When it comes to going faster on the bike, aero bars are an essential integration. In essence, aero bars allow cyclists to get into a time trial position, which significantly minimizes aerodynamic drag while maximizing speed.
Known for their unique look and function, aero bars are a standout component that distinguishes most triathlon and time trial bikes from typical road bikes. That’s not to say road bikes can’t be retrofitted as a time trial machine with the addition of aero bars.
Aero bars have a place in applications well beyond triathlon and time trials, including ultra-distance gravel grinders, bikepacking and touring, and adventure bike racing, where added ergonomics, positioning, and comfort are important considerations.
Here we discuss everything you need to know about aero bars, including top products on the market and the science that supports using aero bars over conventional road cycling positions. Use the quick links below to navigate to the content that best aligns with your interests.
- How to Choose the Right Aero Bars
- Best Aero Bars on the Market (2021)
- What Exactly Are Aero Bars?
- Science Behind Aero Bars
- How Much Faster are Aero Bars?
- Aero Bars versus Road Bike Drop Bars
Aero bars come in two primary types:
- Clip-on aero bars that bolt onto standard road bike handlebars
- Full aero handlebars, which include both base bars and aero bars
Most road bikes and some beginner time trial bikes are well suited for clip-on aero bars. As the most popular place to start, clip-on aero bars are the most versatile and economical option that typically ranges between $100-300.
Unlike clip-on aero bars, full aero handlebars come as a complete unit with integrated stems and aero bars. If you’re riding a higher-end triathlon bike or time trial bike, a full aero handlebar setup is likely more suitable. This performance upgrade is proven to be significantly more aerodynamic than clip-on aero bars with road bike handlebars. But they come at a price of $400-$1,000+ and require a completely different break and cable system – which can be quite the mechanical overhaul in itself.
Other things to consider when finding the right type of aero bars are:
- Bar Extension – One of the primary differentiating features in aero bars is the extension at the very end, or where you’d place your hands most of the time. Some athletes feel faster with shorter and less angled extensions, while Ironman and ultra-endurance athletes may prefer longer extensions.
- Risers – Almost all aero bars allow you to use risers to elevate the arm pads. Generally, beginner athletes will typically use risers as they progress their time trial position.
- Arm Pad Position – The width, narrowness, and angle of the arm pads may also dictate your choice in aero bars. There’s no clear science supporting a more narrow arm position than a wider position faster, so comfort is a priority here.
- Brake Levers & Gear Shifters – For athletes using full aero handlebars, the braking and shifting system is an added consideration, especially when upgrading.
- Total Weight – Most aero bars are made of lightweight carbon fiber and/or aluminum material, but the added componentry (i.e., Risers) can also add weight.
Although it’s always advised to choose fit and function over aesthetics, there is of course, the actual look of the aero bars that undoubtedly place a role. Get a better visual look at the different aero bar options by checking out the products below.
Best Aero Bars of 2021
Like most cycling equipment and gear, the marketplace for aero bars continues to evolve with newer and more advanced technology every year. To keep you up to speed, below we feature some of the best aero bars of 2021, including full aero handlebars.
Zipp Vuka Clip with Alumina Race Extensions
The Zipp Vuka Clip’s are a fantastic clip-on aero bar for the price. In addition to being highly adaptable to nearly universal on almost any type of bike, the Vuka Clips with Alumina Race Extensions offer 52mm of rise (compared to the Vuka Alumina Evo, which come with a 70mm or 110mm rise.
As the name implies, the bend of the Alumina Race Extensions places the wrists at a more natural angle, enabling athletes to attain a highly tucked and race-optimized aero position.
Zipp’s Vuka Clip with Alumina Race Extensions comes at a combined weight of 780g for the entire unit (the above-bar system weighs 310g, the below bar system 295g, and 175g for the Vuka Race extensions.)
So although it’s not among the lightest aero bars of the bunch, it delivers SRAM/Zipp-quality performance for $140.
Check out the Zipp Vuka Clip with Alumina Race Extensions at SRAM.com
Profile Design Supersonic Ergo 35c
As one of the newest products to arise from Profile Design’s exceptional engineering in clip-on aero bars, the Supersonic Ergo 35c provides a simple and adaptable system with a greater fit range than anything that came before it.
