Are Road Cycling Handlebars Aerodynamic?
February 24, 2015
That is a very good question. The industry would like to think so, but the bottom line is that handlebars are NOT aerodynamic, you are, or you should be. Let’s take a look at how this all got started shall we. Bike companies are always trying to improve how fast a human can move through space. They do this by tweeking the tubes of bikes, use different shaped spokes, cool pointy helmets, water bottle cages etc. All this to make you, the rider, cut through the air like a hot knife through butter. These can all add up to improved speed and reduced times, especially for racing, but they do not address the main factor in getting aero, and that is you, the rider.
When we look at how we are on the bike, there are 3 points of contact, the seat, pedals and handlebars.
What I have seen over the years are innovations in pedal technology for comfort and function (no improvements in aero here), and the seat just needs to be as comfy as possible. You know where I haven’t seen any work done? You guessed it, the handlebars. Why is that? All this wind tunnel testing to decrease the drag coefficient, did I mention they do most of this testing without a rider? But I digress. The last big change was when Greg LaMond used aero bars to win the Tour De France, he came out of nowhere on the final time trial to win by mere seconds. Was it his seat that helped him? Probably not. Pedals? Nope. It was his position on his, say it with me, handlebars. Although aero/triathlon/time trial bars do help greatly on relatively flat terrain with wind drag, they fall hopelessly short on climbing, especially prolonged climbs where you are grinding for long periods of time. That is do to the fact that your body is extended forward over the handlebars bringing your weight forward and off off your hips where downward force is sent to the pedals.
What’s the answer to this age old dilemma?
I’m glad you asked. The answer is to put the “rider” in a better aero position. More upright (counter intuitive I know, but true), hips and weight remain over the seat, hands and wrists in a biomechanically correct position. This all leads to better aerodynamics, comfort and performance. Now you can be apart of a revolution in improved technology and design and ride into the future with your head held high, well at least higher than you’re used to, oh ya, and a lot more comfortable. Did I mention the reduction of numbness in the hands and fingers because the pressure is spread across the whole width of your hand while you ride on the BP4 bend? My bad…Now go get yourself a pair! Just click this link.