Cheat The Wind: Five Aerobar Tips

Cheat the wind and gain easy speed by getting as aero as possible

Posted: 21 October 2010


Aerobars have a reputation for being uncomfortable, twitchy and sometimes even downright dangerous. And when they're improperly used, that's true. But with the right adjustments they can make for smooth, fast and safe cycling, which is exactly what you need if you've set your sights on a time trial or are diving into a triathlon. "The biggest mistake people make is setting up their aerobars without adjusting their bike fit," says Dan Smith, of LifeSport Coaching in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. "That alone can make you unsteady and uncomfortable." Here's what he recommends.

1. Shift forward and up

Aerobars effectively move the handlebar forward, so you need to adjust your body position to accommodate that change. Shift your saddle forward, then (because you've just effectively lowered it) raise it to compensate. Some riders also prefer to tilt the nose down a degree so they'll be able to roll their hips forward. "Once you raise and shift your saddle, you'll have more weight on the aerobars, which will also make you more stable," says Smith. It can be a tricky process, so consider springing for a professional fit if you can't get comfortable. 

2. Give yourself breathing room

You want to reduce your frontal surface area as much as possible, because that's the greatest source of wind resistance. But don't scrunch in so narrowly that you close your chest cavity and restrict your breathing. Set the pads far enough apart that you can keep your shoulders in their natural down-and-back position. A good rule of thumb: line up your elbows with the width of your hips. If your shoulders are broad, position the bars to keep your hands close together, which minimises the amount of air that flows through to your stomach.

3. Stack yourself

Place your forearms on the pads just ahead of your elbows so your arms rest on the wide, muscular section of your forearms. In this position, your ears should be directly over your elbows. If you have a short torso, you might find the aerobars are a bit too far forward to achieve this. If so, consider a shorter stem.

4. Mind the terrain

A common mistake is staying on aerobars past the point of efficiency, especially on inclines, says Smith. "Once your speed dips below about 20kph going uphill, you're losing the benefit of the bars," he says. At that point, sit up to generate more power.

5. Practise away from the pack

Ride using your aerobars on wide, flat roads with few driveways or access roads. Get comfortable, riding five to 10 minutes at a time in the aero position, building the duration gradually as you become more confident. Once you master it, riding with aerobars is stable and safe, but it still has no place in pack riding; you're simply too far from the brakes and unable to react quickly to obstacles or pack manoeuvres. 

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aerobars, cycling, speed cycling, using aerobars, wind cycling

Discuss this article

if you have aerobars fitted to a road bike should you remove them if taking part in a sportive or group road ride?

Would it be acceptable to keep them on the bike but just not use them??

I can't be bothered with taking them off and then setting them up again every time if I don't have to, and I can't afford two bikes!

Your opinions/expertise would be much appreciated.

Posted: 13/04/2011 at 22:30

Fine to keep them on but as you say don't use them.

Unless you are on your own.
Posted: 13/04/2011 at 23:41

Mine never come off the bike........
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 07:41

Mine make a pretty good clothes airer  
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 07:49

great for holding your helmet.
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 08:57

Meldy or the aero bars?
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 09:07

In the last 2 sportives I have done I have left them on and used them as much as possible, but I was on my own and they weren't exactly races. As my long rides are few and far between I thought they were a good excuse to get a few hours on the bars
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 09:46

hairier half wrote (see)
Meldy or the aero bars?

You'll keep til Sunday
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 09:54

I'm saving myself for you
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 11:31

Is it really not acceptable to use them in sportives?  If not, why not? If it's not a race, why do other people care what you do?

Have enetered a couple of long ones before IMR this year and was planning on doing as much "race-day" prep as possible meaning being on the aeros if I can.

Posted: 14/04/2011 at 11:37

Mandel wrote (see)

Is it really not acceptable to use them in sportives?  If not, why not? If it's not a race, why do other people care what you do?

Have enetered a couple of long ones before IMR this year and was planning on doing as much "race-day" prep as possible meaning being on the aeros if I can.

Exactly my thinking Mandel - The same people who probably care are the ones who probably dont stop for cake breaks just so that they can get a quicker time in comparison to other riders
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 11:44

It's fine to use aerobars in a sportive unless you're riding close to other people (or the rules forbid it).  If you're riding in a group you need more control of your bike so for safety you shouldn't use the bars.
Posted: 14/04/2011 at 12:40

That makes more sense.  Especially as I am still a little bit of a muppet when I am on them... 

I thought the argument was people would get angry you were trying to go faster than them when the point of a sportive wasn't who could go the fastest.

Posted: 14/04/2011 at 17:20

Yeah it's just a safety thing - to be honest I'd take them off unless you plan on riding a lot of it solo and are bothered what time you do - it's a 5 minute job and most aerobars mean you can't ride on the tops which is useful for climbing.  

Don't agree with that advice in one of the other points to position your pads as wide as your hips - Chris Boardman reckons that closing your elbows up does nothing to your breathing and if it's good enough for him it's good enough for me - for me narrower feels better and chances are it's faster.   

Posted: 14/04/2011 at 20:29

I think someone has done some wind tunnel work on the best position for your pads and they found that it depends on how big you are.  If you've got a broad chest then you want the pads wide so the air funnels between your arms and round your body.  If you've got a narrower chest it's better to have the pads narrow so the air flows round your arms and body.

Posted: 15/04/2011 at 08:40

hairier half wrote (see)
I'm saving myself for you

Posted: 15/04/2011 at 21:50

... really DItchy, he's all yours    

Posted: 15/04/2011 at 23:36

lol oh dear.....
Posted: 16/04/2011 at 11:26

DTB, Ultra Cake Pim.p wrote (see)
hairier half wrote (see)
I'm saving myself for you

Aww, someone else will have you Ditchy!!!



Posted: 16/04/2011 at 11:32

I come with free cake!

Posted: 16/04/2011 at 11:34

Hmmm, possibly could have phrased that better lol!
Posted: 16/04/2011 at 11:34

DTB, Ultra Cake Pim.p wrote (see)

I come with free cake!

Yes, you could definitely have phrased it better!

Then again, if we're talking Chocolate cake.........
Posted: 16/04/2011 at 11:39

Do you think we're far enough off topic yet?
Posted: 16/04/2011 at 20:33

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