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The latest aerodynamic bikes are slipperier than ever and new technologies have improved comfort
  • With elongated tube shapes and other wind-cheating features, aero road bikes provide a small but handy speed boost.

  • Sleek shapes make for a distinctive look.

  • Recent aero road bikes have alleviated the harsh ride that plagued some early models, thanks to improved use of materials.

  • Frame aerodynamics is still a marginal gain; if you're wearing flappy clothes an aero bike is a waste of money.

In just a few years aero road bikes have gone from The Next Big Thing to a mainstream bike option. The latest models have been tweaked to be faster than ever, according to the manufacturers, and to alleviate the harsh ride that characterised some early aero bikes.

Aero road bikes essentially draw the aerodynamic features from time trial bikes into a road frame, and balance the demands of weight and stiffness into a package that, on paper, looks to be the ideal all-round choice.

At any decent speed, most of your effort goes into overcoming air resistance, so reducing a bike's drag means you'll go faster, or ride at any given speed with a lower power output. Who doesn't like the sound of that?

Most of your air resistance comes from your body. Wearing non-flappy clothing will help, as will losing weight. But the 20% or so of air resistance from your bike is enough for engineers and designers to focus on making road frames and products more slippery in the air. In the pro peloton aero road bikes have been quickly adopted, where the margins of victory are very slim and there has been a focus on gaining ever smaller performance gains over the years.

Jos Van Emden Giant Propel - front brake

Jos Van Emden Giant Propel - front brake

Weight, and the lack thereof, used to be the main driving force of frame development. Along with stiffness, these were the two cornerstones of bike design. These days most bikes are light, many well below the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit (which doesn’t affect non-racers anyway), and come with more stiffness than is sometimes comfortable.

All that has made aerodynamics more important for manufacturers. Specialized has built its own wind tunnel, for example, and most manufacturers are testing in wind tunnels. Nevertheless, aero road bikes haven't converged on a perfect, slippery common shape. Different engineers prioritise different ways of improving aerodynamics but there are shared design trends: skinny, aerofoil-shaped tubes, integrated brakes, and internal cable routing.

Let's take a look at the latest aero offerings.

Colnago Concept — £3,500 (frameset)

Colnago Concept.jpg

Colnago Concept.jpg

Colnago has joined the aerodynamic arms race with the brand new Concept, a full blooded aero race bike that is a serious step forward from the Italian company's first aero road bike, the V1-r, from a couple of years ago.

The Concept has all the capability to dice with the fastest in a race situation. The Concept's stiff frame, Vision deep-section wheels and 7.2kg weight give it an insatiable appetite for speed. It's quick in all circumstances: climbs, descents, flat and undulating roads – everywhere, the bike really shines. It's an exciting bike to ride fast, and like all good aero road bikes encourages you to ride flat-out.

That firm ride, and frame and fork stiffness ensure the Concept accurately follows your inputs, whether through the handlebar or pedals. It reacts very positively to your body language, whether you're blasting up an uphill sprint finish or bombing through a curving descent.

But all-out speed isn't all the Concept is about, and it's not just a bike for racing. The Concept provides adequate composure and comfort, allowing you to tackle long distance rides at a few notches below race pace and not be dealt a hammer-blow to the lower back the moment the tyres encounter anything but a billiard-smooth surface. The front end of aero race bikes can often be overwhelmingly harsh, but the special headset and fork steerer tube that Colnago has developed mean it's smoother up front than would normally be expected on an aero road bike.

Read our review of the Colnago Concept
Find a Colnago dealer

Rose X-Lite CWX Disc — from £3,770

Rose X-LITE CW-4100 Di2.jpg

Rose X-LITE CW-4100 Di2.jpg

The Rose X-Lite CWX-4100 is a quick, fast-handling aero road bike with disc brakes, and although £4,700 is clearly a lot to spend, it represents good value. You really are getting a lot for your money here.

The CWX-4100 – the name sounds to us like it should belong to some sort of droid – is at its best when you're hammering. The aggressive riding position and the frame's aero features announce loud and clear that this bike is intended to be ridden fast.

Weighing in at just 7.46kg (16.4lb) – light for something with deep, aero-optimised tubes and disc brakes – and with loads of stiffness through the central section of the T40/T60 carbon-fibre frame, it feels every inch a race bike whether you're tearing along flat roads or scampering up the climbs.

