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From the pages of Velo: Performance Quantified

  • By Nick Legan and Caley Fretz
  • Published Jun. 15, 2012
  • Updated Jul. 22, 2013 at 10:19 AM EDT
VeloNews April 2011. Images by Brad Kaminski

Results

Cervélo winning here is a bit like the prom queen getting into Harvard; it just kills you inside. Stop being so damn good!

Frankly, we didn’t want to see the Cervélo win; it was too predictable. But, despite our best efforts to prove the contrary, there was no denying that the S3 is a great bike. Even before the wind tunnel numbers came back, the S3 blew us away with its fantastic ride quality, solid build and obvious attention to detail. When it proved the fastest at A2, the deal was sealed.

Fact is, every bike here is likely faster than yours. Whether you’re racing or just want to beat up on your buddies, an aero road bike can provide real gains over your current round-tube ride.

Racer-boy Caley Fretz would happily motor on any of these bikes, attacking early and often. Wool-wearing Nick Legan prefers a more traditional aesthetic for his personal bikes, and isn’t as eager when it comes to spending his hard-earned coin.

The Ridley Noah was fourth in our test, but it’s not a bad bike. Its knock-your teeth-out stiffness and quick handling could make it perfect for a bigger crit rider.

The Felt, as proven last year by Garmin riders, is a capable all-day bike. It placed third in our test largely due to low torsional stiffness scores and a third place in the wind tunnel test.

As an underdog coming into this test, the Blue surprised and impressed us. We didn’t expect such excellent aerodynamics and ride quality to come out of the relatively small Georgia company.

The Cervélo S3 is a brilliant machine that thoroughly thrashed its competition. The fact that our diverse testers both fell in love with it is a testament to its versatility. Interestingly, the torsional test didn’t correlate much with our overall opinion of a bike. We did perceive the Ridley to be the stiffest before we took it into the lab. But stiffer — whether perceived or otherwise — did not always mean better.

One takeaway: stiffness is often too highly touted. Ride quality, and the role stiffness plays within it, is more complex than a single test can tell us.

Aero road frames seem to be the next frontier, and for that perhaps we have the UCI’s weight limit to thank. While that limit affects only pro cyclists, the industry’s response to it, in changing their focus from weight to aerodynamics and ride quality, has benefited everyone. After spending 150 hours on these bikes, we can confidently say that the downsides to going aero every day are few and far between.

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