Aero or Die!

January 2008

There are  four strategies that a cyclist can use to go faster: 1)train smart and harder; 2)optimize body position on the bike to increase biomechanical and aerodynamic efficiencies; 3)draft someone faster; 4) minimize the aerodynamic drag of the bicycle and its components.

Minimizing the drag of a bicycle and its components mostly is a matter of spending money or developing creative engineering solutions.   The goal is to minimize the aspect of the bicycle that must travel through the wind; one way to do this is to make this aspect as narrow as possible, or even to eliminate items altogether.

As the front of the bicycle sees the most wind, the greatest returns can be gained in this area.  While one can spend over $500 to purchase narrow profile aerobars, another—and not recommended—option might be to go as minimal as possible. 

Think of it this way: if a rider is going to spend most of his/her time on the aerobars, then why not eliminate the base bars altogether?


Eliminating the base bars reduces aerodynamic drag, which should result in a faster ride.  Below is a photo from the 2007 season that shows Graham Obree (former world record holder) using the “Aero or Die” position:


Why is it called the “Aero or Die” position?  Simple—turning, braking, and climbing become extremely difficult, if not at times dangerous.  And not unimportantly, some sports federations set a minimum handlebar width, usually 36cm, that effectively eliminates the removal of aero base bars.

Recommendation: you will see much greater gains by adjusting your training plan and getting a good bike fit that you’ll ever realize by adopting such an extreme equipment option.