Even though the importance of aerodynamics has become more recognised at the top level of racing, every team in the Tour de France has a fleet of superlight race bikes at its disposal, and here are five models that have been launched this year.
In most situations, aerodynamic efficiency trumps light weight. However, a lower weight can be an advantage on steep climbs, and some riders simply prefer to ride a lightweight bike.
Of course, there’s only so much benefit a Tour de France rider can get from switching from an aero bike to a lightweight one because of the UCI’s minimum weight limit. Even though some of the framesets out there could be built up into ultra-light complete bikes, riders aren’t allowed to race on anything weighing less than 6.8kg.
We’ve limited this selection to bikes that have been launched in 2017, hence there’s no Canyon Ultimate CL SLX, Bianchi Specialissima, Cannondale SuperSix Evo, Merida Scultura, and so on, although they’ve all been covered on road.cc in the past.
Trek-Segafredo’s Alberto Contador (main pic) was first spotted riding the new version of the Emonda at this year’s Criterium du Dauphine and Trek officially launched the range just before the start of the Tour.
Trek claims the new Emonda SLR in a rim brake version (a disc brake model is also available for the first time) weighs just 640g. That’s 50g lighter than previously. How has Trek saved the grams? It’s down to a new carbon layup. The US brand says that the new 700 Series OCLV carbon frame is also stiffer than previously and more compliant, not surprisingly – they all say that!
The top of the range Emonda SLR 9, decked out in a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and Bontrager Aeolus 3 wheels, weighs a claimed 6.07kg – well below the UCI’s minimum weight limit. The bad news is that it’s priced at £8,500.
Let’s be honest, you’re not going to spend that much on a bike, are you? The Emonda SLs, with a frame weight of 1,091g and a fork weight of 313g, start at £1,500.
Look 785 Huez RS
Fortuneo-Oscaro riders have the brand new Look 785 Huez RS which is the French brand’s lightest ever bike. The claimed weights are 730g for the frame and 280g for the full-carbon fork.
Look says that it put a lot of effort into sourcing the best carbon fibres for a climbing bike during the development process of the 785 Huez RS, choosing five different types of high modulus carbon. The results, it claims, are a stiff head tube for precise handling plus some flex in the slim seatstays for comfort.
Look says that an off-the-peg 785 Huez RS with top-end components could come in at 5.9kg, which would make it one of the lightest production road bikes.
— FEILLU Brice (@FEILLUBrice) July 5, 2017
The Pro Team version comes with a Sram Red eTap groupset and Corima Carbon wheels for €9,999. Ouch!
The 785 Huez (without the RS suffix) has a frame weight of 990g. The lowest priced option comes with a Shimano 105 groupset and Shimano RS 10 wheels for €2,299.
Switzerland’s BMC introduced the new version of its Teammachine last month and it’s being ridden in the Tour de France by BMC Racing, strangely enough. This one belongs to Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, hence the gold details.
With revised tube profiles and carbon fibre layup, the rim brake version of the new Teammachine comes in at a claimed 790g, versus just 815g for the disc version.
BMC says the bottom bracket area provides more stiffness than before and you get more comfort thanks in part to newly shaped seatstays creating a compact rear triangle.
The BMC Teammachine SLR01 – with a SRAM Red eTap groupset and DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline 35 carbon wheels – is priced at £7,000. Well, it was never going to be cheap, was it?
The more affordable (it’s all relative) SLR02 model built up with a mid-range Shimano 105 groupset, is £2,150.
The new Cervelo R5 was being ridden by Dimension Data riders as far back as February although it was only launched officially in June.
Weight, or the lack of it, has always been one of the R5’s trump cards. For this new model, Cervélo hasn’t actually chased a lower weight figure, instead opting to focus on optimising the stiffness to weight ratio. It claims the new R5 rim brake model is 21% stiffer at the bottom bracket and 13% stiffer at the head tube. To achieve those figures, Cervelo has evolved its Squoval tube shapes (rounded square tube profiles) with Squoval Max.
The weight of the rim brake frame is a claimed 850g and it’s 831g for the disc brake version. Yes, the disc brake frame is actually lighter.
The 2018 Cervelo R5 with a Sram Red rTap groupset and Zipp 302 wheels is £7,199. There’s no such thing as an R5 complete bike in a budget build. The version with mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels is still £5,499.
The Specialized Tarmac, ridden by Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step (Dan Martin's bike is pictured here), has just been updated, the SL6 version being revealed officially just last month. Specialized claims that a 56cm frame weighs just 733g which is 200g lighter than the Tarmac SL5.
Specialized has refined the shape of the tubes. The old Tarmac had a fair few curves, but the SL6 has much straighter tubes and shapes. It has scaled down the diameters of the tubes to save weight.
The frame is also more aerodynamically efficient, says Specialized, the company having made use of its own wind tunnel in the development of the new frameset, the company claiming the SL6 is 45secs faster over 40km than its key rivals, such as the Trek Emondo or Cannondale SuperSix Evo.
The top-level S-Works Tarmac Ultralight, with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and Roval CLX 32 wheels, is priced £9,000.
The least expensive SL6 complete bike is the Tarmac Expert. With a Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset and Roval SLX 24 wheels it costs £3,500.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.