In last week’s coverage of Victor Campenaerts’ hour record, notable were his aerobars. This custom support is the Speedbar, and I traded some emails with Speedbar’s Edwin van Vugt. The aero claims need to be verified. (I have my questions). Regardless, I like the concept of the bars, for their aero performance but more so for the capacity of this design to enhance comfort through expanding the surface across which one’s weight can be displaced.
The price of the bars mean that no one currently making aerobars should be worried that Speedbar will impact sales. However, certain design features ought to inform future aerobar design.
SLOWTWITCH: How long has your product been around?
SPEEDBAR: The idea started at the Rio Olympics. Rohan Dennis broke his TT bar during his race. At that moment I contacted his mechanic. We have a business in repairing and modifying carbon bicycle equipment. At the time some World Tour teams already used our knowledge to do small modifications on their equipment.
The idea was to make a more rigid construction. Most TT setups consist of a lot of bonded connections, spacers, clamps and so on.
By making a one-piece construction from the base bar to the shifters, we would get rid of all the connections. Rohan also requested the armpads to be longer than usual so it would give him more support and control during crosswinds. After two weeks we finished the bars and Rohan tested them during a training camp. The bar we made was lighter, 3 times stiffer than the basic setup and gave him more support. But the biggest advantage was that he could maintain the aero position much easier and thereby much longer.
The downside was: The bar was made by us, and not by BMC’s own Tech Lab. He was allowed to use them once during the national championships. Which he won. After that the team should come with their own version. But ‘til now, they never did.
This bar was seen by Victor Campenaerts. Victor always goes for the marginal gains. When he moved to Lotto Soudal, he got the freedom to experiment with this. In the meantime our idea evolved and we wanted the bar to exactly follow the contour of the lower arm. So for Victor we made a mold of his lower arms. This mold we used to make the armpads that were extended over the entire length of the bar.
When his set of bars were ready, we had the opportunity to test them in the wind tunnel. The outcome really surprised us. We gained more than 10 Watts at 50k per hour at 0 degrees wind angle. At 10 degrees wind angle it was even 23 Watts!
At that point we knew we had the next best thing in cycling in our hands, and Speedbar was born.
ST: How much does it cost and what is the process for getting one built?
SB: The price for a pair of Speedbars is 2999 Euros. That’s a lot of money for “just an aerobar” but, if you realize how many watts you save with them, it’s the best investment you can make to get faster.
All Speedbars we make are custom for each person and his bike. It all starts by making a mold of the lower arm. This mold we use to make the armpads. These armpads run from the elbow to the wrist. So the entire lower arm is supported. Inside the armpad we make a carbon fiber tube to house the shifting cables. All is laminated into a one-piece shell the we than place on the basebar. Positioning the Speedbar on the base bar is also custom: The stack, reach, tilt, and angle are all up to the client’s requirements.
The entire process takes about two weeks.
ST: You’ve no doubt seen Patrick Lange’s aerobar system. I don’t know if his is commercially available. Is it? Or, do you have competitors that you know of?
SB: Yes I’ve seen them. But as far as I know, they are not available to the public. For UCI races that is a requirement. Team Sky also uses 3D-printed titanium custom bars. They are on their website, but no one yet has succeed in purchasing them. So as far as I know, we are the only brand in the world that makes custom made Speedbars.
ST: I’ve heard of a number of big name performers in the tri world who will be using your bars. But you’re in a better position to tell us. Who should we see on your bars?
SB: Ha! You will see! It’s correct we are making Speedbars at this very moment for former – and future! – Ironman champions, and time trial world champions. In most cases our logo will be on them, but in some not, due to sponsor deals. But in the end, you will very easily see the difference between a basic setup and our custom Speedbars.
[Author's Note: I know nothing about CarbonWasp, except what you see in this link. I mention this just as an additional data point on whether there are similar systems.]