It's probably cold right now and you are on your trainer or rollers. I'm also assuming that you are now on your way to the gym to begin some form of strength/stability training, so why not consider the following offer: let's go another mile per hour, with a lower heart rate under ideal circumstances. What's the catch? Simple, all you have to do is learn to pray.
Like religion, cycling should enhance and enrich your life and what could be a clearer path to enhancement than more speed? This spiritual boost has everything to do with the way you perch yourself on your bike. I'm going to provide a righteous measure of increased performance for the enlightened few who will heed the message, and practice to reinforce the technique. Keep that thought and it will motivate you through the long lull of winter.
Going Aero With Phantom Bars
As you know, air is the single biggest speed deterrent, so we need to learn what it takes to make us more slippery. While barreling into headwinds and light crosswind conditions, the best position is the classic Praying Mantis. If you think that finding that position is only accomplished with aero bars, keep reading.
The logical way to go faster is obviously to bolt on a pair of aero bars as a component on your time trial bike or even an ugly pair of clip-on bars to your road bike. But, the problem with adding aero bars is that it changes the dynamics of the machine. The elbow pads are positioned right about where the knees should be when climbing and trying to sprint with aero bars is just plain dangerous. That is one of the reasons why they are banned from road racing competition altogether. The challenge as we all know is to find the perfect mix of comfort with balanced aerodynamics to literally let "speed" happen. So here's my pitch: why not become aero without aero bars?
Buying Speed: The Mechanical Necessities
What does your road bike look like? Is the stem/bar combo buried with no spacers, or is the stem turned up, causing some of us purists to write you off as decidedly un-cool? Actually, in this case, un-cool is exactly what you want. When you are seeking an overall better aero position, getting a lower profile often means turning the stem up and adding a few spacers, assuming you haven't already trimmed the steering tube within a millimeter of its life.
Since aero bars are illegal in road racing we are limited to just how aero we can get on a standard road bike, right? Wrong. What if we work on improving core stabilization so that you can assume an aero position on a standard road bike without aero bars? Let's explore the possibilities, financial and otherwise.
For the sake of comfort, let's pick a pair of flat carbon bars. There are a few choices out there. I like my FSA, which I have positioned with the flat portion turned up about 35 degrees from level, with my Di2 hoods about 5 millimeters above the top of the bar. I like the tilt because I use the bars to brace my elbows.
Depending on your torso/arm length and reach you may want more or less tilt, but this is all about experimenting to find your balance. The bars may require extra padding for stabilization and comfort. I use nothing more than standard minimum slip Lizard skins for bar covering with no extra padding. Another option is to tape on a wider section of rubber to add extra width, which means better control, a seriously important consideration in this position. Remember, if you are able to make this position work, your only control of the bike comes from the elbow connection on the bars, so make sure you are comfortable before taking this set-up out to play!