Bicycle Aerodynamics, Style Watts and Why You Don’t NEED It (but it sure don’t hurt)…and If You’re Losing Weight, Why You Don’t WANT It.
Cycling is a funny thing for those who choose to become avid enthusiasts (“Avid Enthusiast” is a slightly more politically correct term for “freaking bike nut” for those who might not know). I put a lot of money into cycling over the last two years, on new bikes and new equipment… Last summer I’d come up with an idea for a new cycling related company that was supposed to launch this last spring but getting all of the legalese out of the way took about six months longer than anticipated… This company will involve quite a bit of travel (if it works) and I didn’t want to show up to advertise my wares on a fourteen year-old steed with peeling paint and nail polish patches. Also, I had the cash and absolutely fell in love with my Venge when I saw it on display at my local bike shop.
To be technically honest, I fell in love with its potential. While the frame was beautiful, the rest of bike, the wheels, bar and stem and the crank were a little plain Jane-ish:
I did not buy this bike because it was an aero-bike, though I am glad it is. The wheel upgrade was all style, weight and quality though they had a minimal impact on aerodynamics (bladed spokes in lieu of round). The stem was a weight and style upgrade (80 grams and really cool looking) and the handlebar, while advertised as saving of about 20 seconds over 40 km or about 25 miles, was mainly “style watts” and a little bit of weight (like 40 grams). Add in the time savings from the bike (about 46 seconds over 40 km compared to my 5200) and you’re talking about something though – something like 2-1/2 seconds a mile over this:
With fall set in, I’m on the 5200 almost exclusively now and I’m not much slower on that bike than the Venge – at least not perceptibly so. The actual difference in miles per hour is simple: 20.00 mph on the 5200 works out to 20.34 on the Venge with the exact same effort. There’s a trick to this though. On the 5200 I have to make up the difference with legs, ass and “want to” when I’m riding with others. In other words, I have to work just a little harder to keep the pace. Now keep up with me here, because this gets fun. If I’m cycling to lose weight, I’ll burn an extra 3-5 calories per mile in the process of keeping my speed up. This may not seem like much until you factor in a full season. Over a nine month season, based on 3,600 miles (or about 400 miles a month) you’re looking at an extra THREE POUNDS on the low-end and FIVE on the high. Folks, that’s something. Who wouldn’t want to lose an extra three to five pounds for a bare minimum of extra effort. Point is, if you’re into losing weight and don’t have to have the coolest, fastest bike, you just may want to opt for a standard over an aero bike.
This is highly subjective of course, possibly unquantifiable in reality because the truth is, you’re going to ride as hard as you ride and you’re going to eat what you eat.
The point is, three tenths of a mile an hour is a big deal when you’re in the upper echelon of cycling and the newer aero bikes do tend to look quite awesome but there’s a reason most knowledgeable people will tell you that thousands of dollars worth of aero equipment can be made up for with a little effort and some want to. On the other hand, it sure don’t hurt.