Aerobars are perhaps my favorite category of triathlon equipment. And the industry offerings just seem to get better and better as the years roll on. I'm excited to get a good, thorough look at Zipp's new offering for 2012, the Vuka Alumina lineup. At its core, the Vuka Alumina features a budget-priced base bar, onto which you can put a new set of clip-ons that will accept any 22.2mm extension. Simple enough, right?
Moreover, because the clip-ons are just round bar clamps, they'll work on any 31.8mm bar, like Zipp's own carbon Vuka Bull. And they'll accept carbon extensions as well (which Zipp also makes). So on the budget end, you can make a complete system for about $255, which weighs just about 700 grams, and has as much or more adjustability than anything else on the market. Spend a little more on carbon extensions or bars, and you can get the weight down to about 620 grams. The overall setup might not be the most aero solution out there, but it's still very clean, and VERY adjustable.
But those are just numbers, and a bird's eye view of the system. What's this setup actually like? What are its unique merits? In short, there's actually nothing that's shockingly new about any of these parts. Rather, the Vuka Alumina setup represents a very refined, well-thought-out system that works very coherently with itself, and also fits very well within a larger ecosystem. On the next page, we'll start to delve into the new system. But before we get there, I have to address something that may be very confusing to the uninitiated, regarding extension standards.
The 22mm Debacle
There's a bit of a strange situation in the industry as far as aerobar extensions are concerned. You see, there are plenty of extensions built on the so-called "22mm standard," but the problem is that there are actually three standards: 22.0mm, 22.1mm, and 22.2mm. And although only 0.2mm separates the three types, it can cause problems depending on what you're using. For example, Zipp's original Vuka Clip was built to accept 22.0mm bars, and had a hard time opening up wide enough to accept the larger types. You'd have to sand down the bars, or risk damaging them when you struggled to jam your bars into the clips. On the other hand, trying to use a 22.0mm bar in a port designed to accept the larger types could result in bar slip. These problems don't always crop up, but when they do, they're rather annoying.
The new Vuka Alumina clip, as well as all the new extensions, are built around a 22.2mm design. Zipp's official position is that you have to use 22.2mm extensions, and that the smaller versions are not compatible. However, in my personal experience, you CAN use the smaller extensions just fine. I tested down to 22.0mm, and the clips didn't slip for me. But if you decide to mix and match, just be aware of the potential pitfalls.
Dizzy yet? There won't be any more talk about extension diameter, I promise. So let's dive right in, starting with what's at the heart of this system, the Vuka Alumina Clip.