Introducing the TriRig Alpha
article & images by Nick Salazar
Nov 21, 2012
Dear readers, the article I'm bringing you today has me more excited than anything else I've ever written for TriRig. I'm incredibly proud and pleased to introduce the TriRig Alpha aerobar. This thing is more than just another bar; we believe it is a complete front-end solution that will stick with you from bike to bike, for years to come. Before we really get into it, I'll tease you with a few key specs:
- The Alpha weighs just 530 grams complete with everything.
- The base bar features a huge 6-to-1 airfoil, deeper than anything on the market today.
- Unique clamping hardware allows you to adjust pad stack, pad reach, pad stance width, extension stack, extension reach, and extension roll, all with just two bolts per side, and completely independently of one another.
Excited? Read on.
I'm an aerobar fanatic. Aerobars are my favorite component of the triathlon, and indeed the defining part of the seminal tri bike. Aerobars are the first part of your bike (other than wheels) to see the wind. They're your primary interface with the bike. And that's why we're calling ours the Alpha - it's the first and perhaps most important component of your bike in terms of fit, aerodynamics, and control. The aerobars are often referred to as the bike's cockpit, because they're truly where you interface with the various aspects of your machine. And as cycling technology improves, especially with the advent of electronic shifting, that moniker seems more and more pertinent. But there's never been an aerobar that I thought was, for lack of a better word, perfect.
There are some VERY light one-piece bars, like the old Easton Attack TT. There are some VERY sleek/fast bars, like the 3T Ventus or Pro Missile Evo. And there are some VERY adjustable bars, like the brand new Vuka Alumina. But all of these bars have limitations - being strong in one category usually means weakness in one or both of the others. The lightweight bars lack adjustability, the very fast/aero bars are generally rather heavy, and the highly adjustable bars are generally clunky and not so aero. There are exceptions, of course, but no bar has ever attained what I believe is a perfect combination or balance of all three qualities.
So that's exactly what I wanted to do with the Alpha: combine light weight, a broad range of fit, and superlative aerodynamics all into one bar. The ultimate goal was to make the Alpha an aerobar that you'd want to keep from bike to bike, for as long as they keep making bikes with standard steerers. There's a particular feeling you get when you find that perfect product. I tried to describe it when I rode on the Dash Tri.7 saddle for the first time. It's that feeling of "oh yeah, this is what I've been looking for." It's the satisfaction you get from knowing that this particular piece of gear is going to stay with you from bike to bike, as the crown jewel of your rig that you're never getting rid of.
It's a bit brash to say it, but we wanted the TriRig Alpha to achieve that kind of perfection in an aerobar, in a way that no other bar had ever done before it. So let's talk about what this thing is, and you can decide for yourself whether we've met our very lofty goals.
Alpha: fit Specs
You've heard me say time and again that the most important thing you can do with respect to bike fit is to nail down the X-Y coodinate to your aerobar pads. You want to know that number like your own phone number, because it will make your life SO much easier. For example, I'm riding about 590mm of pad stack, but sometimes go as low as 575mm, measured as the vertical distance between the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the aerobar's elbow pads. My pad reach is 490mm, measured as the horizontal distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of my aerobar pads. Whever I get a new rig, the first order of business is putting the pads in that location, and I find that the X-Y system is a faster, more reliable way to replicate your fit than any other.
Fitting on the Alpha bar will be a breeze - especially when you combine it with a Sigma stem. We will be publishing some very handy X-Y charts to help you determine exactly how the Alpha will fit into your rig. They will help you set your bike up with the bar, in order to achieve your fit. Or conversely, the charts will help you find out which frames are the best fit for you, based on how you could conceive of using the Alpha and/or the Sigma. For now, we'll just walk you through the basic measurements.
Basic Construction: The Alpha features traditional handlebar construction, based on a round clamp of 31.8mm. In the past, I've been opposed to the notion of a round clamp bar, favoring integrated bars like the one found on the Trek Speed Concept or Specialized Shiv. But now I get to eat crow, because the Alpha has a round clamping section. The reason for going with a round clamp was twofold. Primarily, I went with it because of the overwhelming use of round clamps, even in modern bikes. The brand new Orbea Ordu, for example, uses an adjustable-angle stem with a 31.8mm round clamp. Felt's flagship DA uses one. And they do so for good reason. Round clamps are simple, they're everywhere, and they work really well.
But the second reason for sticking with the 31.8mm standard is simple: now that we'll have the Sigma to pair it with, there's very little aero penalty. This is especially true if you're running a proper BTA setup which takes up the space between the extensions, rendering that bit of frontal area irrelevant for aero purposes. Ultimately, we liked the combo of a round clamp Alpha with a Sigma stem better than the prospect of an integrated bar/stem combo. Of course, we limited the round clamp portion to as narrow a section as possible. The wind will see more of the Alpha's beautiful airfoil than anything else.
Reach: Just outboard of the clamping section, there are two spots where the extension hardware clamps down. I'll discuss that hardware later on, but for fit purposes you just need to know that the centerline of that hardware is 10mm ahead of the centerline of the stem clamp. Combined with the three reach positions built into the arm cups, you end up with a total effective pad reach of +20mm, +10mm, or -10mm, compared to the nominal reach of your stem. So, if you pair the Alpha with our 90mm Sigma stem, you can ride with an effective stem length of 80mm, 100mm, or 110mm. The extensions have continuous reach and roll adjustment, so you can create any effective shifter reach figure that you want. And of course, you can pair it with any other stem if your fit requirements preclude the use of a Sigma. Pad stance is also adjustable in a very broad range. At their narrowest, the Alpha's arm cup can be set almost to touch, if you like riding elbows-together. But they can also be set nice and wide, for the broader-shouldered riders. And all of this is all accomplished with just two bolts per side, keeping everything very, very simple to wrench.
Stack: We've got a lot of room to play in the stack department. At its lowest setting, the pad stack, measured from the centerline of the bar, is only about 15mm. That's astonishingly low. And we get there because the pads can be mounted right on top of the bar if necessary, with the extensions underneath. Oh, and there is NO extra hardware required to put the extensions under the bar (we will get to why that's so cool a little later). In its normal position, with extensions and pads both above the bar, minimum stack is about 35mm. Still very low. And stack can be increased in 5mm or 10mm increments with the included spacers. You could theoretically go as high as you want, but I tend to think there's an upper limit on how tall you want your spacer stack to be, and that limit is somewhere around 60 or 70mm. Any taller, and you not only risk some unwanted wobble in the spacer stack, but you've got a very long way down from the pads to the base bar, which isn't generally desirable.
So the total stack of the bars can be as low as 35mm, and as high as about 100mm. For fit purposes, knowing the stack and reach range of your aerobar is critical. And again, we'll be providing a very handy chart when the final production Alpha bars are completed. So basically, if you went to a good fitter who gave you pad stack and pad reach numbers as an X-Y coordinate, you can just plug in your frame's geometry, and figure out exactly how to set up your Alpha to match your fit. Or conversely, you could plug in the Alpha's specs, and find out which frames match your fit.
We're going to make it a piece of cake to get going with this bar, and we hope that other aerobar manufacturers will copy this idea. A few have begun to do so for complete bikes, and indeed, the inspiration for our chart came from those published for bikes like the Trek Speed Concept and Cervelo P5. But I believe the Alpha will be the first standalone aerobar to come with this kind of information.
All right, with all that out of the way, let's dig into the design features of the bar, as well as all the pricing and availability nitty gritty.