The best aero bars for triathlons and time trialling

The best aero bars can optimize your TT position and help you save watts.

TT base bar on road bike
Cycling Weekly editor Simon Richardson added a base bar to his Venge road bike, to create a speedy TT set up
(Image credit: Future)

For triathletes and time triallists, where the body is locked into the bike’s touchpoints, this obsession with improving aerodynamics is often gear-driven. 

Finding the optimum position becomes crucial to your performance, and therefore also the components that best allow you to achieve this. For many riders, the first point of call when it comes to aerodynamic upgrades are the bike’s handlebars. The best aero handlebars or aero clip-on extensions designed for triathlons, time trials and ultra-endurance events are, in essence, created to reduce your frontal area. 

Body position is crucial to improving your CdA (coefficient of drag x frontal area). Smaller riders will naturally have a lower CdA but regardless of size we can all seek to become more efficient through our set-up and the subsequent result on our position on the bike. “Narrow and tucked” is the goal, says aerodynamics guru and TT specialist Dan Bigham and the right bars, with the correct setup can certainly help you to better achieve this. In fact, the best aero bars coupled with an improved aero position should improve your speed by 5-10%.

venge road bike with base bar

Simon Richardon's Specialized Venge, with a TT base bar fitted, pretty much IS a full time trial rig

(Image credit: Future)

Adding clip-on aero bars, or a base bar and extensions, to a road bike is a relatively inexpensive route to achieving the same position you might adopt on one of the best time trial or triathlon bikes.

We've explained how to set up your bars further down this page. But first, here is a look at some of the best aero bars for triathlons and time-trialling currently on the market...

Best aero bar clip-ons for triathlons and timetrialling

If you’re just dipping your toes into the world of time trials and triathlons then you’re probably not ready to invest in a dedicated bike for the discipline. Fortunately, many traditional drop bars will accommodate clip-on aero bars, sometimes called tri-bars, allowing you to turn your best road bike into a TT-ready machine without spending too much money.

Equally, if you’re planning on competing in an ultra-endurance event the best clip-on bars will provide greater comfort over longer distances. However, before investing in a set make sure they are compatible with your road bars.

Deda Parabolica clip-on aero bars

(Image credit: Deda Elementi)

Deda Elementi Parabolica 2 clip-on aero bars

Well designed, simple to set up and won't break the bank

Specifications
RRP: £119.99
Material: Aluminium
Weight: 600 grams
Clamp diameter: 31.8mm
Internal cable routing possible?: No
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Plenty of adjustability+Easy to set up
Reasons to avoid
-Not really anything!

The Deda Parabolica 2 clip-on bars are a straightforward option that’s well-suited to those looking for a reasonably lightweight yet affordable aero bar.

The UCI-approved Parabolica 2 bars are made of 6061 aluminium with 285mm s-bend extensions that can be adjusted by length. This shape allows riders to adopt a variety of wrist and hand positions thanks to the shape that gently rises from the armrest. Regarding the armrest, they’re also fully adjustable and come complete with pads. 

The Parabolica 2 clip-on aero bars have a rise of 42mm but come with a riser kit that allow you to increase this to 55mm. This level of adjustment makes the Deda bars a good choice for those looking to get in a low position as well as those wishing to adopt a somewhat higher and potentially more comfortable position. 

Like all the best clip-on aero bars the Parabolica 2 model is pretty simple to set up with an alloy clamp that fits directly on your handlebars. 

Profile Design aero clip-on bars

(Image credit: Profile Design)

Profile Design Sonic Ergo 35 clip-on aero bars

Highly adjustable and suited to multi-disciplines

Specifications
RRP: £129.99
Material: 6061 Aluminium
Weight: 559 grams
Clamp diameter: 31.8mm
Internal cable routing possible?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+High level of adjustability+Lightweight for alloy+Simple to set up
Reasons to avoid
-No major drawbacks 

The Profile Design Sonic Ergo are billed as one of the more adjustable clip-on aero bars out there. Despite its pretty traditional look, Profile Design state that there are some 1500 possible configurations when you take into account the adjustability of both the pads and the extensions when coupled with the after-market riser kit. 

