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Aero drop bars have a flattened tops segment. This is the length of tube between the stem and the 'bends' where the bars curve forward. It is claimed that this makes the bars more aerodynamic as a smaller cross section is exposed to the wind. Please don't debate this here.

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What are disadvantages of such aero bars compared to comparable drop bars?

At present there are aero bars on the market that have a similar shape, price, material (carbon composite), weight to regular bars. The only significantly distinguishing feature is the flat aero section. Is there a good reason to prefer one over the other?

For comparison, here are some "regular" handlebars:

enter image description here

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4 Answers 4

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The shape can limit options for mounting equipment on the bar.

For example, this ENVE SES handlebar has a clamp area of 48 mm: enter image description here

This is probably enough to put a computer mount next to the stem, but very little else. For example, you'd have difficulty mounting lights (though there are probably stem-based solutions for that), while mounting clip-on aero-bars on this handlebar would probably be impossible.

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From my point of view there are few, if any disadvantages.

Holding all other things equal (price, reach, flare, etc), I prefer drop bars with aero "tops". This is because I find cable management to be easier as you route them along the bottom and completely out of the way. I also find the tops to be more comfortable when I'm spinning lightly and therefore have more weight on my hands.

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If the handle bar has a very flat and elongated profile, it may compromise grip on extended sections of rough terrain. In such situations you not only need good padding on the bar top, but you need to be able to wrap your whole hand around it in such a way that it won't want to slide off to the front.

If you've ever ridden the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, you'll know what I'm talking about.

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  • If it is too flat and elongated does that prevent wrapping in bar tape or is the leading edge too sharp for good grip?
    – gschenk
    Oct 22, 2022 at 12:03
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    A bit of both, probably. I'd expect the main problem to be the "sharpness" of the edges (both leading and trailing), but wrapping it in bar tape might then make the bar too big to grip comfortably (since these bars are usually designed to be used without tape on the flat section). Oct 23, 2022 at 17:21
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The disadvantages appear to be similar to those of aerobars (triathlon/TT bars):

  1. Inability to mount bike lights, although in this case it's just about finding a wide enough mounting system, versus also having to angle around aerobars that block the light. You could look into a stem mount bike light instead to overcome this, or if there's enough room for one bracket then getting a combo computer on top/light underneath bracket will work.
  2. Limits hand positions. On a TT bike, I may rest my hands on the pads for a short time, but it is not very secure. If you have small hands, this may create similar problems even without the pads in the way.
  3. No tape on the flat tops. This is only a problem if you like the cushioning of bar tape or aren't wearing gloves.
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    I have a light mounted under a head unit bracket. There is very limited choice of lights with high cut off that may be mounted hanging down. So, while I've a workaround this is a considerable disadvantage of non-round bars.
    – gschenk
    Oct 22, 2022 at 11:58
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    On point 3, I think it's merely a recommendation not to tape up the top of the handlebars (to maximize aero gains). You can tape them if you wish. No?
    – Weiwen Ng
    Oct 22, 2022 at 22:52
  • @WeiwenNg I think you’re correct there. Completely possible to tape the tops.
    – Paul H
    Oct 23, 2022 at 0:40
  • The reasoning I've heard for point #3 is to save roughly 5 grams worth of bar tape for those extra weight reduction speed gains.
    – MaplePanda
    Oct 23, 2022 at 1:10
  • SwissSide estimated the power delta for taped up tops vs not as 1.5W, speed not stated but probably 25-30 mph. youtu.be/JeVgf4B55OE
    – Weiwen Ng
    Oct 23, 2022 at 8:48

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