You are right - they will not slim-down the bars' thickness, but they will make the bars more aerodynamic. The control towers that I have on my Yakima with Landing Pads mounted on my roof I think are not any bigger than the ones on the Whispbar (I've seen old ones that are rather chunky, mine are pretty slim when seen from the front).
I guess, my point was that I don't have the rack on the car when there are no boats. And then I have boats or skis, the rack itself adds only a negligible amount of resistance compared to the load I have on the rack. YMMV, of course, depending on what you carry and how wide the bars are - mine only have about 1" protruding from the sides and when I carry skis the entire bar is taken with the ski attachments, which are hideously non-aerodynamic. If I have 2 fat sea kayaks on Mako saddles - same thing: the bars are a minor pice in the resistance. If I only carry one slender surf ski, then 2/3 of the bars are unused and I can see where having a slimmer aero bar will have some impact on mileage (and most definitely on noise levels)...
Classic Freestanding Rack
Gedi Convertible Helmet
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