Riding downhill with a tailwind seems effortless. Riding uphill into a headwind doesn’t.
These simple observations make it clear that gravity and wind resistance are the greatest physical challenges every cyclist faces.
To tackle gravity, a lighter weight bike makes a huge difference. Switch from a utilitarian 15kg commuter bike to even a modest 9 kilo road bike and the difference is staggering as you lope up hills with so much less effort.
Having taken light weight to the limit with their best road bikes down to 5-6 kilos, the most innovative bicycle companies have been turning their attention to minimising wind resistance over the past decade.
With California’s most advanced aerospace wind tunnel facilities at their disposal, Cervélo have particularly focused on creating viable aero road bikes. (We use the word viable to emphasise the difference between today’s aero road bikes and 20th century aero time trial/triathlon bikes – i.e. bicycles with disc wheels and aero bars you would never want to ride in a crosswind).
The benefits of an aero road bike
Cervélo’s testing revealed that aero drag was a more significant speed inhibitor than uphills 80-90% of the time (the exception being on inclines steeper than 5%).
They also found that while the bicycle accounts for 20% of this resistance, the rider accounts for 80%. The benefits of aero bikes are therefore two-fold.
First, the bike will slip through the air with less resistance.
Second, it encourages the rider to adopt a more aerodynamic riding position.
Drag becomes more significant the faster you ride so it’s tempting to assume that aero bikes are only of interest to elite pros.
Cervélo’s testing has shown that even club riders can benefit from being more aero. Cyclists on standard road bikes, who averaged 30km/h on a 20km time trial, could drop their time from 40 minutes to 38:13 if they switched to aero bikes and wore aero helmets. (And yes, the test riders were power monitored for constant Watt output on both bikes.)
An analogy that comes to mind is that just as tennis pros refer to their aces as ‘free points’, an aero bike rewards the rider with ‘free miles’.
Cav’s New Ride – the Cervélo S5
If you need any further proof that aero road bikes are worth considering, guess which bike Mark Cavendish will be riding on stage races this season? The Cervélo S5.
Cervélo S5 Ultegra £3,999
Cycling Weekly summed up the quality of this aero race design. ‘Once you’re up to speed it really doesn’t require much effort to stay there.’
Cervelo S3 Ultegra £3,199
Fundamentally similar ride to the S5. ‘The Cervelo S3’s command of the line through fast corners is simply brilliant. 4.5/5.’ Bikeradar.
Co-op Member Alan says:
“I chose the Cervelo S3 because so many of the big hitters in the peloton, such as Thor Hushovd and David Millar, raved about it. It’s got a rock-solid feel through fast corners, little flex when sprinting out of a corner, and the new rear end has eliminated much of the road buzz that other aero bikes tend to suffer from.
It’s a serious bike for a lone break with 10 miles to go until the finish. Something that as a tester, I used to love trying in my racing days.”
Giant Propel Advanced Pro 1 £2,599
The Propel is a great example of what Giant does best – take a great concept and make it more affordable. That’s why Cycling Plus have rated the Giant Propel Advanced Pro their Aero Road Bike of the Year for the past two consecutive years.
Liv Envie Advanced 1 £1,599
Here’s something else Giant are expert at – using their carbon fabrication expertise to build Liv bikes to the most exacting specifications. The Liv Envie is a women’s aero ride bike you can ride in the confident knowledge that it has been road tested and endorsed by multi world champion, Marianne Vos.