Find and Compare Aero Bars for your Cycling Rides & Competitions
There are several types of aerobar from a simple straight clip on bar to one piece bars that come complete with custom made brake levers, shifters and all manner of adjustments you can make. Materials also range from alloy, through composite to pure carbon, which is the lightest.
The idea is that you use your aero bars to move the whole of your upper body much lower, by resting your elbows on the bar pads and holding the bar extensions with your hands. Ideally your back is horizontal and your elbows and arms tucked in quite close together; however, for a lot of cyclists this is not a comfortable position, either physically for muscles or for breathing.
For this reason you need to check what sort of adjustments can be made to the aerobars you are considering, to give you the best position.
However, for most of us, with different shaped bodies and requirements, the choice is usually a compromise between comfort and performance. For short fast power rides, you'll probably want to pull up on the aerobars strongly at times, so the exact shape and position of them may not be as important as when you are doing long mileages in a triathlon, where you need a comfortable and correct position.
If you are a reasonably serious leisure rider, an aerobar can be very useful as a way of changing your position on the bike for a while, especially into the wind !
If you have an existing handlebar, the simplest form of aerobar is a clip on one and this is perhaps a good starting point if you've never used them before, as it will allow you to get used to the position.
You can also buy an entire 'kit' where there is a base handlebar together with a stem and extensions. This allows you more variety in positions.
At the top, certainly in terms of price, are the one piece integrated aerobars.
There are a lot of areas of adjustment. Firstly, the length of the extensions is probably the most important because if you are reaching too far forward it will be extremely uncomfortable and possibly damaging to back and muscles.
Secondly the height of the elbow pads will determine how close to horizontal you get. However, many cyclists opt to be a bit higher as the low position can feel cramped, especially for breathing and even more so if you have developed a bit of a Homer Simpson belly !
Similarly the distance between the elbow pads may be a useful adjustment to make, again because you can still have the hands close together, while giving your chest more 'space' by having the elbows further apart, forming a V shape.
Then, you'll find that aerobar extensions have different shapes and this is an important consideration for longer rides. They commonly come in S, J, flat and hoop closed end extension shapes. Although the S shape is particularly popular, you may find that the J shape is actually more comfortable, because your wrist is in a natural position, not bent forwards. Again this depends on the type of competition; if you are up in the saddle a lot and pulling hard, the J shape may not be right. If you like to change your position a lot, then the hoop style of bar extension might be best.
Some of the more advanced aerobars also allow height changes to the elbow pads, rotation of the pads and extensions and sometimes hundreds of combinations of all the above.
The market then moved into alloy composites with carbon and now there are quite a few pure carbon fibre aerobars available. The only major issue with carbon is that if you have a carbon handlebar and are looking to clip on a separate aerobar, you need to be check that the mounting area on your carbon bar is reinforced as some of them do not take kindly to the heavy forces that can be applied when you are pulling on the bar extensions !
That doesn't mean you shouldn't have them, it just means that if you're doing a lot of riding on roads that are less than smooth, you might want to make sure you get aerobars that give you some scope for widening your grip.