Aero road frames..do they actually make a difference?

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  • Aero road frames..do they actually make a difference?
  • tpbiker
    Member

    Doing alot of road riding recently and whilst I’m pretty good going up the hills, on the flat I struggle to keep pace with my more powerful riding mate. I currently have a 7kg canyon ultimate, which is obviously a pretty good bike, and when it has it’s deep section aero wheels fitted it’s probably a mile per hr or so faster on the flats than with its standard box section rims. It’s not alot but that makes quite a difference when I’m out with my mate.

    So now I’m thinking can I further narrow the gap with an aero frame. Obviously the industry is saying they make a massive difference, but I’m not convinced. Obviously I could just get fitter, but the issue is my mates fitness has increased at same pace as mine, so relatively, I’m still just as slow.

    So do they make a difference, and if so how much? for reference I usually pootle along the flat at around 20mph, and it’s at a speed that the wheels make a noticeable difference

    Premier Icon cloudnine
    Subscriber

    A better bike position would probably be moar aero..

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    on the flat I struggle to keep pace with my more powerful riding mate.

    Just tuck in behind him then!! Save the cash 🙂

    tpbiker
    Member

    Just tuck in behind him then!! Save the cash 🙂

    This is the current position tbf..works quite well!

    mtbtomo
    Member

    With a bike thats already decent (albeit with minimal aero pretentions), I reckon an aero frame would make minimal difference. More benefit to be had from getting a narrower handlebar and perhaps assessing whether your position is somehow reducing the power you can generate on the flat.

    But if you want an aero frame then of course, get one! 😁

    tpbiker
    Member

    More benefit to be had from getting a narrower handlebar and perhaps assessing whether your position is somehow reducing the power you can generate on the flat.

    Power on flat is same as going up hill if I try. It’s more that my power isn’t massive, although power to weight is sufficient.

    Already got narrow bars.

    But yeah..probably I wanted someone to tell me it would overnight make me faster so I have an excuse for a new frame..

    Premier Icon crazy-legs
    Subscriber

    About 75% of the aero gains to be had on a bike come from the person – the riding position, clothing, helmet etc.
    If you’re going onto the bike itself, wheels then anything around the front end (especially bar shape, cables and where your computer is mounted) make the most difference.

    But it’s no good being all aero about the bike then putting on some flappy clothing and sitting upright on the bike!

    tpbiker
    Member

    Hmmm..i have a fairly low position, it’s a race bike so short head tube, and all my clothes fit. I even have an aero helmet which I think makes a slight difference to ride speeds.

    Aero bars may be a cheaper investment. Looked at the prime aero bars but they only had them in a 42 and I don’t see any point in getting wider than I already have (40). Any other decent aero bars for not mega bucks?

    Sounds like a frame isn’t a sound financial investment. Quite fancied a propel..it looks fast

    By all means buy new kit if makes you happy and you want it, but everyone already knows in their hearts that they’d be better off doing more and harder training than trying to buy speed.

    Premier Icon w00dster
    Subscriber

    Roadie here, ridden aero frames for years. They do provide some benefit, they tend to be more aggressive positioning making the rider more aero, frame saves a couple of watts, the wheels save some more.
    But they are not a magic wand for fitness differences unfortunately.
    I ride an Aeroad, previously on the Madone. As a full system there is some “speed gains”, but it is the full system and not just the frame.

    scotroutes
    Member

    Doing alot of road riding recently and whilst I’m pretty good going up the hills, on the flat I struggle to keep pace with my more powerful riding mate.

    If he is a mate, why doesn’t he slow down a bit for you? Is he in a hurry to get somewhere?

    TiRed
    Member

    My Propel SL is about 15-20 watts faster than my Defy SL, all else being equal. I tested this at Hillingdon by riding five flying 200 Watt laps and timing them with the same and different clothing and wheels and helmets. I ran this through a statistical model to adjust for temperature and wind.

