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Would I benefit from aero clip-on bars for century?

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Would I benefit from aero clip-on bars for century?

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Old 01-11-19, 11:48 AM
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maartendc
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Would I benefit from aero clip-on bars for century?

Hello all,

I have been thinking about signing up for a local century (100 miles; 160km) charity ride here in Atlanta in May. The longest distance I have cycled in a single day is about 120 km.

I thought I might make the distance easier on myself if I get some Aero clip-on bars to get in a more aerodynamic position for parts of the ride:

- The ride will be mostly rolling terrain. Not at all flat, but no real major sustained climbing either.
- I expect to ride in a group when first setting out, but will probably end up solo for most of the ride, since a lot of people will be faster (and some slower) than myself and only about 120 cyclists do this 100 mile ride.
- My average sustained speed is about 27-30 kmph on flat terrain (18 mph).
- My bike is a BMC SLC01, a general purpose carbon road bike (not an aero bike or TT bike)

Those being the parameters, do you think I would benefit from / would you recommend aero clip-on bars on this ride, or not? Will it make things significantly easier / faster?

I have read that Aero clip on bars can save you up to 40Watts at 40kmph on the flat. This sounds like a lot, but my conditions are slightly different (slower and not flat, which diminishes the effects).

Any advice would be appreciated!
Thank you!
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Old 01-11-19, 12:06 PM
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Better aerodynamics will always help a solo effort on flat to rolling ground. And if aerobars help you get into a more aerodynamic position that doesn't hamper your power output, then yes it will help. Other things could help too: skin suit, aero helmet, shoe covers, or getting more aero on your current bar set up.

Are aerobars allowed on this ride? I'd make sure first.

Another option is to work on pack skills so you hold onto the fast group. I'd much rather work with others than grind along for hours by myself. And you would likely go faster than you could on your own, no matter how aero-optimized your set up is.
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Old 01-11-19, 06:57 PM
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I disagree. If its an organized ride you will be in a group and the riders in front of you will give more aero benefit than the bars. Also, the aero bars & the position they put you in are less-comfortable. You basically trade leg-muscle work for back and shoulder muscle work + a bit of speed. Riding in a group you really can't use them either (there is a reason the only time they are used is time trials and triathalons) since you cannot control the bike as cleanly (the scariest people I have met on a century were wearing triathalon club kit. They could not hold a paceline at all. Speeding up, slowing down, swerving left and right and they weren't even on the aero bars. Just used to being all alone on the road).

Unless you are really used to using them for long periods, they won't help.
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Old 01-11-19, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by tedder987 View Post
i disagree. If its an organized ride you will be in a group and the riders in front of you will give more aero benefit than the bars. Also, the aero bars & the position they put you in are less-comfortable. You basically trade leg-muscle work for back and shoulder muscle work + a bit of speed. Riding in a group you really can't use them either (there is a reason the only time they are used is time trials and triathalons) since you cannot control the bike as cleanly (the scariest people i have met on a century were wearing triathalon club kit. They could not hold a paceline at all. Speeding up, slowing down, swerving left and right and they weren't even on the aero bars. Just used to being all alone on the road).

Unless you are really used to using them for long periods, they won't help.
+1
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Old 01-12-19, 12:22 AM
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You bet in May. You'll have plenty of time to play with them. Of course they'll be useful. I've been using clip-ons for over 20 years and on maybe 1000 group rides. Sparsely attended event rides are about like you describe. Paces are so different that you wind up doing the thing solo or with just a few others in a pickup paceline. In the latter case, always pull from the 'bars. The next person back should be in the drops. I always honcho the line to take timed 3 minute or one mile pulls.

You want to practice on them enough that 20 minutes continuously on them is comfortable. Try to ride the fog line on them. Never take hard corners on them. Get comfortable going back and forth from hoods to 'bars. You want your elbows maybe 6" apart and forearms level. You won't be a lot lower, but your arms will be out of the wind, which is huge, plus it's a wonderfully restful position. You're supported only by bones, no muscles. Very easy on arms, shoulders, back. I do some upper body gym work every fall to recondition my neck and shoulder area for holding my head up on very long rides. That's mostly what gets tired, other than pedaling muscles of course.
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Old 01-12-19, 12:44 AM
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Originally Posted by maartendc View Post
I have been thinking about signing up for a local century (100 miles; 160km) charity ride here in Atlanta in May. The longest distance I have cycled in a single day is about 120 km.

Those being the parameters, do you think I would benefit from / would you recommend aero clip-on bars on this ride, or not? Will it make things significantly easier / faster?
Yes, yes, and yes. If you're doing 18mph on the flats now, you'll be well over 20mph once you get used to the bars.

I ended up having to replace my saddle as well, as the one I was using prior to the aerobars resulted in some... pressure.

