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Thread: Aerobars...?

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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Aerobars...?

    Can anybody who rides or has used aeros give me some advice/info on them? It seems like these might be a good thing for my riding, and I'm curious about a few points, but also I wonder what I don't know about them but ought to? I test drove a bike with a set over the weekend, to kill some time while mine was in the shop, and felt like I could get used to them...

    I like to do long rides on the weekends, and would like to do my first century this summer. I have drop bars, and use all the positions they give me. After a few hours, my shoulders get sore - I got a fitting recently, but am still having issues with this. So I'm thinking the aeros could give me a new hand position, and put the weight on my elbows, which might move it from the shoulders to the back?

    As far as air goes, are these only for going fast, or do they have cross winds push you around any less? I get a little nervous when it's gusty and I move from a protected area into an exposed one, like crossing some bridges. Any help there? I don't like feeling "pushed" a foot to one side or the other when I cross into the open...

    My bike came with break levers for the tops, plus the usual kind; can I hang these off the ends of the aerobars?

    The last question I can think of is: on my one short ride with them, I thought I might crash shifting my weight around getting back onto the "normal" handlebars. It's hard to describe, but I assume it comes from not being familiar, right, and not actual instability? That it's something people get used to with practice? Kind of like riding a bike?
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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Yes it's kind of like riding a bike. It comes with practice.

    I assume you're talking about adding aeros to a drop bar set-up rather than just replacing the drops with aeros. I don't think you'll just be able to hang your brakes off the aero bars, but you may get more definitive advice on that in the mechanics forum.

    Aeros will give you a greater range of positions, certainly. They will not, however, make you more stable in crosswinds. Yes, you have a lower profile, but in the aero position it is inherently less easy to manoeuver quickly, so if you do move into an exposed section you'll probably want to get back into a normal position so you can keep yourself straight if you do get hit by a gust. Watch time-triallists coming to a tight bend - they sit up and lean from a conventional position.

    Give some clip-ons a try. They'll reduce your wind resistance and maybe rest your shoulders, but don't expect to be in the aero position for hours at a time.
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    I'll voice my "gee, he's kind of a prick" opinion about aerobars...
    If you're not racing triathlons at a reasonably competitive level, or ultradistance, you don't need them.

    I see some of the goofiest aerobar setups these days;
    - Flatbar road bikes with panniers and aeros.
    - Aeros on a hybrid
    - Aeros on a double boinger MTB
    ... and the list could go on and on.

    Aeros are for increased speed in solo TT-style competition.* They put too much weight over the front axle and wonk your steering up by fixing your arms at the steering pivot (elbows essentially on top of headset). Handling is twitchy and there's a steep learing curve to developing smoothness while on the aeros. Too many people don't have an invert lever on theirs, so there's no braking when you're on them.

    Places where you shouldn't use aerobars (in my "geez, he really is a prick, isn't he" opinion):
    - The MUPs
    - Any club or group ride
    - Streets with moderate traffic, unless you have an invert brake lever

    *With the exception of modified tall stanchion aeros used on ultradistance bikes, which sounds like what you're alluding to: An additional "hand" position to alleviate pressure on your shoulders. Before you go dropping the coin on a set of aeros, consider doing more core exercises (crunches, stuff for your lower back, etc.). Strengthening your core is an essential part of releiving shoulder/arm/hand strain on the bike.


    /CGK1 spent much of 1988 - 1995 on aerobars, kicking arse and taking names in the 15-17 and 18-21 age brackets of Cleveland area triathlons (and ocassionally sandbagging the Clyde division.) Having since abandoned such endeavors for commuting and randonneuring, he has eschewed his aerobar ways in favour of ergo drop bars. He's not just some grouch who doesn't like aerobars. He actually raced on them.
    Last edited by CliftonGK1; 07-08-10 at 01:43 PM. Reason: typo
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    I agree w/ chasm54.

