The Tifosi SS26 Aero is a very quick bike you can cover big mileage on without really noticing. From, say, 23mph right up until about 30mph, when the wind resistance starts to negate the aero benefits, you can go seriously fast with relatively little effort.
Twelve months ago I tested the Tifosi SS26 and it was one of the highlights of 2016 for me, so this new Aero model certainly got me salivating. I mean, c'mon, who wouldn't want one of their all-time favourite bikes to be available in a 'sport' option?
At 7.25kg (15.98lb) in this build, the Aero is light, so acceleration is brisk from a standing start and it takes no time at all to get up to that sweetspot speed I mentioned above. The 53-tooth large chainring certainly got plenty of use over the test period, along with the bottom half of the cassette.
Tifosi says the SS26 Aero is an all-rounder, so it's not just about a full-on smashfest every single ride. A combination of its light weight and stiffness does make for a great climber, and even though our test model came with a 39t small chainring, the 11-29 tooth cassette still offered enough of a spread of gears for me to comfortably crest the majority of climbs.
High speed descending is its only area of weakness, and I'm using the term very lightly. Taking on technical downhill sections was the only place the Aero left me a little underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great handling, competent bike, but it just feels a little muted compared with the standard SS26.
That bike really speaks to you – you feel everything that is going on beneath you and you could really push it hard into the bends knowing its steep angles and agility were going to see you come out the other side of the apex with a grin on your face. The Aero doesn't quite have that; its ride is slightly more subdued, a bit calmer if you like, and just lacks that precise sort of feel. The turn-in isn't quite as sharp, and following the right line through the bend isn't quite as crisp.
I can see this making a brilliant sportive style machine where you want to cover a lot of miles over various topography at a rapid pace. It's a very confident machine pretty much everywhere, just lacking that edge to be a true race machine.
Frame & Fork
I think the main reason the Aero doesn't quite inspire me as much as the standard SS26 is that it's a little bit softer when it comes to its geometry.
The Aero has a 5mm shorter top tube and a 10mm taller head tube than the standard version, which, when coupled with the slightly slacker head and seat angles, gives a stack to reach ratio of 1.48:1 on this medium model. At this size most race bikes tend to be around 1.4:1 (like the SS26), with endurance/sportive bikes coming in around 1.55:1, so as you can see the SS26 Aero is pretty much in the middle.
The SS26 and SS26 Aero don't share the same frame, you see. Whereas the SS26 was created from Tifosi's own moulds, the Aero is from an open one – although Tifosi has the exclusive UK rights to it.
There are some similarities between the two, such as the down tube shape and the top of the head tube, whose bulge swoops into the top tube for maximum stiffness.
Other than that, the Aero is a completely different beast. Starting at the front, the fork legs actually look pretty much the same, but at the top the legs are shaped to match the bulky down tube and head tube junction for a smooth transition.
The seat tube has a teardrop profile, although it's not large enough to have a cutout at the rear to enclose the wheel like a lot of aero bikes do. Because of the profile, the Tifosi also uses an aero-specific seatpost, which is adjusted by an expanding wedge inside the top tube. The whole device is covered by a blanking plate, giving the whole bike a smooth finish.
The chainstays are pretty huge in depth for stiffness, while narrow in width to provide plenty of heel clearance. In contrast to this, the seatstays work in the opposite plane, being wide and flat for some shock absorption before it reaches the rider via the saddle.
These larger tube profiles, especially the rear end, means that the SS26 Aero is less forgiving than the standard SS26, losing the performance vs comfort balance that the SS26 really delivered. It's nowhere near as harsh as, say, the Cipollini NK1K, but could leave you wishing for something a little more plush if you're on it for a long time.
The Aero comes with fully internal cabling, which is designed for use with mechanical or electronic groupsets, and means there wasn't a single rattle from a cable tapping against a tube.
The SS26 Aero is available as a frameset (frame, fork and seatpost) for £999.99, and the Campagnolo Chorus build we have on test has some rather bling Bora One 50 wheels and a Deda Superzero carbon handlebar and alloy stem. The frame certainly warrants this quality of finishing kit, so it's not like Tifosi has draped a mediocre frame in jewellery.
Chorus is a lovely groupset, especially the shifters with their swooping carbon levers. I slightly prefer Shimano's lighter gear change but the ergonomics of the Chorus hoods for riding and braking takes the edge. Everything just feels like you are in a natural position.
I've already mentioned the gear spread of the 11-29 cassette and 53/39 chainset, which really works with this bike. I used them all, from smashing it along on the flat to grinding up the steepest climbs Wiltshire has to offer.
Any bike looks cool with a set of Campagnolo Bora wheels on, and they don't disappoint in terms of performance. This latest clincher version, with its 24mm rim width, works perfectly with the 25mm Michelin Power Endurance tyres in terms of a smooth transition between sidewall and rim. The wheels are light, and for deep-section rims they don't seem to suffer with that clattering kind of carbon feedback. They're very comfortable too, absorbing plenty of road buzz, and the braking surface is pretty impressive too.
