Do you have a need for speed? Well, there’s one big obstacle standing in your way. No, I’m not talking about fitness (though there’s always room for improvement). I’m talking about the air. Out on the open road, wind resistance is the main force road cyclists have to fight against in their quest for speed. There are a few tricks of the trade when it comes to getting more aero, such as lowering your riding position or wearing an aero helmet and tighter kit. But to max out your aerodynamic potential, you need an aero bike.
With slippery frames proven in wind tunnels, aero bikes look good and move fast. If you want to win sprints, make a breakaway stick, or just increase your average speed on your next ride, here are 10 slippery aero bikes that you need to consider.
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In its day, the Specialized Venge was the king of aero bikes. Released back in 2012, Specialized collaborated with legendary Formula 1 team McLaren to optimize the carbon lay-up and aerodynamics. At the time, aero bikes were still a niche category, only ridden on pancake-flat roads. The Venge was meant to be a versatile aero bike that didn’t compromise stiffness, ride quality, or weight. It went on to become one of the most successful aero bikes ever made. Unfortunately, its time in the sun came to an end when it was replaced by the Tarmac SL7 in 2020. Good thing you can still buy them pre-owned!
The Trek Madone was once a stage race-dominating all-rounder built with classic round tubes. But as technology evolved, and aerodynamics came to the fore, Trek decided to evolve Madone into a wind-cheating aero machine. The redesigned Madone debuted in 2016 with deep-section tubes, one-piece aero bars, and an interesting party piece, Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler. IsoSpeed decouples the seat tube from the top tube using elastomers and bearings so the seat tube can flex freely to absorb bumps and vibration. The end result is an ultra-comfortable aero bike that lets you hammer in the saddle for hours at a time.
Cervelo pretty much invented the aero bike category when it introduced the Soloist in 2001, the first aero road bike to see widespread commercial and racing success. Its latest S5 aero bike continues to dominate the pro peloton under superstars like Wout van Aert and Primoz Roglic. The S5 uses Cervelo’s eye-catching CS28 stem, a V-shaped stem intended to maximize aerodynamic performance and stiffness. It integrates seamlessly with Cervélo’s aero handlebars and provides an integrated cable management system intended to make assembly and adjustment easier than other one-piece cockpits.
The Cannondale SystemSix is one of the most aerodynamic bikes ever tested in a wind tunnel, and Cannondale says it has enough aero data to confidently claim that it is currently the “fastest bike in the world.” Interestingly, despite this claim, and the frame's deep-section aero tubes, Cannondale actually doesn’t refer to it as an “aero bike” in its marketing. Stiffness, comfort, and weight have all been factored heavily into the design, so Cannondale actually considers the aero SystemSix an all-rounder capable of conquering big climbs and epic all-day rides.
BMC Timemachine Road
The BMC Timemachine Road is essentially a BMC Timemachine time trial frame converted into a road bike with drop bars. The Timemachine track frame briefly held the Hour Record with Rohan Dennis, so you know it’s pretty fast. In my opinion, the Timemachine Road is the best-looking aero bike on the market right now (comment below if you disagree!). The sharp angles remind me of a Transformer or a stealth fighter jet, and the frame’s “Aero Module” beautifully integrates a pair of bottle cages and a handy storage compartment into the front triangle.
Giant Propel Advanced
Though not as trendy as some of the other brands listed here, Giant is the biggest bike-maker in the world, and its race bikes are no-fuss machines made to perform. Like any good aero bike, the Giant Propel is designed using CFD analysis and dynamic wind-tunnel testing, and it features truncated airfoil tube shapes and an integrated aero cockpit. Some of Giant's biggest race wins have been achieved on the Propel, including several Tour de France sprint stages and Milan-San Remo.
Argon 18 Nitrogen
Argon 18 is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of performance and is famous for creating some of the lightest production road frames on the market. But of course, it understands the importance of aero too. The Argon 18 Nitrogen takes aero cues from its ultra-successful time trial and track bikes and combines that with the lightweight and comfort-focused carbon lay-up used on its Gallium Pro road bike.
For its One aero bike, Factor worked with motorsports aero specialists bf1systems to shape the front end to slice through the air with a distinct fork assembly that sits forward of the head tube. It also uses Factor’s signature ‘Twin-Vane’ down tube, which essentially splits the down tube down the middle. This unique design siphons turbulent air from the front wheel through the frame, rather than around it, reducing drag as much as possible.
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Did you think aero was reserved for road bikes? Think again! The 3T Exploro was the world’s first aero gravel bike. Depending on your needs, it could fit 700x40mm or 650x53mm gravel tires. Tires this wide may not sound aero, but 3T did extensive wind tunnel testing and claims it even tested the Exploro with mud-covered tires to ensure the aerodynamics work in real-world conditions. In 2020, 3T updated the race-winning Exploro with the Exploro RaceMax, featuring improved aerodynamics and even more tire clearance.
Specialized Allez Sprint
I can’t talk about aero bikes without including the Specialized Allez Sprint. It’s a cult classic, loved by crit racers, and unlike most aero bikes, it’s made of aluminum. Specialized used deep hydroformed aluminum tubes to build a frame more aero than the first generation Venge and D’Alusio Smartweld technology to make it as stiff as the carbon Tarmac. The Allez Sprint is probably the best budget aero bike on the market, and under the right rider, it has the potential to sprint past any bike on this list.
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As you can probably guess from that last paragraph, I currently own a Specialized Allez Sprint and love it. It’s a bike that I intend to keep forever. But what other aero bike would I add to my quiver? As I said, I think the BMC Timemachine Road is the best looking aero bike around, so that’s a strong contender. But after watching Jumbo Visma dominate spring races this year on the Cervelo S5, I’m extremely curious. The funky-looking V-shaped stem will definitely help me stand out in a crowded group ride, and it can fit 28mm tires too, which is perfect for my comfort needs.
What’s your favorite aero road bike? And what other speedy bikes deserve to be on this list? Let me know in the comments!