Read our review of the Rose X-Lite CWX-4100 Di2 Disc

Merida Scultura 6000 — from £2,000

Merida Scultura 6000.jpg

Merida Scultura 6000.jpg

The Merida Scultura 6000 just feels right when you get on it. The position, the ride, the comfort… it's one of those bikes that gives you the confidence to push it as hard as you want, knowing that it isn't going to bite back. It's a bit of a bargain too when you consider the frame is being ridden in the pro peloton and weighs a claimed 750g. It's a hell of a lot of bike for the money.

For this revised version of the Scultura frameset Merida has concentrated on increasing comfort, and it's obviously paid off. The frame is handmade in Taiwan, and by tweaking the carbon layup in certain areas it has been able to bring in quite a bit of extra damping without sacrificing stiffness.

Aerodynamics was another target for Merida, using computational fluid dynamics in the design process and wind tunnel testing of various incarnations. It even used a dummy with moving legs to replicate the effect the rider's pedalling has on wind resistance.

Read our review of the Merida Scultura 6000
Find a Merida dealer

Boardman Elite Air — from £1,899.99

Boardman Elite Air 9.2 - full bike.jpg

Boardman Elite Air 9.2 - full bike.jpg

Boardman's Elite Air 9.2 is just the ticket if you're looking for a fast bike with a good spec but you haven't got very silly money. It's a good package and the performance is impressive straight out of the box.

If you're buying an aero bike, chances are you're doing so because you want to go faster; that, or you just like the look of deep-section tubes.

Do you go faster? The anecdotal evidence suggests a yes: you go faster on this than on standard road bike. Our tester grabbed a downhill KOM on Strava, hung on longer before getting blown out the back of a crit with riders a grade above him and added 10km/h to his top speed on a favourite descent.crit with riders a grade above him and added 10km/h to his top speed on a favourite descent.

Read our review of the Boardman Elite Air 9.2
Find a Boardman dealer

Storck Aerfast Platinum — £10,949

storck-aerfast-platinum-full-bike (1).jpg

storck-aerfast-platinum-full-bike (1).jpg

At £10,949, the Storck Aerfast Platinum is a massive outlay, but boy, oh boy do you get one hell of a return on your investment. It's a sub-6.5kg race weapon, with aerodynamics that work in the real world, and it offers comfort levels to challenge most endurance bikes.

Taking plenty of things it's learnt from its astonishingly good Aernario, Storck has pushed the design even further down the aerodynamics route, and what it has created in the Aerfast is a bike that's not only unbelievably fast, but light and stiff too.

If you're in the market for an aero bike, speed is going to be topping your list of priorities, and it's where the Aerfast truly excels. Below about 23mph the Storck feels like any other bike to ride, any other superlight bike that is, but all the same it feels like it requires some effort; you've got to work at it.

Get above that speed, though, and the aerodynamics really come into play. It feels like a permanent tailwind is nudging you along, a friendly hand on your back as you watch the numbers climb on the Garmin – with no more effort required than there was 5mph ago. It's a wonderful feeling, and one you never tire of.

Read our review of the Storck Aerfast Platinum

Find a Storck dealer

Cervelo S5 — £3,999

Cervelo-S5-Ultegra-Road-Bike-2016.jpg

Cervelo-S5-Ultegra-Road-Bike-2016.jpg

Long hailed as the fastest aero road bike by people who know a lot about aerodynamics, the Cervelo S5 has received quite a makeover this year. It still looks like an S5 but Cervelo claims to have finessed every tube profile and found significant drag reductions. It’s also increased frame stiffness in the head tube and bottom bracket to improve handling. Another change is the shorter head tube to put the rider in a lower, and more aerodynamic, position. Cervelo has also developed its own aero handlebar which is compatible with a regular stem.

Read our coverage of the Cervelo S5 launch
Find a Cervelo dealer

Ridley Noah SL — £5,299.99

Ridley NOAH SL

Ridley NOAH SL

The Noah FAST packs a lot of innovative aero technology, including slotted forks and seat stays, integrated v-brakes and small ridges on the leading edges of the frame surfaces to smooth airflow. It’s still available, but the Belgian company has released the new Noah SL which is lighter than the previous Noah with a 950g claimed frame weight. It still features the innovative F-Splitfork, but there’s no slotted rear stays and the raised ridges have been incorporated into the tube shapes. The integrated brakes are gone, in their place regular caliper brakes in front of the fork and at the seat stay.

