Best Tri-Bars Review
Clip-on aero bars cut more drag than any other bike upgrade. We’ve tested 15 to find the best set for you
For something as seemingly simple as attaching two pipes and a pair of pads to your handlebars in a secure but not overly heavy way, we’re astonished every year by how many companies make a complete pig’s ear of their clip-on tri-bars. So it’s a good thing we’re here to let you know which ones raise the bar, and which ones fall below it.
We’ve rounded up 15 of the latest sets, tested them thoroughly on the road, and rated them for performance and value. In terms of fit, shape, pad material and how much adjustment you need, clip-ons are a very personal choice, so our riding feedback is deliberately more descriptive than prescriptive so you can work out what’s going to suit you.
BEST ON TEST
Syntace has been refining its clip-on design for 15 years so it’s no surprise this unique set-up is pretty much perfect. The C3’s Double Helix Bend extensions give several natural-feeling hand positions. They also curve round to carry the sideways-sliding arm rests. There’s no fore/aft adjustment – instead you choose a size based on forearm length. Deep but firm Lycra-covered pads sit on carefully shaped, drooped-lip ‘Bio Wing’ cups, which are superbly comfortable and secure without being restrictive. Premium detailing includes anti-crush O-rings on the welded clamps, threaded computer mounts, cable routing protection and optional high-rise spacers. Weight is low, and the price more than fair too.
Verdict: Innovative, evolved design delivers rock-solid, ultra-comfy yet lightweight performance
USE Tula Boost Bar and carbon extensions – Runner-up
Use has displayed some typically outside-the-box thinking with its ultra-light Tula Boost Bar menu. As well as the usual straight, ski and S-bend extensions in alloy or carbon you get the option of ‘mini’ 245mm draft-legal options to plug into the £75 Boost Bar clamp set. Inset O-rings and a tight-tolerance fit make them super-secure in terms of twist, and unique rose-joint arm rest spars give 3D adjustment at a super-low weight. The small Fizik gel pads are comfy and secure despite their size, too. Tightness of the single clamp bolt is crucial to stop the whole set-up coming loose though, so they’re not ideal for heavy riders or rough roads.
Verdict: Potentially excellent ultralight performance if you’re fanatical about the set-up
Zipp’s Vuka clip-on buffet is loaded with excellent detailing, but that’s reflected in the price. The straight carbon extensions we tested have rough textured grips and inset gear cable ports. Ski and hockey-bend versions are also available, in carbon or alloy, along with VukaShift options with a neat direct mount for SRAM’s TT shifters. There’s a choice of under- and over-bar clamps, arm rise is adjustable and you can buy riser shims for the big, low-pressure, width-adjustable arm rests (10, 25 or 50mm, £20). The spare clamp bolt Zipp includes is a nice touch for those who aren’t as careful in the workshop as they should be. Premium features are reflected in the cost though, and weight is middling rather than light.
Verdict: Outstanding fit-fettling options with quality finishing details but that doesn’t come cheap
Clip-ons don’t get much more basic than these ones from Token, but then the price is pretty stripped down too. While really cheap bars tend to use a one-piece U-bend extension, the Tokens get separate shallow S-bend extensions with laser-etched length markers to allow synced set-up. They’re not slotted for gear cable routing but the chunky two-piece, front-bolted clamps keep them secure on rough roads. The extensions sit above the bars, which adds some height, but there are no height spacers. Relatively small curved oval arm rests with removable EVA pads offer four possible settings for slight adjustability. They’re sweaty though, and the tight curve may feel restrictive to some riders. The simplicity of these clip-ons means weight is impressively low, and the price is equally friendly.
Verdict: Basic and sweaty, but all the tri-bar you really need at a bargain price
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Tags: 3T, Ambrosio, Best Triathlon Gear Reviews, Bike Handlebar Reviews, ControlTech, Deda, Giant, Hot, One23, PRO, Profile Design, Ritchey, RSP, Syntace, Token, Tri-Bar Reviews, Triathlon Gear Reviews, Triathlon Plus Magazine, USE, Vision, Zipp