    I have clip-ons on my bike -- I'm training for a triathlon -- and I like them. The aerobars came in handy on the Tour de Cure century this spring when we hit some 15-25mph head winds at mile 75 to about 90. It was much easier on the aerobars. Generally, you can get a 1 or 2mph increase in speed.
    It will take some time to get comfortable riding using the clip-ons. If the bike becomes too twitchy in a cross wind, just move to the drops or hood for better stability. I doubt you could move the secondary brake levers to the aerobars, but you might be able to juryrig something.

    One other consideration, when you begin to spend more time on the aerobars, it may require a seat adjustment -- a bit more forward, nose down, etc.
    Most Time Trial and multisport bikes have a steeper seat tube angle to allow for a better aero fit (opens up the hip angle.)

    Hope that helps.

    EDIT:
    I also agree w/ CliftonGK1 regarding the goofy setups and most emphatically agree w/ no riding aerobars on MUPS, and group rides. Core Strengthening will help alot.
    Last edited by Bone Head; 07-08-10 at 01:50 PM.
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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    What particular core strengthening would you recommend?

    Ironically, one thing that got my attention was a roadie on the Burke Gilman (MUP) with a drink and a long straw, held between the aeros. That seemed pretty convenient, and more so now that they've decided not to call off summer this year.

    Also, I assume not using them in group rides is because they don't come with brakes, and because it sounds like steering is a bit compromised. So I'm guessing the same applies to riding with two or three friends, unless you're in the lead? And does that mean that this is less risky if you do put brakes on them?

    What I'm really wondering, though, is if moving between them and the other hand positions will make long rides more comfortable. The recreational weekend ones I do for the scenery, but at a brisk pace, and spend several hours in the saddle on...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    So I'm thinking the aeros could give me a new hand position, and put the weight on my elbows, which might move it from the shoulders to the back?
    Recommend you put your bike on a stand or trainer, rest your wrists on the handlebar (perhaps with a towel as padding), and see how comfortable the position ends up being. On my bike, it's a lot less comfortable than riding with my hands on the drops. My neck and back get stiff very quickly!

    I don't like feeling "pushed" a foot to one side or the other when I cross into the open...
    Keep your arms loose, look down the road, and you shouldn't get pushed around as much.

    My bike came with break levers for the tops, plus the usual kind; can I hang these off the ends of the aerobars?
    Those are cyclocross (a.k.a. "CX", a.k.a. "interrupter") brake levers. None of the versions I'm familiar with can be used on aerobars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    I like to do long rides on the weekends, and would like to do my first century this summer. I have drop bars, and use all the positions they give me. After a few hours, my shoulders get sore - I got a fitting recently, but am still having issues with this. So I'm thinking the aeros could give me a new hand position, and put the weight on my elbows, which might move it from the shoulders to the back?
    do you ride with you elbows locked? You need to relax when you ride and keep your elbows bent, if not then you tense your neck and rest your weight on your shoulders causing the soreness after some time.
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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I don't know what angle my elbows are at, but they're not locked ... it's pretty similar to leaning back a little in a chair and typing at work. This may or may not be related, but I injured my right shoulder a year and a half ago rolling a kayak. It's healed up pretty well, but gets sore after long paddle trips. On the bike, though, both shoulders get sore, and in a different place.

    What core exercises might help with the shoulder soreness?

    I've tried sitting on the bike, leaning my knee against a wall at home, with my forearms on the bars; the position doesn't bother me, at least for the few seconds I tried this. My guess is that I'd pedal like that for ten minutes when I hit a flat, then move to the drops or the hoods before terribly long.

