Clip-On Aerobar Comparison
A version of this article was originally
published in Triathlete Magazine
I’m intrigued by some of the newer clip-on options to replace my Syntace C2 aerobars. My short list is the Easton EC70 Carbon, the HED Flip Lite, the Zipp clip and the Vision Tech Carbon. What is your impression of these aerobars and what should I be thinking about beyond how they look and how much they weigh?
-Dan, via the internet
The aerodynamic loss from moving around and/or pulling out of your aerobars for comfort reasons is significantly more than the minor aerodynamic and weight differences between aerobar models. Based on this, the two most important considerations when switching aerobars are: 1) How the aerobar fits you. 2) How the aerobar fits your bike.
Of the aerobars you are considering, the EC70’s shape and design will be the most similar fit to your current Syntace. This being said, they are not an exact match and Easton‘s size 1-2cm longer from the back of the arm pad to the end of the extension than a comparatively sized Syntace. For this reason, some people go a size smaller or cut 1-2cm off the Easton bar to achieve the desired length. The arm pads on the EC70 rest only 0.5cm lower to the base bar than the C2, but the rear of the arm pads sit in an almost identical position to the base bar and stem as the C2 does. Thus, a C2 rider can usually switch to an Easton with minimal to no changes to other componentry (like the stem).
From a ride quality perspective, the cantilevered carbon design of the EC70 makes it one of the most vibration damp and forgiving aerobars available. While Easton ’s maximum arm pad width is about 5cm narrower than your C2, the EC70 has enough adjustability for most average size and smaller riders.
HED Flip Lite:
The Flip Lite is one of the lightest and most adjustable aerobars on the market in some regards, but is more limited in others. The Flip Lite is available with a traditional L-Bend extension or a lower hand and wrist position S-Bend extension. The length is almost infinitely adjustable by cutting the extension and wrist rotation angle is adjusted through a simple single pinch-bolt design. While being a bit more prone to rattling, the “flip” feature allows the rider to manually fold the arm pads off the top of the bar and is attractive to riders looking to gain access to the tops of the bars or those who want more knee room when standing. Unlike its integrated brother, the Flip Lite’s arm pads do not adjust very wide (about 10cm narrower than the C2 at its widest); they tend to work best for smaller riders or those who ride with a tighter elbow width positions. The Flip Lite comes with low profile firm rubber arm pads and some riders choose to replace these with a more cushioned Syntace or Profile Design pad.
Without changing stems, and with the armrests in their most rearward positions, the Flip Lite is about 1cm further forward of the C2 and the height of the arm pad will be 2-3cm lower (depending on risers). A shorter and significantly taller stem (or more stack spacers) will be required to maintain your current position when going from a moderately tall bar like the C2 to one of the lowest like a HED. The design of the mounting hardware on the Flip Lite has very tight tolerances and requires a bar that is a true 26.0 or 31.8 diameter to minimize the likelihood of slipping.
Zipp Vuka Clip:
One of the newest players, the Vuka Clip also uses interchangeable extension shape options (straight, traditional L/ski-tip or S-bend ) that are cut to the desired length. A unique collet system allows the rotational angle of the extensions to be adjusted for comfort and the arm pads offer a moderate to narrow range of width adjustability (7cm narrower than the C2’s widest setting). The Vuka arm pads have 1cm of fore/aft adjustability and mount 1-2cm ahead of the C2 and a little over 0.5cm lower. A shorter and slightly taller stem will be needed with the Vuka if you want to preserve your current position. (Note: Zipp’s integrated Vuka one-piece bar is another 1cm lower than the Vuka Clip.)
Like the HED, the hardware of the Zipp is minimalist and a non-carbon base bar is currently recommended. Zipp is working on some hardware modifications for the Vuka Clip to minimize compatibility issues.
Vision Clip-Ons are popular original equipment on many stock bikes because of their reasonable weight, aerodynamic appearance and relatively low price. Vision Clip-Ons are available in aluminum and carbon in a traditional bend, as well as a S-bend shape that Vision calls “Racing”. Like the HED and Zipp, the Vision traditional shape extension has less of an upward tilt than the Syntace or Easton and is a good shape for those riders who like a hand position in-between a S-Bend and what is found on the C2. The Vision arm pads are deeper than average and adjust almost as wide as the Syntace. This being said, the pads on a Vision bar are not adjustable fore/aft and are mounted 2cm further forward than the C2. This means that you will either need to use a smaller aerobar size than your Syntace (sometimes requiring more arm and shoulder muscle activation to support your weight further up your forearm), or you will need a 2cm shorter stem to use a similar length bar. Vision bars, like HED, are low; even with the tallest riser kit, you will need 2cm more stem height to maintain the same arm pad height as your C2.
No aerobar fits all riders and bikes optimally. If none of these options sound optimal, do not fret – some of the proven standards (like the C2 or Profile Design CarbonStryke) might not be brand new, but still work very well for a wide variety of riders and frames. Regardless of what direction you take, a qualified technician who works regularly with triathletes and time trialists can help explain what base bars and stems are compatible with the models you are considering, as well as how well they will work with your frame and riding position.
Enjoy the ride and train hard and smart!
originally published April 2007/Copyright © 2007