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Tribar survey: all-in-ones
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 4th April 2007


Tags  Bontrager  |  Easton  |  HED  |  Oval  |  Planet-X  |  Profile  |  Tribar  |  USE


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Welcome to the world of aero-wizardry; a land where bar manufacturers are locked in a race to conjure up the lightest, fastest, best looking aero-bling ever seen. Mark Meadows makes use of his BSc in Sports Technology to make sense of the technology that lies beneath that glossy exterior.

When you’re looking for bars there are a few thing you need to look for: good aerodynamics and a low profile; adjustability so that you can dial in that perfect aero position; light weight; and price. There is always a trade-off between these factors and it down to you to decide which are more important to you. Here are seven of the coolest all-in-one carbon fibre offerings available at the moment, for full product details click on the pictures to go to the manufacturer websites.

Profile Design: CarbonX 1.5

Weight: 815g Price: £250.00 (US$399.00)

Profile CarbonX 1.5Used by many of the top pros last year including the now retired Peter Reid, these are bound to be another one of Profile’s success stories. The bars consist of an all-in-one carbon fibre base bar with an integral forged aluminium stem which are combined with the extremely popular S-bend bar extensions.

Profile have listened to their athletes who pointed out one of the big problems with the original ground breaking CarbonX was the armrests sat a couple of inches above the base bar. It was difficult to get down into a really aero position without dropping the whole unit down on the steerer tube - if you had any space left to go down. This version has an improved design which allows the arm rests to be positioned at base bar height which improves the position and the look of the bars.

If you’re going to shell-out for an uber-aero front end one of the features of many tribars nowadays is the option to route the brake and gear cables internally. The Profile CarbonX 1.5s come with small slots in the handle for the brake cables and corresponding slots in the base of the carbon base bar near the stem where the cables exit. The S-bend extensions have a similar system for the gear cables.

The bars are 41cm wide, measured centre-to-centre and the stem is 100mm in length (although we do understand that, like the previous model, a 120mm stem option will be available later this year). And you can have any colour bars you like... as long as it’s gloss carbon black.

Verdict: The weight isn’t great when compared to what else available and is due to the carbon-wrapped stem and handles of the base bar. This technique where an aluminium shell is used to add strength and then covered with a layer of carbon is quite common in components that need to be extremely strong but are difficult and costly to produce using only carbon fibre. The parts are very strong and look great, but can be slightly heavier.

Although the fixed stem length does reduce the chances of getting that perfect fit, the low profile arm rests; aerodynamic wind base bar and the price make these bars a great option for those looking to go all the way with a budget in mind.

Bontrager: Race XXX Lite Carbon Aerobar

Weight: 630g Price: £325.00 (US$699.00)

Bontrager XXX Lite aerobarsAs used by the Discovery Channel pro cycling team (formerly US Postal Service team), Bontrager have established themselves quickly as a major player in the bike components arena. Their latest all-in-one carbon offering definitely looks ‘the business’ and has been manufactured using high compression carbon for the main structure. Internal cable routing helps to reduce the amount of surface presented to the wind.

Although the arm rests can be adjusted fore, aft and sideways there is not as much room to movement as on some of the other bars, such as the Planet-X full carbons. The extensions can be pulled out or pushed in as well as rotated which all helps when trying to dial in that all-important yet super-elusive perfect position. Bontrager offer an S-bend extension set as an extra for those wanting to go with this form rather than the straight-out style that comes as standard and there’s even a limited edition “white” carbon version as well. (Note that there is no such thing as “white” carbon fibre – it’s either a thin layer of glass fibre on top of the carbon fibre or it’s a white gelcoat impregnated into the top layer.)

Verdict: Slightly on the heavy side but with some good aerodynamics. There is limited room for adjustment from the bar itself but the stem attachment system means that you can vary the length of stem and the angle of the bars which are key to getting that aero position. There is not a lot that really stands out about these bars, but they are well priced and are more than adequate.

Planet-X: Full Carbon TT Bar

Weight: 780g Price: £250.00

Planet X TT barsPlanet-X is well known for their excellent value components and bikes thanks to their zero-middleman policy – they deal directly with the manufacturers in the Far East. These bars are a shining example of their work. They have all the key features that one would look for in a set of triathlon bars and a couple of nice little extra ones.

The base bar is about as aero as you’re going to get and the fact that they’re straight allows for one of the outstanding features of this set of bars - the massive width adjustability. The clamps that attach the extension and arm rests to the base bar are shaped in such as way that they can be attached anywhere along the length of the base bar.

Verdict: The internal cable routing, awesome aerodynamics (which have been tested out using all manner of computer simulation) and soon-to-be-available range of extensions put these bars right in the mix. The weight isn’t bad either, considering the trade-off for adjustability. The factor which makes these bars stand out in a field of cutting-edge products is the value for money.

Oval Concepts: A921 JetStream

Weight: 750g Price: £450.00 (US$899.00)

Oval Concepts A921 JetStreamBrand new for 2007, these bars are the next version of the legendary super-light-weight A911 JetStream of a couple of years ago. And at a third of the original price they are sure to be everywhere this year.

