Can Aero Road Bikes Climb? | New Cannondale SystemSix

Can Aero Road Bikes Climb? | New Cannondale SystemSix


(rock music) – Aero bikes can’t climb, apparently, but is that a fact, or is that just an enduring opinion based on the way that they’ve always been marketed? Or is it, in fact, due to the reason that pro cyclists haven’t seemed to have adopted them wholesale yet, and we always looks to
see what the pros do? Whichever it is, it does seem that, if you’re in the position of buying a beautiful new road bike, that your decisions are
based on the following logic. If you ever ride up hills, you should buy the
lightest bike that you can, and if you don’t, you might be able to get away with an aero bike. You see, increasingly,
people are starting to think that that is total rubbish. I am inclined to agree. I just wonder whether an aero road bike is almost always the fastest option. (intense rock music) If you’ve come here expecting your usual GCN does sides,
then you might be left wanting because, actually, the debate here is so finely balanced,
there wouldn’t really be any point in pitting two bikes head to head up a climb because we wouldn’t get any meaningful results. The difference is simply that small. You will also have noticed, I’m sure, that, in order to illustrate
my point about aero bikes, I have been lent this incredible
new Cannondale SystemSix. We’ve got a full video on it over on the tech channel, but in essence, Cannondale set themselves the goal of creating the fastest
race bike out there, and they feel that they’ve hit their mark, and they’ve got the data to back it up, data which happily helps
to prove my point as well, although, before you say, “Well, of course “they want you to say
that their new aero bike “is faster everywhere,” I would
actually like to point out that they also have the
SuperSix EVO in their lineup, which is actually one
of the lightest bikes out there as well, so probably, they don’t really care
what the conclusion is. Now, in terms of this bike, and compared to the SuperSix EVO, there is about 400 grams
extra weight in the frameset, and that’s simply because,
in order to create these large and aerodynamic tubes, you actually need more material. The same is also true of some of the aerodynamic components,
like the seat post, the handlebars, and the stem. Then, because it’s disc-specific, then you also have to add in a couple of hundred
grams for those as well. All in, it’s probably
about one kilo heavier than a UCI-legal lightweight
race bike, one kilo. That is it. What difference is it gonna make? Well, the first point to note is that aerodynamics do play a
role even at slower speeds. In fact, on a flat road, at any speed faster than 15 kilometers per hour, wind resistance is the biggest
force holding you back. As you start to climb, then, and as the gradient steepens, more and more of your power output goes into overcoming
the effect of gravity. The only way to reduce that power needed is to reduce your mass. You can see, then, that at some point, a one kilo weight penalty is
gonna become more important. What that point is, though,
depends on the weight of the rider, and also
the rider’s power output. For example, a 75-kilo rider, which is like 165 pounds, me, effectively, after a big dinner, putting out 300 watts, the tipping point between
aero and lightweight comes at 6%, so in any
gradient shallower than that, an aero bike will go faster. On gradients steeper, a lightweight bike will have more of an advantage. Now, if you put out more power, then that tipping point
goes at steeper gradients, perhaps up to 7%, whereas a weaker rider will go faster on shallower gradients on a lighter weight bike. How much faster? Well, let’s take a case study
from Cannondale themselves. Outdoors, 13 kilometers at 9%. Berta Baran, 62 kilos, riding at 350 watts would
be 10 seconds faster on his super light bike, just 10 seconds. A regular 75-kilo rider, just 19 seconds. Of course, if you don’t race, you don’t need to be
governed by the UCI rules, and so, with the necessary funds, you could therefore ride
an even lighter bike, a bike that would
therefore be more effective at climbing at shallower gradients, except that it’s not
quite that simple because, in Cannondale’s model, their lightweight and their aero bikes share the same deep section aero wheels, wheels that you would need to sacrifice in order to get your
mega lightweight bike, meaning that it would incur a
greater aerodynamic penalty, and therefore offset any
benefits of that weight loss. Crikey. In essence, then, can aero bikes climb? Well, yes, up to a point, but there is a much,
much bigger picture here. It may be that you do only spend your time riding up super steep climbs or down mega technical descents, and if that is the case,
then you might as well flick over and watch the
GCN Show or something, but for the rest of us, what about all that time that we spend riding in between going up steep climbs? On those bits, the
difference between bikes is absolutely staggering. On this descent, which is 5%, holding 60 k an hour on this SystemSix requires about 200 watts. Now, were I to swap onto a
standard lightweight bike, I would require an addition
109 watts, apparently. That’s the difference between riding tempo and potentially riding down the hill even
harder than I rode up it. On the flats, you’re trying
to hold off a peloton, or on the flip side,
bring back a breakaway, you’d save 50 watts at
50 kilometers per hour. Even at cruising speed of 30 k an hour, there is still a 10% saving. When you look at this in the context of the whole ride or the whole race, there, you might lose a
second or two on the climbs, but you might save 30 seconds in just the final 10 kilometers. Now, if the gains are actually that big, it seems like a fair question to ask then about why it’s taken us so
long to wake up to this, and in fact, why so many pro cyclists still seem to be asleep. I think one of the answers, it’s probably down to the fact that the early aero bikes maybe
just weren’t all that good. I mean, aerodynamic, yes, but in order to get there, they had to make a lot of sacrifices, sacrifices to the ride quality. Having a thin front end
means a flexy-er bike, which means that it maybe doesn’t go downhill quite
as well, or around corners, problems exacerbated by the fact that, perhaps, integrated brakes maybe just don’t work all that well. Then, when you couple in the fact that there is a little
bit of a weight penalty, and so it is slower on steeper climbs, you can see why it ends up
being a little bit niche, but now, with the latest generation of aero road bikes, well, they’re actually road bikes
that are just mega aero. For starts, the latest
generation got disc brakes, which means that you can actually stop, but that also means that you can engineer a bike from the ground up to become more aerodynamic as well. In this case, we’ve got a more aerodynamic fork because of it. We’ve also got more aerodynamic wheels, wheels that have been
optimized for wider tires, and it’s an optimization
that can only be possible down to the fact that it has disc brakes because the rim width is a
whopping 32 millimeters wide. Because the carbon
expertise has also continued to move forward, although, of course, there is still that weight
penalty with the aero road frame, there is no sacrifice in ride quality. Should your next bike be an aero bike? Well, obviously, that
depends entirely on you, but I definitely, definitely think that it is worthy of consideration. Let us know in the comments section, have you already got an aero road bike? What do you think? Indeed, if you haven’t
got an aero road bike, what is putting you off
from making that purchase? Make sure you get involved in the comments section down below. As I mentioned right at the
beginning of the show then, we also have a first look
at that Cannondale SystemSix over on the GCN Tech channel. If you want to see that, click just there.