If you are a cyclist for quite some time now, you would have noticed that the greatest deterrent to speed is wind resistance. Many traditional bicycles had a poor aerodynamic design which subsequently led to below par speeds. However, starting from Charley “Mile a Minute” Murphy’s invention of an aerodynamic bike, bike owners came to know that they could overcome wind resistance with a slightly varied bike version. Consequently, the bike manufacturing companies took the cue and so did the concept of the aerodynamic bike came into existence.
History of Aerodynamic Bikes
Although Mr. Murphy designed an aerodynamic bike of his own, it was an extremely raw version. Consequently, both the companies and cyclists had to look for new ways. One such way was discovered in the 70’s.
Holes were drilled in the bike components to make sure that the air passes through the bike, hence emaciating the bike weight. Suddenly, just like the gold rush, no bike was immune to these experiments. However, as one might suggest, this concept was purely fictitious, as bikes with holes garnered as much instability as the speed. Consequently, this idea didn’t gain traction.
Still, despite the failure of this idea, it showed bike manufacturers that something could be done to impart speed to the bike. This realization, in turn, led to the formation of aerodynamic bikes.
As for the construction of aerodynamic bikes for the first time, the idea was, first of all, related to a styling project. In the early 80’s, such bikes were made which had an extended aerodynamic front. This front, by allowing the wind to pass through the bike with ease, decreased the resistance which the bike has to encounter. Consequently, on the same pedaling as before, bike owners were now able to garner more speed on their trip.
However, with the increase in wind speed due to the increase in speed of the bike, the impact of wind was greater than ever now that the bike was amassing unprecedented speeds. This led to the formulation of advanced guard bodywork.
As the name suggests, these were the body parts of the aerodynamic bikes. Mostly, the advanced guard was used on the front of the bike to mitigate the impact of wind speed.
Buoyed by the application of this age-old concept, Aero-D-Zero”, the first aerodynamic bike, was made in 1985. Constructed around bevel drive Ducati Motor which was used by Mike Brosnan and a steel trellis frame, this bike was tested for the first time in the 1087 BEARS speed trial.
While it wasn’t able to win the competition, the bike came back strongly next year as it won the 1988 and 1990 competition. In these two competitions, during the speed trials, the speed of the bike was calculated at 242kph and 247kph respectively.
Starting from that time, till date, the concept of aerodynamic bikes has gained traction among nearly all the bike manufacturers. Thus, no matter who the bike manufacturer is, every one of them is offering multiple brands of aerodynamic bikes.
Aerodynamic Bikes – Pros, Cons, and Features
Ever since the first bike was made, weight has been a primary concern for bike manufacturers. Decrease it and you will get enough speed. However, decrease it too much and the bike might become unstable and dangerous to ride. This left bike manufacturers in a conundrum. However, with the coming of age of aerodynamic bikes in the last few years, this predicament has been solved. Nowadays, more and more aerodynamic bikes are being manufactured.
Do Aerodynamic bikes make any difference?
If you’re an amateur rider who is yearning for speed, aero bikes are the go-to area for you. In addition to the fact that they are lightweight – which should transmit the fact that they are speedy, it is the construction of these bikes which allow them to be speedier than other bikes of the same weight.
Put simply, the body parts of aerodynamic bikes are designed in such a manner that when wind strikes against them, the resulting resistance is less than what is encountered by a normal lightweight bike. Subsequently, even if you pedal similarly, an aerodynamic bike – thanks to decreased wind resistance, will cover more distance in less time.
What features to look out?
Tubes: While other body parts are also important, it is mainly the tubes of an aerodynamic bike that deserves mention here. They are designed in such a manner that, in addition to generating less friction – which holds other bikes back, they smooth the air flow.
Talking about their geometry, the tubes have a thinner front profile and extended in the rear direction. However, since most aerodynamic bikes are being used in races nowadays, there is a common rule which restricts the tube’s depth to three times its width.
In simple words, this means that if your bike has a two-centimeter width when viewed from the front, the width shouldn’t exceed six centimeters when viewed from the side.
Integration: Fewer body parts mean less wind resistance and more bike speed. For this purpose, the concept of integration is much popular in aerodynamic bikes’ nowadays. Thus, attempts are being made to hide as much hardware as possible in the frame.
Route Cables: Part of the integration plan is cable routing. By passing the cables – both brake and gear, through the stem, frame, and the handlebars – before allowing them to come out of their partner components, the cables are kept hidden.
Integrated brakes: In some aerodynamic bikes, brakes are mounted either within or on the rear side of the fork. This is mainly done to decrease wind resistance. However, in the majority of aerodynamic bikes, the front brake is still mounted in a standard position i.e. on the front side of the fork.
As for the rear brakes, their concept has evolved in aero bikes over the years. For, a few years ago, the rear brake was mounted on the bottom bracket. However, with the passage of time, more and more rear brakes are being mounted on seat stays.
Wheels: According to an estimate, if you have a 95mm deep rim, it will save you 35watts at time trial speeds. Having said that, it is important that you select a wheel which is suitable for the area where you’ll eventually drive the bike. For, if you live in a windy area or a hilly terrain, the wheel of your aerodynamic bike should be different to that of a road bike.
Pros and Cons
First of all, let’s take a look at the cons-
- Proprietary seat posts might disturb some riders.
- Internal cabling might be difficult to live with
- Ultra-tight tire clearances might render the bike unstable for specific terrains
- As long as you aren’t a pro, you might not be able to generate extra speed which is the characteristic feature of most aerodynamic bikes.
Now, on towards the pros-
- They are light, meaning you can whizz through the neighborhood
- Ideal for traffic since they can be diverted easily
- Frames of an aerodynamic bike are always superior to that of a normal one
- Isn’t affected by crosswinds