In terms of numbers this level of adjustability allows the armrest offset to shift from -70mm to -2.5mm while the armrest width can move between 124mm to 290mm. Finally the stack can be adjusted from 60mm to 130mm, with the help of the aforementioned riser kit. The ability to set the Profile Design clip-on bars in a high position should offer plenty of appeal for ultra-distance and audax events.

The clip-on bars gets its name from the 35 degree bend of the extensions, which Profile Design says allows riders to adopt a fairly neutral wrist position. 

The Sonic bracket is a redesign of the brand’s existing J2 model and sees a reduction in weight. In fact the Sonic Ergo clip-ons only weigh 559 grams all in, making them just a tad heavier than some carbon models on the market.

Zipp Vuka clip-on aero bars

(Image credit: Zipp)

Zipp Vuka carbon evo clip on bars

Elegant, ergo and pricey

Specifications
RRP: £244.00
Material: Unidirectional carbon
Weight: 420 grams
Clamp diameter: 31.8mm
Internal cable routing possible?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Very light+Fit above or below the bars+Ergo extensions promote comfort
Reasons to avoid
-These are expensive

If comfort through ergonomics are your thing then Zipp’s Vuka carbon evo clip on aero bars could be for you. The carbon extensions are suitably lightweight and Zipp says they are contoured to better fit the hand; they feature a 20mm inward roll and a multi-radius bend.

The Vuka clip on bars offer plenty of adjustability. There’s increased pad width adjustment that allows for additional inboard pad positions for those who like to adopt a narrow arm position. Pad-angle wedge inserts allow you to adjust the arm pads by 5 degree increments between 5 and 15 degrees. Finally the Vuka can be mounted above or below the bars, enabling you to dial in the stack height.

Zipp has designed the Vuka clip ons to work alongside its base bar of the same name. However it’s also compatible with any road bar that accepts clip-on aero extensions. It is available in 70mm and 110mm rise options, with these weighing 140 and 142 grams respectively. That means including the clamps you’ve got a set of clip-on aero bars that weighs under 450 grams

If the carbon versions are a little too expensive for your liking, the Zipp Vuka clip-on aero bars are also available in a cheaper aluminium model.

Best aero bars inc. base bar for triathlons and timetrialling

If you’ve been competing in either triathlons or time trials events for a while it’s likely that you may have already made the step-up to a dedicated bike for your chosen discipline. Full aero bars that feature a base bar are ideally suited to such a machine, providing improved aerodynamics. 

While there’s a good chance that you’ll save a few watts with the full aero bar upgrade you won’t be saving money: the best aero bars with an integrated stem and base bar require a complete overhaul of your brake and gear system. However, if you're committed to shaving a few seconds off your time then here are a few of the best aero bars on the market…

Profile Design Aeria Evo aero bars

(Image credit: Profile Design)

Profile Design Aeria Evo bars

Highly adjustable with aero carbon base bar and alloy extensions

Specifications
RRP: £749.99
Material: carbon and 6061 aluminium
Weight: 809 grams
Reasons to buy
+Tilting bracket aids position set-up+Wide range of adjustment
Reasons to avoid
-Not a lot!

Profile Design has upgraded its popular Aeria bars by adding some additional adjustability in the pursuit of better position optimisation. What this means in real terms is redesigned brackets, armrest and extensions. 

The brackets now offer the option of tilting the entire assembly from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, while also allowing you to further narrow the position of the armrests compared to the previous model. The armrest now allows for even more positions than the original - in fact Profile Design says that when combined with the risers the Aeria Evo offers 1700 variations of reach, stack and pad width. 

It comes with a full carbon base bar while the extensions are the brand’s 35a model; these are made from lightweight aluminium, come pre-drilled for bar-end shifters and as the name suggests provide a 35 degree bend that should suit those that like to adopt a pretty neutral wrist position.

The Aeria Evo weighs in at just over 800 grams. This is pretty competitive for a carbon and aluminium combination but opting for a full carbon aero bar should bring this number comfortably under 700 grams.