Recognized for its versatile fit options and comfort, the Supersonic bracket is the result of years of fine-tuning and product refining. Combined with the Ergo platform, athletes can leverage up to 80 different positions with this aero bar setup.
The 35-degree extension caters to an arrowhead hand position, providing an aero bar that’s well suited to athletes who want something moderately aggressive and ideal for long hours in the saddle.
The Supersonic Ergo 35c aero bars are incredibly easy to install. The only potential downside from competitive athletes is that the total weight of the units is 673g.
Profile Design Supersonic Ergo 35c delivers significant bang-for-the-buck returns with an attractive price tag just below $250.
Take a closer look at Profile-Design.com
Redshift Quick-Release Aerobars
Redshift’s Quick-Release Aerobars are a unique concept that blends functionality and convenience. As the name suggests, the system is integrated with a patented quick-release mechanism, allowing athletes to easily add and remove the aero bars in a matter of seconds and without any tools required.
The extensions come in aluminum and carbon options, as well as S-bend or L-bend ends. The lightest option is the carbon S-bend weighing 564g, while the aluminum L-bend is 640g.
Combined with Redshift’s Dual-Position Seatpost, this complete aerodynamic setup provides an accessible time trial position on just about any road bike. It’s a terrific option, not only for beginner triathletes but also long-distance road, gravel, and even mountain bike riders who want to mix-up their positioning.
The aluminum L- and S-bend aero bars start at $180, but the carbon extension upgrade comes in at $250.
See more of the specs and features at RedshiftSports.com
Vision TriMax Carbon Clip-On
A standout among the all-start line-up of Vision aero bars, the TriMax Carbon Clip-on’s have a longstanding reputation for performance and adjustability in the world of clip-on aero bars.
Available in three styles – JS-bend, J-bend, and S-bend – Vision’s TriMax Carbon Clip-on aerobars deliver a diverse range of fit capabilities, including ample width and stack adjustment. All of the models weigh in at about 500g (+/-10 based on the bend style).
Great for beginners and elites alike, these carbon aero bars don’t compromise on performance for fit. In addition to being widely adjustable for various aero positions, TriMax Carbon Clip-on allows for internal cable routing and Di2 compatibility.
Vision’s TriMax Carbon Clip-On is modestly priced at $252. Take a closer look at VisionTechUSA.com
Syntace C3 Clip
Syntace aero bars are some of the most high-performance, lightweight, and distinctly-designed products on the market. A fair warning to inexperienced cyclists, they’re an aggressive aero bar that does compromise on adjustability and risers.
Due to the limited adjustment capabilities, the Syntace C3 Clip’s come in several sizes – small, medium, and large (all at the same price), as well as two material options – aluminum and carbon (+$70 for the carbon).
Featured here are the aluminum C3 Clips, which have a unique-shaped design that caters well to an aero bar hydration setup. The aluminum C3 Clip (Large) is a lightweight option weighing in at 378g (366g for the Medium). You save a few grams with the carbon extensions, but not by much.
For aluminum aero bars, the Syntace Speedcutter tool allows athletes to adjust extension length. Still, actual fore/aft-like adjustment like other clip-on aero bars is not an option with Syntace products. However, this “compromise” saves significant weight, shedding ~300g compared to comparable alternatives.
Syntace offers several different aero bar products. The C3 Clip’s start at $250 and escalate to $675 for the carbon.
Scope these and other aero bars at Syntace.com
ENVE SES Aero Handlebar Clip-On Extensions
As some of the best clip-on aero bars for road bikes, ENVE’s clip-on extensions are designed to be used with traditional drop bar road handlebars. They can be cut to three extension styles – J-bend, S-bend, and straight.
The ENVE SES Handlebar Clip-Ons’ full weight is 525g, and trimmed to the J-bend is 455g and S-bend 445g. Like Syntace, these ENVE aero bars do not have riser capabilities. In turn, they’re a practical choice for aero-adapted drop-bar riding, whether for paved or unpaved environments.
