Hands On the TriRig Alpha One

So as not to bury the lede, this is a review of TriRig’s Alpha One aerobar. Because it’s not simply a product, but the evolution of a product choice system, I’ll preface with some history that places the Alpha One in context.

The first time I ever thought about aero bars, really thought about them, was after reading an article on Slowtwitch about building a bike from the bars back (2008). This is the exact opposite of how I thought about it previously, but after reading the article it was obvious to me that this was the correct way of going about it. The bars support you. They define your position. They present you to the wind.

Two things struck me: 1st, how simple the idea was, choosing a fast aero bar that fit your coordinates and then choose a frame from there to meet the bars; 2nd, how the bike industry (at the time that article was written) didn't support this philosophy.

Now, let me take you back to 2009 and the Cervelo P4. Stack and Reach was a thing now. As I remember it, Cervelo produced a marketing photo of a beautiful black P4 with a black 3T Ventus bar and what looked like a one-off headset dust cap which mated beautifully and aesthetically with the frame and bars, and I knew I had to have one, and those exact bars. It was an integrated look which eventually became standard on bikes like the Trek Speed Concept and the Cervelo P5-6. Interestingly for this review, there was one slight inefficiency in the Speed Concept aerobar hardware, which was improved by an ingenious aftermarket product: a simple spacer that replaced extraneous Trek OEM hardware, and a company called TriRig was born.

But, back to that P4, I never did manage to get the stem of the Ventus to mate with the frame of the P4 like in that marketing photo, but I did get good results with the bike. In hindsight, that was inevitable what with the P4 being a very fast frame and the Ventus being a very fast bar. What was not easy was finding a comfortable fit, as the Ventus had nearly zero adjustability and thus began my series of hacks and position changes that eventually led me here, in fits and starts, to being a full time bike fitter and reviewing a product that I would have given anything for 10 years ago. I drilled extra holes in arm pad cups, I ordered spare bolts from Italian websites, I added “wide arm clamps”; I worried about structural stability as the spacers under the extensions got higher and higher and the ends of the extensions twisted and hoped my Loctite would hold.

Above all I hoped for a different bike. The Ventus was not adjustable, and this was the real reason you had to build a bike from the bar back: You needed to select the right frame to hit your position inside the small margin of error that the admittedly beautiful Ventus provided.

Meanwhile, the obviousness of the Trek Speed Concept front end solution, and one could draw a line between that, perhaps, and an aero brake and then an actual aero bar, the TriRig Alpha.

Then the Alpha became the Alpha X and now triathletes were cooking with gas, turning any frame into a superbike with well thought out front end configuration choices and storage and cable management. But something was still missing, although we didn’t know it. We tried to find it, producing fit charts and expanding the concept of stack and reach and airfoils on our round base bars, but it was elusive.

When I do a bike fit, I use a Retul dynamic fit bike, It is the easiest and most natural thing in the world. While the rider pedals – actually pedals – I turn a handwheel here and there and get feedback on-the-fly of what feels (to the rider) better or worse. Infinite changes, effortlessly. In two hours we can sample hundreds of positions and compare and contrast.

The thing is, bike fits evolve over the course of a season. Muscles are recruited or lie fallow, saddles slide back and forth and up and down slightly, pad widths become comfortable then uncomfortable and then comfortable again, lower back pain flares up and subsides, a new saddle allows hips to rotate forward and more reach is needed, if available. You need a little bit of easy-to-achieve adjustability in the bar, even after the fit has been dialed.

All of this, all of the spacers; the hacks; the one-off dust cover; the Loctite; the Dremel tool; the washers under the pads to get tilt; the fast or adjustable (pick one); is just my longwinded way of saying that something new has come along that has certainly grabbed my attention, both as a rider and a bike fitter. We’ve reached the logical conclusion of thinking about aerobars with this product and can directly trace its lineage to both the superbikes and dynamic fit bikes listed above.

This is my review of the TriRig Alpha One.

The TriRig Alpha One maintains all of the DNA of its ancestors: aero profile of the base bar, cable managing top cap, tiltable pads, big ergo pad holders. But it’s the how of it all that is so game changing yet so simple. You’ve probably already seen it. The Alpha One has a mono-riser popularized by the Cervelo P5X (and now it’s new P5 and P3X), just, the Alpha One’s Monopost elevates through the base bar and not through the frame's head tube (Cervelo’s method).

