There is a conflict inherent in all time trial handlebar setups and the Easton Attack Time Trial Carbon Aero Bars are no exception. On the one side you have simplicity, light weight, and aerodynamics. On the other, you have flexibility and aerodynamics.
The Easton bars are firmly in the simplicity, lightweight, and aerodynamics side of the divide. The extensions clamp onto the bars via a collet system built into the top section of the bullhorns. Because it is integrated into the bars, the clamp is lighter and more aero. The base bar is also shaped for aerodynamics and this is made much easier when the bars don’t have to be shaped for an external clamp to fit on them.
Extensions that are integrated into base bars save a good bit of weight and they make extension setup really easy. But, they potentially will fit less well and that fit might cost you in both comfort and aerodynamics. It’s somewhere between unwise and impossible to set up the extensions on the Attack to put you into the “Praying Mantis” position, but that’s not terrible as it almost certainly isn’t UCI legal anymore. Building a handlebar setup from separate bullhorns and extensions means you can customize the fit so that you’re using exactly the base bar, the pad, the riser, the extension you want at whatever angle you want. But this is heavier and harder to set up and there might be some compatibility issues you didn’t anticipate.
On first impression, we really like what we see. The Attacks are fairly light at 575g. In comparison, most adjustable clip-on bars weigh in the 450-650g range, and many integrated systems are in the 600-800g range. And Easton is unlike many manufacturers in that they don’t specify their own stem with their bars in order for the warranty to be in force. Any 31.8mm diameter removable-clamp stem that has a clamp width of 45mm or less.
Much like using a tt specific saddle on your tt bike, where probably the smart thing to do is get your position close with your road saddle, then switch to the tt saddle for the final dial-in, it might be best to do your tt handlebars in a two-step process. Maybe start with what you have handy or cheap bars and extensions with an eye toward what you’d like to finish with. Futz with the bullhorn angle, the extension angle, the width, length, and bend of the extensions first. Then, when you think you have it in, then examine the integrated options and see whether your intended will work with what you’ve found fits. If it doesn’t, then examine other options.
While we love the simplicity of the integrated bars and appreciate the weight savings and love the lack of bulky clamps and the wind-tunnel-tuned look, we’re painfully aware that there’s a fairly narrow range of adjustment in terms of positioning the extensions. The base bar will, in order to be an aero benefit rather than a penalty, have to place the wing pretty close to level to the ground, which means you have almost no angle adjustment on your extensions. You better like where the bullhorns are and where they are relative to the extensions or you’ll never be happy with your position. You also are limited in terms of your armrest position and how wide the extensions are placed.
The good thing is that most integrated bars, and the Easton Attacks are no exception, are designed for the prevailing wisdom in bar positioning and the extensions are designed to work with the rest of the system. For example, while there are risers in the build kit, adding anything more than is included will result in your armrests being uncomfortably high. Raise you stem instead. And the drop from the extensions to the points of the bullhorns not only looks like it is a smooth controlled distance, it is. Easton designed this so you wouldn’t be putting any more body weight on your hands when on the horns.
The bars also have a certain amount of flexibility built in. Reach is adjustable from 279-338mm, as measured from the middle of the armrest fixing bolts. The armrests are 160mm apart, measured center-to-center, when moved to their narrowest position, and 220mm to their widest. They can be canted up to 13 degrees. And the armrest itself isn’t centered on the base bar; it can be forward or back 10mm.
The handlebars are 42cm wide, measured center-to-center. Narrower is certainly faster, but most people ask for 42cm wide bars. Since we normally ride 42s on the road, having 42cm bars for time trialing is instinctive. Our rationale is better breathing with the wider stance, and better cornering. But this might be a bit overblown on our part, though we could just as easily suggest the converse; that 38cm wide handlebars couldn’t be that much lighter or more aero and the wider tradeoff seems worth it.
This was our first set of S-bend extensions. In the past, we’ve used L-bend (aka ski-bend) and straight bars. We initially went with the L-bend because that’s all there was. Having our hands more or less straight from our wrists felt comfortable and powerful and there were times when we fooled ourselves into thinking that we were hiding our head behind our hands. With the advent of choices, we liked the straight bend, thinking we could get into a lower, more arrow-shaped position.
With both the ski-bend and straight bars, we found that we could adjust our position slightly by changing where our hand contacted the bars. This was a way to stretch the back, get a little more aero, a little more upright, and so on. We found these kinds of position adjustments a bit harder on the S-bends. The S-bend shape we also found more difficult for shifting. Unless our hand was already on top of the right shifter, any reach for the shifter resulted in shifting a minimum of two gears at a time, usually when we wanted one. It could have been that we needed to bring the bars back a bit, but we were already at the shortest length of the extension, unless we cut down the bars.
We also wanted a little more flexibility in the width of the pads. Moving them inward to the narrowest position allowed was pretty comfortable. Almost too comfortable. Since the time trial saw is “comfortable equals slow” we would have loved to have tried them narrower. Narrower, however, isn’t always faster—it seems like plenty of racers like their arms shrouding their legs.
When we first rode the Cervélo P3 , we found our knees were hitting the back of the armrests when we rode out of the saddle. It was annoying, but we could live with it. It was only after we raced a time trial on the steed that we learned the armrests are offset front to rear. We had them in the rearward position. If we had reversed them 180-degrees, we would have moved the rest 10mm forward, which would have been enough to eliminate the knee grazing we experienced.
In terms of the difference between resting our hands on the bullhorns and resting them on the extensions, we found the bullhorns in a better place than we expected. Our initial impression is that we wanted them lower, so we could be aero for the start and for the times we needed to corner. While we felt higher riding on the horns than we would have liked, it was fairly easy, and the times we were on the horns were either short, or when we were going on the slower side of things, so the aero “penalty” (if there was one) was pretty small, and it gave us a decent position for climbing. The tops weren’t comfortable for going uphill; neither was resting our hands on the armrests.
After training and racing on the Easton Attack Time Trial handlebars, we’re reconsidering our assumptions on simplicity vs. flexibility. While our preferences tend toward possibly a more extreme position than the bars allow, we were able to set up a comfortable position pretty quickly and ride it without problem. Don’t know if that’s because the Easton designers are really good at working with body dimensions or if we’re more adaptable than we like to believe. That’s a question for another day. For now, we’re happy with them.