You’ll need hands on the hoods for tricky descents, but the majority of your bike time should be down on the aero bars.
Are you struggling to work out the best way to use your aero bars for maximum effect?
Your default option should be to get down on the aero bars. Use them unless there’s a compelling reason not to.
The vast majority of the drag working against you on the bike – 70 or even 80% in some cases – comes from you rather than from the bike, so getting into an efficient riding position is vital.
Using aero bars might save you a couple of minutes during the bike leg of a standard-distance triathlon (it’ll vary according to a whole load of different factors), so you’ll want to use them as much as possible.
The fact is, though, that you can’t be on the aero bars 100% of the time. You need to move your hands for braking, for example, and if you have clip-on aero bars you’ll be moving your hands when you want to change gear too.
At other times you’ll want to move your hands to the handlebars for more control. The temptation is to come off your aero bars for every bend and slight descent, but it’s not always necessary. Yes, if safety is an issue then you need to get your hands back on the hoods and covering the brakes, but you can take some bends and descents while still on the extensions.
Only you can make that judgement, but practicing in training will give you the confidence you need to stay down on the aero bars in a wider set of situations. Gradually push outside your comfort zone by repeatedly riding a tricky section of road while on the aero bars and you’ll be surprised at what you can manage.
The same is true of windy conditions. Sometimes you’ll feel more stable in a crosswind with your hands on the handlebars but, again, using your aero bars in training will help develop your skills.
When it comes to climbing, there’s less of an aero gain when you’re down on the extensions, but it all counts. By all means get out of the saddle occasionally if you need to on the really steep stuff, but always be looking to get back into your aero position as soon as conditions allow you to.