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2009-08-07 10:44 AM

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Subject: Aerobars and Group Rides
This was posted to the Yahoo group of a local cycling group, one with which I ride with on occasion, sometimes on my tri bike. Don't agree with it all, but worth sharing IMHO. 

Gotta love 'em.  They give us the ability to go at least 2 mph faster when we are riding along, and to me, it always seemed that I felt stronger in that position.   I was narrower, lower, and more powerful as I hammered along the back roads of Montgomery.  There's no doubt that aero bars have their place in cycling.  But there are times when they need to be avoided like the plague.

I'm sure that if you have been to any group rides you have witnessed people in the group riding on their aero bars.  Now it's not against the "cycling law" to show up with aero bars on a group ride, but it is against all good common sense and safety standards to "use" them around other riders.  Many people ride so much on aero bars that they do it without even thinking and feel that it's the most comfortable way for them to ride...maybe so, but it's also the most unstable position to ride a bike.  Some also say that they always leave plenty of room when they are on the bars.  They may do that but it only takes a nano-second for that space to go away in an emergency and, unless you are Superman with exact reflexes and skin that can withstand the scraping effects of slag pavement, you can't get from your elbows to a position of control in time to save yourself and everyone else who is around you.  One might argue that it's only skin off his own nose if he crashes.  I agree that it's really none of my business if one wants to put himself in danger of crashing, but it becomes a bigger issue when others are involved. 

The main purpose for aero bars is aerodynamics.  This being the case, you don't even need them in a group because you get more aerodynamic effect from the other riders than you do from aero bars.  Besides, there are lots of problems you can run into by using them in a group ride.  One main problem (as stated previously) is that a rider on aero bars is not as stable as one on regular bars.  Of course some people are more stable than others and there are some people who are very steady on aero equipment, but no one can win an argument if they take the position that steering with your elbows is steadier than steering with your hands.  With your arms on the elbow pads of aero equipment, any input (like the jarring effect from the road, hitting debris, or bumps from other riders) is magnified in to the steering of the bike.  Your elbows don't have any leverage to control the path of the bike and you are a prime candidate for a face plant if the front wheel is deflected or you get bumped.  It's much easier to become a loose cannon within the group even from just hitting a rock in the road.   We lost a rider on a cross country ride last year with a broken collar bone when he hit a bump while riding on his aero bars when he reached for a water bottle.  It wasn't a large bump either, he just lost control and bit the pavement.

Another problem is your hands are away from the brakes.  Now you may say that's an advantage since you shouldn't brake in a group anyway.  While this is basically true, there are times when slight speed adjustments are necessary and reaching for the handlebars in an emergency situation takes too long.  What's more, when the group comes to a stop or approaches a turn there will have to be a time when the aero bar rider has to transition from aero bar to handle bar to brake.  There's really no good time to do that in the close proximity to other riders let alone when the group is changing speeds or slowing down.  As a side note, I once saw a person who put his brakes on the end of his aero bars.  His reasoning was, that's where his hands were most of the time.  This is the type of person who needs to wear a sign...WARNING...ACCIDENT CLOSER THAN IT APPEARS.   Remember your physics...put your weight even farther forward as you apply the brakes...I wonder what's going to happen?  DUH!

The last point I'll make is that IF one uses aero equipment in a group, it should only be used if that person is pulling at the front (I'm not really convinced that's even a good idea, but at the front you are less likely to hit someone's rear wheel and cause an accident).  Resist the urge to stay on them after you break off the front, rejoin the pack at the back, and when riding adjacent to or behind anyone.  Believe me, it won't take long for everyone in the pack to forget how they were impressed when you pulled strong and only remember you as someone they don't want to ever ride with again if you disregard their safety when you are not at the front.

When you are riding in a group, you should have confidence that everyone is riding for the good of the group and that no one will behave in such a manner as to put the group in danger.  Aero bars are good things...but they have their place.  Use them as designed...as an aid to going fast when you are alone or doing a time trial event.  They really have no place when riding with a group.