As the ride is in May, I'd recommend getting some bars sooner than later. Between fiddling with orientation and getting the muscles used to it, it's a good couple of months to get decently acclimated. You will use muscles you hadn't used before. Which actually helps... eventually.
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Old 01-12-19, 12:45 AM
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There used to be this Fondo in Eastern Washington. It was rolling terrain with no hills that required getting off the big ring. I was looking at the results one year and noticed six riders had the exact time and that time was considerably faster than anyone elses, by like +/- 30 minutes. I figured they had to be on TT bikes, well conditioned and had some bike handling skills. Under those types of conditions, aero bars can be a game changer.
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Old 01-12-19, 01:23 AM
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I vote yes on the aero bars for two reasons. Reduced drag and more hand positions (because 100 miles is along way and my hands get tingly/numb). Just make sure you practice and are comfortable with them before the ride. And make sure you're on the regular bars/hoods/drops (with fingers on brake levers) when you're at all close to the rider in front of you, even if you're not drafting. Aero bars should be for open road in front of you only.
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Old 01-12-19, 07:22 AM
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I do a lot of long distance riding and have never tried or seriously considered using aero bars. The benefit is obvious for long-distance racing, but unnecessary for me if I'm riding a brevet or JRA. I'm sure I could be a bit faster with aero bars, but I don't think I would enjoy my rides any more, which is what is most important to me. I have friends who love them and others who have tried them and didn't like them. No harm in giving them a try. They're not expensive. You may like them, but they're not for everyone.
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Old 01-12-19, 04:17 PM
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Dean V
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I would recommend no for the aero bars.
You will have enough to deal with on your first century without adding something else.
Apart from fitness concentrate on your group riding skills, getting in a suitable group and not getting dropped.
I have done many of these sort of rides and can't recall not ever at least having a small group of riders to share the load with.
However many other people I train with seem to somehow often find themselves alone for significant stretches.
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Old 01-12-19, 04:24 PM
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I say no for the aerobars unless it's an ultra distance event.

You won't notice much difference just riding in a small group of 2 or 3 imo. If you get involved with a bigger pack, you won't want to be on them anyway.

Plus, weight weenies might wonder why you want to add on a few extra grams rather than going for the super light bike set up. Remove your valve stem caps too!

Myself, I used them on my first couple of centuries. Then as they centuries progressed, more climbing etc, I felt they were more of a bother than help.
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Old 01-13-19, 02:55 AM
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Be prepared to make saddle adjustments or get a new saddle, unless you're already using a noseless TT type split saddle. There may be a lot more pressure on your perineum and urethra. Occasionally I'll use the invisible aero bars -- just draping my forearms across the top of the bar near the stem (solo rides only, never in a group). Yup, it's more aero and helps in stiff headwinds. But there's lots more pressure on the urethra.

I just switched to a cutout version of my favorite Selle Italia saddle ("Flow" in Selle Italia parlance) but it helps only a little. If I used that position for longer stints and more often I'd need to consider a different saddle. My buttbones aren't picky about saddles, but that pressure on the urethra gets uncomfortable in a hurry -- I can manage only 30 seconds or so before I have to move my hands to the bar, hoods or drops. Tipping the nose down a bit helps a little, but then it's uncomfortable in every other position -- too much weight on the hands.

I can see why a friend switched to mostly noseless TT type saddles on his trainer and bikes. He's fast, rides mostly solo on a conventional carbon road bike, and was suffering from Fizik and other conventional saddles with noses.

Regarding using aero bars in group rides, I'd defer to advice from Carbonfiberboy and other folks who've actually used them a lot. When I see someone using aero bars in a group I give 'em the stinkeye until I'm sure they're tracking like they're on rails. And some folks are very steady. If they're in the lead taking a pull, no problem. But if I see someone on the aero bars in the middle of a pack, I'm outta there. I'll pull off to the side or drop way back, even if I end up losing the draft and getting dropped. One of my pet peeves is riders on aero bars on the MUP, weaving between joggers, walkers, dogs on leashes, and other cyclists at 20+ mph. There are plenty of time trial practice routes around town but the MUP ain't it.
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Old 01-13-19, 04:23 AM
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I’d recommend finding a good group to ride with to get comfortable riding in close proximity to others. It takes some practice to comfortably hold wheels without letting gaps form. You’ll gain far more sticking to someone else’s wheel than the little extra you’d get with clipons. Also, you should ensure you’ve optimized your position perhaps with a professional fitting.

If I couldn’t hang with any groups I’d just relax and just enjoy the day, and I certainly wouldn’t be riding 100 miles on the aerobars.
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Old 01-13-19, 09:37 AM
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I agree with the comments that they may not be allowed in a mass ride group event. I think that riders on aero bars in a pack or bigger group with riders of unknown skill levels is a good excuse for a pile up crash. I use my aero bars when I was out for hours riding alone. It gave me more hand positions and comfort and it sort of angles your spine so that you are looking up the road nicely. I would not recommend riding with them on an organized century ride. As some one else in the thread pointed out, you will gain more aero benefit by riding in a pace line.
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Old 01-13-19, 02:00 PM
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Well it seems like opinions are split right down the middle. I guess I will try them out and see if I like them. I see no harm in having them as an extra option, but I don't have to use them if I don't want to / if conditions don't allow.

