If only it was possible to cut through all the techno-babble that surrounds time trial bikes as cleanly as the best of them cuts through the air, the world would be a happier place and my head would hurt a lot less. Over the next few days we'll be bringing you the pick of the 2009 time trial and triathlon bikes – starting with Isaac's Joule Aerotic range from one of the companies that doesn't go to town with its technical claims.
While no part of the bike industry is immune to the allure of baffling technical jargon, with a heavy garnish of spuriuos claims and context-free statistics nowhere does the techno BS come at you as hard and fast as when it comes to weighing up the competing claims of the world's most aerodynamic bikes. Over the last couple of years I can think of four manufacturers who've all claimed that theirs is the most aerodynamic bike, and Storck have claimed that theirs is the fastest which amounts to much the same thing. They can't all be the most aerodynamic, or at least if they are, given the immutable nature of the laws of physics, and the fact that they are all trying to solve the same problem, their bikes should all look the same. They don't. Although it's got to be admitted that the business ends of a number of this year's models do look a bit similar…
Most manufacturers seem to agree that the headtube/fork crown interface is crucial hence the pre-eminence of integrated forks on all the top bikes.
More emphasis is being put on providing shelter for the wheels a la the Cervelo P3 – the latest Scott Plasma is probably the most extreme example of this – its rear wheel can be adjusted to give a frame clearance so tight that it's roughly the depth of a credit card… umm, velodrome only for that surely.
Top tube profiles are getting more sculpted – to deal with crosswinds, say Trek and Scott.
All the top bikes have got integrated cable routing, and all have some sort of system to make replacing and servicing cables easier. Most also claim no loss of rear shifting performance.
One-piece integrated seat posts are on the way out, removable integrated seatposts are this year's thing. And, as we've said, if your fork isn't integrated forget it – Argon 18 take things to their logical conclusion on that one…
Carbon is king, but Ti manufacturers Litespeed haven't thrown the towel in yet and new ways to manufacturing titanium tubing such as hydroforming and ever more sophisticated ways of folding flat Ti to form tubes mean the titanium bike may still be a competitive option.
Everyone's having a pop at the Cervelo P3 – which hasn't changed this year. Cervelo's line is that improving on perfection isn't easy. Not that it seems to have stopped Trek or Scott having a go. Or indeed Cervelo who have just launched the new P4 at Interbike.
We'll be looking at many of the bikes mentioned here in more detail and you can find more pics, and some very full captions in our Time trial gallery over the next few days, but before we do here's a plea for next year on behalf of time trial bike buyers, and simple hacks, everywhere. Why don't all the manufacturers get together and come up with one easily understandable figure to describe the overall drag of a bike: an average of frontal drag and, say, three or for measurements for crosswind drag at a number of agreed angles. Then all we'd have to do is compare the numbers and we could then get on with arguing the relative merits of aerodynamics versus weight, stiffness, geometry etc. and I wouldn't get a headache every year when it comes to writing an article like this.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.