    The biggest difference was skinsuit. I wore a highly aero skinsuit for one test and that saved about 30 watts with aero helmet compared with my regulat jersey and helmet. Position is the same on both bikes. Wheels were the same too, although I also run HED JET6/9 combo on the race Propel.

    Whether 15 watts is important to you or not is another matter. But it is a real and reproducible effect. The downtube on the Defy has the profile of a brick -other non-aero frames my fare better!

    Premier Icon wonny j
    Subscriber

    Less techy approach, how about core strength and yoga? Quite a low cost and low effort* way of gaining some speed.

    *Maybe

    steve_b77
    Member

    pootle along the flat at around 20mph

    if a pootle speed is 20mph, are you really asking the right question? As mentioned above, if you have the aero clothing & helmet, aero wheels is there anything else other than the bars that you can think of? Maybe a fetching pair of calf length rubber overshoes, for that full on modern tester look?

    JonEdwards
    Member

    I was utterly sceptical of anything aero in real world terms until last summer.

    I was out on a summer Saturday ride, rode from home up to Stanage on my pretty bling Enigma, near the top I just about caught a guy on a Canyon Aeroad with the full aero set up – deep wheels, bar and stem, he had an aero lid on, really well fitting kit etc. Was just behind him at the top. He carried on round Higgar Tor, I dropped down the back, but direct, way into Hathersage down School Lane. Now I’m not a bad descender and I broke 50mph that day (always memorable). Got through the village and headed up to Abney, only to gradually overhaul the same guy again. He must have absolutely beasted the longer flatter descent (with a nasty road junction) to get that far in front of me.

    I was a bit in front of him as we went through Abney and there’s a short descent to a dogleg over a bridge. Was just turning into this, when I suddenly hear him jamming on the anchors behind/alongside me as he nearly overshot the corner.

    Cool starry bra etc, but made me think a little more about the benefits of aero, as I was fairly obviously the stronger rider climbing, and its very rare for me to be outpaced on road descents, so to be quite so comprehensively caught twice suggests there’s a wee bit more going on than comes to the eye and the obvious difference was the aero kit.

    tpbiker
    Member

    if a pootle speed is 20mph, are you really asking the right question

    Tbf 20 miles an hr on the flat isn’t going to get you anywhere in a time trial. You need about 170 watts to go at that speed, so I’d say for any relatively fit cyclist that’s pooling pace on a road bike.

    Unless I’m misunderstanding your point.

    jonba
    Member

    Are they bigger than you. I have mates who I leave for dead riding uphill as I weigh about 10kg less. However, they are tall and strong so on the flat they are super strong and more than a match. It is the difference between absolute watts and watts/kg. For flat riding you just need big watts.

    I’d say an aero frame would make little difference. There would be cheaper ways to get faster.

    Position – flat back, lower front, narrower bars can all help but you might need to condition yourself.

    Kit – Aero helmet, spped suit or good jersey/short combination. Aero socks, more aero shoes. Aero gloves, cable routing. Bottle positions. It all adds up.

    More dedicated to testers but this is interesting. I wonder if anyone has done one for general road riding.

    Biggest Bang For Your Buck In Time Trial Equipment

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    Do you drop him on the hills?

    If so, don’t worry too much – that’s the important bit.

    tpbiker
    Member

    as I was fairly obviously the stronger rider climbing, and its very rare for me to be outpaced on road descents,

    But thw two dont equate to speed on flat. I’m as good if not better climber than my mate, as my power to weight is better. On the flat though he’s way faster as he puts out 50 watts more and gravity doesn’t come into it. He’s obviously way heavier than me.

    Edit..as per what jomba said

    Premier Icon Garry_Lager
    Subscriber

    Tbf 20 miles an hr on the flat isn’t going to get you anywhere in a time trial. You need about 170 watts to go at that speed, so I’d say for any relatively fit cyclist that’s pooling pace on a road bike.

    Unless I’m misunderstanding your point.

