Two new aerobars alit on the triathlon scene this month (one just today), and they?re covered here together to illustrate common elements that point the way forward in aerobar design.
To be clear, there are differences. The TriRig Alpha One is more polished, and so is its launch presentation (the bar debuted to the public today). The Culprit Covert Op is Indiegogo funded (ongoing now, but nearing the end of its run) and the Culprit system you commit to now is available the first half of next year. The Alpha One will cost you $999, and the Covert Op, if you buy the stem and the aerobar, is $150, or $216 with carbon extensions (plus shipping from Taiwan, where Culprit is located).
These two bars sit at the opposite ends of price spectrum, obviously, and that?s the most strident difference. But the designers of each had certain imperatives in mind.
Profile Design started it with the Aeria Ultimate. See that link it? Click it, foo! (Then come back.) This aerobar does just about everything these two new bars do, including providing a stem that integrates nicely with the bike and the aerobar, making a mortal bike look and taste and feel like a superbike (and usually with more adjustability than superbike aerobars). You put the Aeria Ultimate on a P3 and you aren?t giving much up on any bike of any price.
If you look at the stem on the Aeria Ultimate you see some pretty similar styling with the Culprit stem, as well as with the Alpha One fully integrated bar. All three systems are great at hiding cables or electronic wires as well as (particularly with Culprit?s system, a schematic pictured here) Di2 junction boxes. They all do a pretty good job of acting as headset dust covers, so they mount flat on the head tube.
All of these bars share another common element: tilt. This is particularly important for integrated bars that have the pursuit bar as part of the system, because until the Aeria Ultimate there precious few integrated bars that allowed the pad/extension to rotate independent of the pursuit bar. Yes, Trek/Bontrager offered this, but it was pretty laborious getting that done. These newer bars (like the Alpha One below) do so easily.
The Culprit is not an integrated system, so of course you just loosen the pair of bolts that clamp the aerobar to the pursuit bar and rotate. But Culprit seems to have given riders a second, one-bolt option making that chore a bit easier.
What is so hard about making armrests comfortable? I don?t know. Seems pretty elemental to the design. It is nevertheless curious how many aerobar companies seem not to care about this, either in the shape and cushion of the armrest and pad, or the lack of width adjustment (not allowing the pads to go wide or narrow enough), or in the rotation of the pads (allowing a wide pad placement with arms and hands trending toward the centerline), or if they give you all of that you pay a penalty in front hydration system clearance or in the strength of the structure.
First Profile Design, with its J4 and then J5 brackets and F35 and then F40 armrests, got that job adequately done. Now the TriRig and Culprit bars seem to have gotten that message. TriRig?s Alpha X was pretty comfortable, but if you look at the shape of both the Alpha One and the Culprit Covert Op, I think they?re similar for a reason.
The Aeria Ultimate and the Zipp Vuka set the standard, both for range (fore/aft, in/out, up/down) but for the fine increments. Contrast this with superbikes have 3 positions, either fore/aft or up/down). Both the Alpha One and the Covert Op give the rider superior adjustability, often with enough ease so that a rider can make an adjustment on the road. The Culprit bar gets a lot of the fore/aft through not only the pad range but 4 different stem lengths.
The Alpha One borrows the aero seat post motif that Enve used when it built the bar for the Cervelo P5X. This kind of up/down movement makes it supremely easy to adjust the height of the pads, and the Alpha One?s set screw is more accessible than the Enve?s on its bar.
The one area where the Culprit bar is not quite world beating is in lowness. Nowadays getting tall enough is pretty routine with the good bars now coming onto the market, and 160mm or more above the headset top bearing in the vertical plane, with a horizontally-aspected stem, and no headset or stem spacers, is a reasonable expectation. The Culprit bar does this. But the aerobar?s low adjustment, from bar bore to pad top, is about 60mm (which is quite standard). It would be nice if it was lower.
That said, the Culprit?s stem is very low profile, at 16mm of height from head tube top to bar bore, and that is about half the height of a 17? (parallel to the horizon) stem with a slammed, 5mm headset dust cover. That brings the Culprit?s aerobar pads a centimeter-and-a-half lower than on a standard bike.
In fact, that Culprit stem is special, at least in the images I?m seeing. That low height, with the cable routing, and the hidden Di2 junction boxes, might make the stem itself a very cool, low-cost option for those who already have everything needed except a little lowness and more discrete cabling. That stem is only $60 as of right now, the Indiegogo price, if I understand correctly, and comes in 4 lengths from 90mm to 120mm.