I'm a big fan of the Michelin tyres as well – they're grippy in the bends while still offering what feels like very little in the way of rolling resistance. They give great confidence in corners to really bank the bike over and take a risk or two.
Deda provides the cockpit from its Superzero range, and it's some pretty extravagant kit – and suits the SS26 Aero spot on. The bar has a large, flat area for aerodynamics while also offering a really comfortable position for your hands, even without bar tape – well, you wouldn't want to cover up that logo, would you?
Some carbon bars are quite flexible; this isn't, but also doesn't feel overly harsh. It's a nice balance between comfort and stiffness.
The saddle was quite firm but I really got on with the shape thanks to its narrow nose and ample padding. It was great for really crouching down and getting the power down without catching your thighs against the upper.
Just shy of four grand is a lot of money for a bike, granted, but the SS26 Aero can be viewed as well priced when you compare it with, say, the Cipollini NK1K, as this Tifosi delivers 90% of the performance at under 25% of the price when you look at frameset prices: £4,200 vs £999.99.
If this build seems a little on the pricey side for you, and you don't want to spec up your own frameset, you could always go down the Shimano Ultegra or Campagnolo Potenza route. The Shimano option is £2,199.99 with the Campag offering at £1,949.99, which offers a really decent bang for buck.
Both come with Miche Altur wheels, which are solid performers and offer a decent enough aero advantage.
The SS26 Aero is a great handling and competent bike that's a little less racy than the SS26. For me, though, going down the aero route has just taken some of the shine off. If you prefer a less aggressive riding position it's a very worthy contender, but for my money I'd go for the SS26.
A stunning looking speed machine that delivers as a great all-rounder
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Tifosi SS26 Aero
Size tested: 54cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Sizes XS - XL
Colours Black/Orange or Red/Blue/White
Frame Toray Carbon Fibre
Fork Toray Carbon Fibre
Handlebar Deda SuperZero
Stem Deda SuperZero
Seatpost Tifosi Aero Post
Saddle Selle Italia X1
Shifters Campagnolo Chorus
Front Mech Campagnolo Chorus
Rear Mech Campagnolo Chorus
Brakes Campagnolo Chorus Skeleton
Cassette Campagnolo Chorus 11spd 11-29
Chain KMC X11-93
Crankset Campagnolo Chorus 50/39
Bottom Bracket Miche Evo Max Press Fit
Wheels Campagnolo Bora One 50
Tyres Michelin Power Endurance 700x25
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Tifosi says: "Built on the acclaimed reputation of the SS26.
"The latest iteration of the hugely successful SS26 features more aero elements, helping shave valuable time off your ride. The carefully sculpted tubes are designed to offer optimum performance, low weight and fantastic handling.
"A sprinter, climber – an excellent all-rounder.
"The SS26 Aero is designed to be an all-rounder just like the previous model. However certain refinements to the geometry ensure it's as light and stiff as possible, whether your chasing down your Strava segments or entering 180km sportives."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It'a well built frame that is covered in a thick and durable paint job.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both the frame and fork uses various grades of Toray carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
When looking at the numbers here – http://www.tifosicycles.co.uk/shop/bikes/ss26-aero/ – you'll see that it sits somewhere in between a race bike and a slightly more relaxed endurance setup.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack to reach ratio is 1.48:1 which is higher than the standard SS26, meaning a less aggressive ride. This is down to the Aero's higher stack height and shorter reach figures.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, it was comfortable, although the aero shaped seat tube and seatpost have made the ride harsher than the original SS26.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, it is certainly stiff enough.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very impressive, stiffness at the bottom bracket and chainstays is very high so it really helps when you put the power down.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
A little, and no.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? On the lively side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The SS26 Aero has very balanced handling that means it is great for fast, flowing corners.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle was firm but had a very likeable, comfortable shape.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Deda Superzero bar and stem offered plenty of stiffness when yanking on them.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Bora wheels roll super-smoothly.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Chorus is a very good groupset that offers a precise shift across the gears, and I'm a big fan of the shape of the hoods and brake levers.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, what for?
The Bora wheels are light and stiff so I didn't have any flex issues when out of the saddle. They didn't seem to suffer from buffeting in strong winds either.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so, what for?
The Michelin Power Endurance are very good tyres, offering a great balance of low rolling resistance, grip and durability.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The flat tops of the Deda bar offer loads of hand positions as do the drops with their pistol grip style shape rather than a more traditional round one.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
If you want an aero styled bike that works in the real world, the Tifosi is a great option, especially when you take into consideration its price. I just prefer the slightly sharper and planted handling you get with the standard SS26.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.