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How Much Faster Is A Modern Road Bike & Kit? | Retro Vs Modern Wind Tunnel Tested

How Much Faster Is A Modern Road Bike & Kit? | Retro Vs Modern Wind Tunnel Tested


– Over the years, bikes have advanced. – A lot. – I love retro kit. – Yeah, and I love modern, aero bikes. So much so, that we’ve decided to combine our two passions and come to the Silver Stone
Sports Engineering Hub, a cycling specific wind tunnel to pit the latest, most high-tech cutting edge modern aero bike tech against John’s beautiful retro tech. To see just how much faster
an amazing bike like this is going to be over John’s. – Well, if it’s faster, mate. – It will be, but before we show you just how much faster mine is, you know the drill, subscribe if you haven’t already and also click the little bell icon. – Right, mate, let’s
go get you dressed up. – What? – Oh yeah, I haven’t told you about that. You’re going to love this. (bouncy music) (whooshing) – [Narrator] The testing
protocol is as follows. We have three set-ups; a retro bike with retro clothing, a retro bike with modern aero clothing, and a modern aero bike
with modern aero clothing. With these set-ups, we will be measuring
how aerodynamic they are at three different speeds; 25 kilometers per hour a speed that most of us ride at, 35 kilometers an hour a speed that most of us aspire to ride at, and 45 kilometers an hour a speed generally reserved
for pro-riders and descents. We’ll be measuring the
power required to ride each of those set-ups
at each of those speeds. In addition, we will also be testing the two bikes in isolation without riders. And we felt that that was
a good place to start. The data from the wind tunnel
is recorded as CDA values, which is the engineering
term for the drag coefficient of whatever you’re measuring. The lower the drag coefficient, the more aerodynamic an object is. The CDA value allows us to
calculate a wattage value, which we call aero-watts for simplicity. This is the data we are presenting. This is the power required
to overcome aerodynamic drag at the different speeds. – Well, Ollie, it is nice to be behind the desk again, isn’t it? – Yeah, it’s nice. Much warmer
in here than that tunnel. – Yeah, you were getting
pretty cold in there all day. – Blowing gale, yeah. (laughter) – Right, we should look
at the numbers then because while what looks aerodynamic, might not necessarily be aero. – Yeah, so compute the results here, and first up we’ll do the results for just the bikes on their own, with no riders on them.
– Yes. – Now, we’re going to present all the results in the same way. So first up, we’re going
to look at the CDA, which is the drag coefficient and then we’re going to
present that as aero-watts, which is the watts you
would need to produce in order to overcome aerodynamic
drag for given speeds. So we’re going to present
all three speeds we tested: 25, 35, 45. And these will appear on
screen if you want to pause it and have a look longer, you can. – [Ollie] So, first up was your bike. – [John] Yeah, that’s right,
yeah the Eddy Merckx sport. – We can see that the drag
coefficient increases slightly as speed increases, that’s fairly normal. And to overcome aerodynamic drag, your bike on it’s own to go 25k an hour, needs to create 27.6 watts. – [John] Yeah. – [Ollie] Not a huge amount.
– [John] No. – [Ollie] Just a bike on it’s own. Soon as you then go up to 45k an hour, that becomes 146.7 watts because, well, drag is not linear. – No.
– So that’s that. Now, so when we go on to the F12, that translates to aerowatts of 21, 56 and 115 at respective speeds. – [John] Yeah, considerably less. – [Ollie] So, considerable saving and a massive saving in particular, the faster you go. So, you’re getting a bigger aero saving at those higher, higher speeds. – [John] Yeah, and that’s
just the bike on it’s own. – Yeah.
– Yeah, I mean it’s slightly counterintuitive really to what we think in our minds, isn’t it? That skinny tubes are going to be faster. You know, cylindrical
shape and everything. – Yeah.
– But, we learn that anyway. Last year in the retro versus modern – Yeah, the looks video.
– The looks video, yeah, that I did with Sci. Yeah, if you open any
aerodynamics textbook pretty much the first page
will be a picture of a cylinder and it will say “Cylinders are bad news,” when it comes to aerodynamics. – Ollie’s never one to
exaggerate on things. Page one, first thing. – Yeah, but modern bikes of, you know, like the Pinarello F12, have got carefully tuned and honed aerodynamic shapes
designed to minimize drag. A lot of the time with modern bikes, these shapes it’s not marketing, although marketing is used to sell it. It is physics that is the basis behind it and this is why we don’t
see cylindrical shaped trains or spaceships. – Quantum physics? – Quantum physics is in everything, but this isn’t specifically
quantum physics. – Good. (chill upbeat music) – So next up, we tested with riders on both those bikes, me, but the reason why we
tested without a rider was because we could do
and it’s, the rider can be a source of error because it’s hard to maintain a constant position. – [John] Yeah, now the good thing actually about the Silverstone Sports
