Numbers, however, only tell part of the story for VeloLab, so wooly hardman Nick Legan and racer wunderkind Caley Fretz undertook the majority of on-road testing, which totaled more than 150 hours of saddle time. We also solicited input from a number of Velo editors; together we put the bikes through their paces across varied conditions (though mostly cold ones).
The latest models
After last year’s round of testing, we were excited to see how the latest aero road models stacked up against each other and their predecessors. Cervélo’s S3 took victory last year and the new S5 already has an impressive palmarés. But Specialized has entered the fray with its world championship winning Venge, Litespeed’s C1 was our Buyer’s Guide Editor’s Pick in 2011, and the Scott Foil had impressed us enough last summer to put it on the cover of this year’s Buyer’s Guide. Cervélo’s competition is stronger than ever.
The first thing that struck us was how much stiffer all the bikes felt compared to last year’s steeds. The stiffest frame in our 2011 test, the Ridley Noah, would have placed 4th in this test, only beating the S5. Clearly manufacturers have worked hard to make their go-fast aero machines more well-rounded.
In addition to measuring our test bikes against one another, we explored what sort of advantage these aero machines give a rider over a traditional, round-tubed road bike. The answer: quite a bit. Riding at 30 mph, these bikes save a rider between 9.8 and 20.5 watts. When you’re on the rivet, digging for another 10 watts is a big task.
Read on for more specifics on which bike might be right for you. They’re all great machines, but each has a unique personality. While we did rank the bikes first through fourth, be sure to look at the points in the categories that matter most to you. By reading carefully, you’ll find a bike that best caters to your needs.