It’s not only about making bikes more aero any more. Now, it’s also about making those aerodynamic features and integrations easier to use for the average rider and offering overall better performance. In many cases, that means a move to disc brakes, but there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s even the focus on making aero bikes comfortable now!
Look, Trek and Specialized all had sweet looking aero road bikes in the past that were a total pain to work on and/or lacked powerful braking. Those are two things that were simply unacceptable from a convenience and safety standpoint. When a bike is difficult to adjust or maintain, the likelihood of improper reassembly or adjustment increases, which can put a rider at risk. And the braking power of the prior rim-brake Specialized Venge and still-available Look 795 Aerolight left much to be desired.
2019 brings better, more integrated aero road bikes
Fortunately, the new Look 795 Blade reverts to traditional brake calipers (or, even better, disc brakes) but still manages some impressive looking aero shaping. And the Venge is now disc brake only. Ridley’s new aero Noah Fast comes in both disc & rim brake versions, but its completely concealed internal routing at least gets its own full length internal guide tubes for each cable to make it more manageable.
The new 2019 Trek Madone improves on its integrated front end by opening up one end of the headset spacers. With a closed spacer, you’d have to undo the brake and shift lines in order to add spacers or change the stem. Many of us would have considered that unacceptable before, but now that so many bikes are running hydraulic disc brakes, everyone seems to be saying “no” to any such design.
Cannondale, who locked in the Systems Integration buzzwords years ago, has a new SystemSix that takes Si to the next level. They, too, developed their own stem, fork and frame system to hide all cables, wires and hoses away from the wind without losing adjustability.
Better internal cable management for all
So far, we’ve seen improvements from major brands like Trek, Specialized, etc. But what about the small and mid-sized brands that don’t have massive R&D budgets for developing fully proprietary systems that rely on special cockpit parts? FSA will soon have a solution for everyone else, with only minimal changes required on the frame.
Their design hides the cables inside the bar and stem, then feeds them through the upper headset parts. We’ve seen several 3rd party stems, particularly for the triathlon market, that organize and (at least partially) hide the cables, like the one from Java, and we’ve heard of more on the way. So, expect more bikes and brands to start hiding everything from the wind thanks to innovation from the component companies making it feasible.
2x still strong, wider tires & snubbing the UCI
Who would have thought that adding a front derailleur mount would be newsworthy, but 3T doing so to their Strada was a big deal. 1x may be more aero, but riders (aka “buyers”) and racers want more drivetrain & gearing options.
There’s also a continued trend towards wider tire clearance, with almost every new bike now capable of at least 25mm tires on rim brake versions, and disc brake bikes averaging 28-30mm tire clearance. Some have more. And those disc brake bikes? Yeah, they’re slowly but surely taking over.
More companies are seeing that building UCI-legal race bikes isn’t entirely necessary for the large number of amateur & recreational road riders who are never going to toe the line at a race the UCI governs. So integration of water bottles, tool storage, and more is possible. We’ve long seen such things on TT bikes transformed for the triathlon market, but BMC’s latest aero Timemachine Road bike built in tool & water storage might be a sign of things to come on the road. Together, BMC’s new accessories make it a faster every day road bike (if you can call a €12,000 bike “every day”.) And if the UCI officials do roll up? Just remove that storage box.
And if it isn’t obvious yet, yes, disc brakes are slowly but surely taking over. Fortunately, the UCI seems to agree on that.