TranzX triathlon bar review
There's something in the middle
To improve riding comfort on long rides I have been looking at various options to adjust my seating position. The most obvious solution would be to add bar ends to the handlebar, which relieves the wrists, but does not affect the seating position that much.
With this in mind I started looking into "aero bars", as used by triathlon riders. They allow the rider to ride with arms facing forward with elbows resting near the handlebar. This requires the rider to bend forward and reduces amount of air resistance, thus allowing a higher speed with the same effort. Downside is less precise steering, making it less usable for group rides in close formation.
There are many different aero bars on the market, many of them with a price upwards of 80 euros. Not willing to spend that much I looked for alternatives. Even sold second hand prices were absurd, so I diverted to some online shopping in China.
Ordering from China
There was not much variety offered in the Chinese only shops, only two models seemed very common. A cheap, non adjustable single piece bar with foam covered grip, the same model hat is sold in Europe for less than 20 euros. The second one was a model that I had never seen before, but looked more promising.
The bars that triatlon athletes use are minimalist, light weight and face straight forward, requiring the rider to bend wrists to hold on to them. Some of the more ergonomic models have "J bend" which makes the grip face upward a bit.
Closer inspection of the pictures revealed that the bar was labeled "TranzX", which lead me to the page of a Taiwanese manufacturer, where the cheap, non adjustable model was listed as JD-802, and the other one as JD-808. This manufacturer also has five other models, but I could not find those for sale anywhere.
In Europe The JD-808 is sold for over 55 euros, while you can buy something that looks exactly the same straight from AliExpress for less than 20 euros, including shipping.
The JD-808 has a double bend, which made me fear that it would go up too much. However, looking closer it became obvious that this is because the tubes are clamped down below the handlebar, while all others clamp above the handlebar, which requires them to go up further.
Since I ordered it directly from China mine came without any fancy packaging or instructions, just some plastic bags with the parts in it. Eight shims were included to fit it on two different sizes of handlebars.
Before being tightened the shims easily fell out, making it a bit tricky to install the tribar. Although normally not required, the shape of my handlebar required me to remove the arm holders to fit the tribar.
Two of the screws were greased, the others were not. One of the arm's screws was very difficult to get in, it seemed there were some metal shavings in there. Even after cleaning the thread it was difficult.
I added anti seize paste to all the screws and sliding parts, and adjusted it to fit around my handlebar and be comfortable.
Compared to other cheap tribars this one is very adjustable. The length and angle of the bars can be adjusted, and the pads can be turned around, moved further in and out in various ways. The arm holders are even reversible to get more range.
Since I have long arms I extended the bars as much as possible, moving the pads back so that they are clear of the handlebar. I fitted the brake and shifting cable to go in between.
As there was no more space left on the handlebar I moved my phone holder to the tribar, where it fits as long as I move the brake cable over it.
- Triatlon bar
- 6061-T6 Aluminum
- 492 gram
- Clamp diameter
- 31.8, 26/25.4 mm
Using the tribar
Putting your arms and hands on the tribar means that you can no longer reach the brake levers, which makes it unsuited for city riding where I keep my fingers on the brake levers most of the time.
On long straight stretches, it is nice to be able to change my position. Usually I can shift one gear higher before switching to the tribar because the more aerodynamic position allows me to go a little bit faster.
Long term use
After being on my bicycle for only two weeks the black paint on the bars turned into a golden glow. During the two weeks the bicycle had been outside during some rainy nights, some of the bolts got rusty. Since then, the bars have slowly continued to lose their black color. Over the summer the foam pads also started to disintegrate, they remain functional, but after having my bare arms on there I have to wipe off some black residue which is left there by the pads.
While riding my bicycle to work through the city I never use them. Not only can I not reach the brakes quickly enough, the aerodynamic position limits my ability to look ahead and around me. The only places I use them are on smooth, straight roads when there is no other traffic around. When there is a headwind it helps significantly, making cycling easier. It is nice to have an alternative hand position. The great thing is that it completely takes away any pressure on the hands and wrists, but for me that was never really a problem. The main benefit for of leaning forward for me is that it changes my seating position. The aerodynamic position is not necessarily a more comfortable one, but it is different, and, at least for a while, less uncomfortable.
Update March 2018: I'm not longer using the tribar. Since I only used it in very specific conditions on long rides I removed them after the last cycling season. Since then I haven't really missed them. I replaced my handlebar and added some SQlab 411 inner barends and am now trying out how I like those.
Even though it has the name on it, I cannot tell if the product I received was a real TranzX JD-808 tribar. Although structurally solid, the messy threads and quickly fading color and rusting bolts make it seem like a cheap product, considering I paid less then 20 euros I think it is fair value for the money. It's a good way to try out some tribars and since it is very adjustable you can play around with different positions. I am happy I did not get the JD-802 which would probably not have fit my bicycle.
It's nice to switch hand positions around, I can see it being a great benefit for people who suffer from strain on the hands and wrists. For those commuting all year round and have to go against the wind for long stretches it might also be a significant improvement.
- Product page for TranzX JD-808
- Product page for TranzX JD-TB01A (add-on for JD-808)
- Product page for TranzX JD-802 (non adjustable)
- All TranzX tribars
Also sold as...
Besides the TranzX brand it seems that the same, or at least an exteremely similar product is sold under the following names on Amazon.com: