Like this site? Help us to make it better.


One bike to rule them all: why lightweight aero bikes are now THE essential race weapon

Why are manufacturers and pro teams taking a ‘one bike does it all’ approach? We delve into the benefits of all-round race bikes

Just a few years ago, most pro cycling teams gave riders the choice between a lightweight road bike and an aero road bike, but look around the peloton in this year’s Tour de France and you’ll see loads of riders on models that are designed to be both; what’s going on?

Essentially, we’ve seen the emergence of superlight aero bikes, or aero lightweight bikes, depending on which angle you’re coming from. Aside from time trials, some riders will spend the whole Tour de France – and any other road race – on just one bike regardless of the lumpiness of the day’s route.

Are these new bikes really just as fast as the specialist aero road machines? And can we expect this trend to continue into the future?

Specialized Tarmac SL7… and the death of the Venge

Let’s start with the most common bike in the pro peloton, the Specialized Tarmac SL7, as it’s a prime example of this phenomenon. Three teams in the Tour de France ride the SL7 – Bora-Hansgrohe, Soudal Quick-Step, Total Energies – regardless of whether the stage is flat, mountainous, or somewhere in between.

2023 Dauphine Specialized Tarmac SL7 Alaphilippe - 1

This wasn’t always the case. Specialized-sponsored teams used to have the choice between the Tarmac, a lightweight climbing bike, and the Venge, a bike with a focus on aerodynamics.

So how come the SL7 managed to kill off the Venge, a very successful bike that didn’t sell badly. 

Specialized says that in its efforts to make the Tarmac more aero and the Venge lighter, the two designs ended up converging with such minor differences in performance that it was pointless to run two separate lines. In a pan-flat 40km time trial, there’s a claimed 8-second (2.5W) difference between the SL7 and the 2019 Venge, and the latest Tarmac is just as quick as the Venge ViAS. That was a much heavier bike that sacrificed plenty of usability in its efforts to cheat the wind.

> Review: Specialized S-Works SL7 Tarmac

Specialized tarmac SL7 aero vs weight

Specialized says that it has managed to cram just as much aero efficiency into a frame that’s 370g – or about 32% – lighter, as well as improving the comfort, ease of maintenance and arguably the looks as well. Let’s take a look at what other brands have been up to…

Colnago V4Rs: it’s all about versatility

Italy’s Colnago is another brand that has merged the previously separate characteristics of aero efficiency and light weight with its V4Rs, the bike that was simply referred to as the ‘Prototipo’ when Tadej Pogacar rode it in last year’s Tour de France. It wasn’t officially released until December.

2023 Dauphine Colnago V4Rs Trentin - 1

Colnago officially unveils V4Rs road bike with its ‘fastest monocoque frame ever’ 

Even before its launch, Colnago was telling us that its new bike would be “as versatile as possible, suited to the needs of sprinters, rouleurs and climbers alike, and to be at the top in the different phases of a race.”

Not surprisingly, Colnago claims that the V4Rs is both lighter and more aero than the previous V3Rs – that’s the way things go in cycling. It says that it worked hard to reduce the bike’s frontal area – the head tube, mainly – and to integrate the fork crown better than before.

Colnago also says that its new CC.01 handlebar “is able to guarantee a further saving of 0.75 watts at 50km/h [31mph]” largely thanks to a NACA-derived profile. 

> Check out our review of the Colnago V4Rs 

Using a weighted average drag, Colnago says that with the same wheels fitted and using a head unit and support, the V4Rs will save the equivalent of 17.5 watts over the V3Rs at a speed of 50km/h and a pedalling cadence of 90rpm.

It also says it has been able to reduce the weight of the overall module (frame, fork, headset and handlebar) by 47g. That’s not a vast amount, but it all counts when you’re riding up the Tourmalet.

Look 795 Blade RS: “a balance of aerodynamics, stiffness and low weight”

Look’s just-updated 795 Blade RS epitomises the merging of genres, the French brand saying that its new bike is designed “to balance aerodynamics, stiffness and low weight”.

2023 Look 795 Blade RS road bike  - 2 (1)

The bike has been raced by Team Cofidis all season but it was only officially released last month.

> Look unveils lightened 795 Blade RS road bike and disc brake-equipped 796 Monoblade RS time trial bike 

The frame is a very different shape from previously. Although certain features remain, such as the integrated fork crown, the frame now sees shallower tubes, dropped seat stays, and a host of other tweaks.

Look says the new bike is “10% more aerodynamic than the previous model” although it doesn’t explain how that figure was calculated.

