CYCLING AERO BARS - ARE THEY BETTER IN CROSS WIND?
The full question is, how much difference do integrated carbon cycling aerobars make in cross winds compared to standard extension poles and cups found on so many Tri and TT bikes? No matter where or when you ride, nor whether you're an Ironman™ triathlete or a road Time Trialist, you will encounter cross wind on a regular basis.
There is a well accepted understanding that the new generation of integrated carbon super aerobars reduce drag and help riders to go faster with the same or less energy input (watts). This is the typical benefit when riding with a wind direction that is perpendicular to the bike, such as a tail wind or block head wind.
But many triathletes and riders don't spend much time considering whether their bar and cockpit setup adds any value in cross wind, which is the most common wind direction. With cross wind there are two issues to consider:
- Aerodynamic efficiency = going fast
- Bike control = safety and fatigue)
Both are equally valid considerations but have markedly different effects on the rider. In very basic terms, aero drag is caused by a solid object interfering with airflow i.e. getting in the way. One way to reduce drag is to adjust the shape of the 'interfering object' so that air flows more efficiently over it. The other way is to remove the 'interfering object' entirely i.e. problem solved!
In the case of super aerobars such as our FastTT Tri and TT bars, their unique aero-optimised shape smoothes airflow across the entire length of the bar to reduce drag and help you ride faster/easier (independently tested to save approximately 16watts over standard cups and extension poles). They also remove a significant amount of the 'interfering object', which adds to aero efficiency. If you consider the photo sequence below you can see how significant the 'interfering object' is, and how much our aero bars reduce the profile at the front end of the bike, both critical in cross wind.
Standard cups and poles present a large side profile to the cross wind, with a significant gap visible between forearm and pole.
The gap causes air turbulence, disturbing the efficient flow of air and causing the front end of the bike to be less stable and more difficult to control.
This image shows our FastTT aero bars overlaid onto the bike. You can easily see how the bars hug the forearm closely, significantly reducing airflow disturbance.
The gap between the pole and forearm is very obvious now. This gap is effectively removed by the aero bars, reducing the side profile.
Once the cup and extension pole system is removed and replaced with FastTT aero bars, the efficient streamlining of the cockpit profile becomes very clear.
Air can flow smoothly around the forearm and aero bar, significantly reducing interference and power-sapping drag.
The highlighted section indicates how much of the 'interfering object' has been removed.
By eliminating the interference, the smoother airflow reduces front end instability and helps you to cut through cross winds more efficiently. In short, the bike is easier to ride and control.
So we've dealt with aero efficiency and control, but we also mentioned earlier how integrated aerobars can help to reduce fatigue. When you're riding a 180km Ironman™ bike leg you use a huge amount of energy just keeping the pedals turning at race pace, and you're generally accumulating large volumes of lactate.
Clearing lactate is key part of keeping the engine going at full speed. Our bodies use our muscle structure as a lactate sink, distributing lactate to fresh (and relaxed) muscles that can aid clearance. The arms and shoulder muscles play a big part in lactate clearance, so if you've been holding on with white knuckles in a cross wind, your tensed-up arms and shoulders can no longer be an effective lactate sink.
From the image sequence and the earlier paragraphs, you will be well aware that the new generation of integrated cycling aerobars like our FastTT models allow you to ride more relaxed due to the reduced effect of the cross wind. This allows your shoulders and arms to contribute more extensively to lactate clearance, as well as helping you to manage your fatigue more efficiently. All up, more speed with less effort!