In Cycling, what’s More Important, Weight or Aero?! For the Avid Enthusiast, What’s Most Important is How You Want to Ride…
If you’re into cycling, you hear a lot of hub-bub about aerodynamic or super-light bikes – which is more important, which is better, which is faster… etc. I like aero over weight by a smidgen. From my understanding of the data, my choice is backed up by the science… but that’s just my opinion and it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, anyway.
If you’ve got a vast fortune to blow on new bikes, you can do like cycling teams do and get a bike for each days’ occasion. Climbing? Pull out the Trek Emonda. Heading out for a hot, flat ride with the A-Group? Take the Specialized Venge. Time Trial? Take your Cannondale Slice. Feel like going on an adventure, where you ride anywhere, on any road? Take a Giant Revolt Advanced 2.
Ahem, I don’t have $28,000 to blow on bikes – especially considering it wouldn’t be $28,000, it’d be $56,000 because I’d have to get each type of bike for Mrs. Bgddy as well. That’s a lot of cheese, folks!
As a cycling enthusiast, you’re going to need a gravel bike. That’s a must have. The time trial bike? Unless you’re going to do time trials or triathlons, they’re not necessary – especially not necessary if you plan on riding in a group. That leaves the climbing bike and the aero bike. Which one? Which way to go?! Dear sweet baby Jesus in a manger… Decisions, decisions…
For the non-pro avid enthusiast, there’s one thing that trumps all of the crap; the drivetrain.
My friends, I’ve got it all. A 15-pound aero race bike, an 18-pound race bike and a heavy gravel bike, and the most important part(s) on each of those road bikes is the humble drivetrain.
If I’m going climbing, I don’t take the Venge anymore, the aero (and, ironically, lighter) race bike. The gearing is all wrong for climbing. I opt for the 18 pound Trek for the drivetrain, every time. It’s the only bike I think of taking on my trips up north to the hills, and you know what? That extra two pounds and change doesn’t even matter. Can I feel the difference? Sure, but the gearing is way more important than a couple of pounds.
So what does this mean? Folks, chain rings and cassette gears.
Technically, if you really wanted to do it right, you take whichever bike you’ve got and you get two cassettes for it and go with a compact 50/34 crankset. The first cassette, the racer, is going to be either an 11-23 or an 11-25. You’re not going to have much for climbing but you’ll have enough gears to get you by in a bind.
For the second cassette, you’re going to opt for the 11-28 or, if you have the right rear derailleur, the 11-30 or even a 32 (I don’t like having big jumps in the size of the cogs because that creates cadence holes, so I’d never go that big, but if you need the extra gears for climbing, then by all means, have at it).
The rest is elementary.
Now, if you haven’t noticed, bikes have gotten a little bit heavy in the last couple of years. Light is now 16 or 17 pounds for a reasonably priced climbing bike. Your aero-bikes are downright weighty: A Madone 7 disc, costing $6,600 is a whopping 18 pounds (a Madone 6 weighs in at more than 19 at $4,700). Looking at Specialized, the Venge Pro (a mind-blowing $8,000) should be a little lighter than the cheaper Madone, but not by much. The Trek Emonda, the climbing bike, is quite a bit better that the Madone, the Emonda SL7 Disc has a price tag of $5,100 and you get a 16 pound bike for your money. Not bad, but my first gen. Specialized Venge weighs in at less than 16 pounds and I don’t have anywhere near $8,000 into it.
In the end, I really can’t tell the weight difference between my 18 pound Trek and the 15-ish pound Venge when I’m going up a hill. Not as much as I can tell how much better the Trek is geared for climbing. And that’s what’s really important when you’re not getting free bikes with your pro contract.