Engineering Hub tunnel is that you had that outlined, didn’t you, so you could look down and
you can actually see — – Yeah, the projection. – Exactly where you’re meant to be sitting during the initial runs and everything. And I had great pleasure actually, Ollie, in watching you sit there
and try to hold that position for hours on end. (deep music) – Ollie, I never thought I’d see the day I’d let you ride my pride and joy. And to be honest, you actually
look quite good on it, which is annoying me I
must say a little bit. But, how does it feel, first of all? Because it’s a bike probably that you’ve, have you ever ridden
anything as old as this? – I have, but I mean, it
feels beautifully smooth, you’ve taken good care of it.
– I have. – But it’s miles different
from my Pinarello. The handlebars for one, I mean they’re just all over the place. – I thought you’d like them. – And wider as well, but it’s modern bikes have increasingly
narrow bars, a bit more aero. Something else I can see when we look at the line
guide we’ve created, is that to adopt the same
relaxed position on the hoods, I mean I can’t really do that.
– No. – It feels like it’s much more
designed to be in the drops as a standard all-day position and I can see that’s already much lower than my standard all-day
position on the modern bike. – [John] It’s going to
be interesting I think as the results come out on
this because, you know, you’re on the drops so you’re a lot lower but it’s just how the overall
package is going to work. Because while we’ve got 32 whole standard box
section aluminum wheels. – So what I’m going to do is
to try to keep it consistent because we want to see what
the bike’s difference is. I’m actually going to try
to replicate the position using the line guide which
means I will be coming up a bit higher on to the hoods.
– Yeah. – But, it will make it
more consistent to see what the difference
between the actual bikes is rather than me.
– Yeah. – Which is what we want to find out. – I think we can do that a
little bit later on though, maybe we can throw something
else into the mix, I think. You know, just to see. I’ve got my dressing up box today. You’re all going to be
in for a treat, I think. – Right, let’s run that tunnel then. – Alright mate, just
go easy on her, please. – Yeah —
– Please. – I’ll take good care of her. – Please do. (calm upbeat music) – So, we’ve got the, first the modern, the retro bike but we did it with modern clothing to begin with. And you can see the CDA values
there and this translates to aerowatts of 87 watts to
overcome 25 kilometers an hour, and that’s the bike and the rider. To go 35, 212 watts coming out at, and 435 would be the number of
watts you do for 45k an hour. This is, I should stress
as well, just areo-watts, so there would be about roughly
10 percent additional watts required to overcome friction within the drive train and tires. (bouncy upbeat music) – Now, when we compare
that to the modern bike with modern clothing.
– Yeah, here we go. – You can see there’s a huge difference. So you can see there that instantly the drag coefficients are much, much lower with the modern clothing. And the wattage saving there, you’re looking at 79 watts for
25, 191, and then just 410. 410 for 45 k and hour versus the — – [John] 4-3-5.
– [Ollie] (mumbles) – [John] Retro with modern clothing. – [Ollie] Yeah, 25 watts. Significant. And something to point out here, while you can see that there is a trend, that there is a greater wattage saving at those higher speeds. It actually works out roughly the same at the lower speeds in
terms of the saving, because the person riding
at the lower speeds is out on the course longer. So although the saving is less, the overall time saved is roughly the same because they’re on the course longer. – Yeah, that’s something
which often is not spoken about that much,
is it? Slower speeds. Which is hence why we
wanted to do this video. – Yes.
– At realistic speeds. Because so many press
releases we get for example, 55 or 60 k an hour, no one
is riding at that speed. – Yeah.
– Really. – (mumbles) All the time.
– (mumbles) Obviously. – But, yeah. I mean there
are riders out there doing sport speeds that are
out there for 5, 6 hours. Riding at 25 k an hour. So that’s why this data, I
think, is a valuable tool. – Yes, even six watts at that speed can be hugely significant if
you are chasing a time. You might not be chasing a time, in which case you’re
probably not even bothered about watching this video. But, if you are, then that is significant over a massive course
that is 5, 6 hours long. – Yeah.
– So then we tested the retro bike with retro clothing. – Yeah, this is probably
my favorite part actually. Seeing you dressed up like that. – Thanks, man. – You wouldn’t wear
those old shorts though. I was a bit annoyed by that, but — – You haven’t washed ’em. – [John] Alright, Ollie, I see
you found my dressing up box. You’re looking all right.
– Thanks, man. – Have you seen yourself, in a mirror? – No, I haven’t. I don’t think I want to. – Yeah, anyway, I see you
haven’t quite gone, you know, the whole hog basically,
cause you didn’t use those nasty old bib shorts
