withstand the demands of a triathlon race.
· Weight: Lighter Aero bars can help to reduce the overall weight of your bike and improve handling.
Some popular brands for Aero bars for triathlon include Vision, Profile Design, Zipp, and Bontrager, among others. It is also a good idea to research and compare different options to find the best Aero bars for your specific needs and budget.
· Clip-on Aero bars and Tri bars refer to two different types of handlebar extensions used for triathlons and time trials. The main difference between the two is their design and the way they are attached to the bike:
· Clip-on Aero bars: As the name suggests, these Aero bars can be easily attached or “clipped on” to the existing handlebars of a road bike. They are a more affordable and versatile option for riders who already own a road bike but want to add Aero bars for time trials or triathlons.
· Tri bars: These are integrated handlebar extensions that are designed specifically for time trial (TT) bikes. Tri bars are built into the frame of the bike, allowing for a more aerodynamic riding position and greater stability compared to clip-on Aero bars. However, they are typically more expensive and less versatile, as they are not easily transferable to a different bike.
Both Clip-on Aero bars and Tri bars have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the best option for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences, as well as your budget.
Clip-on Aero bars and Tri bars have several limitations to keep in mind:
· Compatibility: Clip-on Aero bars may not be compatible with all road bike handlebars, so it is important to check compatibility before making a purchase.
· Adjustability: Some clip-on Aero bars may not offer as much adjustability as integrated Tri bars, which can make it harder to find a comfortable and aerodynamic riding position.
· Stability: Clip-on Aero bars may not be as stable as integrated Tri bars, especially when riding at high speeds or in rough conditions.
· Aerodynamics: While clip-on Aero bars can help to improve aerodynamics, they may not be as effective as integrated Tri bars, which are designed specifically for a more aerodynamic riding position.
· Durability: Clip-on Aero bars may not be as durable as integrated Tri bars, especially when subjected to the rigors of regular use in a triathlon or time trial event.
· Security: Clip-on Aero bars may be more likely to come loose or fall off compared to integrated Tri bars, which are more securely attached to the bike frame.
Overall, it’s important to consider these limitations and weigh the pros and cons before choosing between clip-on Aero bars and integrated Tri bars.
In general, an integrated Tri bar setup on a Time Trial (TT) bike will provide the best aerodynamic position compared to clip-on Aero bars. This is because TT bikes are designed specifically for time trials and triathlons, with the Tri bars built into the frame to allow for a more aerodynamic riding position.
TT bikes are also typically optimized for maximum aerodynamics, with features like aero frames, deep-section wheels, and integrated brakes that work together to reduce wind resistance and improve speed.
However, it’s important to note that a TT bike may not be the best option for all riders. Clip-on Aero bars can be a more affordable and versatile option for riders who already own a road bike, or for those who prefer the handling and feel of a traditional road bike.