I consider myself to be a pretty good bike handler, having ridden bikes nearly daily all my life and having done a fair bit of mountainbiking / trail riding when I was a kid. I don't think I'll have problems riding in a group like that, but in any case I expect to end up solo eventually.

Originally Posted by justin70 View Post
I vote yes on the aero bars for two reasons. Reduced drag and more hand positions (because 100 miles is along way and my hands get tingly/numb).
That is a good point. I do suffer from sore hands / shoulders occasionally on long rides, so getting some more hand positions is a welcome thing to have. I have ridden in the "invisible aero bar" position before when riding, and I quite like it, but it is not comfortable on the arms without arm rests.

Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Yes, yes, and yes. If you're doing 18mph on the flats now, you'll be well over 20mph once you get used to the bars.
.
Cool, thanks for the feedback.

Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Yf course they'll be useful. I've been using clip-ons for over 20 years and on maybe 1000 group rides. Sparsely attended event rides are about like you describe. Paces are so different that you wind up doing the thing solo or with just a few others in a pickup paceline. In the latter case, always pull from the 'bars. The next person back should be in the drops. I always honcho the line to take timed 3 minute or one mile pulls.

You want to practice on them enough that 20 minutes continuously on them is comfortable. Try to ride the fog line on them. Never take hard corners on them. Get comfortable going back and forth from hoods to 'bars. You want your elbows maybe 6" apart and forearms level. You won't be a lot lower, but your arms will be out of the wind, which is huge, plus it's a wonderfully restful position. You're supported only by bones, no muscles. Very easy on arms, shoulders, back. I do some upper body gym work every fall to recondition my neck and shoulder area for holding my head up on very long rides. That's mostly what gets tired, other than pedaling muscles of course.
That is a good point, I would welcome another position to be in and to take some strain off of hands for a while if I need to or just be in a different position for a while. I have done big cycling events in the past (1000+ people over 50 miles, so much more crowded that this event), and even in those conditions I end up solo in many cases, because I just like to ride my own pace, and I am not looking to socialize on a ride anyway. I prefer to ride solo and be alone with my bike and nature (it is kind of meditative like that for me).

Originally Posted by kingston View Post
I have friends who love them and others who have tried them and didn't like them. No harm in giving them a try. They're not expensive. You may like them, but they're not for everyone.
That is a good point. I can play around with them a bit, and if I dont like them, no big deal. Thanks!

Thanks for the feedback everyone!
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Old 01-13-19, 03:46 PM
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Not a fan of clip-ons for events like this. I think they say "Hey, despite signing up for a group ride, I have no interest in riding with you."

In any open group event, there will be riders off the front at 24++ and riders bringing up the rear at 15 - -. You WILL find a group that matches your speed. And, while the clip-ons give you an aero edge, it won't be as good as drafting.

Skip the clips - ride with the group.
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Old 01-13-19, 03:48 PM
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No matter how good I think my bike handling skills are, aero bars make my steering squirrely, especially during those first few rides of the season, where I haven't used them at all during the winter. I typically use them on any century+ where I think I'll be solo, or on the front for long stretches, and/or expect nasty headwinds. I initially got them for my first 24 hour ride (525km), and I'm not sure I could've finished it without them. As others have said, the extra hand position, and the position they put you in, takes a lot of the pressure off the lower back and shoulder muscles.
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Old 01-13-19, 06:59 PM
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The differing views of event/charity rides are good points. Personally my only reason for participating in a large group ride is for socializing. I tend to be a hermit and solo rider anyway so I need to shake off the cave dust and get out with friends and informal groups at least a couple of times a month. Motivates me to trim my beard so I don't look like such a troglodyte.

If I'm with friends I'll ride with them, or at least those of us who ride at the same pace. Otherwise I'll find other folks who are comfortable chattering while riding our preferred pace. I enjoy riding fast in fast groups or solo, but on century length or shorter event/group rides I usually slow down and enjoy the company.

And it's not necessary to wheelsuck to get aero benefits. In groups of folks I'm not familiar with I usually stay at least a full bike length behind. There's still a draft benefit that makes the long rides go easier. The larger the group ahead, the greater the effect. I often find myself coasting at 15 mph, barely pedaling to keep a comfortable and safe draft. Often after a few miles we'll find compatible ad hoc groups who informally trade off on pulling. Just takes a few miles to find those folks who are at similar fitness levels and confident enough in one another's abilities.

The main differences are climbs where these ad hoc groups tend to split up. But I've found we tend to split, rejoin, etc., for most of the ride. I've met several local cycling friends that way on large group rides.
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Old 01-14-19, 08:07 AM
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Im cool with that. Just stay out of the skis when around other riders.

Time trial and triathlon rider spacing is enough to get off the skis and brake in time. Fondo riding is not.

The bars would help if you lose your group and are alone for an hour.
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