Just as significant, Look claims a frame weight of 905g (size small) and 425g for the fork. The previous Look 795 Blade RS had a claimed frame weight of just over 1kg. Look says that a complete bike weight of 7kg (size medium) is possible when built up with a Shimano Dura Ace Di2 groupset, power meter pedals, bottle cages and Corima MCC EVO 32 tubular wheels.

Ridley: mystery road bike follows ‘one bike to rule them all’ trend

We can’t tell you a whole lot about the Ridley prototype road bike that we first spotted at this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné because it isn’t released yet – we can’t even give you a name – but judging by appearances it follows the ‘one bike to rule them all’ trend.

2023 Dauphine Ridley prototype - 1 (1)

> New Ridley road bike breaks cover at Critérium du Dauphiné 

Ridley currently has three high-end road bikes in its range: the lightweight Helium, the endurance-focused Fenix, and the aero Noah. This prototype bike is none of these.

The seat tube is cut away around the leading edge of the rear wheel while both the seat tube and the seatpost are aero-section. The down tube looks to be a Kammtail design.

We’ll have to wait for confirmation but Ridley has almost certainly designed a road bike that crosses genres here.

Cannondale SuperSix Evo: subtle changes reduce weight and drag

Cannondale was late to the party as far as aero road bikes are concerned, introducing the SystemSix in 2018, and it has now incorporated aero features into its traditionally weight-focused SuperSix Evo.

> Cannondale launches new aero-optimised SuperSix Evo 4 with threaded bottom bracket — all the details + first ride review 

2023 Dauphine Cannondale SuperSix Evo Carapaz - 1

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the new SuperSix – launched back in March – for its predecessor. The changes aren’t glaringly obvious but the most notable are at the front end where an aerodynamically optimised fork comes without the down tube integration of before in favour of a cleaner aesthetic and separate crown interface. 

The head tube now houses what Cannondale calls a Delta Steerer tube which allows for seamless integration of cables.

The new bike uses a slimmer seatpost than previously and a seat tube that tapers more towards the bottom of the bike. This design is intended to ensure optimal aerodynamics and better compliance.

No high-end bike launch is complete without a statistic or two: Cannondale says that the new SuperSix Evo – version four – makes an 11W saving at 45km/h over the SuperSix Evo 3 and 12W over the current Trek Emonda SLR. 

The engineers managed to shed significant weight thanks to a newly introduced carbon-fibre layup and some carefully considered component choices. Called Series 0 and only available on the top-tier Lab71 versions, this special fibre and nano-resin composite sheds 40g grams over the Himod at 770g for a painted 56cm frameset.

A fully built Cannondale SuperSix Evo Lab71 tips the scales at the UCI minimum weight limit of 6.8kg - that’s 500g lighter than the range-topping SuperSix Evo 3.

Cube Litening AIR C:68X SLT: a sub 800g frame with aero features

We first spotted the Litening AIR C:68X SLT at the 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné and it was officially launched last August, Cube describing it as the “perfect marriage of low weight and aerodynamic design” and “comfortable enough to ride on long days in the saddle” – so you can see exactly where the brand is coming from here, and it fits very neatly into our pattern.

> Cube launches Litening AIR C:68X Series road bikes with a claimed frame weight of 799g 

2022 Dauphine Cube Litening Meintjes - 1.jpeg

Cube says that the 799g frame (size medium), the lightest it has ever made, can easily be built into a 6.6kg complete bike.

It comes with a one-piece handlebar and stem, an integrated seat clamp and clearance for tyres up to 31mm wide.

Trek Madone... aero isn't dead just yet

A brand clearly not quite ready to kill off its aero machine just yet is Trek with the release of the latest Madone last year. 

2023 Trek Madone action - 1 (1).jpeg

However, once again we see an aero bike beginning to converge with a lightweight bike – in this case Trek’s Emonda climbing bike. The newest Madone is significantly lighter than the previous generation – by around 300g, in fact.

That means that the gap between the Emonda and Madone is down to about 260g. It seems likely that the next Emonda is going to have to be lighter again or it’s going to become obsolete. 

> Trek unveils its fastest road bike ever - The 2023 Madone 

Giant Propel: it kind of looks like a TCR!

A bike following a similar trajectory is the latest Giant Propel, also launched last year. The Propel has always been the aero road bike in Giant’s range but the new version is radically different from previous incarnations with much shallower tube profiles. It’s so different, in fact, that many people thought spy shots before the launch could have been a new TCR, Giant’s lightweight road bike.

2023 Dauphine Giant Propel Groenewegen - 1

Giant says that the new Propel is significantly more aerodynamically efficient than previously while also being both lighter and stiffer… So nothing unusual there, then!