Source
www..bamacyclist.com/articles/bars.htm

Edited by the bear 2009-08-07 10:46 AM


2009-08-07 10:52 AM
in reply to: #2334161

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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
Yeah, ditto...agree with a lot of it...like only ride in your bars if you are pulling off the front, etc.

But I definitely don't agree that riding in the bars makes you more unstable or unable to react to a bump in the road.  Personally I see it as a fulcrum...if you are riding one handed to take a drink and you hit a bump, your hand on a hood is farther away from the fulcrum...so any small change in force at the hood is going to cause a much bigger wobble than the same change in force closer to the fulcrum (i.e. elbow on your aerobar pad).  Or at least that's how it seems to me when I'm riding.

I've seen a lot of those bike clubs argue that having to move your hand to the middle to shift is uber-dangerous.  This guy didn't even really touch that argument.

I really don't think riding with aero bars is a problem in a group as long as you don't actually sit in the bars when you are in a position to potentially cause a crash (i.e. anywhere but off the front).

But bikers never have been a reasonable sort of group...
2009-08-07 11:21 AM
in reply to: #2334184

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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
jldicarlo - 2009-08-07 10:52 AM Yeah, ditto...agree with a lot of it...like only ride in your bars if you are pulling off the front, etc.

I really don't think riding with aero bars is a problem in a group as long as you don't actually sit in the bars when you are in a position to potentially cause a crash (i.e. anywhere but off the front).

But bikers never have been a reasonable sort of group...


You say it twice, only if you are on the front. But I would argue it's perfectly acceptable to ride off the back (several bike lengths) and alongside a single-file paceline (traffic and road conditions permitting.)

Would also argue (to this and several other groups with which I've ridden) that they're in less danger riding with me on my aerobars than some of the unpredictable, handling-deficient bozos who are regulars within the group.

Edited by the bear 2009-08-07 11:25 AM
2009-08-07 11:58 AM
in reply to: #2334161

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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides

In the group rides in my tri club, our rules prohibit being the aero postion while on a training ride. Makes sense for safety.

2009-08-07 12:04 PM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
I ride in a group most of the time, and I only have my Tri bike now (with aerobars).

The ONLY time I ride in aero is when pulling (and only when the person behind me is not significantly larger than me), on my way back to the back of the group, and when I am hanging off the back with significant distance. 

No one in my group has an issue with it and I believe I respect their safety. 

Personally, I don't think there is anything unstable about riding in Aero, but I also don't think riding in aero in the middle of a pack is a good idea.

Michael
2009-08-07 12:08 PM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
Went on a metric century ride and took my TT bike...just needed more time in the saddle and was expecting to ride solo. Had a nice flat 7 mile stretch with a tail wind so I opened it up. Next thing I know I've got a huge trail of riders. After pulling the group the 7 miles at 28mph my legs were fried. As I peeled off it was like a cheering section going to the rear. Needless to say I didn't stay with the group. I find it harder to ride in aero with a group so I don't do it. I seem to ride more tense and tend to jerk around for no reason.


2009-08-07 1:57 PM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides

They may do that but it only takes a nano-second for that space to go away in an emergency

Yea?  20 mph == 8.9408 m/sec or 8.9 nano-meters/nano-second.  Not sure the best roadie would fare any better riding nano-meters (OK...10 nano-meters) from his buddy.  When you get down into nano-meters, quantum effects can dwarf any aerodynamic influence...

If I'm riding 3-10 meters behind, I may ride the aerobars.  I'm still not comfortable riding the hoods on my road bike with gaps less than a half-meter.  I find myself 10' or more off the back more often than not because I don't pick up on the subtle accelerations. 

2009-08-07 2:50 PM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
This is yet another one of those debates that gets beaten to death.

It's too situational. I occasionally do rides where we're ALL in aero (training for TTTs). Likewise, some groups don't mind them; other groups cry foul if you even TALK about a TT bike during a group ride (let alone consider riding one).

It's too individual. Some people have no problem controlling speed and handling while in aero; others can't even control their TTs all alone in the middle of nowhere.

Everyone (and every group) has certain abilities and requirements. So long as you communicate up-front and all parties involved are in agreement, and what you are doing is legal, go for it.

