I've been racing tri's with my road bike and with the exception of group rides I am only riding to train for future triathlons. In a constant quest for more speed on the bike leg I was considering adding clip on aerobars. While a tri specific bike would be much better I simply can't afford that kind upgrade.
Before putting money into the areobars and the new bike fit I was wondering what folks in the club thought about it. Are they wort it Should you be able to maintain a certain amount of speed on a normal roadbike before the aerobars really do much for you or is one better off just waiting until one can afford a proper tri bike?
Age old question. I'll offer you my personal opinion and my reasoning, but feel free to reject it.
Worth it? No.
It takes a lot of extra additions, even after the clip-ons, to get your body in a position to take advantage of being aero and maintaining power output. So, you can basically kiss goodbye good bike position when you're not in aero. Oh yeah, and you're probably going to have to pay someone to re-fit you on your bike. Being in "aero" doesn't mean you're going to go fast. Many times, even on TT style bikes, people are in aero but are in compromised positions which don't allow pedaling with maximum power output. It's super hard to dial that in on a road bike with a bunch of modifications, new parts, and a new bike fit. You're already looking at several hundred dollars at this point.
You're also looking at an advantage of mere seconds over long distances, which become negligible if you're doing anything less than a half-iron. Unless you're vying a spot on the podium, the payoff isn't as great.
I recommend putting in time on your road bike, riding in good position to maximise power output - a recipe to kick ass and take names. You can do it, just believe it and put in the work. Don't believe that to go faster you need gimmick accessories or lots of carbon fiber.
Invest your money in a good bike fit, invest your time in good miles on the bike. That's where the speed is.
I went a little more in depth on specifics on an thread from last year HERE
Clip on aero bars seem to be a relatively cheap way to get a little “free” speed. Pro triathletes use clip on aero bars on their road bike in ITU events (draft legal), so there appears to be some value to them.
Kevin - actually, that's not entirely *true*, and can be misleading in this context, for both "free speed" and use by pro triathletes.
1. It's not as simple as clipping on the bars and you just go faster. You have to be completely re-fit and more times than not, get a new seat post to put your body in a reasonable position. Also, you only get advantage of an aero position at high speeds, the same as you only get aero advantage from deep section wheels at high speeds. Riding in aero at 17 mph is no more efficient than riding in the drops or even on the hoods of your handlebars at 17 mph. You WILL see advantage if you can average, say, 20+mph.
2. The clip on aero bars that Trent is undoubtedly asking about are not ITU-legal - these are not the kind age groupers use. The kind of "aero bars" that pro triathletes use are highly regulated and extremely short. The exact verbiage: "E.3.6 Handlebars... b) Clip-ons will be permitted provided they do not extend more than 15 cm beyond the front wheel axle, and they are not longer than the brake levers' foremost line." These are "mini" aero bars, and not in the slightest what anyone other than Elite or professional would ever use outside of an ITU draft-legal race. They look like THIS
Trent, what distances are you looking at, and what speeds can you maintain over 40K, no drafting?
Bottom line: lots of people use clip on aero bars. There are trade offs but are relatively inexpensive way to get a little more aero.
Search Slowtwitch. Lots of free advice posted there on the pros and cons.
Lots of people use clip-ons. Yes, you'll be in an aerodynamic position, no question about that.
Is it going to make you faster? Not necessarily. An aerodynamic position does guarantee you'll be any faster.
To answer your question, "should you be able to maintain a certain speed before they help you" - the answer is yes. You start seeing advantage in the 18-20mph range, and the advantage grows as you maintain higher speeds. Note, it's hard to determine how much, advantage you get - there are a shit ton of variables that affect that.
Worth it for you, still? I'm happy to help you figure it out - I've spent a lot of time researching [from credible sources] about how aero advantage works, and can direct you to some good places to read up.
[edited for my rubbish spelling]
If you want an answer that uses a completely different reason, then here:
Yes, they're worth it.
The reason: comfort. Aero bars give you a different position to rest your body in while riding. They give you a new place to put your arms so that you're not always upright with all the vibrations going straight up the entire length of your arms into your shoulders and back. In aero position, the vibrations only go up your upper arm and that seems to reduce the effect on your shoulders and back compared to through your entire arm.
I threw clip-on aero bars on my mountain bike when I did my first tri. I didn't get myself re-fit for the bike. I just did it myself and found a comfortable position that worked. Laugh if you want, but I placed third in my division in that race. :)
Part of the reason that I was asking about the aerobars is that I had heard that they don't really do anything for you unless you are in the 18+ mph range. Which is kinda of where I am at right now with my riding. On an Oly distance race I average about 18- ish mph. Out at Hains Point just doing a 40km ride without saving anything for the run, I can push that average up to about 20-21. This past year is my first year of doing anything more than recreational riding and actually training for something.
Really at this point, after completing my first year of triathlons, I've caught the bug and and don't mind spending money on things to help me train better or race faster. The catch is that I need to thoughtful about where I am spending my money (have to be able to explain to the wife). With Christmas in the air it seems to be a good time get new gear or ask for it as Christmas presents. With the cold snap we have been having investing in a good indoor trainer seems like it might be a better investment.
