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Why Do All Modern Aero Race Road Bikes Look Alike? One Cyclist’s Hypothesis

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The “good old days” of the aero road bike, just three to eight years ago, when you could get an aero road bike and your make/model looked unique:

After many, many upgrades 2020 (left) Day 1, 2013 (right)

I had an interesting chat with a friend about my post yesterday. After reading my post, he commented that he liked my Venge but…

UIM: I like the look of your Venge but beyond that, most of the top-end modern bikes look plug-ugly!

Me: They did get a little blah, didn’t they? I don’t know what happened but many of the top-end bikes ended up looking alike, and it isn’t a good thing.

UIM: Designed, possibly, by people who never ride bikes, perhaps…

He really brings up an interesting idea, but one of my examples was the 2020 Specialized S-Works Venge. If I know anything about Specialized’s employees, I know they ride bikes. A lot.  Their corporate lunch rides are famous.

That said, I offered a different hypothesis, but before I get to that, have a look at what I’m talking about:

You’ve gotta hand it to Trek, in my humble opinion.  Their model looks just like everyone else’s, but at least it looks a little racier.  That said, there isn’t a lot of room between any of them.  Represented are Canyon, Giant, Cervelo, Specialized, Trek, BMC, Cannondale, and Scott – in that order, left to right, top to bottom.

So here’s the hypothesis I presented to my friend:  This is what happens when you build your aero bike for a wind tunnel, not a cyclist.

When you’re designing a bicycle around a desired result in a wind tunnel, there are only so many ways you can go to hide from wind before all of the models start looking like one another… because everyone is chasing the exact same result and a bicycle is still a bicycle.

I think it’ll take some kind of interesting discovery or changing of the UCI rules in order for bikes to start getting a personality again.  I won’t be holding my breath, though.  Riding in the wind on a normal bike sucks… on a modern aero bike it still sucks, it just sucks less.  Don’t believe me?  Take one for a test ride on a windy day and let me know what you think.  I’ll save the “I know, right?” for then.

In the meantime, as a note to manufacturers, you’re going to have to do away with the “ghost” or “stealth” paint jobs and start splashing those frames with a little color so we can tell the difference between them.  Let’s just stay away from the 2015-2017 paint schemes and colors.  They were mostly hideous.  Bright, loud, normal reds, blues, greens… maybe an orange or an electric purple.  No more baby $#!+ colors.  Please.  For the love of God.


4 Comments

  1. unironedman says:

    I suspect they are all chasing the dragon, where the dragon is speed. Or those ‘marginal gains’ made famous by Brailsford. I suppose we could blame the bloody triathletes and their time trial bikes!

    It would be interesting to compare the auto industry to bikes, because they seem to be going in opposite directions: all curves on new cars; all angles on new bikes.

    But I must confess I’m just an old romantic about these things. I like a few curves. I like old steel frames. I like extraneous detail that would add unnecessary weight to a frame. And as a mate of mine rightly points out (and he should know – he’s medals to prove it from track cycling and coaching), you can’t change much about the engine on the saddle.

    You can buy yourself a 15lb road bike, but you are probably adding a 200lb engine on top, so your marginal gains are gobbled up. Literally. As Jim rightly points out in many of his posts, you should try and get the best bike you can afford, and it will go a little faster for you, but you have to tune that engine first, and that means riding hard. I can’t use your line, Jim: that would be stealin’ 😉

  2. It’s like modern family sedan cars. A lot started to look the same as they chased aero gains (in the name of fuel economy). Modern road bikes are all chasing aero while staying within UCI rules. Non UCI bikes can get super aero. As for looks? Well, they’re triathlon bikes so make your own mind up…

    Still, I’ll take a Trek Domane thanks! 😍

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