Now, if you show up on your TT bike sporting powercranks and try to persuade me of their benefits, be warned...
2009-08-07 8:57 PM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
Most all regular group rides I've been to in my area (Midwest), and many groups across the country, have a rule against riding aerobars in paceline.  Not denying there are riders with poor skills even on hoods/drops, but for any given rider handling in aerobar position is simply NOT as good as hoods or drops.  (During a techinically challenging TT (or tri bike leg), do you stay on your aerobars in tight (switchback) turns at speed??? )  You don't see Euro pro cyclists (best bike handlers on the planet) riding aerobars or TT bikes on group training rides due to respect to other riders.  Bad road crashes can happen in BEST of circumstances to even best of riders (and plenty of video on web to prove it).  Things can happen QUICK in a fast paceline.  Why take even a small increased risk of crashing fellow riders on a training ride? 

Personally I may ride group rides with my road bike w/aerobars, but I ride hoods or drops (NOT the aerobars) unless I'm off alone.  If anyone in a pack is riding their aerobars I will leave that pack (i.e. ride off front or back). 
2009-08-08 11:26 AM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
I agree with most of what's written in that article. But aerobars adding 2 mph is blatantly false. Many roadies like to think that's why they're getting passed by someone with aerobars. I also disagree about the stability argument. People adjust quickly to a bike's handling characteristics. I think it's fine to be in aero when beside another rider.

I used to be of the opinion that TT bikes were OK in groups as long as the rider wasn't in aero except when pulling (even though they essentially have horns that could hurt someone in a crash). But now since I've been training on my TT bike for the first time, I'm not so sure. The main reason is the position of the brake levers. On a road bike, the brakes are right there at your hands but you have to consciously move your fingers to get to them. They can't accidently engage on bumps. But on my TT bike, when I'm riding on the bullhorns, because of where the brake levers are located, I have to make a conscious effort to make sure my fingers are under the levers and not in a position that could cause me to engage the brakes when hitting a bump. I find that it takes too much thinking during a fast, bumpy, curvey descent. In a group, accidently braking could be very dangerous.
2009-08-09 9:31 AM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
I totally agree that aerobars have no place in group rides and have zero problem with them being forbidden on any group ride.

It's an entirely different skill set from tri cycling, and the fact of the matter is that handling is slower on aerobars, reaction time for braking is MUCH longer, and it's easier to let a gap form at the base of a climb when you're futzing around looking for your shifters while riding on the bullhorns.

There's always an exception to the rule, and there are experienced cyclists who can do it--the TTT practice, for example, but remember that it's a small group that rides together all the time. That's NOT your average group ride.

Being an "experienced cyclist" in the context of triathlon means, in general, that you can ride in a straight line and around a fair number of curves in the aerobars and little else. I've seen plenty of folks at tris that I'd be downright scared to ride in a peloton with. It just is what it is.


2009-08-09 10:55 AM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
For me it depends on the group. When I'm training with my teammates it's very common for us to ride a very tight pace line with all of us on our aero bars. It might be 2-3 people, or it might be 15-20. We recognize there's a risk and accept it.

If I'm riding with people I don't know well, then I only ride aero at the front, which is where I'll likely place myself.

scott
2009-08-09 10:30 PM
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Subject: RE: Aerobars and Group Rides
Firstly, I am not sure why all this drafting is going on while training for triathlons when drafting is illegal in most triathlons.  My group pretty much tries to avoid drafting whenever we can.  Each of us tries not to draft during training because we know we need to train like we plan to race. No one is going to be pulling you in a race, so get used to that.  That said, we plan to race in aero and the only way to get good at riding in aero is to train in aero. 
When my tri team goes out, we ride in aero; most of us very well,  and very little drafting occurs.  On the rare occasions when I've had to draft a bit, yes I've done it in aero, but there are conditions like bad weather, bumpy roads and even some less steady riders I keep my hands on the handlebars for.  As for the waterbottle in aero...I think, and this is only my opinion, that that's what aero bottles are for.  Unless you have one, sit up. 
However, I do occasionally go riding with those "pure cyclist" types, I understand that my aero bars make them nervous and stay off them. 
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