Read about Greg Henderson's Ridley Noah SL
Find a Ridley dealer

Pinarello Dogma F10 — £4,499 (frame, fork)

Pinarello Dogma F10 2017.jpeg

Pinarello Dogma F10 2017.jpeg

Developed in collaboration with Team Sky, the Dogma F10 follows on from the highly-acclaimed F8, on which Chris Froome won the Tour de france. The F10uses FlatBack tube profiles, a Kamm Tail sort of shape, with a rounded leading edge and chopped tail. Pinarello has also lowered the seat tube water bottle cage and it’s further shielded by the down tube. Meanwhile, up front the fork has been derived from the company’s Bollide time trial bike with an aerodynamic shape, and the crown closely nestles into a recess in the down tube.

Find a Pinarello dealer

Canyon Aeroad CF SLX — from £3,249

aeroad-cf-slx-9_c1105.png

Canyon Aeroad CF SLX

The second-generation Aeroad CF SLX has been inspired by the work on its futuristic Speedmax time trial bike, with razor sharp aero tube profiles and an optional one-piece handlebar and stem assembly. Much of the company’s focus with the new bike has been in reducing the frontal surface area, so along with the new handlebar there’s a narrower and hour-glass shaped head tube to help reduce drag. Other changes include the new tube profile, a variant of the Trident shape used on the Speedmax, and a seat tube that hugs the curvature of the rear wheel. Unlike some aero road bikes that integrate the brake callipers, Canyon has opted for direct-mount Shimano brakes in the regular positions.

Read our review of the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 7.0 Di2
Read our review of the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX Disc 8.0 Di2

Specialized Venge Pro Vias — £5,999.99

Specialized Venge Pro Vias 2017.jpeg

Specialized Venge Pro Vias 2017.jpeg

Out with the old Venge, in with the new Venge Vias. The Venge has had a radical makeover, with an all-new aero frame with the most interesting integrated brakes we’ve ever seen. Manufacturers have been integrating brakes into the frame in an effort to reduce drag, but the Specialized approach, with custom designed brake calipers, is claimed to produce zero drag. Elsewhere, a new aero handlebar and stem provides full internal cable routing, there are almost no visible cables on this bike, a further measure to reduce drag.

Read our review of the Specialized Venge Vias Expert Disc​
Read about Mark Cavendish's Venge at the Tour de France
Find a Specialized dealer 

Scott Foil — from £2,499

Scott Foil Premium

Scott Foil Premium

The Foil arguably kicked off the whole aero road bike trend, bringing aerodynamic design that was once the preserve of time trial bikes to regular road bikes. This update has been a long time coming but it’s evolution, not revolution that is the news here. Changes to the front-end see the down tube lowered and wrapped around the fork crown, and a smaller rear triangle and new internal seat clamp in the top tube. The rear brake is also positioned underneath the chain stays.

And don't think this is just a uncomfortable aero bike, Mathew Hayman rode over a few little bumps on his way to winning Paris-Roubaix.

Read our coverage of the 2016 Scott Foil launch
Find a Scott dealer

Trek Madone — from £4,799.99

Trek Madone WSD

Trek Madone WSD

Once an all-round lightweight race bike, the Madone has been given a complete aerodynamic makeover. It features a version of the Isospeed decoupler borrowed from the Domane to provide some comfort (aero road bikes have traditionally compromised comfort in the quest for speed) and it’s wrapped up in a frame with Kamm Tail shaped tubes. Like Specialized, Trek has also developed its own brake callipers, and they’re concealed within the fork and seat stays. To keep the cable routing of the centre pull front brake nice and clean, the head tube features flaps that open and close when the fork is turned.

Read our coverage of the 2016 Trek Madone launch
Find a Trek dealer

Merida Reacto — from £1,000

zoom-bike-picture-961a61ca346590100aaccf5a01d694d6.jpg

Merida Reacto DA

Merida’s Reacto features tube profiles shape in accordance with NACA airfoil principles, and using the popular Kamm tail approach of chopping off the trailing edge, tricking the air into acting as if the trailing edge were there. More than any other bike here, the Reacto looks like a time trail bike in drag. There’s an aero seat post, internal cable routing and the rear brake is positioned underneath the chain stays. The front brake, meanwhile, is found on the front of the fork.

