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Setting Up A Road Bike For Triathlon

Plus, eight clip-on aerobars featured in the 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide.

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Get a look at the eight clip-on aerobars featured in the 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide. Plus, advice on how to set up your road bike for triathlon. More from the Buyer’s Guide.

So, you’ve been doing triathlons on your road bike and, while you seem to be able to hold your own in the swim and run, you keep getting passed on the bike. What gives? You might attribute the difference to training specificity and a lack of aerodynamic equipment, but those tri bike riders up the road are likely working easier and more efficiently than you. A proper triathlon fit not only saves drag, but lets your body get the most out of your fitness level. The good news is that, with a few changes to your road bike, you can take advantage of the huge benefits a triathlon-specific position can offer.

Here are the keys to finding an efficient position when converting your road bike for tri:

» Get fit first: Establishing a comfortable and efficient triathlon specific position is the biggest key to reducing aerodynamic drag and maximizing your power and speed. Find a qualified tri bike fitter and make an appointment.

» Add aerobars: Getting narrower (and lower) than your road position can save time and energy on the course. Adjustable clip-on aerobars that setup low to the bar are often best for road bike conversions.

» Shift your seat forward: If you want to lower your profile to the wind while still pedaling efficiently, you have to keep the angle between your hips and torso open while lowering your back. A forward-oriented seat post creates a saddle position specifically geared to a tri position.

» Lower your bars: Most riders’ optimal tri-specific position will be lower than their road bike position—just don’t set it up below your functional range for comfort and efficiency. Finding that sweet spot happens during a fit.

See eight reviews for clip-on aerobars by clicking on the tabs to the left.

RELATED: Adding Clip-On Aerobars To Your Road Bike

Profile Design T4+ Carbon

$230, Profile-design.com
The draw: Adjustable yet simplistic

Profile Design aerobars have improved by leaps and bounds in the past few years in quality, function and aesthetics of its clip-on aerobars—and the T4+ Carbon is a perfect example. These bars feature large, plush armrests, each adjustable about 30mm fore/aft and 20mm in width. The ski tip-shaped extensions are comfortable for the wrist and are easily adjustable in length and angle by way of a single screw.

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PRO Synop Carbon

$130, Pro-bikegear.com
The draw: Tall position without the spacers

Pro hit the mark for short- course riders with their Synop Carbon clip-on bars. The minimalistic armrests cradle your forearms well, and the shape of the “S” bend is just right—putting tension through the wrists without straining them. The arm pads are adjustable in width, but setting the pads wide also twists them inward, which some may not find comfortable. The extensions—which we found to be shorter than most—are easily adjusted and secured by a single screw. This bar is best for athletes with a smaller frame who are focused on shorter distances.

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Syntace C3 Alloy

$220, Syntaceusa.com
The draw: Sublimely ergonomic grip

Don’t let the lack of carbon fool you—these bars are the lightest clip-on in this review. The C3 features what Syntace calls a “Double Helix” extension bend, which we found to create a more comfortable and ergonomic grip than the typical extension shapes. The bars feature wide, plush armrests that are easily adjustable in width by 50mm per armrest. Both the length of the extensions and pad reach distance are fixed, creating major fit adjustment limitations, but these aerobars are available in three different lengths.

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Zipp Vuka Alumina

$175, Zipp.com
The draw: Expansive fit adjustment

These are the most customizable aerobars that we have ever seen, but with this comes a bit of complexity. The armrests are large and have a nice shape to
them. Their adjustment range is incredible in all directions. The extensions are interchangeable, and Zipp offers a wide variety of shapes. The best feature of these aerobars is that the armrest height above the basebar is tremendously adjustable; It can sit more than four inches above the basebar, reclaiming a bike with aggressive geometry into something much more realistic for many riders. With their massive adjustability, these bars are a bike fitter’s best friend.

RELATED – Inside Triathlon’s Coveted: Zipp’s Vuka Alumina Clip And Basebar

Bontrager Race X Lite Carbon

$200, Bontrager.com
The draw: Comfortable grip and fit

Bontrager recently introduced these clip-on aerobars, based heavily on the successful integrated aerobar system used on the Trek Speed Concept. The arm pads are plush and can be adjusted substantially in both length and width dimensions. The extensions are among the most comfortable we’ve ever put our hands on and are also easily adjusted. For those of us who can’t stand staring at anything asymmetrical, the bars feature a rule to ensure the angle of each extension is the same.

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Deda Fastblack 2

$225, Dedaelementi.com
The draw: Wrist grip with tension

Both the extensions and pads are propped centimeters above the basebar, and this taller positioning promotes a comfortable aero position on a road bike while
also helping to create a solid grip on the slightly up-turned extensions. The extensions and pads can both be adjusted, but stack height cannot be changed dramatically. The pads, however, are thin and cannot be spaced wide to the outside of the extensions, making these best for riders with narrow shoulders.

Vision Trimax Carbon Clip-on CSI F.A.S.T.

$155, Visiontechusa.com
The draw: Clean construction

Vision joins the trend of adjustable aerobars with these Trimax bars. The F.A.s.T. system allows the extension length to be adjusted, although pad reach adjustment range is still minimal. The pads sit low above the basebar (shims can elevate them), and the armrests have a great shape and can be adjusted in width by about 30mm per armrest. Here, elegant simplicity is the hallmark.

Easton AeroForce

$215, Eastoncycling.com
The draw: Unique grip position

The AeroForce is not easton’s most refined product, but it is a solid entry-level clip-on aerobar set with a good amount of adjustability. The armrests are plush and cradle the forearm nicely. Their fore/aft position can be adjusted a moderate amount, although not as far as some, and can be angled any way you would like. The extensions are easy to adjust in length, and the bend height creates an ergonomic grip, allowing the hands to rest directly on the bars.