Bontrager XXX Aero – Final Thoughts

First impressions can be rough. They tend to represent the mere surface details of a product and leave out the finer points that take time to appreciate. Deep carbon wheels are fast, that’s evident the very first time a rider takes them out for a spin. Split-nose saddles offer immediate relief for those who suffer discomfort from the traditional saddle design. But many people miss the smoothness and damping that a carbon rim offers on less-than-stellar tarmac, or how a split-nose saddle subtly alters riding position to be more aggressive.  So it has been with the Bontrager XXX Aero drop bar and us, and like the above examples, what we’ve noticed in our time with it has impressed us.

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When it comes to carbon drop bars, two things are expected: they will be lighter, and they will reduce hand fatigue. The XXX Aero does both ably. It is comfortable to ride—even on long courses of cobblestone—and tips the scales at a barely there 235g for a 44cm bar width. We found it to be nicely communicative without the harshness that accompanies an aluminum road bar; well in line with the carbon vs. aluminum expectations. Bontrager also claims that the bar is “23 seconds faster per hour” than a standard round bar. And while we can’t substantiate their claim with a tunnel test, we can certainly agree that the bar has significantly less drag than a round tube bar due to the Kamm Virtual Foil shape of the tops. Perhaps it’s just our imagination, but there seems to be a touch more control in strong wind conditions than our normal road bars. Although we can’t confirm whether that’s the bar’s profile or some other factor.

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The real surprise for this bar, however, comes in the form of a side benefit of having a flat bar – integrated cable routing. The XXX Aero cleans up the front profile of the bike not just by using a smarter bar shape, but also by hiding all of those nasty, drag-inducing cables as much as possible. And with the cables gone, there isn’t a reason to wrap further than your typical hand positions. All of this combined results in a win-win situation of a smaller profile to the wind and more aerodynamic tube shapes being relevant in the design of the bar plus intelligent cable routing. What’s not to like?

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As our time with Bontrager’s latest wind-cheater comes to a close, we can’t help but think that this is just the first hint of many wonderful things to come for the road-cyclist’s cockpit in the next few years. With the advent of electronic shifting and hydraulic rim brakes, internal cable routing is going to become less of an interesting deviation from the norm and more companies will start seriously re-thinking how they put together a road bar. As these technologies become more commonplace, it is our fervent hope that we will see companies like Bontrager pick up where the XXX Aero leaves off—not just giving us a faster bar, but one that really solves the problems that the next generation of technologies presents. Bontrager’s latest certainly gives the next generation a great place to start.

12 responses to “Bontrager XXX Aero – Final Thoughts

      • Jeff you could install bars if absolutely needed. However you would need to set the bars up extremely narrow (basically hugging the stem). For most riders that will probably be too narrow for long distance riding.

        • Hi Jeff, I know you posted this a while ago – but I just came across this now and I was surprised to see that “Aerogeeks” was unwilling to at least try what you asked for, and so negatively jumped against you to basically say anyone into shorter distance Time Trials etc would never use aero extensions at the width for which the Bontrager XXX Aero’s allow.

          I have Svein Tuft’s Felt DA1 here from the 2010 Belgium De Panne time trial and the 3T Brezza II bars have the aero extensions at the same width as the Bontrager XXX Aero bars with a set of clip ons – “hugging” the stem, as you were.

          I’ve raced this bike many years, and many,many times now – and from what I can tell “most” riders would be happy with this setup (Aerobar width).

          I use the Bontrager XXX Aero’s with Deda Carbon Blast bars on a Cervelo S5 as my main road bike – so the ability to get a little more aero on flats (I live in a mountainous region) is appreciated. The point is – Clip-ons work great with this bar.

  1. Got to say, I do like the look of these bars! But… Could I (as a weight weenie) struggle with the huge(!) increase in weight – over my RaceXXXLight Bontrager bars – with a (real) weight of 173 grammes (42cm)?!?! But then, I’d be 23 seconds per hour of cycling quicker – or would I loose that pulling more weight :-/

    • Considering that a single GU pack weighs about 40g, we believe the extra 50g or so difference between the bars is more than made up for with the 23 seconds difference in aerodynamic performance.

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  3. One possibility for mounting clipon bars would be the Profile Design Lightning Stryke with A Hammer or Lava stem.

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  5. There needs to be instructions on how to install these. took me hours, and also partly knackered my cable housings, they’re scratched and frayed in parts now, serviceable/OK, but annoying nonetheless. I think these are more designed for di/eps vs mech. You’ll need more grease than a KFC. Or Bontrager should spray the inside smooth, raw carbon and sharp edges are unforgiving.

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