    20mph on a dedicated flat bit is pretty sedate, but a 20mph overall average on a flattish road ride is pretty serious, most folk couldn’t manage that with all the variations and stop start you get on normal roadying. So I don’t think comparisons with testing are that useful, where it’s completely non-stop, max aero position [pretty uncomfortable unless you’re very trained on it], plus you just paid real money to put a number on your back and hurt yourself.

    In other words you wouldn’t really see many benefits from the aero frame overall, with the variable nature of the roadride, the intrinsically small wattages you’re talking about in the first place, plus the bollox idea of ruining a perfectly nice ride by stressing your neck and upper back with a proper aero position.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    Not a go at the OP but I have nostalgia for the days when you couldn’t buy speed so easily, and even those racing didn’t.

    As above 20mph average around Edinburgh has my respect.

    qwerty
    Member

    If you really wanna piss on your mates chips….. just buy one of those seat tube / crank spindle electric motors 👹

    I feel the op’s pain. Why do I have to wait at the top of the hills for the fatties but they can spank me on the flats? My advice is try to not let them dictate the pace. Get on the front on the flat and set a steady tempo, if they go past and up the pace, let them go.

    yetidave
    Member

    I understood that uphill your power is working against the losses in the bearings etc and gravity, whereas on the flat your biggest losses are air resistance. If two riders are putting out the same output in W, a lighter rider will win uphill as he has less gravity to work against, downhill the heavier rider will win with the gravity. Not sure how this spins out on the flat, but it comes down to all out power. I would imagine that if the heavier riders output is higher,he may be slower on the hills (due to gravity) but pull away on the flats due to all out power. (I remember reading this a while ago, explained much better than me here.)

    tpbiker
    Member

    As above 20mph average around Edinburgh has my respect

    Just to be clear, I don’t average 20 miles an hr on my rides! Most of my rides are quite hilly, between 50 and 100 foot of climbing per mile so I’m well below that average speed. But the only place I struggle to keep up is on the flat bits, where typically I’m doing over 20 mph.

    When we push on on the flats he can maintain a good pace (let’s say 24/25 mph) whilst well under his ftp, where as I’m far closer to threshold at that pace . Sure I could just sit behind him for the entire ride, but if not when I take a turn up front the pace drops significantly.

    Is this really an issue, not really. Was I hoping someone would say ‘you’ll instantly jump up a few miles per hr’ to justify a shiny new bike…possibly..

    oldnpastit
    Member

    If you drop him on the hills then try to casually suggest some hillier routes where your superior power-to-weight advantage will come to the fore.

    big yim
    Member

    Op if you can afford an aero bike and you want one then just buy it. It sounds like an itch you need to scratch. Even the placebo effect will make you faster because you will think your bike is faster.
    I have an aero bike and carbon aero wheels and it’s like running in slippers when you were a kid. Fast as flip boiiii

    Haze
    Member

    Smaller/lighter rider on the flat may generate less power, but would gain a little back from having a smaller frontal area?

    Aero frames do make a difference because they are more aggressive at the front end and the brake is normally at the rear of the forks . I ride a propel and it just goes and goes . I am 13 st and in a straight line I can produce more power than my friends who push on when climbing. This is prob the case with yourself

    Premier Icon uberpod
    Subscriber

    Surely if an aero frame made enough difference, then your mate would go out and buy one too. Then you’d be back to where you started, but skint.

    If your mate can sit at 24 -25mph on the flats , comfortably under his ftp, what the hell is his ftp? ,or watts/kg?
    That is proper fast , like cat 1 fast , sub 4 hr century fast. No wonder you cant keep up, very few people ( on here ) could.

    tpbiker
    Member

    If your mate can sit at 24 -25mph on the flats , comfortably under his ftp, what the hell is his ftp? ,or watts/kg?
    That is proper fast , like cat 1 fast , sub 4 hr century fast. No wonder you cant keep up, very few people ( on here ) could.

    Is it? Maybe we aren’t going quite that fast then, but all I know is I will be putting out around 260 watts (roughly my ftp) going at the same pace as him (when not drafting), and he’ll be putting out not much more than that, which is well below his ftp of just over 300. 260 watts on the flat for me equates to not far off 25 mph if I’m on the drops I reckon.