Read our review of the Merida Reacto 300
Find a Merida dealer

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX — from £2,999

ultimate-cf-slx-9-aero_c1105.png

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX

Canyon has given its latest Ultimate CF SLX a light touch of aerodynamic influence. It has developed a new D-shaped down tube, seat tube and seatpost, which along with a new internal seat clamp, adds up to a claimed 10% reduction in drag compared to the previous non-aero Ultimate. It doesn’t challenge Canyon’s Aeroad CF SLX for outright slipperiness in the wind tunnel, but does point to a future where all road bikes might one day be shaped in the wind tunnel.

BMC TimeMachine TMR01 — £3,229

bmc-timemachine-tmr01-ult-2017-road-bike-black-white-EV273233-8590-1-2.jpg

BMC TMR01

Launched in 2013, the TimeMachine grew out of the understanding of aerodynamics BMC derived from its TM01 time trial bike project. It uses a truncated wing profile (not unlike a Kamm tail) for the main sections of the frame. To reduce the air turbulence over the frame members BMC puts a smooth groove at the leading edge of forward facing sections, called a Tripwire. This delays flow separation and keeps the air attached for as long as possible, minimising drag — in essence it's doing the same job as the dimples on a golf ball.

Read our coverage of the BMC TimeMachine launch
Find a BMC dealer

Giant Propel Advanced — £6,298.99

giant propel advanced sl 0 2017

Giant Propel Advanced SL 0

The Propel Advanced SL 3 was Giant's bold entry into the aero road bike fray and gave rise to a whole range of highly-regarded Propel bikes. 

Key to the frame is the AeroSystem Shaping technology that is the result of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) research and wind-tunnel tests. Every tube has been carefully shaped, with a teardrop shape in evidence wherever you look. Interestingly, the down tube has been shaped with a water bottle in mind. It’s flattened where the water bottle normally protrudes from the sides of a conventional down tube.

Read our review of the Giant Propel Advanced 1  
Read our coverage of the original Giant Propel launch
Find a Giant dealer

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

48 comments

Avatar
beezus fufoon [673 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes
unconstituted wrote:

Or you could find something that isn't baggy, and isn't a skinsuit. 

And stop acting like a binary-minded twat on the internet enlightened

of course I don't mean wear something baggy - only a binary minded twat would think I meant that -  but it's obviously going to have more drag, and therefore aerodynamic efficiency is not really a high priority for going shopping, visiting friends, or hanging around town

 

Avatar
MandaiMetric [119 posts] 2 months ago
9 likes
Quote:

Merida even used a dummy with moving legs to replicate the effect the rider's pedalling has on wind resistance

That's no way to talk about Nibali.

Avatar
MandaiMetric [119 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

I see the aero benefit of moving the brakes under the chainstays and/or behind the forks. But surely these are exceptionally grunge-attracting locations to place brake blocks which then press that grunge expensively into  your aero carbon rims.

Not a problem for the pro teams, but us for mere mortals...

Anyway, I'm fat, so not worthy of bikes like these, right? 

Avatar
Simon E [3024 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes
MandaiMetric wrote:

I see the aero benefit of moving the brakes under the chainstays and/or behind the forks. But surely these are exceptionally grunge-attracting locations to place brake blocks which then press that grunge expensively into  your aero carbon rims.

And I can testify that it's a complete bitch to adjust when you ride out to the start of a time trial and realise that the rear brake is rubbing on the rim.

As for the aero gain, the air around the rear wheel is very turbulent so there is considerably less benefit than at the front.

But it's like anything else, such as fancy cars, big houses and posh clothes: if people want to buy an aero road bike there's no need to justify it to anyone but themselves.

Avatar
Andreeoouu [17 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

How is it that they include the older version of the Dogma? Was the editor not aware that there is a F10 on the market in 2017?

As for comments on fat people, seriously? The person who started with that comment should get a life. If you can afford it and you like it, that's all that matters.

Avatar
ChrisB200SX [359 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
unconstituted wrote:

The only people who who should be on a bike that prioritises weight over aerodynamics are people who live at the alps or are hill climb top 10s.

Even then there is no reason the bike itself shouldn't still be reasonably aero.

Avatar
Biscuitfrisky [9 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Dat Cervelo with Enve's........kiss

Avatar
Biscuitfrisky [9 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
Biscuitfrisky wrote:

Dat Cervelo with Enve's........kiss

 

Showed that bike to my wife and she noted a face in the right hand side tree.

 

She's not into bikes.....

