It wasn’t that long ago that aero road bikes were somewhat of a rarity among all but the most die-hard of racers. They were fast but compromised in terms of their relatively high weight and lack of comfort.
Happily, times have moved on and we now have aero bikes coming in at competitive weights and offering more user-friendly levels of comfort.
So, in no particular order, here is our list of what we think are the most interesting aero road bikes for 2020.
At the time of launch in 2018, Cannondale claimed the SystemSix was the fastest UCI-approved road bike in the world.
Now, who knows whether those claims are really true, but we think it’s fair to say the SystemSix is one fast bike, whether you’re racing in the pro peloton or cruising your way – aerodynamically, we may add – to the local cafe.
Integration has been one of the cycling industry’s big buzz words over the past few years and that’s no different as far as the SystemSix is concerned, sporting components from Cannondale’s in-house brand, Knot, throughout.
Perhaps most interesting is the 64mm-deep, 1,600g Knot 64 wheelset, with a radical rim shape based on a HED patent.
That patent defines the relationship between tyre and rim – particularly the tangent angle, which allows designers to accurately predict the stall angle in the wind.
When we first rode the SystemSix in 2018, a top-spec build in 58cm size with two bottle cages and a Garmin mount weighed 7.7kg. That’s not too bad for a ready-to-ride speed machine.
We’ve subsequently tested the second-tier Carbon version of the SystemSix with Shimano Dura-Ace, which scored four out of five, and the top-tier Hi-Mod frame with Dura-Ace Di2, awarded four-and-a-half stars. It will set you back £8,500, though.
Picture the scene, BikeRadar has made a video of the top five aero road bikes, viewers find out it doesn’t include the Specialized Venge, and the world ends in a ball of fire.
Jokes aside, the Specialized Venge has become synonymous with speed and performance.
Although, perhaps not always looks. Can anyone remember the previous rim brake Venge ViAS? Fast, but not pretty…
Thankfully, Specialized’s engineers listened, and when the new version of the Venge was released in 2018, the cycling world breathed a collective sigh of relief. Very nice, indeed.
But looks aren’t everything, even if your hair is a nice as Peter Sagan’s, and the Venge has the aero chops to boot.
“It feels every inch a sharp-handling race bike; when nestled down in the drops on the flat, it’s time trial-bike fast,” said BikeRadar’s senior technical editor, Warren Rossiter, when he reviewed the Venge Pro in January 2019.
However, where the Venge really stands out is with its weight. A size 56 weighs just 7.1kg (for the top-spec frame) – that’s incredibly light for an out-and-out speed machine, and might make someone question their need for a climbing bike.
Another interesting fact is that you can fit 32mm tyres in the Venge. Aero gravel riding, anyone?
Trek Madone SLR
Trek Madone vs Specialized Venge; is this the aerodynamically-charged battle of the decade?
Well, if you’re after aero and comfort, perhaps the Trek Madone is the aero road bike for you.
Just like every other manufacturer on this list, Trek claims the Madone is lightning-fast, but what’s really interesting about this bike is the new IsoSpeed system built under the top tube.
Trek’s IsoSpeed system adds significant comfort to road bikes by allowing flex in the frame around a pivot point inside the seat-tube cluster.
First introduced with the Domane endurance bike and then brought to the Madone aero bike in 2015, the system has typically allowed for flex in both the seatmast and the seat tube.
With the new Madone, the IsoSpeed pivot remains in the same spot, but now the flex happens under the top tube, as the hockey-stick-shaped IsoSpeed goes from the seat mast to the underside of the top tube.
The flex is also adjustable, be it softer or harder. So if you do want a more solid ride that should be no problem with the Madone.
Giant Propel Advanced
The Giant Propel has been out for a while – we first spotted a prototype at the 2017 Tour de France – but that doesn’t mean it’s undeserving of a place on our list.
Giant spent three years developing the Propel, combining wind-tunnel work at Aero Concept Engineering in France with Giant’s in-house carbon manufacturing expertise.
Unfortunately for lovers of the good old fashioned rim brake, the Propel Advanced is only available with disc brakes. But hey, it’s now a 2020 bike, so that’s to be expected.
Although, according to Giant, the brake unit and rotor with discs don’t cause much drag, as the air has already hit the front tyre and rim section before it passes by the brakes.
Interestingly for 2020, the top spec Propel Advanced SL 0 Disc will feature Giant’s new in-house wheel brand Cadex. These new hoops feature fashionably offset rim depths with 42mm at the front and 65mm at the back.
No doubt, this is one of our favourite aero bikes.
Cervelo has been in the aero game for a long time, so it would be difficult not to include the Canadian company in this list.
Cervelo’s latest no-holds-barred aero machine is the S5, which features a wacky one-piece bar and stem combo integrated into the external steerer fork design to make it more slippery through the wind.
But as we all know, slipperiness isn’t everything and the S5 has fairly aggressive geometry to match its aggressive looks.
It’s lower at the front than the previous incarnation with the stack on a 58cm bike coming in at a low 588mm and the reach longer at 401mm.
Cervelo has also increased the trail to 57mm across the size range, claiming this increases stability and lessens toe overlap.
We scored the S5 four stars when we reviewed the bike on its release. The verdict? “It’s a pricey proposition, and the sharp handling, firm yet comfortable ride and radical looks might not be to everyone’s taste, but the S5 is a wonderful glimpse into the future of aero bike design.”
What do you think of our list? Did we get it right? Or should we have picked something else? As always, let us know in the comments.