Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Be Cool (or Get Shorty)

Puns aside, I've entered a new period in my cycling career. With a bigger focus on traditional cycling in my sights, (that is, less time on the TT bike) and a growing ominous feeling that in short (>10mi) technical, hilly tri's I would be better (in this case, better = faster) on my road bike, I've decided to purchase my first pair of "Shorty" ITU aerobars.
I admit, it was a tough step for me. The Triathlete in me Wants and Loves to be on my TT/Tri bike. The roadie in me hates to mar the sleek sexy lines of my road machine with aerobars... and yet, here I am. With an aerobar fitted Cannondale sitting beside me, fully intending to complete the transformation for my first sprint (adding the disc, deep front and *Gasp* Aero Lid to the mix)
It won't technically be the first time, I rode my CR-1 last year with a disc (only drop bars) and deep front due to some technical problems with my TT bikes (that should read as... they were disassembled in my living room floor.) but this will be my first true foray into a true "half" TT setup. I'll be honest, I'm pretty excited. They look pretty awesome (I mean, for what they are) and they fit great.
I went with these.
Not the Sexiest, the lightest, or the most adjustable. But I like them.
The Vision Mini Clip TT's.
First, the things I really like.
- The Elbow pads are extremely low profile. Now included in the box are risers if you don't want quite so deep a drop, but for those of us that do, many aerobar companies start out pretty high. Not these. They are low hugging the bars, and for that they get big points in my book.
- The "Bridge" really pulls everything together. Besides being handy for guys and gals who like to "Zabriskie" their hands, it makes lining up the distance between them fairly fool proof. That said, they are made to be rode fairly narrow, so it may not be for everybody, although I suppose the same could be said for basically anything when we're talking position.
Captain America riding with one hand on top of the other.
- The installation is idiot proof. 10 bolts (2 in each bracket, 2 in each arm rest, 2 in the bridge ends) with only the most minimal danger of over-tightening (and then realistically only if you are riding carbon drop bars) makes an "instructionless" installation a breeze. This is also a boon if, like me, you intend to be removing them fairly often.
- Finally, these guys are priced pretty competitively at $130ish new if you buy from your LBS, and hovering right under $100 if you are more inclined to take the internet/ebay route.

What's not to like? Well, considering you understand what you are buying, not a lot.

- No fore/aft adjustment is pretty common with vision bars, and these are no exception, so don't expect to dial in your pads.

- Being made to work under restrictions (ITU racing mainly) means they come in one length, 170mm. That's pretty short even for the smallest rider. If you don't intend to ride on top of the bridge (^above) then you may find your hands out in space. While this wasn't a deal breaker for me, a lot of triathletes may want something longer (and possibly with a deeper bend) to find optimal comfort.
So, how do they look? Glad you asked.
As you can see, they really earn the term "Mini-TT" bars. Just a tad shorter than the end of the brifters.
A good picture of the bridge... and of my dirty pain cave.
Obviously there are plenty of options when it comes to clip-on's, and I doubt you can go to far wrong with any of them. Some of the Profile (Design) bars have some neat options like the "flip up" arm pads (using the theory that when they pop up you aren't limiting your hand position, although in most tri's I don't think I would suggest you spend much of your time riding on top of the bar towards the stem... but whatever) and a bit more adjustability, but really, this is a solution to get you a low "aero" position on a road bike, not to make you the king of comfort.
I think I've linked to this page about a million times, but here it is once again, Bikeradar's "How Aero is Aero" to give some idea (and numbers) to what kind of improvements you could reasonably expect from adding some bars like this to your roadie.
Today is the first day of spring! Sadly our forecast is snow showers! :( So it's not quite time to move most of my riding outdoors yet. Fortunately, this has given me some time to work on my indoor roller skills!
Look mom, no hands! And I'm using a camera :)
I know, years later, I'm still too big of a wuss to move my rollers out of a doorway. Maybe someday.
Until next time, thanks for reading!
-Christopher Morelock

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