The real influence of aero

Will an aero bike and clothing help if I don't ride as fast as the pros?

Short answer: yes. The slower you drive, the longer it takes to complete a course. That means you have more time for aerodynamic savings to accumulate.

In addition, the advantage of an aero bike is often greater in crosswinds due to the propulsive "sail effect" - the slower you ride, the more crosswinds affect your aerodynamics.

Science lessons aside, let's see how those concepts work in the real world. Cyclists at Trek have run simulations of a course with two bike options: one with round tube shapes and one with aggressive aero design. The rest of the conditions were as identical as possible. To account for different fitness levels, simulations were performed for an average rider power range of 110 watts to 300 watts. Finally, the simulations were performed with two levels of wind: no wind and an average wind of 11km/h.

In the first graph it is clear that the slower the rider, the more absolute time they save. This is because their total riding time is longer, which gives them more time to accumulate aerodynamic savings.

The second graph shows how many seconds a rider saves with an aero bike for every hour they would have ridden with a non-aero bike. These results are fairly consistent - no matter how fast you drive, the percentage savings remain stable.

When it's a calm, windless day, aerodynamic gains (calculated as seconds per hour) increase with the rider's speed because aerodynamics make up a larger part of the force a rider must overcome. But when you take the wind into account, the opposite happens: the improvement in seconds per hour increases as the rider moves slower. This is because the wind increases the amount of time a slower rider will spend in crosswinds, making the benefits of an aero bike even stronger.

Does it not matter if you ride behind someone with an aero bike?

Riding behind someone is a great tactic to shave seconds off your personal best on rides of any distance. When riding closely behind another rider, drag forces can be 30-50% lower than when riding alone. But does that negate the advantage you've gained with your new aero bike?

No! Drafting studies have been conducted for the Trek Pro Team in the velodrome (the wind tunnel) with computational fluid dynamics, and on the road - and the results show that an aero bike retains most of its advantage even in the slipstream of a rider.

Here's the bottom line: Even if you're not a professional, aerodynamics matter. An aero bike and gear can help you ride further and faster. And of course it just looks cool! The more you sit on your bike, the happier we are - and the happier you will be.

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