Agree with Bryan and even Trevor if I have to :-). They are another place to put your hands/arms. Another place to rest your back and hands while searching for relief from racing or long riding. They make me feel faster and that counts for a lot. I rode harder, for longer, when I raced that road bike. Aero bars are great on there IMO.
The law of physics does not support the idea that they don't give you a noticeable advantage unless you average 18 mph+. It's the same fallacy I hear when folks say that aerowheels offers nothing noticeable unless you can ride at a minimum of 20 mph vs 16 mph. Anyone who says otherwise does not understand the laws of physics. The only way that aerobars will make you slower vs non-aerobars, on the same road bike, is if it puts you in a bad fit position (i.e., one that you are not comfortable in). Clip-on aerobars are not one size fits all.
In fact, the slower you are, the more time that you will save over the course of the bike ride. By that, I mean, for example, you are a 6 hour IM biker. Say, for the sake of discussion, it is shown that the aerobars saves you 10 minutes over that distance. With everything being the same, if you were 5 hour IM biker, you will save less than 10 minutes over the course of the same 112 miles bike course. By being more aero, you will see more absolute speed gain at higher speeds, but the overall time savings will be less vs at lower speeds ... if that makes sense. That's not me hypothesizing. That's plain physics.
E=(1/2)mv square. Plug the numbers into a spreadsheet. I dare anyone to prove me wrong that you don't gain any noticeable time improvements riding at 16 mph. I would also argue, since few of us are trying to break the course speed record on the bike, that absolute speed gain means a lot less than overall time savings during a course of a race. From a dollar per second savings perspective, it's a lot more economical for a 16 mph biker to get everything aero than a 26 mph biker.
Now, are they worth it? Considering that triathletes spend thousands of dollars on racewheels, aero frames, lighter component sets, and see through spandex TT suits to save seconds/minutes ... only the user can determine that. If I were a budget conscience triathlete who is considering a tri bike in the future, I would put my money in an aero helmet, latex tube, faster race tires, and/or wheel cover before I put money into clip-on aerobars. The reason is simple. Those items can be used interchangeably between a tri bike and road bike. Combine a few of those items together, they will cost you less and save you just about the same amount of "free" speed vs clip-on + professional refit.
What Tuan said! He is wise and all knowing!
Testing posted at Bike Radar determined that the "difference between a road frame and one with a set of clip-ons on it was a whopping 29.4 watts" at 40 kph.
I do agree with Tuan, over the iron distance (and half iron) there can be considerable advantage, even at lower speeds. Forgive me for generalizing.
But for someone weighing the cost and only racing sprint/Olympic at slower speeds (savings of around 40-100 seconds over 40k at a lower speed), better investments can be made elsewhere in my opinion. Measurable, yes. Significant enough to warrant the hassle? Not in my eyes, when you can make that time up for free with more time on the bike over the winter. You'll see more performance payoff with a trainer in front of the tv all winter than a set of bars.
If you can find them on sale, go for it. Black Friday might have some good deals.
29 watts at 40kph (about 25mph). Those figures are considerably different for someone at 30kph.
Aerobars pay big dividends over the longer course.
The Bike Radar testing reflects an approximately 1 mph gain with clip on aero bars at the same watts. So over an Olympic bike course of 25 miles:
> 25 miles / 18 mph = 1.39 hours
> 25 miles / 19 mph = 1.32 hours
>> Time saving = 0.07 hours or 4 minutes
Obviously this is a rough approximation and actual speed gains will vary based on numerous other factors.
I do agree with Trevor that the best gains are realize by biking more (plus riding with faster bikers, climbing hills, interval training, etc.).
Agreed, Kevin. There's certainly no question that time savings do exist and can be measured. I'm approaching this from the economical + practical (and honestly, realistic) standpoint.
I'm not going to invest $300 bucks (absurdly conservative estimate) in bars+professional fit to save 40-50 seconds (under very ideal conditions). I'm going to spend that on a trainer to ride indoors when the weather is crap, and bust my ass on the Saturday morning club ride. I have to ride, anyway, even I had clip on bars, right?
If I'm not as strapped for cash, I could see throwing some clip-ons into the mix and saving a few extra watts, sure. The price per second ratio is certainly better for bars/fit compared to buying a TT.
There are a lot of factors in the equations, it just depends on what you're ultimately looking for and what you're willing to invest comepared to what you actually get in return. Is what you're spending (time, effort) worth getting this much/little in return? Playing Devil's Advocate here, only with less Keanu Reeves.
+1 to hill climbing and riding with folks faster than you during training, as Kevin suggests. You're going to see much bigger returns that way. Train like that for a bit, then upgrade to aerobars.
If it were easy, Vietnam #1 would do it.
Fact: The cheapest and fastest way to gain 1-5 minutes on the bike, is to pee on the bike. That's the only true free speed. There ... I said it!
The only thing that fancy aero equipments buy you is a port-a-john break.
If you are going to go this route, for Christmas ask for the areo bars and an extra bike steam with a deeper set back (I think that's the right term).
I talked with my fitter about putting areo bars, but only wanted it for Eagleman - and he suggested that we get the additional seat post so that all I have to do if I don't want to do a ride in areo, I can just switch out the post and still as optimal a fit as possible in both areo and regular.
Trevor, Tuan, and everyone else made all the valid points for pro and con areo bars.