PRO Missile Evo carbon aero bars

(Image credit: PRO)

PRO Missile Evo Carbon aero bar

Super stiff with lots of adjustment

Specifications
RRP: £800.00
Material: Carbon
Weight: 570 grams
Reasons to buy
+Very lightweight+Stiff+Wide range of adjustment
Reasons to avoid
-Not much to faulty

PRO's Missile Evo aero bar is certainly top of the line - with a price tag to match. So what do you get for £800? 

The entire handlebar, that's base bar, extensions and clamp, is a one-piece UD carbon fibre monocoque construction. This means they are aero, stiff and lightweight. In fact the bars weigh under 600 grams, making them of obvious appeal to the weight-obsessed. 

UCI-approved, the Missile Evo aero bars measure 40cm in width and feature 12 degree j-bend adjustable extensions. The armrests allow for ample adjustment too and include gel pads for increased comfort. 

Allowing for fully integrated brake and shifter cable routing as well as full Di2 compatibility, the bars are designed to work with PRO's Missile Evo stem. However, with the cable integration system they should be fairly easy to configure with your current TT or triathlon set-up.

Vision Metron TFA aero bars

(Image credit: Vision)

Vision Metron TFA aero bars

Fully integrated and Di2 compatible

Specifications
RRP: £699.99
Material: carbon
Weight: 1115 grams (inc. stem)
Reasons to buy
+Fully integrated system+Internal cable routing inc. Di2 box+Flip-able base bar
Reasons to avoid
-Not much..

The Vision Metron TFA bars look suitably space age. They are the choice of, among others, the EF Education World Tour team. Which means you can enjoy the same aero benefits as the likes of Rigoberto Uran and Neilson Powless. 

As you’d expect at this price point, the carbon Metron bars are stiff and lightweight. They feature an integrated patented ‘snakebite’ stem that enables fully integrated cable routing as well the option of flipping the base base to create two different positions.

The adjustability doesn’t stop there. The entire bar can be tilted from 0 to 16 degrees, while the JS bend extensions can move in length from 245mm to 385mm. Likewise, the arm rests offer a wide range of fit options while the stack height can be raised from 70mm to 145mm. All-in-all, the Metron TFA bars should allow you to dial in your position with great accuracy.

The bars weigh in at 1115 grams but this includes the integrated stem, making them competitive with other carbon aero bars at this price point.

So what do correctly set-up aero bars look like?

As a general rule, you’ll be looking for your forearms to be roughly parallel with, or at a slightly raised angle to, the floor while your upper arms follow, again roughly, the fork angle of the bike. However, watching the pros fly round a TT course you’ll see plenty of variation in their set-ups. Regardless of any idiosyncrasies, it’s vital that when you're in that ‘narrow and tucked’ position you’re able to change gear efficiently. And there are other considerations too.

Aero bars should not only put you in an improved aerodynamic position but allow you to stay there for the entirety of your chosen event. Lowering your frontal area is no good if you can only sustain that position for a short period of time before shifting around on the bike. So comfort is a vital factor too, especially if you’re entering an ultra-endurance or audax event where your CdA starts to matter less. Some core strength training for cyclists can come in handy, here.

A good set of aero bars will offer a good degree of adjustability; one of the keys to optimising your position. Ideally you want to be able to adjust the pads that your elbows rest on both back and forth and in and out. Equally, you want to be able to change the length of the bar’s extensions. It’s also handy if you can adjust the overall stack height too.

Other considerations you'll need to make when deciding on the best aero bars for triathlons and timetrialling is the choice of extension shape: either s-bend or j-bend. Typically, j-bend extensions are likely to be more comfortable over longer distances while the s-bend shape better reduces wind drag. You'll also need to decide whether you're going to opt for aluminium or carbon clip-on aero bars. However, your budget may make this decision for you.

To dial in the position you can opt for a professional bike fit. However, armed with your indoor turbo trainer and a mirror (or a friend with a camera) you can tweak your position effectively. There are CdA sensors on the market, too, but using them to success takes some time and patience. 

Ultimately, though, the goal here is to become faster so repeated sessions on the road where you can time yourself under the same conditions are invaluable. You can even invest in some number crunching software to provide feedback on whether your new aero bars are having the desired result. Don’t let it be said that the pursuit of saving watts is easy!

Luke Friend

Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for the past twenty years. Working across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.