The Fast Four
The UCI upset the bike industry in 2000 when it imposed a minimum weight limit of 6.8 kilograms (14.9 pounds) on racing bikes. Some viewed it as a slap in the face to technology. But where some saw an obstacle, others saw opportunity. With the minimum weight fixed, creative engineers looked to improve aerodynamics, and the aero road bike category was born.
Tyler Hamilton helped put aero road bikes on the map in 2003 with his solo win at Liège-Bastogne-Liège aboard an aluminum Cervélo Soloist. These bikes were heavier than the lightest bikes available, but they could clearly be raced well in hilly races. Since then, many manufacturers have entered the fray, some so recently their models weren’t yet ready for our testing, such as the Scott F01.
After careful consideration, we chose the following four to test: Blue Competition Cycle’s AC1SL, Ridley’s Noah, Felt’s AR1 and Cervélo’s S3. All are equipped with racing in mind, without a compact crank or 28-tooth cassette in sight. And even if you don’t race, aero road bikes are still worth a look. Based on our wind tunnel data, an aero road bike can save up to 78 seconds over a standard road frame, with the same wheels, over 40km. Who says you can’t buy speed?
Meet The Testers
Caley Fretz is our youngest and fastest tester. As a Cat.1 racer, Caley is an unabashed elitist when it comes to compact cranks and any accessory intended to increase comfort and not speed. He puts bikes through their paces in training and in racing.
Nick Legan, on the other hand, has gone gray despite his relative youth, probably from too many alpine descents in the back of caravan vehicles working for teams such as CSC and RadioShack. He loves a compact crank and prefers long dirt climbs or gran fondos to criteriums.
As Caley and Nick are light, lanky riders, our editor in chief Ben Delaney was brought in for his heftier, ahem, sizeable, uh… expertise. And veteran technical writer Lennard Zinn — the man who literally wrote the books, plural, on bike maintenance — also weighs in.