Anyone who rides a road or Drop Bar bicycle regularly has, at one time or another, thought of bolting on a set of aero-bars. For some it is an idea born on a ride but dismissed before the brake pads have cooled. For others, it is tried and met with lackluster results and, for a few, a turning point in comfort and performance.
The following guidelines and advice is for those of you thinking of taking the aero plunge or who have a set of bars on their bike and are not sure how to set them up. Before we begin I will say that there are a couple of ways to approach aero set-up. For a' Time Trial' professional or specialist it is going to be very different from the way we fit and position bars for the casual or club rider. It is the latter that I shall concentrate on here.
Firstly, I often see bars that people have positioned after reading a magazine or following strict parameters used by Time Tail experts. Unless you are training exclusively for the TT discipline, do not set your bars this way. The aim should be for you to transition from drops to aero without a drastic change to your upper body position. One of the biggest problems is the elbow and hip height. This is often quoted in articles as a golden rule. It kinda' is if you're Bradley Wiggins however, for us mere mortals, it is not so important. If, after installing the bars and setting them up you find that your hips are in line with your elbows, then great. But, if your natural road bike position is comfortable in a higher front end do not change that to achieve a lineup of hips and elbows. You will lose more than you will gain.
So where to start, well bar choice is important, there are hundreds of bars and designs on the market and all of them have their merits. But and it is a big but, most of them are not going to work for you and here is why; Adjustability. You need a bar with a wide range of adjustment and also, you still need to be able to ride using the drops and, I bet you like to ride the bar tops and hoods once in a while, that means the arm rests need to flip up when not in use. We like the profile Design bars for these reasons.
You will want to set the cups behind the handlebars and set the angles to comfortably cradle your forearms in their natural position, do not draw in your shoulders and arms to match the cups, this will restrict your airflow.
The length of the aero-bars should be set so that when using them your head, neck and back position remain more or less the same as when you are in the drops. Lastly, try to set the angle of the extensions somewhat neutral. Bars that tilt up steeply from the elbow to the hands put unnecessary pressure on the spine and neck, keeping them level or even tilted down, will remove that issue.
The extensions on most bars will usually end up being just a little past the furthest point of you brake levers.0