> Giant launches “fastest ever” Propel aero road bike range 

To put some figures on it, Giant says the latest Propel Advanced SL frameset is 225.5g lighter than previously and that the new model reduces aerodynamic drag by the equivalent of 6.21 watts at 40km/h (25mph). In other words, you could hold that speed while putting out less power.

> Check out our review of the Giant Propel Advanced Pro 1 2023 

“The frontal sections, where aerodynamics matter most, feature sculpted lines and [a] truncated ellipse shape to minimise drag,” says Giant. “We even created two different water bottle cages (one for the down tube, one for the seat tube) to minimise aerodynamic drag for each of these specific tubes.”

One of the criticisms frequently levelled at aero bikes is that they lack comfort but Giant claims that the back end of the Propel’s frame is 85% more compliant than previously, further minimising the gap to more traditional road frames.

Scott Foil: aero is definitely getting lighter

Another release from last year was the new Scott Foil, and you’ve probably got the hang of it by now: it’s lighter, faster, comfier etc.

> 2023 Scott Foil gets lighter, comfier and faster

2023 Dauphine Scott Foil Milesi - 1

The frame weight of 915g is extremely competitive for an aero bike. It’s 9% lighter than the previous generation and now just 140g heavier than the Addict RC HMX SL.

Pinarello Dogma: the trendsetter

We’d be remiss to cover this topic without mentioning the Pinarello Dogma. Pinarello’s F line is arguably the trendsetter in this whole thing, the Italian brand having always been an advocate of a one-bike approach. You can’t say it’s not been successful either; under Team Sky and Ineos it’s won everything from the general classification in Grand Tours to one-day races and Classics. Of course, before anyone points it out, you have to have a talented rider on board.

2023 Dauphine Pinarello Dogma F Turner - 1

Pinarello launched the latest Dogma, the Dogma F, just before the 2021 Tour de France with claims – naturally enough – that it was lighter (by 9%) and more aerodynamically efficient (by 4.8%, disc brake model) than its predecessor. 

> Pinarello launches Dogma F in time for Tour de France 

“This is a bike that is perfect for every type of rider and every terrain, because real-world riders aren’t specialised,” said Pinarello. “You need a bike that can climb and descend with equal flair, attack every corner and make every watt count on the finishing straight. The Dogma F is designed to do just that, no matter the circumstances.”

> Check out our review of the Pinarello Dogma F Super Record EPS 2023

It seems like other brands have gradually been coming around to the same way of thinking.

What has changed?

To answer the questions at the beginning then, what’s changed and how can all these aero bikes be saving such massive chunks of weight?

Well, knowledge of aero philosophy has continued to evolve with most designs now using a Kamm-back design rather than heavier truncated aerofoils. Higher modulus (stiffer) carbon fibres are now used, which means that less material can be used to get the same stiffness; this also had a positive impact on frame weight.

There's also the rise and rise of electronic groupsets. They’re now the only thing we see on new top-of-the-range bikes, which gives designers more freedom as they don’t need to worry about sharp corners for cables to go around. This is also why we’ve seen such rapid adoption of integrated cockpits.

All of this, along with generational improvements and bikes being developed as a complete system rather than a standalone frame, means that aero bikes have shed some serious timber. 

2023 Trek Madone action - 2.jpeg

Are they just as aero? The simple answer is yes. We don’t have a wind tunnel but manufacturers can’t lie about their speed and aerodynamic claims (although they can choose to publish only the favourable data).

The new lightweight bikes might not be quite as aerodynamically efficient as deeper-tubed and heavier predecessors but the differences are tiny.

2023 Scott Foil Tech Image uci

Will the trend continue? This depends a lot on the UCI weight limit remaining at 6.8kg. Teams are now perfectly capable of getting their aero bikes down to this limit. If the 6.8kg limit remains, why bother developing a lighter, less aero climbing bike?

Will this limit change? Well, there’s long been speculation, but now seems as good a time as any. The UCI doesn’t seem quite so averse to change as in days of yore; for example, we’ve seen the relaxing of some aero rules recently.

> Find out what the UCI accredited sticker on your bike means

2022 Cinelli Pressure Disc Ultegra 11x Hydro - UCI sticker.jpg

Are you a fan of the latest ‘do it all' bikes or would you rather a specific tool for a specific purpose? Let us know in the comments below…

Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...

