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How to get more aero without spending a fortune

Some aerodynamic tweaks to help you reduce drag, without spending much money

Aerodynamics has become the hottest word in road cycling, with deep section wheels, aero frames, and helmets a common presence not only in the professional peloton but also with amateur racers and club riders.

At higher speeds it is air resistance that consumes almost your entire power output. Travelling at about 20mph, up to 90% of your effort is used to overcome the air resistance, to push the air out of the way. You might think that only racers can benefit from improving aerodynamic efficiency, but in fact, most cyclists can benefit from a few aerodynamic tweaks

On the drops Trek Madone - 1.jpg

The latest aerodynamic equipment can cost a small fortune, though. It’s even possible to book time in a wind tunnel if you’re feeling particularly flush and want to do a proper job of reducing your drag and have results to validate the improvements.

The fastest aero road bikes

We’re not all made of money, though, but it’s possible to get more aerodynamic without spending any money. 

Close-fitting clothing

The cyclist causes about 80% of the air resistance (drag) so there are significant performance gains to be had by taking a closer look at your outfit. Loose and flappy clothing just catches the wind and massively increases your drag. A one-piece skin suit can save you 29 seconds over 40km at 37kph, according to an article by Damon Rinard and John Allen. 

Rapha Pro Team Aerosuit - sleeve

So close-fitting clothing is good, then. Choose a jersey and shorts that have a snug fit and in particular fit really well around the torso and shoulders. It’s not just racers that benefit from close-fitting clothing, you’ll benefit during a sportive even at lower speeds because a slower cyclist spends more time on the road so saves more time. 

Most of the professional teams now wear clothing that has been developed in the wind-tunnel, with aero suits (skin suits with pockets and long zips) a common sight in the peloton. But you don’t have to drop your month’s salary on the latest aero clothing,  going down a size is a simple way to achieve this.

Zip up your jersey

Gore Power Trail thermo jersey Zip

Riding along with your jersey or gilet unzipped and flapping in the wind might keep you cool, but it will generate loads of drag. You might as well wear a parachute. Unless you’re grinding up a steep climb below the speed at which air resistance is a factor, keep the jersey zipped up. You might be hot, but you'll be fast.

Get your head down

As your body causes most of the drag, getting your head down is a simple way to reduce drag. You’re aiming to reduce your frontal surface area, and keep your position as sleek and low profile as possible. A dropped riding position can reduce your drag by as much as 7.8% according to a study by Engineering Sport.


The drops aren’t just for the descents you know. Get your head and back down low by using the drops on the flat roads, you’ll be surprised at the difference. If your drops are hard to reach, consider putting some spacers under the stem to raise them. The more you ride in the drops the more you'll get used to the position as well. Additional core work can also be beneficial. 

Alternatively, use the hoods to adopt an aero position by keeping your forearms straight and your elbows tucked in and at a 90-degree angle, this will reduce your frontal surface area. This position isn’t always as comfortable as riding in the drops, but it has the potential to be faster because your arms aren’t straight like they typically are in the drops.

- Video: Geraint Thomas finds marginal gains at the velodrome

How do you know if any changes you make have reduced drag? In an ideal world, you’d be in a wind tunnel to validate the changes, or taking to a velodrome with a power meter. A power meter can be used out on the road, but controlling the variables is tricky. A simple roll down test doesn’t cost anything and can easily be repeated with just simple cycle computer required to track changes. This provides an easy way of trying different positions. 

Shave your legs

Racing cyclists are famous for their shaved legs, and as much ridicule as removing leg hair can generate, the science says that smooth legs are faster. Specialized aerodynamicists used their wind tunnel to show that shaved legs can save as much as 80 seconds over 40km. So when your other half asks why you’re shaving your legs, just tell them it’ll make you quicker. 

Tape up those air vents

All those vents in a cycling helmet are designed to suck in cooling air to prevent overheating on a warm ride, but if you cover them up, you have yourself an aero road helmet without spending any dosh. An aero helmet, with no vents, could save you as much as 40 seconds over a 40km course compared to a regular vented helmet, according to wind tunnel tests by Specialized.

Uvex EDAero Helmet - side.jpg

Take a leaf out of the British Cycling book, which in 2011 provided a helmet with a thin plastic covering, to smooth over the vents, for Mark Cavendish to ride, and win, the world championships. You could get a similar result with some cling film. It might lead to overheating in warmer weather, but what price for reduced drag?

Related: Should you buy an aero helmet?


That’s right, get on another cyclist's wheel and hide in their slipstream; it’s an easy way to reduce drag. Make sure to pick a cyclist that’s bigger than you, and you could reduce your drag by as much as 40%. You may be required to do a turn at the front, though.


Get a motorbike to follow you closely

Okay, so we’re not actually advising you do this, but an interesting study recently showed that a close following motorbike can actually help to improve your drag. 

David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

Latest Comments

  • Dr Winston 1 sec ago

    I had this discussion elsewhere (BTW you missed Caruso off your list). The only thing I can think of is that they want to have a decent team in...

  • Sam3 5 min 59 sec ago

    If you are around people and needing to ring bell, you're probably on the hoods, manoeuvring ...and without enough time to take one hand off and...

  • Philh68 15 min 39 sec ago

    March in the bike lane, obviously. I can hear them already: "what do we want, more traffic. When do we want it, now!"...

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    Hunt wheels are suitable for centrelock rotors which I prefer to 6 bolt, I don't see how a centre lock rotor could not be compatible. Perhaps you...

  • Nigel Garrage 1 hour 7 min ago

    I'm delighted to set the record straight for you - safety reasons were given as the underlying factor for being on the pavement, but the cargo bike...

  • TheBillder 1 hour 59 min ago

    Underrated, Dave. He also invented working with a shyster financier to repackage invoice factoring into "possible invoice if we actually had this...

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    The 911 clip isn't a near miss, the driver did attempt to pull out, yes. But as soon as the driver clocked the cyclist, they stopped.

  • TheBillder 2 hours 21 min ago

    Nigel, as you know, luck does not come into it. If you can't afford to subscribe to the Telegraph (Belfast?) then obviously you don't work hard...

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    I'm waiting for a June delivery but only paid early May. Having now read the reviews (why didn't I do that before?) I think it's more likely to be...

  • Dave Dave 3 hours 27 min ago

    I haven't been to Bath in years. I'm amazed to find out it hasn't been closed to traffic by now (at least to the standard of central Cambridge and...