History of the Aerobar
Used by triathletes as early as 1987, but the most notable first use of the Aerobar occurred with Greg LeMond in the (1989) Tour de France. He used Scott Aerobars which placed the elbow pads at or near shoulder width, forearms elevated at about 15 to 20 degrees, and hands in a fist position. Pioneered by aerodynamicist Boone Lennon, this was the birth of the modern aero position.
Several years later the cycling community witnessed another aero revolution. The Obree position—an aero position taken to the extreme—hands against the breast, completely eliminating the frontal cavity. It was also known to be incredibly hard to control. Following the ban of his first, controversial position. Graeme Obree returned with a new position, which mimicked that of “Superman”. With his arms completely extended in front of him, fists in the air, Obree had once again minimized his frontal surface area with his arms breaking the wind for his face and upper body.
Less than a year after Obree’s “superman” position was deemed illegal by cycling’s governing body, Jan Ullrich developed a variation on the position, where the bar extensions ran parallel to the ground at a slightly wider width than we typically see (usually just about shoulder width). This position brought his arms down to reach for the extensions, increasing his frontal cavity. By doing this, Ulrich was able to place his hands in a more aerodynamic position, covering the front of the extension and placing his hands in more aerofoil-like shape. An additional benefit was that it moved him to a position in front of the pedals, which allowed him to generate more power.
After nearly a decade, Floyd Landis brought us the next evolution, dubbed the Praying Mantis or ‘Praying Landis’. In this position the rider’s elbows are touching, completely closing the frontal cavity using the rider’s arms, which were tilted well past 15 degrees. Following its use in the Tour de France in 2006, the position was ruled to be illegal by the UCI.
Today’s Legal Modern position
Obviously, it’s impossible to mention all of the variations in position within the space of this article. Many other positions are employed, but the list below features six positions used by the most dominant time-trialists in our sport today:
The strong man position (Lance)
The crunched man position (Levi)
The “I wish I could do that” position (Zabriske)
The power monster position (Cancellera)
The tire toucher position (Cadel)
The British position (Bradley Wiggins)
Lance’s position places the rider a bit more upright, with arms slightly wider than other riders. The hands are placed in a fist position on a “hockey stick”-type extension or large “S”-bend extension.
Approximating the Praying Mantis mentioned above, Levi Leipheimer’s position is about as radical as a rider is able to get within the current UCI rules. This position places the rider with elbows touching and arms elevated upright. Given Levi’s (lack of) height, this slightly higher position allows him to achieve a completely closed frontal chest cavity.
David Zabriske’s position is similar to Jan Ullrich’s mentioned above. The extensions are placed perfectly flat. However, DZ’s arms don’t scoop the air up like Ullrich’s, but instead run parallel to the ground with hands reaching down to the aero extension. Note that his elbows are also very close together—almost touching—with his back perfectly flat. I’d suggest that this is likely the most aerodynamic position in the pro-peloton today.
The Cancellera position features a narrow position of the elbows—but not as narrow as Zabriske or Levi. Instead, Fabian runs his