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Home » Cycling » Is Aero Really Everything in Road Bikes? The Truth About Aero, Speed and the Recreational Cyclist

Is Aero Really Everything in Road Bikes? The Truth About Aero, Speed and the Recreational Cyclist


July 2019

The tale of two road bikes. One is an old, round tube reinvigorated relic on semi-aero alloy wheels.

The other, an air carving blade of a steed… Aero carbon fiber wheels, aero spokes, aero fork, aero cockpit, seat post, top tube, down tube, seat tube, seat and chainstays…

Does aero matter in terms of feel and ride, as far as a recreational cyclist goes?

The answer is simple – aero absolutely matters… unless you don’t have an aero bike. In that case, it doesn’t, because you won’t know any better. Technically. I’ve got both, I ride both, I’m just as fast on the heavier, non-aero Trek as I am on the lightweight aero-everything Specialized… with a few simple clarifications.

  1. It’s true, the Trek is just as fast as the Venge – the Venge is just easier to ride fast, which means the Trek requires a little more oomph to keep it rolling fast. Not a big deal on the 30-mile Tuesday Night Club Ride… a little more of a pain in the butt over a century, especially a fast one. Still, my fastest ever century was done on the Trek.
  2. The Specialized is a little more comfortable that the Trek. Technological advances in carbon fiber have increased the comfort in the right places while increasing the stiffness where it’s needed for speed.
  3. It all boils down to “want to”, after you’ve got a decent set of wheels on a bike.
  4. A high-end bike won’t fix low-end legs…
  5. Once you’ve got that lightweight, aero super bike, guess what you’re left with? No excuses.
  6. Speaking from experience, one will learn to accept that the excuses are gone, but it’s a bit of a let down at first. Then you realize you’re on a kick-ass state of the art bicycle version of a Ferrari and you’re like, “Meh, screw you excuses”.

When you’re looking at people racing for a living then that little bit of an aerodynamic advantage really adds up over time. If you’re simply an avid enthusiast out for a good time on two wheels, it’s really not all that necessary to be all-in-aero. Skip the skin suit (though I have it on authority they’re quite awesome, I’m pretty svelte but WAY too fat for a skin suit). Skip the time trial helmet with the magnetic sun visor. 80-mm deep-dish wheels? That’s overkill, too. 35 to 50-mm will do.


Happy as a clam on my non-aero Trek 5200

On the other hand, folks, if you just gotta have the newest, most aero steed on the market, there’s no doubt it’ll make “fast” just a little easier. That’s what aero does. Nothing more. It certainly won’t jump you from, say, the B Group to the A’s. To jump that far, it all boils down to good wheels and want to.

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