Clip-On Comfort: Turn Your Road Bike Into A Tri Bike

  • By Aaron Hersh & Mat Steinmetz
  • Published June 22, 2012

The most obvious difference between road and triathlon positions is the angle of the rider’s torso. A tri bike naturally lays the upper body closer to horizontal. Throw a pair of clip-on aerobars on a road bike and you can easily mimic that part of a triathlon position, but you will quickly find that optimising a road bike for triathlon isn’t that simple. Each individual has distinctly different ideal road and triathlon positions, so setting a road bike for triathlon cycling compromises one or both of the rider’s optimal positions. Although it isn’t perfect, a road bike with clip-on aerobars can be a comfortable, fast race machine if set up properly.

Dedicated Tri Conversion
Pushing the saddle forward as far as possible is the first geometric change when setting a road bike for a triathlon position. When the saddle goes forward, it allows the rider’s body to rotate downward without discomfort, meaning the bars can also be lowered to create a more aerodynamic body position. A road bike is limited in how well it can be set up for this efficient and powerful position style, but swapping the standard seat post for a forward-oriented option helps adapt road frames to a dedicated triathlon position.

Which bar?
Adjustable aerobars with longer extensions and shorter stack height, similar to those on tri bikes, are the best choice for a fully converted road bike.

1. Bontrager Race X Lite Carbon Aerobar: If you want to fully commit to a triathlon position, the Race X Lite replaces the standard road bar. It is nearly infinitely adjustable and boasts exceptionally comfortable grip positions. £499.99,
2. Hed Clip-Lite Extension: length and pad position can both be adjusted, and are well suited to a tri-specific position. The pads can rotate up to free the hand position on the top of the bar. £225,

Hybrid Setup
When configuring a bike to be used for both road and triathlon cycling, the saddle shouldn’t be as far forward as the dedicated setup, although pushing it to the front of the rails or using a zero-offset post is still necessary. Aerobars capable of drawing back toward the rider and positioning the pads high above the basebar help overcome the relatively long distance from saddle to handlebar.

Which bar?
Aerobars that can be trimmed to a short length are the best fit for an all-purpose bike.

3. Profile Design Jammer GT: The pads—positioned above the road bar—can slide back along the extensions toward the rider. £99.99,
4. Vision TriMax Carbon Clip-On CSI: Pads are lifted far above the bar to match an upright position. They can’t come back as far as some, however. The J-bend extensions can be cut substantially. £229.99,

The Catch
Shifting weight forward to improve a bike’s triathlon position diminishes handling characteristics and your ability to ride out of the saddle, and impairs the bike’s original road cycling position. Finding a comfortable tri position on a road bike is difficult, but a professional fit helps tremendously.

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