For 2019 the cycling media is full of new aero bikes. All the big brands have a new aero model for you to drool over and have serious thoughts of selling a kidney in order to afford one.
What if there was a way to go aero but not to have an argument with your bank manager or have a costly divorce? We want to show you the path to gaining a new aero bike that is as good as those front cover beasts but still leave you with money.
Why Are Aero Bikes So Popular
Why though has 2019 been the year that aero has taken? The reason is that for years aero bikes were seen as being heavier, not compliant, or just weirdly shaped bikes. Now though we have reached a point where they are light, can be compliant but are still weirdly shaped.
The weird shapes allow these bikes to slip through the air. Overcoming air resistance is one of the hardest parts of cycling. If you can power your bike up to 20mph on a smooth and flat road you will find that 80% of your power output is being used to overcome air resistance, in fact, at any speed above 9mph, it will be the dominant factor in the speed you can go.
So if you want to go faster or save energy, you need a way to lower your air resistance. It may also favor you more as an average rider than if you were a pro rider. As a pro rider, you will be discussing marginal gains. As an average rider, you may make a more significant watt saving, enough that you will notice it on Strava when riding your favorite course.
There are two main types of air resistance will slow you down, and it is worth knowing what they are.
Pressure drag. Think about air as an invisible wall that you are trying to ride through. As you hit this wall, it compresses and then spreads out behind you in splintering pieces.
That is roughly what air particles are doing when you through them. As they spread out behind you, they create a difference in air pressure. This pressure becomes a drag. The more turbulent the air becomes, the more significant the drag you suffer.
Skin friction drag. What you have probably never thought about is that air moving over your body creates friction. You are in currently in a mix of air. You have a layer of air sitting around you doing nothing and a layer that will be moving over the top of you.
That is where the friction comes from to slow you down. You will all know about dimpled golf balls. They are dimpled to get this moving layer closer to the body of the golf ball. The closer you can get this turbulent layer to your body the faster you will go.
Your bike will account for roughly 30% of your air resistance. So what you will want is a bike shape that will lower pressure drag and bring skin friction drag in as close as possible. You want your bike to be as aero as possible as for mere mortals we may find it difficult to get ourselves to hold an aero position for a while.
The two factors above are why aero bikes are a weird shape. Their shapes have been created to minimize pressure drag and to lower skin friction drag. They do this by having tails to their “tubes” which help to direct airflow and to help keep it smooth as it passes over your bikes surface.
One of the most common shapes used to do this is the Kamm tail. Wunibald Kamm designed Kamm tails, and they look like a teardrop with an abrupt end. The idea is the front part splits the air, and the tail helps to keep the boundary layer intact so you’d get skin friction drag or a pressure drag.
All of the new breeds of aero bikes will tell you how well they cut through the air. The one thing you might not like is that many of them come with a $10k+ price tag. That puts many of the big brands aero bikes beyond the majority of people’s budgets.
Budget or Cheap Aero Bikes
What we need to do is look for aero bikes that are more suiting our budgets and despite what many magazines will want us to know there are many brands out there that supply high-quality aero bikes at a very affordable price. So we will look at them.
We will start by looking at the ICAN A8. It is available as a frameset or as a complete bike. I am going to focus on the frameset here as I feel if you already own a road bike buying this frameset will be a cheap and easy way to upgrade your bike into an excellent aero bike.
Coming in at less than $700 for a full Toray T700 frameset is a bargain price. Using T700, we would be expecting a $1500+ price for this frameset from some of the big names of the bike world. As this frame is constructed from high-end carbon fiber you may also find your bike is getting lighter as well as faster.
You will find this the cheapest way to get into aero. As you will be able to see the frame has a nice slim profile as you expect from a frame designed to cut through the wind. You will also see the lower seat stays. Lower seat stays are a great way to make a bike aero and lower weight.
Lowered seat stays bring lower weight as you are using less material to construct them. They will then help to bring your rear wheel in, helping to shelter your wheel from the wind and helping to lower drag. It will also make your new bike feel racier as you have a shorter wheelbase.
Another nice aero feature is how the fork molds into the frame. Again this helps to guide air and stops air from splitting and creating a pressure drag. Something you might not have noticed but will help to make you faster.
Beiou Aero Bike
The Beiou might just be a little bargain. A Shimano 105 equipped carbon fiber bike with aero credentials at a price where you will be looking aluminum bikes with 105 from the major brands. The Beiou also looks great as well with its black and red paint job.
Like the ICAN you will notice the dropped seat stays on the Beiou. Your eye might then drift up to the aero seatpost. You will also be able to see the nicely aero sculpted shape of the forks. The Beiou is an aero bike at a great price that has nice little aero features but does not shout them out to you.
It also comes with internal cable routing. Internal cable routing is one of the best ways to save you watts and make aero gains. It stops your cables creating low-pressure points, and it also helps them to last longer by sheltering them from the elements as well as the wind.
Like the Beiou above the Savadeck is an aero shaped carbon frame with a Shimano groupset, what it does is add a set of deep section aero wheels to the mix. If you want to know more about aero wheels, read our below passage.
To get a set of aero wheels though you have to lose the Shimano 105 groupset and drop down to Sora. We can make the case that the wheels will make you faster than a groupset will.
A better groupset though will make gear changes smoother, and you should be able to change gear faster meaning you can be back on the power faster so it may just be a subjective issue.
I though, would favor the aero wheels
ICAN FL50 Carbon Wheels
So far we have looked at bikes, and a frameset but one of the best aero advantages you can give yourself is a set of deep section rims. We have picked the ICAN FL50 wheels as they have all the same features as many of the high-end boutique brand wheels but without the price tag.
Wheels are a great place to help your bike become more aero. There are two main reasons for why deep section wheels will give you an aero boost.
Your tire splits the air and then your deep section rim helps to control the air flow. A standard box section rim will instantly create drag by making the air more turbulent.
A deep section rim will function like a sail in crosswinds. It guides the air and turns it into forward thrust. It will carry on doing this through various crosswind angles until you reach a stall point and then it will become drag. You are highly unlikely (and unlucky) to meet this condition in the real world.
These reasons are why we picked the ICAN wheels as they have a blunt profile to their rim shape and this helps to guide the air more effectively, it is a bit more like a Kamm tail. They also have a wider rim profile which helps to transition air from the tire to the rim causing less of the air to become turbulent.
It is almost as if you have bought a set of turbo boosters for your bike.
So now you can see that it is possible to achieve an aero bike for much less than some of the mainstream brands want you to pay. Everyone should have access to buying equipment that will help them to beat their own Strava PBs and to enjoy the feeling of riding as fast as is humanly possible, we have just helped you to find a way to achieve your dreams.
I’ve spent way more time in the bike trade than anyone should reasonably want to. In that time I’ve wanted to make cycling jargon and marketing easier to cut through to help people get the bike of their dreams.
When I’m not writing about bikes, I can be seen out bikepacking on single speed bikes or teaching kids how to ride.