At first glance it’s a more aero way of raising the pads to a rider’s elbows, but really it’s much more than that. You loosen one bolt and raise or lower the mono-riser. Loosen two bolts and you change the tilt. Aero matched stem spacers are now only needed to mate the top of the stem with your top tube storage device of choice (per the image above). No more hacks; no more being locked into one position. Utility. But to be honest, this didn’t occur to me at first. I was more focused on the aerodynamic aspect of the bar, and not the functionality. I was seeing the Ventus still, and not through the prism of turning a standard bike into something like an ad hoc dynamic fit bike.

Unboxing the Alpha One continues the trend of companies in our milieu paying attention to packaging and presentation. It’s like unpacking an iPhone. Everything has its place in the efficiently packed Alpha One packaging. Bar here, aero matched stem spacers there, pads and pad holders there, the Dragonfly (the what?) there. Two nice touches are the Silca Allen included for wrenching and the extension end slotted grommets for cable management. The grit added to the paint of the pursuit bar where you grab it is another nice touch too. But the nicest touch of all isn’t even in the box, it’s the TriRig Alpha One fit guide.

This is not new – Slowtwitch has covered this before. But it really is the best part of the aerobar, for both a bike fitter and an athlete with an established fit. Choose your frame, enter the size, (do this here) and this is the way you build a bike from the bars back. The Alpha One solution is prescribed – Monopost height, stem spacer height, pad position fore and aft. The chart lists all the fit possibilities, the ranges of fits the bar can meet while you dial in your fit over the course of a season perhaps.

I’ve been looking at this chart for a long time and, despite having a dialed in P5-6 in my stable, the frame that I’ve been virtually mounting the bar to has always been the Cervelo P4. Through a lucky find on eBay, virtual mounting became a project bike and then the project bike serendipitously came to have an Alpha One on it and is the impetus for this review.

My TT position on my P5-6 was tunnel tested and race validated. Locked. Reasonably powerful, comfortable and relatively aerodynamic. It was simple to port this position, these pad stack and reach numbers over to my P4. Pad Stack 625mm, Pad Reach to back of pad 540mm. Tilt and extension stack would require slightly more complicated trigonometry but still easy: tilt of 15 degrees, extension stack of 145mm from back of pad to end of extension, not including shifters. I’d need 30 to 35 degree ski bend extensions tilted at 15 degrees to reproduce the near 50 degree bend of my P5 extensions.

Looking at the Fit Guide, I chose the 58cm P4 and found my stack, 625mm in the far right column, for max reach and a slammed stem, hitting 565mm to mid-pad in the “+20” position. Monopost at 3.5, no stem spacers. This Stack configuration is perfect, the back of the Alpha One stem cover lines up just right with my Torhans Bento X when slammed on the P4’s bearing. However, quick math to convert my back-of-Pad Reach with TriRig’s mid-Pad Reach shows a 30mm discrepancy. My alien Pad Reach of 540mm on my P5 was slightly too long for the Reach of the Alpha One on the P4, which is 510mm to back of pad. No worries... the Ergo Pad is 110mm long and so I decided to take measurements from the 30mm point and go from there... the Ergo Pad is longer than the pad on my P5 and had plenty of room. Extension choice would require some careful measuring and some quick trigonometry, but Pad Stack and Pad Reach were solved.

Now to the Dragonfly, the centerpiece of the Alpha One system. The Dragonfly mates to the mono-riser and provides the means for arm pads to mount and clamps onto your extensions. The Dragonfly is tiltable, up to 17.5 degrees and will require you to know your extension preference intimately as you’ll need to cut down standard sized ones to match your preferred extension length, stack, and angle. It has bolt holes for two different pad widths, as well as holes for a Between The Arms (BTA) bottle. The Dragonfly system is mounted simply with two bolts to the mono-riser, with tilt indicator on the side, and two more bolts clamp each extension. Finally, the Ergo Cups have plenty of holes for more width adjustment as well as fore and aft. I was able to use the 2nd generation Ergo Cups which can be canted and more accurately replicated my old position on my P5 and the Aduro aero bar system.

The new reference point to normalize my old Pad Reach and pad dimensions with the Alpha One and Ergo Cups required a quick stack adjustment on the Monopost, because when you tilt the Dragonfly to 15 degrees the Pad Stack slightly changes, I had to raise the system. I also gained 10mm of reach with the tilt, so I was only dealing with a 20mm difference between bikes at this point. I kept the saddle to extension tips distance the same for both bikes and normalized the Pad Stack to account for the tilt and 20mm of reach difference. The positions lined up.

