Aerobars - When to Use Them and How to Set Them Up

Monday, July 25, 2016

Aerobars give a significant speed gain which offsets the added weight. Faster riders gain more speed than slower riders, especially down hills and on the flat.  But for riders at climbing speeds, there's not much advantage to maintaining an aerobar position.

A typical road racer will be on aerobars pretty much all of a race except for fast spurts, sharp cornering, braking and steep climbs.  A distance rider who needs to hold the position for hours will need a higher-set bar than a sprint rider.

Getting the correct position for aerobars is crucial, so avoid the common mistake of aerobar positions set too high and over-extended.

Choosing what to buy

  • Aerobars vary between ones with a length adjust feature and ones without.
  • Choosing the right length/adjustable aerobars from the get-go is the key, as is getting the right type to clamp onto drop bars, bullhorn or a combined bullhorn bar/aerobar unit.
  • Drop bars require an aerobar that mounts low, so your forearms are resting at the same level as the top of the bars. 
  • Bullhorn-style TT bars require aerobars with extra height above the clamping-on point.  This is because a well-fitted bullhorn bar and stem combo will be a lot lower than drop bars.
  • For clip-ons onto drop bars, get an aerobar length where your hand position doesn't extend more than about 5 cm beyond the brake levers.
  • If you go for a combo unit, check it'll work with your frame's top tube length and that the front of your bike is low enough.  Remember, bullhorn bars are fixed lower than road-style drop bars.

Getting the best fit

  • From a side view, your forearms should be level and the inner angle between your forearm and upper arm should be 90 – 110º.
  • If it's greater than 110º, the reach to your aerobar is too long.
  • Any over-extension causes back problems and reduces leverage.
  • If the angle is less than 90º, you're too close and your bike's stem length or top tube is too short.
  • Set your elbow width for comfort - narrow elbows aren't always faster. 
  • Aim to get your back as close to horizontal as possible, according to your body flexibility, to get the lowest drag.

Finally, it bears repeating that above all, set your aerobars for comfort because if you can't maintain the position throughout a race – what good are they!

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