Designed with performance as the top priority, ENVE’s SES Aero Road Bar delivers a fast and efficient solution for athletes seeking improved aerodynamics for various distances. The carbon pad carriers dampen rough terrain and deliver a smoother ride, making them ideal for ultra-distance gravel and adventure bike racing.
At a somewhat cashy price of $350.00, you can scope out the SES Aero Handlebar Clip-Ons at ENVE.com
Vision TriMax Carbon SI 013
As an integrated full aero handlebar system with Vision’s flagship TriMax JS-bend extensions, the SI 013 is a super-lightweight option for competitive triathletes and time trialists alike.
Vision’s TriMax Carbon SI 013 is compatible with all frames with a standard 31.8mm diameter handlebar clamp area. With the ability to tilt the base bar, athletes can easily adjust the aero bars without the use of bolts.
Weighing 780g total, the SI 013 is a full carbon aero handlebar unit that delivers top-tier performance for an attractive price tag. And while it checks all of the boxes for high-end aero technology, it doesn’t compromise on ergonomics. The SI 013 offers extensive adjustability across all areas, including reach, stack, extension angle, and armrest positions.
The Vision TriMax Carbon SI 013 has a price tag of $629. You can get it at VisionTechUSA.com.
Zipp’s Vuka Aero
Keeping pace with the top-end quality you can expect from Zipp, the Vuka Aero system delivers on all fronts. The first thing to notice with the Vuka Aero bar extensions is their tapered airfoil design. Aesthetically, they’re some of the most stunning and distinct compared to other full aero bars. But that’s just a byproduct of performance-first engineering.
The Vuka Aero is inspired by Zipp’s SL-70 Aero road bar. Compliant with UCI’s 3:1 aspect ratio requirement, the Vuka Aero is recognized for its stiff and streamlined design that combines optimal adjustability for athlete positioning.
Weighing in at 846g, the Zipp Vuka Aero handlebar system is a lightweight option that is ideal for running SRAM shifters. They’re tailored to fit the eTap AXS™ Blip Box within the center cap, streamlining both looks and aerodynamics.
Well priced at the $900 mark, the Zipp Vuka Aero is available at SRAM.com
Profile Design Aeria T2 Carbon
The Aeria T4 by Profile Design is a beautiful balance of elegance, versatility, and performance. Not only is the Aeria T4 a full carbon aero handlebar system that’s lightweight and simple to adjust, but the design is based on decades of research minimizing drag and aerodynamic wind resistance.
UCI Compliant 3:1, the Aeria T4 carbon handlebar wing is entirely zero drop from clamp to brake extensions and delivers optimal control with a shorter reach. The Profile Design Aeria T4 are some of the lightest aero bars weighing in at 663g stemless.
The shape and handling of the Profile Design’s T2 Carbon Extensions deliver on both feel and performance. Like the V2’s, which are popular in gravel and adventure bike racing, the Aeria T2’s have the same S-Bend extension and delightful handle design at the top.
The V2’s are indeed a fantastic entry-level option, especially for the quality that Profile Design aero bars deliver. But for serious athletes seeking a time trial specific upgrade, the Aeria T2 Carbon is a widely-configurable and elegant aero bar that delivers professional-grade performance.
Priced at $999, peer deeper into the Aeria T4’s at Profile-Design.com
Vision Metron TFA
Unquestionably a top-of-the-line option, the Metron TFA by Vision is one of the stiffest and most aerodynamic handlebars and stem systems you can find. Used by record-breaking professional triathletes like Andrew Starykowicz, the Metron TFA have been tested and validated at the highest level.
The Metron TFA is available in various extension types, including the TFA JS-bend, TFE Pro, Speed S-bend, and Speed J-bend (with the latter two sold separately).
Also unique about this full aero handlebar setup is Vision’s Snakebite stem, which accommodates a flippable base bar and internal cable routing.
Despite being an all-out race-specific aero bar, the Metron TFA prides itself on offering vast spectrum positioning dimensions, all supported by a wide range of fit increments. And unlike some full aero bar systems, this unit comes equipped with a stem, packing a full weight of 1155g (comparable to systems above).
Cop the Vision Metron TFA for $818 and take a closer gander at VisionTechUSA.com.
