Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Trying Tri-bars

What can adding tri-bars do to your speed?

Whilst battling home in a headwind last weekend, I got thinking about a blogpost on what tactics to deploy in strong winds.  I was on the back 10 miles of a 70 mile ride in a notoriously exposed spot, where there is no shelter and I was suffering.  The five key things that I thought of were: -
  1. Zip everything up.
  2. Get rid of any extra weight in your bottles by tipping away water you won’t need .
  3. Have something to eat to ensure your energy stores are topped up.
  4. Get as aero as possible to reduce drag.
  5. Work with another rider wherever possible.

Regarding item (4), I thought I’d invest in a set of tri-bars for moments like this, in order to get in a more aero position when out on my own.  As luck would have it, on the forum of my cycling club someone was selling a decent set cheaply, so I bought them and fitted them during the week.

Time for a new position

I’ve never ridden in a time trial position before and heading out for an inaugural ride, getting a feel for the position occupied the first ten or so miles.  Bike handling is very different, with more of a pronounced side to side movement up front, pivoting around the elbows. 

Nevertheless, I soon got settled in and began to enjoy the new position.  I’d forgotten to charge my Garmin on this ride, but returning home things felt pretty quick, despite strong winds on the back 10 miles.

Monday night, I went and rode exactly the same route of 38 miles (60km), eager to understand what impact the new position would have on average speed.  Luckily conditions were very similar, humid with a good wind.

Returning home, the average moving speed was 19.7 mph (31.5km/h), which was around 1mph than my personal best over a similar route or an improvement of around 5%.  Clearly the position had a good impact.   Most importantly as I hit the headwind at the usual exposed place, I was able to get down on the bars and focus on pedalling through it, it felt much easier.  

I've been riding over four years now and never thought about tri-bars before, having done a hundred miles on them now, they feel familiar already.  A worthwhile investment if you want to give yourself an additional edge when you’re out, either in coping with wind or to improve your average speed.


  1. Interesting post...

    I tried tri-bars for a while, but found that to get a good position I needed to change my road bike settings so much that it affected my standard position. Also it limited space for computer and lights etc. And it affected where I could place my hands - especially during climbing.

    So in the end I took them off and accepted that cycling into the wind was a good strength workout!

    I am considering getting a TT bike for TT's and tri's, though.

  2. It would be worth mentioning the safety aspect. Full tri bars are banned in pretty much all competitive cycling.

    It's not just the lack of control you have when using tri bars. But they can also cause some pretty nasty injuries to other riders in a crash. So it's worth removing them if you are going to be riding in a group.

    They do make you faster though and are great fun to use under the right conditions.