Definitely one of the most well thought through designs on the market the A921 version is by far Swiss-based Oval Concepts’ tastiest offering. Co-designed by the Jordan / Midland / Skyper F1 team and Oval Concepts, there are aero features dripping off of every beautifully finished part. Oval Concepts claim that there are “241,920 incremental adjustments” ... hang on, take a second to take that in: that is nearly a quarter of a million different positions! Which is about as flexible as a pack of pipe cleaners, so there should be absolutely no excuse for not getting that perfect position on these beauties?

The base bars consist of two super thin layers of carbon, that help to add strength and improve the aerodynamic properties as well as adding a touch of that all-important bling factor. The handle section is designed to be rough enough that no tape is needed, and there are some ingenious protrusions, which are best described as ‘horns’ that prevent the rider’s hands from sliding off the bars under heavy braking.

The arm rests and extensions attach via an aerodynamically shaped, over-sized stem cap. The arm rests can be adjusted fore and aft as well as up and down. There are a range of extensions available including the traditional single-bend, double-bends and triple-bends; the S-bends; and the ultra-aggressive ‘as-used-by-Jan-Ulrich’ straight extensions.

Verdict: Definite bling factor and up there in the functionality stakes, although a bit on the dear side. The aerodynamics are great, although the over-sized stem cap that the arm rests and extensions attach through mean there is no ability to change the angle of these two key components.

HED: S-Bend Aerobar

Weight: 699g (with carbon extensions, and brake levers) Price: £350.00 (US$640.00)

HED S-bend aerobarsReleased in 2005, these bars are the result of an extensive design process that included 50 hours of wind tunnel testing and 100 hours of CAD work. HED pride themselves on producing technically sound products and this shows in their relatively small range of very successful products. John Cobb, the legendary bicycle aerodynamics guru, spent a lot of time working on these bars with Lance Armstrong for the 2004 Tour de France.

The bars are put together by hand using F1 grade carbon fibre in a unidirectional lay-up designed to reduce road vibrations and improve comfort levels. HED saw the brake levers as a place where valuable weight savings could be made, as well as improving the air flow around the area. The result is one of the only sets of bars that come with integrated brake levers. HED’s innovative 3rd Brake Lever - a world first - can be fitted to the S-Bend extensions and allow braking without getting coming out of the aero position... You might want to practice this a little before racing on it! (Editor’s note: HED claim this is a first but there have been extension brake levers before designed to do just this. Unfortunately, the old bloke’s grey cells have failed and he can’t remember who made them...

Verdict: A well thought through design that allows for ample adjustment. The weight is good and aerodynamics are excellent while the price is very reasonable. And if it’s good enough for Lance...

USE: Tula Bar

Weight: 495g (including levers) Price: £399.00

USE Tula barsIn addition to the cool name these bars are arguably the most technically advanced bars around. The first thing you notice are the horizontal brake levers which site just ahead of the tear-drop 3:1 profile carbon wings. The levers protrude from bullet-shaped ‘pods’ which also look extremely aerodynamic. My only concern at this point [which I will be able to clear up later in the month after I’ve road tested the Tula bars - can’t wait!] is how easy it is to brake and steer with wet hands.

The other massive advance that British based USE has incorporated into this design is the ball-and-socket-joint that attaches the arm rests to the base bar. These ‘rock and roll’ adapters, coupled with usual array of arm pad positions, let the rider have the bars in almost any position imaginable. All the cables are internally routed for complete aerodynamics and the bars are available in standard widths from 380mm to 440m.

USE claim that the aerodynamic savings made by the Tula account for as much as 15watts of power at 30mph. That is pretty significant and shows that money can buy time... but that is another story!

Verdict: Possibly the best combination of aerodynamics and weight available at the moment, and with some excellent adjustability with the arm rests. The only negative point would be the width of the extensions is fixed, but then I’m just being picky.

Easton: EC90 Attack TT Bar

Weight: 350g Price: £315.00

Easton EC90 Attack TT barsIn this sector there is always a trade-off between aerodynamics, weight and adjustability. These Easton bars demonstrate this phenomenon very well: the weight is incredible at 350g - 150g lighter than the next set of bars out there, which if you are one of the many weight-obsessed riders on the road (and I’m definitely one of them!) will be music to your ears. The down side is that the arm rests are the only parts that can be re-positioned as the extensions and base bar are effectively one piece. The bars are available with three different lengths of extension (small: 225mm, medium: 250mm, and large: 275mm) and are of the single-bend variety.

The aerodynamics, especially around the usually very busy centre are excellent due to there being no additional clamps or adjusting bolts. The 380mm overall width and the internally routed cable system also add to the overall aerodynamics.

Verdict: The amazing weight and great value probably out-weight the fixed extensions. Less working parts and potential for things to go wrong also make Easton’s all-in-ones an excellent contender.



ATUM22 Bespoke Titanium BikesMark Meadows has been a triathlete since 1993 and competed internationally between 1998 and 2001. He has a Sports Technology degree from Loughborough University and has designed a number of sporting products, including swimming improvement tool PT Paddles. Mark has spent time designing bikes in the Far East and currently designs bespoke titanium bikes with UK-based ATUM22.

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