TriRig is the king of ?lowness? in its bars, to the point where I?ve often written that for some riders the first choice is the bar, with the only available choice a TriRig, and then you decide which bike you want behind it. This is due to the need for lowness (if you need it and you can?t get it, this bar is where you get it).
The way I understand this bar is that the minimum height from the headset top bearing to the pad is 55mm. Now, you might say that isn?t so low, many bars are in that 55mm to 60mm range. No. That?s from the pursuit bar center (bar bore). This is from the headset top bearing. So, you add 30mm or so to that typical 60mm pad height and what you get from a typical bar (with a slammed 17? stem) is 90mm of pad height from the top bearing. This bar is 55mm from the frame, and in comparison The Culprit?s bar is 59.5mm + 16mm (if you use Culprit?s stem) = 75mm of height, i.e., the Culprit?s bar + stem is reasonably low, the TriRig Alpha One is class leading low.
Let me say one more thing about this bike and its lowness. In the prior iteration, the Alpha X, to achieve this low position you had to resort to the ?undermount? motif, which messed with the ergonomics of the pad-to-bar relationship. As well as I can tell you don?t need to do this with the Alpha One. This is a major plus.
The TriRig video of its new bar is worth a look:
Extension ergonomics and adjustment
Both companies appear to make extensions that are ergonomic. TriRig offers a number of extensions, some of which I like. Culprit offers one extension, and it?s my favorite extension shape.
One thing Profile Design has it over everyone is how easy that extension length adjustment (and replacement) is. Its one-bolt wedge fixing is unparalleled. Certainly the extensions on these bars overviewed here are not cumbersome to adjust. I?m just giving credit where it?s due.
May I digress? For a moment? To talk about my favorite subject? Tools!
Can you indulge me? I note one more thing on that Culprit Indiegogo effort. It?s a toolbag. That has everything!
I haven?t actually got my hands on either of the aerobars that I?m writing about today. But I do have this toolkit. It?s the saddle bag, of course, and you velcro a spare tube (or two) to the outside. It?s got both a mini ratchet and a torque wrench with hex bits from 2mm to 8mm, and also Torx from T10 to T25, and other bits as well. It has a CO2 inflator, a patch kit w/6 patches, a chain tool, spoke wrenches, tire levers, a place for CO2 cartridges and then a holder for credit cards, license and so forth.
The Indiegogo price is $65. Itks the best thing I?ve seen all month.
Letks put a coda on these aerobars
For what you pay for a TriRig Alpha One you can outfit a size run of bikes with the Culprit Covert Op, though this isn?t quite fair because you also get a (very aero, and UCI legal) carbon pursuit bar as part of the TriRig system (you provide your own pursuit bar for the Culprit). These two bars are not designed to be competitors.
But they both share new thinking as discussed above. They each give you less reason to buy a superbike. In fact, let me ask you this: What would you rather have? A Felt IA superbike (IA 1 thru 4) with the fully integrated bar and stem, or a Felt IAx (10 thru 16) with the Alpha One? Further, TriRig sells its aerobar in 3 configs: standalone; with one TriRig Omega brake, or with two brakes. If that isn?t designed to appeal to the IAx owner, I?ll eat my hat (as well as the QR PR-series owner, the Orbea Ordu OMP owner, and so on).
These bars super your mortal bike with adjustability no superbike can offer, with the exception of Trek?s Speed Concept, but even then the only way Trek has all that adjustability is by changing out its 6 stems. If you limit the SC to one stem, then I?m back to believing either of these two bars out-adjusts even the SC.
Finally, I must mention that Mr. Attention To Detail Nick Salazar has (of course) debuted his Alpha One aerobar today with his fit guide updated to this new aerobar. Please look this over, and, hey! Aerobar companies! You guys look it over too. One of my pet themes is ?pathway to purchase,? as in, do you provide that pathway for your product? It always amazes me that this one guy with his small operation out-pathways billion dollar companies.
Read about TriRig's Alpha One on our Reader Forum, and also about how master aero fitter Jim Manton will use the Alpha One in his business. Also on our Reader Forum is a discussion of the Culprit Covert Op and Saddle Tool Bag.
[Images: All TriRig images are provided by TriRig; Culprit from Culprit; except for the toolbag, which is shot by me on the new desk I'm building for my lovely wife.]