Add new comment


check12 | 9 months ago
1 like

Teams can't get these battery containing disc brake wearing bloat monsters to 6.8kg even with exotic parts fitted. Aero fog the win but batteries and discs for the bloat. (See videos on YouTube for bike weights 7.25-7.80kg if I remember correctly)


Surreyrider | 9 months ago

Jamie, Spesh haven't managed to "kill off" the Venge. The frameset is still available. And the new Supersix is quite different to the most recent model - it's really rather easy to tell them apart.

Rendel Harris replied to Surreyrider | 9 months ago

Surreyrider wrote:

Jamie, Spesh haven't managed to "kill off" the Venge. The frameset is still available.

Well they don't make it any more, which is pretty much killing it off, no?

marmotte27 | 9 months ago
1 like

Carbon moulds are expensive. So less frame models, more profit.

philsinclair | 9 months ago

As I am biased, some riders are riding the Bianchi Specialissima, (e.g. Barguil) others are riding the Oltre RC, (e.g. Pichon) in Arkéa Samsic. Clearly not everyone agrees. I think likewise in Lidl-Trek they are making the choice. I also have a Time ZXRS, besides my Specialissima and I prefer to ride that on the flat and on windy days. I also choose to swap between 45mm and 33 mm wheels depending on the terrain and the weather.

mtbtomo | 9 months ago

My carbon disc road bike with SRAM red etap is 8.0kg. The frame is not especially light at just over 1kg and the wheels ~1.5kg and they're not especially fancy or big brand items. I just can't believe the pros are tolerating bikes at 8kg with their access to money no object components.

Secret_squirrel replied to mtbtomo | 9 months ago

Firstly Aero trumps weight on 90% of the rides they do, its generally considered 15km/h is when aero starts to kick in.  Average winning speeds in the TDF are 3 times that - 40km/h, and the rest arent much slower.

Secondly - where do you get the idea that they have access to money no object components?  Star riders aside they only get to pick and chose from a very limited range of options - if at all for a Domestique.

sparrowlegs | 1 year ago

I'm a Colnago fan through and through but that Prototipo (v4rs) is already looking dated compared to the bikes being released and ridden this week and it's not even officially out yet!

The Scott is my favourite so far but the Propel is a very close second. 

Owd Big 'Ead | 1 year ago

But can you get a week's worth of shopping on them for a family of 4?
While I'm already loving this year's TdF this constant pushing of sports cycling is so one dimensional.
I couldn't care less about the latest aero bike that will be superceded within the next 6 months or so, by the next must have trinket, when the reality is that getting as many people on bikes as often as possible should be our common aim.

levestane replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 9 months ago

"But can you get a week's worth of shopping on them for a family of 4?"

That's what the team car is for!

mudshark | 1 year ago
1 like

I ride an Emonda SLR which is stiff and light rather flattering my climbing, I think the Madone has to change quite a bit to climb so well as it's a far more comfortable bike as well as heavier and more aero.  I chose the Emonda as it's a little bit aero and wonder if it's this bike that'll be the do-it-all bike one day.

Joe Totale | 1 year ago
1 like

Mads Pedersens Madone at Stage 2 was weighed at 8kg, I think a pro would find that weight unacceptable as soon as there was a few hills in the stage profile. They'll be back on the Emonda fairly soon.

paulrattew replied to Joe Totale | 9 months ago

Jonas Vingegaard and the rest of Jumbo Visma have been using the Cervelo S5 for the first two stages - which were certainly very hilly stages. The S5, even with all the bling components that they will be running, is going to be more than 8kg. 

LookAhead replied to paulrattew | 9 months ago

paulrattew wrote:

The S5, even with all the bling components that they will be running, is going to be more than 8kg. 

The painted frame weighs less than 1kg, so only about 200g more than a typical lightweight aero frame. If someone turns it into an 8kg+ build, that's on them, not the S5.

Rendel Harris replied to paulrattew | 9 months ago

paulrattew wrote:

Jonas Vingegaard and the rest of Jumbo Visma have been using the Cervelo S5 for the first two stages - which were certainly very hilly stages. The S5, even with all the bling components that they will be running, is going to be more than 8kg. 

The standard (if one can call a £12,500 bike standard) SRAM Red AXS-equipped S5 comes in at 8.1 kg, so I doubt with the extra customised components on a pro bike that it's going to be over 8 kg.

LookAhead replied to paulrattew | 9 months ago

This S5 is under 7.2kg ready to ride with pedals, 2 bottle cages, computer mount, 2x, and a large-ish rear cassette:

Off the back replied to LookAhead | 9 months ago

But in the Giro, Roglic used the R5 for the majority of the mountainous stages and even the TT and only used the S5 for flatter stages. 

Latest Comments