Avatar
ConcordeCX [266 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
beezus fufoon wrote:
keirik wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:

is "fat" some sort of code for someone who has no idea how gravity works?

no it's code for someone who knows exactly how gravity and aerodynamics work

 

https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/questions/fatter-cyclists-fa...

 

interesting idea, assuming all other things are equal - I would've thought a larger person would have more frontal area, and a fat person would have difficulty in getting into an aero position

what if the hill's in a vacuum?

 

Avatar
beezus fufoon [673 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
ConcordeCX wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:
keirik wrote:
beezus fufoon wrote:

is "fat" some sort of code for someone who has no idea how gravity works?

no it's code for someone who knows exactly how gravity and aerodynamics work

 

https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/questions/fatter-cyclists-fa...

 

interesting idea, assuming all other things are equal - I would've thought a larger person would have more frontal area, and a fat person would have difficulty in getting into an aero position

what if the hill's in a vacuum?

 

I think you'll still get fat cyclists lying to themselves

it's my ambition in life to be fat so that one day I can say - it's hormonal, I'm just big boned, and now the classic - I can go faster downhill - now that I have the trio I feel complete and ready to start eating

 

Avatar
SDK-R [9 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Aero and disc brakes for the win 

Avatar
Walo [30 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Andreeoouu wrote:

How is it that they include the older version of the Dogma? Was the editor not aware that there is a F10 on the market in 2017?

The same is true for the Cervelo (model 2016)!

 

As for comments on fat people, seriously? The person who started with that comment should get a life. If you can afford it and you like it, that's all that matters.

Avatar
Walo [30 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

How can one position the brake behind the fork and then have a cable running around the head tube in a wide circle, not only spoiling the looks but also creating more drag than a conventionel set up with shorter cables. Anyway, cables outside an airframe should be a thing of the past, at least with aero bikes.

Avatar
earth [344 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
guyrwood wrote:

The Planet X Rivet Rider should be on the list. That is one SEXY bike!

 

 

They can't review PlanetX bikes, they are too cheap and associated with open moulds.

Avatar
joeegg [49 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

      Are aero bikes and to some extent aero wheels just a marketing ploy to sell bikes that probably won't benefit 99% of cyclists on the road. If we were all seeking " aero gains " why don't i see loads of cyclists in skin suits and aero helmets.

   Watching various races and tours on the tv for the last couple of weeks it seems that " regular " shaped bikes and wheels seem to dominate ( apart from time trial ).

  

Avatar
700c [1110 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like
joeegg wrote:

      Are aero bikes and to some extent aero wheels just a marketing ploy to sell bikes that probably won't benefit 99% of cyclists on the road. If we were all seeking " aero gains " why don't i see loads of cyclists in skin suits and aero helmets.

   Watching various races and tours on the tv for the last couple of weeks it seems that " regular " shaped bikes and wheels seem to dominate ( apart from time trial ).

  

There's some truth in that. And with sites like this saying how the amazing £10k Stork will give you 5mph extra for no more effort lol it's probably pretty compelling to rich bankers doing sportives.

Generally they are less comfortable, less stiff and heavier so that's GC guys won't ride them. For most people a stiffer bike will feel more rewarding to ride. Lighter weight is a bonus but not critical at amateur level.

Looks wise some of them are fugly for sure! But some look properly badass and you'd better have the legs to back that up otherwise you'd end up looking a right tit!

Avatar
BBB [453 posts] 2 weeks ago
2 likes
unconstituted wrote:

"Also, slow riders benefit more than fast riders from aerodynamics. Because, physics and time. "

No, they don't. The logic of "slower riders spending more time on a course" is flawed and it's been promoted by Specialized as part of their x, y, z product will shave 5 minutes of your time...  I t may be factually correct but irrelevant and misleading.

The magnitude of air resistance is quite different at typical 15-18mph and +25mph used in wind tunnels and most of amateur cyclists present quite a large frontal area themselves. Savings from the kit are irrelevant in vast majority of riding scenarios. 

I also wonder if any manufacturer actually tested any of their kit at more realistic speeds with a typical rider on board or they just extrapolated the dataf from their flat back racer on drops perfect scenario.

unconstituted wrote:

Tourers, commuters, recreational cyclists all should be in aerodynamic bikes and clothing. It makes no sense to ride a draggy bike and wear draggy clothing.

It makes no sense for them to care about it.

Avatar
Bigtwin [51 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes
themartincox wrote:

+1 for the Venge Vias

  Does look like the perfect CX machine...

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