During all of this, the aligning of fit coordinates between two bikes, the functionality of the Alpha One became evident. The pads had plenty of fore/aft and in/out adjustability to match both the reach and width of my pads on the other bike, the P5. Matching pad stack was a simple one-bolt adjustment. Extension Reach and Stack were a little trickier from a math perspective, but mechanically the exposed bolts (that is to say, not occluded) of the Dragonfly made things very simple as I moved extensions fore and aft in order to match the coordinates of the P5 there as well. The BTA mounting options allowed me to mount a bottle on the P4 similar to my P5, except tilted with the Dragonfly.

I do this all the time on my Retul bike for fit clients, and then again on their real bikes, but it takes much longer. Make a fine pad or extension change for the rider, better or worse, and continue the iterations. Getting the extensions just right is a mechanical challenge. I realized I was matching fit coordinates from another bike with the Alpha One faster and easier than I could do it on my fit bike. I think the whole build of the P4 took 20 minutes tops.

This trend continued, as I fit another client who chose to put an Alpha One on her QR PR4. A mortal bike turned into a superbike for sure, but as a fitter I was making the fine detail changes for her 2nd and 3rd follow-ups on her actual bike because it was easier than moving her back over to the Retul. Stack changes were super fast. In addition, pad stack changes did not affect reach, as the Monopost moves straight up and down and not at a 17 degree angle as when adjusting most bikes. I could take a strategic approach for this “new to triathlon" rider and gradually move her from the road position she was in to the TT position I wanted her in without any permanent steerer cuts or swapping stems for different reaches and angles.

The final piece of the puzzle for me was taking my new P4 project bike to the A2 Wind Tunnel in Mooresville, NC in order to compare and contrast the P4 to the P5. The results were about what I expected, but there were a few eye openers, which I will explain.

First of all, utility. The key to tunnel testing is to have a plan, a workflow, and also to have the branches and sequels and contingencies that might pop up mapped out ahead of time as well. Being efficient saves time and allows you to do extra runs and get extra data. The Alpha One showed its versatility in the first 15 minutes of my session as I called an audible and tested three different Stack positions instead of the one that was the exact match of my position on the P5. The changes took mere seconds... just loosening the one bolt on the mono-riser and setting the new Stack height and retightening. This turned out to be very useful as I learned some interesting things about my position at the various stack extremes that I tested. But more importantly I realized, as a fitter, how easy bike fitting and tunnel testing would be with an Alpha One equipped bike. Changes would be elementary, maximizing the number of runs in a riders two hour window. For this reason, Jim Manton at ERO in Los Angeles is conducting his velodrome testing on Alpha One equipped TriRig Omni bikes, making the most of a client’s time on the track and collecting as much useful data as possible.

Second, aerodynamics. TriRig has one set of data that shows that the original Alpha is on par with the 3T Ventus, making it one of the fastest aero bars on the market. The design and aero profile of the Alpha One is different, more like an Aduro aero bar than the Alpha X, and according to another set of TriRig data the Aduro and Alpha X were similar, so you could extrapolate that the Alpha One is very fast as well (aero data from TriRig is pending). This was borne out in my (admittedly cursory) wind tunnel testing. While not quite apples to apples, for bike alone testing, the P4 and P5 were within the margin of error at zero yaw, while the P5 eked out a slight advantage at yaw, as you might expect with the redesign work that Cervelo put into the frame tube shapes.

Finally aesthetics. The Alpha One in black looked beautiful on my black P4, both because of the color and how the back of the stem matched perfectly with my storage of choice. It looks fast; it looks the part. It also looked striking on my client’s mint green QR PR4, matching nicely with the storage, brakes, and cranks.

My only complaints are that I’d like a little more “cantability” for the Ergo Cups - more twist of the cups to get more of a cant angle, and that I had a heck of a time fitting the Di2 junction box and excess Di2 wiring inside the chamber of the Alpha One base bar. These are nitpicks; I’m very picky about my pad placement and the Di2 junction box and wiring eventually fit in after a lot of trial and error.

All in all, the TriRig Alpha One is an amazing piece of kit that, if used properly, can make any bike into a superbike while achieving any number of positions that the rider may choose. The Alpha One is easily adjustable, aerodynamic, and looks amazing. Finally, the Alpha One is an incredible tool for bike fitting, and perfectly adapted to and an individual over his or her fit progression, allowing unlimited Stack changes without having to swap stems, cut steerer tubes, or re-cut cables to the right length.

Here’s the TriRig Alpha One. This unit, which includes base (pursuit) bar without extensions is $999. Add extensions, you add $100. And the bundles (w/brakes) go up from there.