Sunday, April 21, 2013

To tri-bar or not to tri-bar? - that is the question

When I bought my racing bike through the bike to work scheme, I had 50 euro left over. The bike shop offered to give me a voucher for the unused money, but I was keen to spend it on some accessory. I asked the shop what I could get for 50 euro and I finally decided on getting tri-bars.

Tri-bars are extensions to the handlebars on a bike which allows the cyclist to take on a more aerodynamic position. They are called tri-bars because they are normally only used by participants in either a triathlon or an individual time trial.

The advantages of the tri-bar are:

  • The position of the cyclist is more aerodynamic so it is possible to cycle faster and expend less effort.
  • While using the tri-bars the cyclist will normally rest their elbows on soft pads which eliminates all strain on your arms or back.
  • You look really cool when using your tri-bars (this was probably the main motivation for me to purchase the tri-bars),
However, the tri-bars also have some dis-advantages:
  • When your hands are on the tri-bars they are quite some distance from the brakes, so sudden braking is not possible. Hence they cannot be used in traffic or when cycling in a group.
  • You have minimal steering control while using the tri-bars so they can only be used on straight road. In fact it is not even feasible to swerve to avoid pot holes while using the bars so they can't be used on poor road surfaces.
  • While it is more efficient to cycle with tri-bars, it takes some practice to get used to the different cycling position.
  • The tri-bars use up some space on the handlebars which reduces the space for attaching other accessories. 
When I initially started cycling on my new bike, I found that I hardly ever used the tri-bars and so I decided to remove them. However, when I started training for a triathlon last year I re-attached them and decided to make a concerted effort to learn how to use them. I still find that I don't use the bars very often, but I think that it is still worth having them because they don't get in the way very much when not being used.

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