How big a niche is the aero road bike category?
SPECIALIZED: We will see, but the initial feedback and sales of the Venge has been very encouraging.
CERVELO: This year we're doing more aero road bikes than traditional because of the runaway success of the S5.
SCOTT: We've stopped producing round-tube bikes for the competition category and estimate that in the next few years round-tube bikes will be extinct, and aero tube shapes will be the norm.
Will the majority of top-end road bikes be aero any time soon?
SPECIALIZED: There is still the need for our Tarmac bikes as they still offer the lightest weight and maximum stiffness. With our in-house engineering team, and the carbon materials expertise of the McLaren team, we will continue to evolve the aero segment, but there is good reason to think that there is a place for both bikes.
CERVELO: If you want to go fast, yes. But many cyclists are interested in aspects of cycling other than speed.
SCOTT: Yes they will.
An aero shape for a bike is just a shape and could be on bikes far lower down the price range. Will this trickle down come to the mid and even lower end of the road bike market?
SPECIALIZED: What we learn and use in our high end product over time helps us improve all our offerings Carbon allows the most advanced shapes, and aren't easily recreated in more affordable alloy materials. But our aerodynamic knowledge that we gain, such as our cambered seatstays, can definitely inform future design aspects of all our bikes.
CERVELO: That’s one of the beauties of aero: once you’ve got the shape its sometimes no more costly than a 'bad' shape. There are exceptions however – the best aero shapes aren’t necessarily the best structural shapes, so clever engineering and more complex lay-ups are needed to avoid the bike weighing a lot or being weak and flexible. The best aero shapes might be difficult to form in aluminium. There is also a surprising degree of in-plane compliance that good engineering can design into a composite frame that can never be matched in aluminium.
SCOTT: For 2012 we have seven models of FOIL's ranging from $2500-$12,000. All of those are carbon, which is just a shape, so no extra cost. The higher end models use HMX fiber but we've built a full line because everybody can benefit from aero road.
Without a personal wind tunnel how is a magazine, or a consumer, to trust what a manufacturer says about its aero road frames?
SPECIALIZED: Most of the people that have ridden aero bikes can feel a difference as the speed increases, that's where the aerodynamics start to really play a part. We use several different wind tunnels, and make dozens of trips there each year. We're testing with people who do this for a living, alongside our own aerodynamic experts.
CERVELO: It’s true that not every wind tunnel test result can be trusted. It’s easy to make mistakes in wind tunnel testing, so it’s important for consumers to consider how long a company has spent in the wind tunnel. Obviously, the longer the better. We’ve probably made (and corrected!) more mistakes than most companies have run tests.
SCOTT: There is a lot of data published on each bike, but these new bikes are also building desire and that's an important factor in a purchase.
What would you say to a porky rider looking to buy an aero road bike?
SPECIALIZED: Pros tend to be skinny whippets in general, but the aero advantage is there whether you are 100lbs or 200lbs. Cavendish won the green jersey at the Tour de France on the Venge, so rider weight is not really the determining factor.
CERVELO: Thor Hushovd.
SCOTT: No matter who you are, you are going to cheat the wind by as much as 20 percent and save approximately 5 percent in wattage output; pork or not.
Answers provided by:
Specialized: Nic Sims, Global PR Manager
Cervelo: Damon Rinard, Race Engineer
Scott: Adrian Montgomery, US PR & marketing manager
This piece first appeared in the Eurobike Show Daily.