Aerodynamics Benefits Are Real– They're Just Not Always Realistic
Bicycling South Africa|September/October 2020
Before you whip out your credit card to buy the latest aero wheels in an attempt to take the lead on a local Strava segment, consider this: those aero-savings numbers that accompany the bikes and equipment you buy are determined for elite racers, not for you and me.
Matt Phillips

Aerodynamic benefits are real, but the questions we all need to ask before making a purchase are ‘For whom?’ and ‘To what extent?’ Brands often present a product’s aero savings in an ‘X watts saved at 40 to 50km/h’ format. That’s really fast. To understand why brands use those speeds and not numbers more relevant to the average riders among us, I asked some of the leading industry experts in aerodynamics research to explain.

Perhaps the most obvious reason brands test at those speeds is because aero equipment is primarily designed to aid the pro racers who can ride that fast. “[Racing] was and is a main driving force behind aerodynamics research and development,” says Cannondale engineer Damon Rinard. Cervélo’s engineering manager Scott Roy concurs: “50 kilometers per hour was the typical speed achieved by professional athletes, in a time-trial configuration. From the very beginning, our aero development was focused on making top riders faster.” This isn’t to say slower riders don’t benefit from aero equipment – after all, if you’re moving, you’re fighting air resistance. It just means that brands are more interested in measuring a product’s aerodynamic drag at pro speeds.

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