that I left laying around. You kept on your current ones. So, I can forgive you for that I suppose. And also you’ve kept the arm warmers on. Because you have been in
there quite some time now, a little bit cold. But you’ve got a couple of jerseys on. – Yeah, (mumbles). – You’ve also, but, back then mate, they used to have them undone, they used to have them
catching the wind a little bit, so there we go. So we got you authentic. And you’ve got the trusty helmet on too. They didn’t really do any good, did they? – These are period correct eyewear. – No.
– I have to stress, it’s for health and safety. I don’t want to get
particles of dust and stuff from the wind tunnel in my eye. – Yeah, but how do you feel? – Um, I feel like I want get changed. Let’s run the test. – Okay, right, here we go. 25, 35, 45 k an hour. – I’m going to maintain
the same body position using the template.
– Yeah. It’s not as easy, on this
old bike though is it? – No. But, you can do it. – Yeah. I’ve got my faith in you. – Cool. Let’s do it. – Go on mate, go for it. Come on retro. (bouncy music) – This is the real interesting one for me. When you combine the retro
bike with the retro clothing, you see a huge difference.
– Yep. – And what this clearly shows is that above and beyond
the biggest difference is not the bike, it’s
the clothing you wear. And probably the position you’re in, but that’s another story. But, the clothing makes
a ridiculous difference. So, 488 watts to go 45 k an hour versus with the retro
bike with modern clothing was 435. I could train for 100 years and never get that kind of improvement.
– No. – But through a different
bit of kit. Yeah. Easier as well than training. – People will happily
drop thousands of pounds on a brand new bike and
ignore the clothing. But, for considerably less expenditure, you can buy faster
clothing, faster helmet. And save much more, in
terms of, go much quicker. You know, we look at, So we look at the modern, the
modest speed so 25 k an hour, is 93 watts for retro
bike and retro clothing, and if we then compare
that. So that’s not, you know then you’re looking at — – 6 watts.
– About 3 watts on the, for the clothing at low speed. But considerably more on the faster bike. But, yeah, it’s going to make more, when you start to go up
to the faster speeds, the less aerodynamic clothing is clearly making a huge difference. – [John] It’s really
interesting to see this. – Yeah.
– And you think, you know, when you’re
riding you get a little hot, you undo your jersey a little bit, the difference that will start to make. But we could have spent
literally days in there, going through all these
different experiments and I wish we had the time. Because to be able to
relay that back to people, I find quite rewarding. The way that you can make
those marginal gains — – And the other, but the other thing is, is people who say “I never
ride at 45 k an hour,” well, I’m sure you do. It doesn’t mean you have
to be riding all the time. Because what you can see there, is the huge disparity in
drag between 45 k an hour with the retro clothing
and the modern clothing means that if there’s a part
in your event or sport team where you’re trying to drop your mate and you go down a hill where
you hit 55, 60 k an hour if one of you is wearing faster clothing, and one’s wearing not fast clothing, that’s the moment where you
will have a huge advantage. If you want to break away
from them at that point, or attack them or get a gap, that’s where you’ll get the gap and in cycling, it’s often
about who can get the gap. – [John] And you see that
actually in pro-racing as well. Years ago, top of climbs, riders nearly all the time, regardless of the weather, would put a cape on. These days they don’t because
the cape is flapping around and it means they can’t keep
up with their competitors if they’re not wearing a cape. – [Ollie] Or they have to
expend a lot more energy. – [John] Yeah and no one
wants to do that on a descent. – [Ollie] No.
– [John] And try to recover. But this has been really interesting, and there’s loads of different
tools out there as well for you to play around with, isn’t there? – Yeah.
– If you want to, you know, imagine if you were to
save a few watts here, and you could then try to
get a PB on your local climb. – Or your event, if you’ve
got an event coming up and you want to see what difference maybe 10 watts would make, then yeah there’s loads of
brilliant online calculators like Best Bikes, Blip, My Wind Stock. – Yeah, Bike Calculator. – Yeah, those sorts of things that are worth playing around with and you can see it gets pretty significant. – Yeah, it starts to tell you
how much time you save as well and that’s when you start
to get a little bit excited. – Yeah. All right, well, we
hope you’ve enjoyed this video and found it informative and useful. It’s been pretty fascinating testing an old bike versus a modern bike. – It was great to see it actually, in that kit you were, you
played the part really well. Right, remember as ever as well to like and share this video with your friends too and don’t forget to subscribe
to the GCN Tech Channel. – And if you’d like to watch
that retro versus modern look bike video, you can click down here. – Yeah, for another retro versus modern click just down here.