    Should be pointed out I did say 25mph was us ‘pushing on’ and putting in a bit of effort, no-one is saying we can maintain that kind off effort continuously for the duration of a ride. Average speed on flats is usually far closer to 20 id say.

    stevious
    Member

    Just to add some perspective here, you seem to be advocating buying a new frame (presumably at large cost if it’s replacing your canyon) just so you can keep up with your mate for a bit of your ride together.

    If you’ve got the money and that’s how you want to spend it then that’s cool, but maybe you could think of something else to do with that money to bring more joy to your life.

    trail_rat
    Member

    I bought an aero bike (also propel).

    It’s exactly the same position as my previous non aero bike.

    It shifts compared to my old bike…..but it’s 3 kilos lighter.

    Probably not the aero that makes faster

    My ramp test ftp is 245 – 255 depending on how I perfom on the day ( decent gym bike ). Most of my rides average below 17mph between say 40-70 miles. Maybe a little quicker on short runs, can go into the 29’s in a club 10TT , slower over a century.
    This is either on a Roubaix with 32mm alloy rims , or a Propel with 55mm carbons , Miche Powr comp tyres , conti supersonic tubes .
    76kg , 32in waist , 5ft 11 tall , 49yr old.
    The Propel feels faster , and is faster according to the guys on the sunday club run. However the Garmin /Strava stats do not reflect this. For me anyway

    Premier Icon crazy-legs
    Subscriber

    If your mate can sit at 24 -25mph on the flats , comfortably under his ftp, what the hell is his ftp? ,or watts/kg?
    That is proper fast , like cat 1 fast , sub 4 hr century fast. No wonder you cant keep up, very few people ( on here ) could.

    Yeah but he’s not said under what circumstances this is or for how long. Is it over a couple of miles or a couple of hours? What are the road / traffic conditions? Is it the “effort” part of an interval?

    I’ve done circuit races on some of the flatter/less technical venues like Lee Valley and Hillingdon where I’ve sat at an average of 27 or 28mph for an hour but that’s completely different to riding in the real world on my own or with one/two others. Even on a circuit like Richmond Park with no traffic lights and (relatively) little traffic I’d be struggling to get 20mph average for a lap never mind 3 or 4 laps. If it comes to a normal road ride – junctions, traffic lights, hills, out for a few hours – then an average of 16mph is much more realistic.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    It’s more that my power isn’t massive, although power to weight is sufficient.

    If he’s a big guy and you’re not, then this will always be the outcome. He’ll smash you on the flat and you’ll smash him on the climbs. When me and my mate both had power meters his ftp was 270W or so, mine 335W. But he still whipped me on the MTB due to only weighing 65kg. But I could mash him on the flat due to superior power.

    tpbiker
    Member

    Just to add some perspective here, you seem to be advocating buying a new frame (presumably at large cost if it’s replacing your canyon) just so you can keep up with your mate for a bit of your ride together.

    Well tbh I’m probably advocating a new frame as I like shiny new things. I’m also wanting to move to di2 and my frame isn’t compatible so that’s another reason. If I can find enough reasons to justify the purchase I might just treat myself.

    Most of my rides average below 17mph between say 40-70 miles

    Mine as well. But once again 20mph isn’t an average for the ride, it’s what I do on the flat parts of the ride. My usual routes are far from flat, in fact looking at strava I’m pretty much averaging 100 ft of climbing for every mile I have done this year.

    TiRed
    Member

    Don’t forget that aero gains work better at speed. But it is relative speed that matters. Hence into a headwind you will be saving more watts than into still air. It’s easy to get a relative wind speed of 20 mph 🙂

    My Propel sits in those bunches at 27-28 mph as well. Not this season though as still Ill.

    My other Propel makes for a very comfortable training bike.

    That’s the only time I’ve ever seen the words Propel and comfort used in the same sentence! I rode one once, hateful thing, couldn’t give it back quick enough.

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