Ask the Coach – Adjusting to Aero

Ask the Coach – Adjusting to Aero

Emily wrote in recently –  I need advice on how to transition from road bike to tri bike. Do you have any suggestions for getting used to aero position & shifters.

Emily’s question affects almost all new triathletes. Unless you’ve already done some cycling Time Trials on a TT specific bike, then getting used to the aero positon does take some time and practice. The tri-specific bikes (which I’ll abbreviate as TT) have a steeper seat tube angle, pushing you further forward. Think of your road position simply rotating forwards. A really great and thorough explanation of bike fit is here on  Tri bikes also don’t have your normal front end that a road bike has with a nice curved handlebar with the “hoods and drops.” TT bikes have the aerobars where you rest your elbows with the shifters on the end and the brakes on separate “horns.” The differences between a road and triathlon bike are significant, as your weight is much more forward and your hands are not on the brakes and shifters at the same time. Making the switch does take some getting used to.

Here are a few guidelines when making the transition. Use your judgement and comfort level to progress though these steps at your own pace.

  • Make sure you are fit professionally so that you know you will be comfortable. If you aren’t fit right, the transition to this position will be more difficult. You can also ask that you get fit in a “less aggressive” position to start to make the aero transition easier.
  • Ride your first few rides on a trainer to adapt your body to the new position without risk of traffic
  • Make your first outdoor ride on a road that is as flat and straight as possible with few traffic stops. (My local road for this is Stadium Drive at the Air Force Academy. It’s about 5 mile stretch of road with a wide shoulder and not much traffic. One loop gives us 10 miles of good riding with very few interruptions.)
  • Start with your hands on the horns (where the brakes are) and get comfortable here.
  • Lift one hand off the handlebar and make sure you are stable. If you need to, start by lifting just and inch or so, put it back. Lift another couple inches, put it back, etc. Keep repeating with each hand individually so you are comfortable shifting your weight off the horns.
  • The next step is to reach and grab a shifter (and shift if you need to). At this point one hand will be on one horn and the other at the bar-end shifter. Repeat as needed with each hand to get comfortably stable.
  • Now you can put one arm in the “full aero” position while leaving the other on the horn. Repeat and switch until this is easy.
  • At this point you should be ready to go full aero. Rest one elbow on the elbow pad and get that arm situated aero. Then put the other arm in the aero position. Relax into this position and ride! Your prior practicing should now make it easy for you to quickly and safely come out of aero when you need to brake.
  • Be patient and practice, and soon you will be cruising down the roads in your aero position and enjoying an easier run off the bike!

Coach Nicole is the author of The Triathlete’s Guide to Race Week. She is also the founder and head coach for NEO Endurance Sports & Fitness, a Colorado-based endurance sport coaching company. She is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and also coaches triathlon for Team In Training. Learn more at You can contact Coach Nicole with your questions for the Ask the Coach column on facebooktwitter or via email at

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Nicole Odell


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