Question: Last year I completed five double centuries. This year I want to try using aero bars. How do I set them up on my road bike for these long rides? — Ken M.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Aero bars aid both comfort and pace on long rides. The way things get spread out during double centuries, you can probably use the bars a lot. But never use them in a group (even a small one) unless you’re on the front and have everyone’s permission.
It can dangerous around other riders because aero bars make steering quicker but also less precise. Plus, your hands are a long way from the brake levers.
But when conditions are right, aero bars are great. I used them on a PAC Tour rapid transcontinental ride, averaging 140 miles a day for three weeks. But they’ve been banned from one of cycling’s top endurance events, Paris-Brest-Paris. Why? Too many crashes in the big packs.
To set up aero bars for long rides, move your saddle forward about 5 mm and up 1 mm. Mount the aero bars so the armrests are even with the top of the saddle or just slightly lower. The reach should be such that when you’re on the aero bars, your elbows are just ahead of a plumb line dropped from the front of your shoulders. In other words, you don’t want to be stretched out too much.
This position won’t seem very aero compared to a long, low time-trial position, but you’ll be able to sustain it for hours. That’s the key to relieving strain on your back and arms, and eliminating numbing pressure on your hands.
After installation, ride cautiously till you get the hang of bike handling, especially when cornering. Also, control can get dicey when you remove an arm to reach for a rear pocket or bottle. These are more reasons to stay on your regular handlebar when around other riders.