Aero bars are an excellent addition to your bike if you’re serious about your cycling.
Using them will improve your aerodynamics, but also take the strain off your hands and wrists when riding.
If you’re using a triathlon-specific bike, it may already have aero bars on it. But the majority of triathletes use a road bike and need to add aero bars.
In this article, we’ll share how to install aero bars on your road bike as quickly and easily as possible.
Get ready to get aero and shave minutes off your cycling times!
What are Aero Bars?
Aero bars—also known as clip-on aero bars, tri-bars, or triathlon aero bars—are handlebar extensions that have padded forearm rests.
These are mounted closer to the center of the handlebar, which draws the rider into a forward position and lowers the upper body, while bringing your arms in line with your body. This allows you to get into a more aerodynamic position.
The aero bars provide both hand grips and arm rests, which significantly reduce the pressure on your hands and wrists.
Before You Install Aero Bars
Make sure that there’s plenty of space for you to move comfortably around the bike when you’re mounting the aero bars. You’ll need to view the aero bars from multiple angles to make sure that they’re level and evenly spaced.
Secure the bike to a turbo trainer, work stand, free-standing rack, or any other solid fixing. This will let you mount the aero bars using both hands, without having to worry about holding the bike up at the same time.
To mount the aero bars you’re going to need an allen key set, torque wrench, grease, and a tape measure.
Check the manufacturer’s specifications, as some brands will require you to torque the extension clamps and screws to certain specifications during assembly.
How to Set It Up
1. Prepare the Handlebars
Before you mount the aero bars, you want to clean the handlebar with alcohol so that you can remove any grease or dirt.
If you have bar tape on already you’ll have to cut it back or unroll the tape so you can clean the handlebars properly. Once they’re clean, you can add new bar tape to protect the handlebars from the clamps.
Make sure that you move the cables out of the way so that you don’t place the clamp on top of them.
2. Grease the Tri-Bar Bolt
Start by greasing the bolts of the aero bar and place them to one side.
Then find the center of the handlebar. Now, you’ll place the right aero bar handle to the right—slightly off-center—ensuring that it’s in the correct position for your comfort.
Use your fingers to tighten the screws at first, as this will prevent you from crossing the threads.
3. Tighten the Bolts
Now use the allen key to tighten the bolts. Alternate each bolt after a few turns, as this will let the clamp pull up evenly. Then use the torque wrench to torque the bolts to the manufacturer’s specifications.
If the manufacturer hasn’t specified any torque measurements, then gently nip them up until they’re secure. You’re aiming to have the extensions level and you could use the stem as a guideline.
If you tighten the clamps too much, then you could damage the handlebar and the clamps.
4. Adjust the Elbow Pad
Now you need to adjust the position of the elbow pads, as this will change the reach and width of the bars.
When we look at the length, you want your elbows to rest on the pads—your shoulder and elbow should be in line with each other—so that your hands are relaxed over the front of the extensions. This position will reduce neck and shoulder pain, as your arms are better supported.
For the width of the aero bars, you want them to be as close to in line with your shoulders as they can be while remaining comfortable. But depending on your body type, you may be able to go slightly narrower.
5. Fit the Second Bar
You’ll want to fit the second aero bar—the left one—exactly the same way as you set up the first one. To ensure that the spacing is even, you can measure the distance from the stem to the right clamp and measure the same distance on the left-hand side.
This will let you mount the second bar at exactly the same distance away from the stem, so that the bars are evenly spaced.
6. Finalize the Bar Position
Before you finalize the bar position, have a look at them from side-on. Both extensions should be level and both should be parallel to the ground.
The extensions in the front should point upwards slightly and they should be uniform with each other.
Once you’re happy with the position and stack height, tighten the bolts holding the clamps. You can then secure and trim the bar tape to finish.
Aero Bar Adjustment
Aero bar adjustment varies depending on the model that you get. To ensure that you have a comfortable riding position using aero bars, you should take the following into consideration.
Aero Bar Pad Height
If you’re feeling cramped or like your knees are coming too close to your chest while you pedal, then you should adjust the pad height on your aero bars. Most brands will have spacers that you can place underneath the pads to increase the height.
This should give you enough space for a comfortable riding position and some more space at the top of the pedal stroke. If you find that your riding position still needs some tweaking, then try shifting your saddle forward.
You may want to raise the saddle and tilt the nose down a little bit. This will allow you to roll your hips forward and give you a bit more space. Shifting your saddle forward will allow you to shift more weight onto the aero bars and help provide more stability as you ride.
When you adjust the extension length, you want to be able to rest your elbows on the elbow pad. The tip of your elbow should just be off the back of the pad.
Your elbow and shoulder should be in line and you want your hands to be relaxed over the front of the extensions. This position allows your weight to be supported on the widest part of your forearm.
Not only does this prevent your arms from fatiguing as quickly, but it reduces the risk of you developing neck or shoulder pain during or after the ride.
If the length seems to be too long and you find yourself stretching out to reach properly, then reduce the extension length. This will shorten the reach, giving you a comfortable riding position.
You can play around with the extension angle, but you want to make sure that your shoulders remain in a relaxed, natural down-and-back position. Your position should also comfortably support your weight.
Start with the extension angle being level and then increase it until you find which position is the most comfortable. Don’t go over 10 degrees, as this will force you into an unnatural position.
Pad width is important, as you want to reduce the amount of frontal surface—which is the best source of wind resistance—as much as you can. But you don’t want to hunker down so much that you restrict your breathing.
To position your pads where they’re far apart enough to keep your shoulders in their natural down-and-back position, you should line your elbows up to the width of your hips.
If you have broad shoulders, then you want to position the aero bars so that you’re able to keep your hands close together. You’ll find that this will reduce the amount of air that flows towards your stomach.