What Exactly Are Aero Bars?
In simple terms, aero bars are forward-facing handlebar extensions with padded forearm rests, enabling riders to access a more aerodynamic, “time trial” position. The aero position is characterized by drawing one’s body and arms forward and inward into a tucked position, thereby minimizing aerodynamic drag.
Science Behind Aero Bars
There’s a reason why cyclists use aero bars, drop bars, and tight-fitted clothing. Aside from the gravity felt when climbing, aerodynamic drag is the greatest barrier to cycling speed, accounting for 70 to 90 percent of the resistance experienced while pedaling.
While advancements in triathlon bikes have been pivotal in improving speed on the bike, the cyclist presents the most significant barrier to minimized aerodynamic drag. The human body is not very streamlined, and in turn, rider positioning is critical to reducing drag and maximizing speed and efficiency.
Cyclists use drop bars and aero bars to position themselves to reduce exposure to their frontal area, which helps minimize the degree of wind resistance they must overcome. Reducing the frontal area helps riders increase their speed and their efficiency over time.
One of the best sources of information on the subject of aero bars and time trial positioning is an MIT Chemistry of Sports lecture titled “Cycling Aerodynamics: Clearing the air.” The lecture highlights a series of wind tunnel studies that tracked eight professional cyclists, including Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso, and the amount of drag they experienced while making micro-adjustments to their time trial positioning.
The wind tunnel studies were compelling, showing aerodynamic improvements ranging from 2% to 17% less drag across all athletes. One of the key takeaways from the studies1 is that a 5% improvement is easy to get, and a 5% gain means significant results of aerodynamics.
How Much Faster are Aero Bars?
Aero bars, which enable athletes to achieve an aerodynamic time trial position, generally provide speed gains ranging between 5-10% or more. For an athlete traveling 20 mph (32 kph), that’s a difference of traveling +1-2 mph (1.6-3.2 kph) faster at the same degree of output.
It’s important not to discount the aerodynamic gains that today’s time trial bikes deliver. TT bike technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in drag reduction, weight, and rider positioning. While aero bars themselves can be a helpful tool in going faster, it’s the entirety of the bike and athlete that dictate the bigger performance picture.
Aero Bars vs Drop Bars and Hoods
A common question that arises when assessing the aerodynamics between road bikes and triathlon bikes is: how much faster are aero bars versus drop bars on a road bike?
Several studies2 comparing aero-bars with traditional cycling postures found that aero bars outperformed both drop bars and brake hoods in terms of aerodynamics, VO2max, and heart rate efficiency.
It’s important to note that a lot of this work3 focused on trained athletes who were experienced cyclists. Conversely, a study testing VO2max in untrained athletes4 found an upright cycling position performed best over an aerodynamic time trial position.
Using aero bars is a proven way to improve aerodynamics on the bike. However, any additional gains in VO2max and heart rate efficiency will significantly depend on the individual athlete.
In most cases, beginner triathletes can get their bearings building fitness and confidence on an entry-level road bike, using the drop bars to get into an aerodynamic position. As training progresses and cycling skills advance, an athlete can yield greater performance improvements using aero bars and aggressive time trial positioning.
1. K. B. Blair, “Cycling Aerodynamics: Clearing the air,” MIT Open Course Ware, 2013. [Online]. Available: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/experimental-study-group/es-010-chemistry-of-sports-spring-2013/lecture-notes/MITES_010S13_lec10.pdf
2. Sheel AW, Lama I, Potvin P, Coutts KD, McKenzie DC. Comparison of aero-bars versus traditional cycling postures on physiological parameters during submaximal cycling. Can J Appl Physiol. 1996 Feb;21(1):16-22. doi: 10.1139/h96-002. PMID: 8664843.
3. Ashe MC, Scroop GC, Frisken PI, Amery CA, Wilkins MA, Khan KM. Body position affects performance in untrained cyclists. Br J Sports Med. 2003;37(5):441-4. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.37.5.441. PMID: 14514538; PMCID: PMC1751358.
4. Peveler, Will & Bishop, Phil & SMITH, J & RICHARDSON, M. (2005). Effects of training in an aero position on metabolic economy. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online. 8.