A well set up pair of aero bars can give you the edge in your next race. We put 10 of the best clip ons to the test…

Aero bars

Buying aero clip bars – what to look for

Arm rests

Non-slip, soft materials are generally better, allowing you to get into position and stay there in the most comfort. Rough or thick padding can get a bit much in very hot weather.

Adjustability

Good adjustability results in the best riding position. Look for fore and aft adjustment for length, plus height and width adjustment for the best compromise between aero position and rider comfort.

Legality

Draft-legal triathlons demand a bridge between the bars and that clip-ons are no longer than the leading edge of your brake levers. For draft-illegal triathlons, no bridge is required, and the bars can be longer.

Weight

Adding an extra kilo to your bike’s bulk isn’t going to help you in your quest for a PB. However, a well set up pair of mid-price, mid-weight tri bars can be better than a lightweight set that cause discomfort.

Extensions

The bar extensions can come in a number of different variations – S-bend, straight, ski. What suits you best depends on your preferred tuck and whether the clamps are mounted above or below your handlebars.

Ease of fitting

If you’re fitting them for racing and training, but also use your bike for commuting and weekend rides, it goes without saying that you’ll need to fit and remove them with the minimum of fuss and effort.

How we test

Our testers have many years of experience in time trials and have tested scores of clip-on bars in the quest for maximum speed with optimum comfort. All the tri bars in this test were subjected to a sprint distance leathering, over a 20km course on a mixture of flat and rolling roads. Typically rough UK road surfaces were encountered allowing us to evaluate on the road comfort, while honing the reach and width available from each set gave us the opportunity to see how close each pair of bars could get us to the ideal aero position.

1. Zipp ALUMINA CLIP

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£133 ; zipp.com

Weight 500g

ZIPP’S ALL-ALLOY aero bar set-up features a 31.8mm bar clamp, the facility to run internal cable routing if your bars are staying put and an ergo-friendly S-bend in the extensions, which really helped our wrists. The top-mounting system allowed a wide range of adjustment and was made even more user-friendly by whopping great armrest pads. Beyond their size, they’re also some of the most comfortable we tested. Very clear measurement markings made it easy to dial in the correct amount of reach. This system is also available with below-bar mountings and extra shims can be bought to fine-tune the height of your set-up. For the money, these alloy bars give you an affordable entry into the usually high-end world of Zipp. They’re not the lightest, but they’re damned effective.

Aero bars: bolt on speed

2. Pro Missile TRI-BEND CLIP-ON

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£99.99 madison.co.uk

Weight 484g

THESE DRAFT-LEGAL bars have two width positions and four options for armrest positioning fore and aft, and of course feature a tri-specific extension. The clamps are attached to your handlebars with two simple 3mm bolts and stayed in place on iffy local roads with very little in the way of road vibration. The armrests are very nicely shaped cupping our forearms comfortably and well padded, too. They’re not terrifically heavy, either proving that alloy aerobars can often be lighter than carbon. Frustratingly although there are length markings on the extensions, they’re not numbered. This makes getting your set-up bang-on a bit of a bind. But all told these are a great set of clip-ons for the money.

Aero bars: bolt on speed

3. Profile Design T5+ CARBON AEROBAR

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£169.99 profile-design.com

Weight 584g

SIMPLY SET up, these carbon extensions fit snugly into alloy clamps. Just one 5mm bolt takes care of adjustment for length and rotation (up to 15°) and an internal wedge system allows quick and easy alterations to your position. Exceptionally comfortable armrests, they are wide and feature three choices of position fore and aft. The extensions themselves are on the useable side of extreme in that their shallow bend is a very decent compromise between the straight bar of, say, Ritchey’s Pro Silver extensions and a more natural S-bend. The T5’s carbon extensions are also ready to accept gear cables. On the road the extra weight of these aerobars wasn’t overly felt and we could get low on the extensions in comfort.

Aero bars: bolt on speed

4. Deda METAL BLAST AEROBAR

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£122.99 probikekit.co.uk

Weight 270g

OFFERING A 140mm extension from your handlebars, these mini bars won’t get you long and low, but they did allow us to get our head down easily and in relative comfort. Draft-legal, joined as they are by a stiff plastic bridge, they do offer slightly less control over the front end of the bike, which became noticeable on rougher, bumpier roads. The armrests aren’t so much arm rests as wrist rests because the very compact nature of the bars means you’ll not get much more than your upper forearm on the small foam pads. They’re deeply padded so do take your weight quite well. The Metal Blast bar also weighs very little compared to the other bars we tested, so that’s a definite bonus.