    I guess the fact that aerobars imply a saddle adjustment is probably a bad omen for me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    What particular core strengthening would you recommend?
    Crunches, planks and side planks for starters. Some oblique strengthening with crunches on an exercise ball if you want more. Crunches hit your abs. Planks for the abs and lower back. Side planks for the obliques and lower back. Exercise ball for dynamics, helps with balance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Ironically, one thing that got my attention was a roadie on the Burke Gilman (MUP) with a drink and a long straw, held between the aeros. That seemed pretty convenient, and more so now that they've decided not to call off summer this year.
    The aero sippy-cup! If you're planning on heading up to LaConner in a couple weeks to challenge Chris Ragsdale in his open-road 24hr distance bid, then you might need one. Otherwise, you probably don't. They're for racers who don't want to break their aero tuck to reach for a water bottle. On a 40km TT-ish stage of an Olympic tri where seconds count, they make sense; but not on a Cascade Bike Club century ride.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Also, I assume not using them in group rides is because they don't come with brakes, and because it sounds like steering is a bit compromised. So I'm guessing the same applies to riding with two or three friends, unless you're in the lead? And does that mean that this is less risky if you do put brakes on them?
    Compromised steering and braking both are the concerns; in particular, it's because too many people don't practice enough with them so they're squirrelly as all crap getting on/off the aeros and pose a danger to surrounding riders, even with a brake lever I'd be concerned. With 2-3 friends, hey, it's whatever you guys decide is OK. With 2000-3000 friends (Flying Wheels), no way. With 10,000 friends (STP) pre-check should involve someone hacksawing them off if you even show up with them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    What I'm really wondering, though, is if moving between them and the other hand positions will make long rides more comfortable. The recreational weekend ones I do for the scenery, but at a brisk pace, and spend several hours in the saddle on...
    My average weekend recreational ride is 75 miles, with at least one ride per month of 125 miles or longer. Same goes for plenty of riders in the Seattle Randos, and you'll find very few people using aeros, even on rides like last week's Cascade 1200 (775 miles in 93 hours.)
    You'll likely find that they're a quick fix to the shoulder pain, but a possible road to other problems if you're planning to spend hours and hours on them. Plus, around here there's not a lot of practical territory for using them until you hop the Cascades and get into the eastern plains, or head north past Arlington up into the Skagit Valley. Western WA is really hilly, and there's two distinct situations where aeros are particularly bad: High speed descending (low control) and climbing (piss-poor for power).
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    Out of curiosity, what is a long weekend ride?

    You mention you have not yet done a century. Depending on how long your rides and how frequent, the issue may simply be more saddle time. Yes, they offer more postions on the bike for a century, you really shouldn't need them to remain comfortable on the bike.

    I agree with the ultralong distance stuff but a century shouldn't be too much of a stretch. I used them long ago as a newb rider. They were cool but as you learn more about fit (what works for you and not what the fitter recs) you see less of a need for them.

    Saddle time and figuring out "your" correct fit seems more important when it comes to comfort on the bike, IMO. Heck, in 05, I did 23 centuires. I got the bike so dialed in that I could go ride 100 and feel like I had never even been on the bike for more than 20 miles. That's when I discovered all these guys shouting "flip it" in the forums are all whacked!

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    I've been hoping that core exercises would help my wrist(s) feel better, and I found this: http://www.bicycling.com/training-nu.../core?page=0,1 But I haven't tried it yet!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    Out of curiosity, what is a long weekend ride?
    If I don't have plans for the weekend, I like to do about 50 miles one day, and around 35 the next.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    If I don't have plans for the weekend, I like to do about 50 miles one day, and around 35 the next.
    That's a fair amount! The wife and I do atleast 40-50 every Saturday and Sunday. Even so, doing a couple of short rides during the week also helps (20-30 milers if you don't already)

    The midweek rides make a huge difference while prepping for a century!:

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Also, I assume not using them in group rides is because they don't come with brakes, and because it sounds like steering is a bit compromised. So I'm guessing the same applies to riding with two or three friends, unless you're in the lead? And does that mean that this is less risky if you do put brakes on them?
    You know what they say about assuming...

    Riding in groups is a Bad Idea with aerobars because:
    • Aero bars make your bike alot more unstable. It is alot harder to maintain a straight line. Weaving left & right is very bad while in groups.
    • Steering is severely compromised. If you need to suddenly swerve to avoid an obstacle, your making things alot more dangerous. Even if you're on the front, suddenly swerving like this is dangerous for others.
    • Braking requires more time to complete. Granted, it's only a second or so. But that can be all the difference in the world. And in groups, the effect is multiplied for riders behind you.


    I also would not recommend putting brakes on them. Using your brakes while on the aerobars would only add to your instability.

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    Another exercise you can try to build up some shoulder strength is the good old military press. If you have a gym with a pulley military press machine, this is a great way. Nothing works your shoulders, upper back, and upper chest like the military press.

