Adding Aerobars to a Road Bike

author : FitWerx
comments : 1

Member Question from Belted

"My road bike, a Trek Airfoil, does not have aero bars and I have never used them but I recognize the need to add them to my training in preparation for IM Louisville.  What are the key features to look for and how to determine best style and fit?"

Answer from Dean Phillips
Fitwerx

There are several things to consider when installing aerobars on a road bike. We covered converting a road bike into a triathlon set-up with a forward seatpost here , so for the purpose of this answer I’ll focus on adding aerobars to the road bike without changing the saddle position.

Handlebar compatibility

The first thing you’ll need to know is whether or not your current handlebar will accommodate clip-on aerobars. Aerobars will need a flat surface area about 2-3 cm wide on both sides of the stem clamp on the handlebar. Some handelbars taper too soon from the wider stem clamp area to the narrower area where you hold the bars, and for this reason there isn’t enough flat space to safely clamp on the aerobars. While you can generally tell if a handlebar is aerobar compatible by looking at it, it’s safest to check with the handlebar manufacturer if there’s any doubt. Also, some carbon fiber handlebars will have a wide stem clamp area that looks aerobar compatible, but isn’t designed for clip-on aerobars. Any time you’re thinking about installing aerobars on a carbon handlebar I recommend checking with the manufacturer first or asking a reputable bike shop.

Aerobar style

There are a number of clip-on aerobars on the market. We’ve had the most success with the Profile Carbon Strykes because they’re very adjustable and also have the option of flip-up brackets so the elbow pads flip up out of the way when you’re not in the aerobars.

Profile Design Carbon Stryke

This is beneficial if you want to sit back with your hands on the tops of the handlebar and also gets the pads out of the way if you like to climb out of the saddle without the risk of bumping your knees on the elbow pads. Some other clip-on aerobar options we’ve used with success are the Profile Aerolites and T2+ models, Vision TT extensions, and Zipp Vuka Clip.

Aerobar adjustment

The range of aerobar adjustment varies by model. The following adjustments should be considered to make you more comfortable:

  1. Aerobar pad height – Often times clipping aerobars onto a road bike will make you feel cramped up due to your knees coming too close to your chest during the pedal stroke. If this occurs and the aerobars have spacers to place underneath the pads, then this will open up the space at the top of the pedal stroke, make you more comfortable, and likely help keep you riding in the aerobars more often.
       
  2. Extension length – The extension length should be adjusted so you can comfortably hold the end of the extensions with the tip of your elbow just off the back of the elbow pad. This position allows you to ride using the widest part of your forearm to support your weight. If the aerobars seem too long and stretch you out, then reducing the extension length can also help shorten the reach and make you more comfortable.
      
  3. Extension angle – Generally we angle aerobars somewhere between level and up 10 degrees. You can play around with extension angle until you find a position that supports your weight and allows your shoulders to relax.
      
  4. Pad width – Position the elbow pads wide enough where they’re comfortable. Too wide and you’re creating unnecessary surface area that can defeat the purpose of the aerodynamic advantage. Too narrow and you can get uncomfortable. Comfort is king in the aerobars since you’ll spend less time in them if they’re not comfortable.

The take home point is finding the aerobar position that allows you to stay in them. Any adjustment that improves your comfort riding in them is the best thing to do for race day at the ironman distance.



Dean Phillips is a co-owner of Fit Werx² in Peabody, MA.  Dean frequently writes tech articles for BeginnerTriathlete.com and is humble enough that he would likely never tell you (so we'll tell you for him) just how fast he is on a bike.  Dean holds multiple TT course records in New England, having broken records previously held by some of America's best pro cyclists, and he set these while being a father of three young children and owning his own business.  Dean knows speed and how to get the most out of his training time.

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date: March 24, 2011

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FitWerx

Fit Werx offers the most scientific and complete bicycle fitting services in New England, the Northeast and beyond. Regardless of where you are from (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Australia, Macau...) a Fit Werx' bike fit is guaranteed to be worth the trip.

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avatarFitWerx

Fit Werx offers the most scientific and complete bicycle fitting services in New England, the Northeast and beyond. Regardless of where you are from (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Australia, Macau...) a Fit Werx' bike fit is guaranteed to be worth the trip.

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