Aero bars: bolt on speed

5. Giant CONNECT SL U-TYPE BAR EXTENSIONS

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£119.99; CONNECT SL CLAMP £54.99 giant-bicycles.com

Weight 441g

THESE DRAFT-LEGAL carbon bars are joined at their ends by a sturdy alloy two-bolt clamp and are shaped very well to accommodate a comfortable grip in an aero tuck. Weight-wise, they’re comparable with many alloy bars, but the compact set-up of this kit is a bonus. However it is a bit of a struggle to get the single-bolt armrests set up initially, and you wouldn’t want to keep taking it off only to have to re-fit it every few weeks. The armrests are fairly comfortable and certainly grippy, which helped to keep us in position for as much of our 20km test route as possible (it only has left-hand corners, but it’s worth covering the brakes on the descents).

Aero bars: bolt on speed

6. Cinelli HEROES CLIP-ON BARS

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£91.99 wiggle.co.uk

Weight 478g

CINELLI’S SHORTY S-bend bars mount beneath your bike’s handlebars, putting your hands and wrists in a neutral position when riding on the extensions. Two bolts connect the extensions and armrests to your bars (one is much longer than the other, taking care of extension length adjustment as well as clamping of the handlebar top), making set-up and fine tuning a stress-free experience. A nylon bridge fixes the ends of the S-bends together making the Heroes draft-legal within minutes. The carbon armrests have two fore and aft positions and two width adjustments with deep, well-cushioned pads. Although the shortest possible setting on the extensions makes these almost as short as the Deda Metal Blast bars, we felt there was more control over the bike with this S-bend arrangement.

Aero bars: bolt on speed

7. Enve ROAD BAR CLIP-ON EXTENSIONS

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£300 enve.com; saddleback.co.uk

Weight 502g (uncut)

ENVE’S CLIP-ONS can be cut to either straight, S-bend or J-bend configurations with lines clearly showing you where to apply the hacksaw. Holes for gear cabling are found at two points along the extensions’ length, depending on what shape bars you want (bar-end plugs are also supplied, should you want to just use them as simple clip-ons). Although using the same method of fitting the extensions to the clamps as the Ritchey bars, these slotted into place faultlessly. Carbon-fibre throughout, they’ll weigh much less than our scales registered once cut to size. In use the pads were sumptuous, feel on the extensions silky yet grippy and because they’re at the same height as your handlebars, the whole set-up felt nicely aggressive.

Aero bars: bolt on speed

8. Specialized CLIP-ON CLAMP WITH PADS

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£80; S50 ALLOY EXTENSIONS £30 specializedconceptstore.co.uk

Weight 448g (uncut)

SPECIALIZED’S SIMPLE one-bolt, hinged clamp system is a joy to use (no more dropped bolts rolling across the garage floor). The separate armrest clamp allows a very wide range of adjustment for reach, while the rests themselves are six-way adjustable for a fine-tuned fit. The S-bend extensions are our favourite shape for comfort and these are easily cut down to size once you’re sure what length you require (this shaves a few grams off, too). At its heart, this set-up is pretty standard alloy fare with the ubiquitous 22.2mm diameter closure at the clamp, which will accept pretty much any aerobar on the market. But it all works very well and for pretty good money.

Aero bars: bolt on speed

9. Token ALLOY AERO EXTENSIONS

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£39.99 evanscycles.com 

Weight 422g

TOKEN’S ALLOY bars allow four armrest positions (two slightly further forward and more outward than the others), but a good amount of length, with clearly-marked distance in centimetres to allow fine-tuning. The basic foam armrests are surprisingly comfortable, offering a fairly grippy and soft contact point for forearm or wrist. However, they did get a little sweaty on the sunny day we tested them. The shallow S-bend extensions were  easy on the wrists and the very simple two-bolt, chunky clamp to the handlebars stayed secure on pitted roads. These were also some of the lightest bars we tested. The clincher? They’ll cost you one penny shy of £40. For that money, we can easily put up with sweaty arms.

Aero bars: bolt on speed

10. Ritchey PRO SILVER CLIP-ONS

Aero bars: bolt on speed

£58; PRO STRAIGHT EXTENSIONS £28 chainreactioncycles.com; paligap.cc

Weight 438g (uncut)

RITCHEY’S ALL-METAL set-up features three positions for width and employs the ‘measure twice, cut once’ approach to fit. The straight alloy extensions fit into a cylindrical sheath at the front of the clamp. Once you’ve ascertained the length you require, simply cut the extensions to length. In theory a perfect fit every time; in practice an exceedingly tight fit in the clamps which took us some time to get perfect without marking the bars. The armrests are wide, firm and shallow, offering only reasonable comfort. However these bars are at the affordable end of our test and offer a simple solution to getting aero. The nature of the design means your extensions are at the same height as your handlebars so if getting low is your aim, step this way.

Aero bars: bolt on speedAnd here’s our overall verdict across these ten aero bars…

Aero bars: bolt on speed

WORDS: Marc Abbott PHOTOS: Shutterstock, Stuart Collins

Check our more from our gear section for your next triathlon purchase.