Whether you’re using clip-on aerobars or have a dedicated TT set-up, the most important thing about using aerobars is that you train on them.
This doesn’t mean a few sessions with your bike bolted to a turbo, it’s out on real roads and regularly. Not only will this allow you to assess your position and give your body plenty of time to adapt to it, it’ll also allow you to become 100% confident and comfortable when down on them.
Especially for long-course racers, the more time you can spend in a race in your aero position the better. Every time you come up off your aerobars, unless it’s a climb or tight corner, you’re losing speed and time. You should be able to drink and feed yourself while still on your aerobars, take sweeping bends and even descend, feathering the brakes when necessary with one hand. If you’re unable to perform these basic skills or find yourself having to sit up for extended periods on the bike leg, you’re either lacking technique, your set-up isn’t right for you or possibly a combination of both. It’s only by spending time riding in your race position that you’ll become comfortable with how your bike handles in it, what descents and corners you can take and learn the essential skills.
It’s okay during the winter to head out for rides on a standard road set-up, but you should still aim to do your turbo sessions in race position. But, once you’re into pre-season and in-season, the bulk of your rides, especially endurance work, should be on a race set-up.
If you still feel twitchy and lack confidence on your aerobars, despite training on them, get your position professionally assessed. You may have to sacrifice some aero for better bike handling and sustainability but it’s better to have a slightly less aggressive position that you can hold than a theoretically ultra aero set-up you can’t.
Finally, if you’re using stubby bars in a draft-legal race, only hunker down on them when you’re on the front. The time it’d take to get your hands from your aerobars to your brakes could be the difference between avoiding a crash and ending up on the tarmac.
Don’t forget to ‘turtle’ when on your aerobars. By shrugging your shoulders and extending your neck, you’ll significantly improve your frontal profile. Practise in training to get used to doing this.