    I used to be a Heavyweight Greco Roman Wrestler, which is all throws, lifts, and upper body. The military press was an essential, also walking on your hands across the wrestling mat (which also helped with balance.)

    Not me, but to give you an idea:


    If you don't have a pulley machine, some heavy dumbbells work good, but the pulley based machine is a little safer.

    What I never did get out of wrestling however was good core strength. Still get back pain often doing any form of physical activity. I've learned to stretch to keep it away.

    Which reminds me, have you tried paying a little extra attention to your shoulders by stretching them before a ride?
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    it is much harder to control a bike with aero bars, for me it was similar to the first time that I used rollers. Having your elbows on the pivot point of steering and now you are trying to steer with your arms that are pinned at the pivot point with arms that are not in a position to turn. Just put your hands together about 18 inches in front of your face then turn them to the left or right, it doesn't turn as easily as your normal position on a handlebar. I don't use them in traffic, groups, pacelines or around pedestrians. I do use then on MUPs but that is only if there isn't anyone in site (walking, riding or blading)

    I use them to lessen the impact of the wind but it is uncomfortable to ride on them for long periods of time. I was thinking of putting a pair on my touring bike (this may be one of those goofy setup the CGK1 mentioned) but my thought was that it may make a day into headwinds a little easier but on my last tour I didn't use them since a daily average of 50 miles isn't that much even if its into headwinds.

    Also it isn't convenient to shift unless you have shifters on the aerobar ends and then it is in the wrong position when you are on the drops.

    I don't want to discourage you from getting a set but there is a downside, I do have them on a couple of my bikes but this is just something to try out since I don't do any time trials but may do some local stuff just to goof around.

    Also when adding a pair of clip-ons to your road bike it puts you in an extended position so weight is shifted to the boys and may cause some numbness.
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    I'll jump on the Aerobars are ok side. I use them off and on. For every ultra race I do and 99% of brevets I have them on there. You see them a lot in the ultra distance crowd for the very reason that they can be dialed in to be extremely comfortable. For this you'll want to get a set of bars that mount on top of your current handlebars. Something like Syntec C-2's. They will give you some additional rise which helps with the neck issues. You're not as aero as a TT position but you are way more comfortable!

    Brakes don't go on the ends of your aerobars mainly because when you are stopping you need to be in a position that will give you the best control. That isn't such a position. If anything you can put the shifters up there. The usual caveats go with aerobars, don't ride in a group or in traffic. They will take some getting use to but you can handle a bike pretty easily with them if you are experienced.

    If it makes you more comfortable on the bike it doesn't matter what they look like.
    Last edited by Homeyba; 07-08-10 at 11:10 PM.
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    I agree with everything Clifton GK1 said in this thread.

    I have aero bars on my bike, but I race triathlons with it. In fact, I generally take them off unless I have a tri coming up. I also have a forward swept seat post and a tri-specific seat that I use when I use my aero bars. I couldn't get in a good position with the bars with a regular seat post and seat.

    They should never be used in a group riding situation. I have a friend who is recovering from a broken cheek bone after a crash that happened when she was riding in her aero bars in a group, the bike in front stopped quickly, and she couldn't stop in time. You never, ever, ever ride in aero bars in a group situation. My first tri of the year the road was crowded with bikes, so I just rode in my drops. I saw at least 4 wrecks and many more almost wrecks because people were in their aero bars and couldn't react in time.

    If you are riding in situations where there isn't a lot of traffic, aero bars can make you faster. But be careful with them.

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    Now, this is interesting:
    "Same goes for plenty of riders in the Seattle Randos, and you'll find very few people using aeros, even on rides like last week's Cascade 1200 (775 miles in 93 hours.)"
    vs
    "You see them a lot in the ultra distance crowd for the very reason that they can be dialed in to be extremely comfortable."

    Anyway, I have seen them used by the local randonneurs (including one of the guys riding 200k on his mountain bike) for the reasons Homeyba describes.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    Now, this is interesting:
    "Same goes for plenty of riders in the Seattle Randos, and you'll find very few people using aeros, even on rides like last week's Cascade 1200 (775 miles in 93 hours.)"
    vs
    "You see them a lot in the ultra distance crowd for the very reason that they can be dialed in to be extremely comfortable."

