Condensed answer: The geometry and purpose of hybrid bicycles do not make them suitable for aero bars. Putting aero bars on a hybrid results in instability and a non-satisfactory riding experience.
The Geometry of a Hybrid
Hybrids are essentially hardtail cross-country bikes with slick tires. Some models come with front suspension while others stick to a rigid fork.
In both cases, the rider is upright and relies on flat or townie bars to control the bicycle.
Hybrids are built for comfort and thus keep the rider in an upright position.
This is accomplished via a relatively slack head tube angle (HTA).
The head tube angle is formed by a straight line extending from the head tube and a horizontal line on the ground or parallel to it.
The larger (steeper) the head tube angle is, the closer the front tire gets to the rider.
The smaller (slacker) the head tube angle is, the further away the front tire goes.
Hybrids have a slacker head tube angle than road bikes to keep the rider more upright and comfortable.
When you install aero bars on a hybrid and ride on them, you will be shifting the center of gravity to an extreme forward position that the frame wasn’t designed for originally. Thus, one can expect instability and discomfort when riding on aero bars installed on an otherwise upright bicycle.
Road bikes have а shorter effective top tube than MTBs and hybrids for the following reasons:
- Drop bars
Road bikes rely on drop bars giving multiple hand positions and aero options. The drop bars stretch the rider far forward and if the effective top tube was extra long too, the rider will feel uncomfortable.
Hence why retro MTB drop bar conversions are often done with small frames in order to benefit from the shorter top tube.
- Long stems
Long stems slow down the steering and increase stability at high speeds. For that reason, a road bike feels more stable when descending. The long stem, just like drop bars, extends the reach and thus requires a shorter top tube too.
Since hybrids copy older CX geometry they also come with a long top tube and a moderately long stem. Thus, the aero bar position may stretch the rider too much and create discomfort.
The use and purpose of aero bars do not fit the function of a hybrid.
Aero bars are designed to put the rider in a relatively comfortable and yet maximally aerodynamic position. This comes at the price of stability – aero bars greatly reduce control.
This is one of the reasons why you won’t see them in the Tour de France (the other is safety during crashes).
Ultimately, aero bars work best on TT bikes used on controlled flat roads. For all other purposes, they’re of questionable usefulness.
A hybrid is essentially a light MTB designed to be faster on paved roads. Using aero bars in heavy traffic is simply asking for trouble because the handling is unstable, and the rider’s hands are far away from the brakes. Also, aero bars are not used on descents – it’s just too dangerous.
At the end of the day, aero bars are good only for long, flat paved roads without intersections and lots of traffic.
The total list of aero bars’ downfalls (when installed on a hybrid) is as follows:
- Unstable and slow maneuvering
- Low visibility (the aero position puts the rider’s body too low)
- Bumps have a greater effect on steering because the rider is in a low leverage position
- The aero bars can hurt a pedestrian during an accident
- The rider does not have access to the brakes and shifters when in the aero position
Alternatives to Aero Bars For Hybrids
First, if you want to make your hybrid faster, check out the dedicated article on the topic.
If you are after aero bars mainly for the extra hand positions, you can consider the following options
Bar-ends are a retro MTB accessory that gives you extra leverage and hand positions when installed on flat bars. They’re out of fashion but still used by a great number of people.
- Drop Ends
Those are bar-ends in the shape of road bike drops that can be clamped onto a set of flat bars. They give you an extra hand placement and an aero position. They also offer greater control than aero bars.
- Switch to Alternative Handlebars
You can replace the existing bars with alternative models that offer multiple hand positions. One of the best options would be a butterfly bar – it’s relatively cheap and comes with a great number of hand placements.
Truth be told, some butterfly models allow you to get pretty aero as they have bends that can be used as semi-drops.
- Buy a Road Bike
Road bikes are the fastest bicycles on the road. No matter how you upgrade your hybrid, it’s never going to be a real road bike. If speed is your ultimate goal, you simply need a road bike (or a motorcycle).
You can get one for cheap if you search for retro steel models on Facebook marketplace or an equivalent online platform.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with buying a new one, but most people are put off by the retail price.
Summary: What You Need to Know
Technically, aero bars can be installed on a hybrid, but they’re of dubious benefit for the following reasons:
- Aero bars do not mix well with the geometry of a hybrid frame.
- Aero bars are dangerous when used in city traffic because the rider is less visible and has poor control over the bike.
- Aero bars on a hybrid do not allow the rider to use the brakes and shifters when in the aero position.
- Aero bars do not deal well with bumps and could be dangerous in an accident.
If you need the aero bars for the extra positions consider buying bar-ends or switching to alternative bars (e.g., butterfly)