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The new Profile Design DRV AEROa Drop Bar doesn't just go with shoulder width to define what size bar you need, its 'DRiVe' design also incorporates hand breadth. Sceptical? So was I. But I'll tell you what, it works – very well.
I must have used hundreds of different handlebars over the years, and to be fair I have got on with most of them no matter what their shape. Even if they don't feel quite right to start with, you soon adapt. From the first ride, though, the AEROa just felt right, especially when in the drops, which is where Profile Design has focused its DRiVe design.
Most of us know what size we like our handlebar, either through experience or measuring our shoulder width, so you pay your money and job done.
Most handlebars come with one drop and reach figure across the range of widths (drop is the measurement from the top of the bar to the bottom of the drops, centre to centre, while reach is from the top of the bar to the furthest forward part of the bend, also centre to centre), but this is where Profile Design does things differently.
After looking at an anthropological study that focuses on the relationship between hand breadth, shoulder width and height, it came up with the DRiVe (Drop Reach Variant) metric which will pinpoint exactly where your hand positions are likely to be when in the drops, via a line travelling at 73 degrees from the bar bore (top centre) to where it intersects with the centre line of the drops.
Profile Design has narrowed the DRiVe measurements down to three – 105mm, 120mm and 135mm – and each one is available in a selection of widths, with various reach and drop measurements to suit, which affects the curve of the drops.
All you need to do is measure the width of your palm just below your fingers and the Profile Design website will tell you which DRiVe you need, and you choose your preferred width.
Now I love the Ritchey WCS Streem bar on my race bike, but swapping them over, the AEROa gave a much more natural hand position right through the curve of the bar.
Profile Design has also taken the shape of the current road levers into account, so there's a slope downwards of 7 degrees from the tops to where the top of the hoods will sit, giving a comfortable position for your wrists.
It has also added a slight flare of 4 degrees to the drops, so that the bar is wider at the bottom than it is at the top. It's something we are seeing on the latest gravel handlebars but much more pronounced at around the 12-16 degree sort of mark.
It does work on the road too, though, and I have taking to using the Easton EA70 AX flared bar on my all-weather road bike, just for a bit more control when in the drops in the wet and for extra wrist clearance.
The AEROa's flattened aero tops offer plenty of material to rest your hands. I'm a fan of this shape purely for the comfort, but also it means the cables or hoses don't detract from the clean looks as they are routed internally. It's pretty simple to set up as Profile Design has created elongated holes large enough to get the outer housing through without too much of a squeeze. All they need is a little bit of guidance from a small screwdriver or something similar.
If you are using the new Di2 junction box, which plugs into the bar end, there are also holes for guiding the wire through.
Some aero bars cause issues about clamping computer mounts, lights and so on either side of the stem, as they have a minimal section of round bar for the purpose. The AEROa has a central section of 100mm in length, so even when you've taken into account the 45mm or so for the stem, there is still plenty spare for your gadgets.
Priced at £69.99, the AEROa is a pretty good offer for a quality 6061-T6 aluminium alloy handlebar. The Easton EA70 AX that I mentioned comes in at a tenner more, though it does have a tiny bit more give in it. The AEROa is a very stiff bar indeed.
Another very good alloy bar is the Deda Gravel100 RHM, which costs £94.99. It's also decent value for money, and it's about 80g lighter than the AEROa.
Overall, what with everything going on with your contact points, the benefits of the AEROa's shape will be quite minimal, but if you spend a lot of time in the drops, especially over a long distance, those little benefits all add up. I found the shape absolutely brilliant, but it's not just that – the AEROa has comfortable tops, the cable routing is simple to set up, and if you're a sprinter you'll definitely benefit from the stiffness.
A stiff and aero handlebar for the fast guys, with added comfort thanks to the clever drop design
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Profile Design DRV/AEROa Drop Bar 120
Size tested: 42cm
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Profile Design says, "The DRV/AEROa is a high-performance aluminium aero drop bar featuring a truncated airfoil for aerodynamics, comfort and stiffness. The curve has been optimised for modern road levers. The innovative fit and ergonomics of the DRV system include a 7° ramp angle and a 4° flare in the drops, allowing a natural wrist angle for enhanced comfort and control.
The DRiVe metric by Profile Design pinpoints the precise position in the drops where riders instinctively place their hands. The metric is incorporated into a new series of progressively sized handlebars designed around a cyclist's most powerful hand positions.
What is your DRiVe?: Gone are the days of simply measuring a drop bar by the standard reach, drop and width. Our DRiVe metric pinpoints the precise position in the drops where riders instinctively place their hands. The metric is incorporated into a new series of progressively sized handlebars designed around a cyclist's most powerful hand positions.
The DRiVe Metric: The DRiVe (Drop Reach Variant) position is measured via a 73° line beginning at the bar bore. The DRiVe metric pinpoints the line intersection with the drop.
DRiVe Reclaims Comfort, Power & Control: Modern drop bar designs are deeply tied to tradition. They are designed based on outdated road bike sizing rendering many of cycling intended hand positions unattainable when riding modern frame geometry. The ride positions that are the most powerful and allow for the most control have now shifted into virtually unattainable positions. DRiVe reclaims many of the ideal positions most critical to comfort, power, and control.
Fit Made Simple: To predict the DRiVe position of any given rider, we looked at an anthropological study focusing on the correlation among handbreadth, shoulder width, and height. By measuring your handbreadth we can easily identify a DRiVe that will be compatible with your body type.
Progressive Ergonomics: The tops and hoods complement the powerhouse DRiVe position and the Reach and DRiVe are progressively sized as the bar increases in width. This progressive sizing ensures the most powerful positions remain right where they are needed."
Though slight, the DRiVe metric does certainly benefit the ergonomics.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Profile Design lists:
Size: 36, 38, 40, 42, 44cm (center to center)
Reach: 70, 75, 80mm
Clamp Width: 100mm
Clamp Diameter: 31.8mm
Clip Compatible: Yes
Drop: 122mm, 136mm, 148mm
Drop Outsweep: 4°
Drive: 105mm, 120mm, 135mm
Internal Cable Routing: Yes (Mechanical / Di2)
Max Brake Lever Torque: 10Nm
Max Torque Clamping to Bar: 6Nm
Material: 6061-T6 AL
Finish: Matte Black
Bearing in mind the quality, weight and ride feel, I think the AEROa is pretty good value. There are plenty of very good handlebars out there with similar attributes priced closer to the £100 mark, like those I mentioned in the review.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
If you use the drops a lot, the DRiVe system benefits grip and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The drop shape works very well.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Can be a little firm.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A very good design that adds to comfort levels and control.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!