    Anyway, I have seen them used by the local randonneurs (including one of the guys riding 200k on his mountain bike) for the reasons Homeyba describes.
    I think with rando groups it tends to be a club-by-club thing, like fenders and mudflaps. You'll see fenders and flaps year 'round on a lot of bikes up here, but not many aerobars, even among the really fast gang. A lot of randos won't use them because their personal goal is to make it to PBP, and you can't use them there.
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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    That's a fair amount! The wife and I do atleast 40-50 every Saturday and Sunday. Even so, doing a couple of short rides during the week also helps (20-30 milers if you don't already)
    It's pretty rare that I'll do 30 miles on a week day; an average M-F is anywhere from around 7 to 20+ miles, but usually in the 10 to 15 range. I commute by bike a few days a week, which isn't much ( 4.7 miles each way ) but hilly, and I live on a lake that's 6.5 miles to circumnavigate. Yesterday I went swimming, and since there's no parking anywhere near any of the beaches here, I did this by bike, racking up about a dozen miles.

    I'm on the bike pretty much every day ( not this weekend, though, as I'm going camping and hiking in the mountains ), and did 560 miles in May. I dropped out of the 500 mi/mo challenge because I was spending so much time on the bike I didn't have enough left over to be social and go kayaking.

    Even at the end of the 50 mile rides, my legs feel fine. It's my shoulders that hurt enough to prevent much longer rides. Which is why I was wondering about aeros, even if I'm not really looking to go faster...
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    Benefit in getting weight off your hands and arms , so fitting them to touring bikes is not so silly ..
    So, when spending weeks holding on to the handlebars, it's a welcome alternative.

    I set up an old Profile single tube .. bent to be both aerobars and cowhorn bend, tall and close,
    (Terry Quill stem)

    and fitted a Zzipper fairing, sort of like recumbents use, on the front of my diamond frame bike..

    so for a Long Commute I had a wind break in front of me , and no need to put the riding position
    so low as a time trialist..
    made it a reasonable hour long ride , each way , with books on tape in the ear buds for companionship.

    Behind the fairing It also cut down on wind noise so the audio was better.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    Now, this is interesting:
    "Same goes for plenty of riders in the Seattle Randos, and you'll find very few people using aeros, even on rides like last week's Cascade 1200 (775 miles in 93 hours.)"
    vs
    "You see them a lot in the ultra distance crowd for the very reason that they can be dialed in to be extremely comfortable."

    Anyway, I have seen them used by the local randonneurs (including one of the guys riding 200k on his mountain bike) for the reasons Homeyba describes.
    As Clifton said, it is can be a regional or club-by-club thing, like fenders and mudflaps. They're a bunch of retro grouches up there in the NW anyway. If I'm doing PBP I'll usually ditch the Aerobars for 6 months or so before it but I learned a long time ago to ride on regular bars just like I had aerobars on the bike. I have wide, flat-top bars with extra padding. Notice, I'm not riding in a group...
    [IMG][/IMG]

    I'm for using whatever works to make you more comfortable and allow you to ride the bike as long as you want. If aerobars or a better bike fitting is the answer its all good.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  24. #24
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    As Clifton said, it is can be a regional or club-by-club thing, like fenders and mudflaps. They're a bunch of retro grouches up there in the NW anyway.
    Hey now... there's a lot of carbon rigs in our crew, too.
    We're nouveau-grouches.
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
    - Mandi M.

  25. #25
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I was just checking, and the guy that was riding his mountain bike with aerobars came in at #18 in the 200-mile Dirty Kanza race up in Kansas. I don't know if he used the aero bars for that race or not, though, and in looking at pictures from the race, I don't see any other aerobars evident. I just assumed he'd been riding the mountain bike on brevets to help train for stuff like that.

    We had three people up at the Cascades 1200, and they did mention the preponderance of fenders up there. Down here, there's only two or three of us that have fenders, though.

    Here's my aerobar set-up just for reference:
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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