100 comments on “How Much Faster Is A Modern Road Bike & Kit? | Retro Vs Modern Wind Tunnel Tested

  1. Maybe you could test modern bike vs old bike power required, but in realistic conditions for road bike (on road, not in wind tunnel), I may be wrong but if you just find few kilometres of asphalt, than travel it in both directions, keeping desired speed, while logging power required, you should get more useful results, than this data from unrealistic conditions for this type of bike.

  2. The comparison is done for head wind. So, when wind direction changes and gradients kick-on, the durianrider's rule works the best: "The best bike in the World is the one you are currently riding".

  3. this study sucks for me because i am the one who rides the retro bike but i do wear the aero suit which i have known for awhile when wearing the new aero outfits i can go faster
    great bike Jon and Ollie great job, extremly useful information which my mates will use against me. again great job mates.

  4. The lesson seems to be don't upgrade your bike, get a better fit and work on your riding position. Which makes sense, I pass lots of people with expensive bikes :D.

  5. Interesting to the difference between the two bikes so small, if you swap modern aero wheels on the old frame it would melt closer again. i guess the very low cross sections (and thus lower frontal area) of the old frame makes up for some part of the more areo (but fatter) tubing on the modern bike.

  6. I wish you would have done it with the same wheels on each bike for a bike only run. I know, Jon would have to be ok with his rear dropouts getting spread an extra 3-4mmfor the new wheel.

  7. In some degress of yaw which you have to test with cause of turbulence and real conditions, the results would be different and the differences less. Also the biggest part should be the weels

  8. If you're riding at 35kph, by yourself, you're probably going to be in the drops. If you're sitting in a group, you'll be on the hoods. PS. It's not quite fair…….Your "modern kit" is a skinsuit. This is why almost everyone uses a skinsuit in time trials, and most people use them in criteriums. In the upper categories, you even see them in road races………PSS. I'd like to have a closer look at Jon's bike. It was only up for a second, but it looked like it had 7900 cranks.

  9. Headwind vs tailwind: I now see how much more effort is it to keep riding at 25kph with a headwind of 20kph. This is an area that could make another video…

  10. I took a picture of the results with my phone for future references as far as buying modern clothing. My De Bernardi Road Bike has a teardrop design on the front fork, top tube, bottom tube and seat stays. I think my bike is a modern retro aero bike 🚲. I did put the photo on the GCN APP so everyone could see it. Happy to see that 92% of the audience sees it as a nice bike for a custom made bike 🏍. With these numbers, it should be a super nice 👍 bike.

  11. Being distnctly unathletic, I would MUCH rather have the old steel frame and fork. Much more comfortable, and we keep hearing that the body is 80% of the issue. They had the modern bike set up much lower in front, or so it appeared.

  12. What if I told you that testing a bike’s aerodynamics without a rider is useless?
    I can’t say I’ve ever seen a bike rolling down the road with no rider on it. It is quite literally a waste of money to spend that time in the tunnel.
    Anyway, good video. Helpful for the amateur racer for sure.

  13. Suggestion GCN : Please tell us if it was a simple laminar flow study or if it was way more realistic than that with a decently turbulent flow.
    Also, would've loved to see the same study at different yaw angles.

  14. It would be interesting to see a round bar vs a compact bar compared. I'm of course biased because I've ridden round bars all my life and compact just feels like a drop bar for someone how hates drop bars but I can also see that it's easier to slam the stem with a compact bar, and you don't have to get lower when going from the tops, to the hoods, and to the drops.

  15. Bike only – how much is wheels? If we had Oli's wheels on Jon's bike, most of that difference would disappear? Often ride my Colnago Super Piu with my Campag Bullets, flies along…

  16. Mmm, if you have to believe the gains aero wheels make, the Merckx should be more aero with such a pair. I’m confused now.

  17. Is it just me or is “retro” the wrong term? I believe they should be calling it vintage! Retro is something new that refers to the old.

  18. My job requires that I travel a lot and I end up driving long distances with my bike on the roof rack. I already have the Profile Razor 2 water bottle. What would improve my gas millage more; a disc rear wheel or a clip-on aero handlebar?

  19. CdA differences has got very little to do with the steel frame, it all down to the wheels. 30-40 Watt difference at 45 kph can easily be accounted for by the deeper section low spoke count bladed wheel set compared to the 32 round spoke box section wheels.
    https://www.hambini.com/blog/post/bicycle-wheel-aerodynamics-which-one-is-fastest/
    Try the retro steel bicycle with retro Shamals and some retro Spinaci for good measure.

  20. And real retro would be wool shorts and wool jersey and arm warmers. Shorts until about '79, jersey until about '81. Just think of how much more drag the texture of wool clothing is!

  21. Unfair test. You should've ridden the retro on the drops as it was designed to be ridden. Can't help but think that this was deliberately flawed experiment to keep the sponsors happy.
    Oh, and spaceships can be any shape they want because there's no air in space.

  22. And now get blake from gmbn with his trail bike and mtb clothing in there and test his aero! For me, that would be pretty interseting.

  23. "people will happily drop thousands of pounds on a bike, but ignore the clothing" – Ollie…yeah mate not sure what that's about but I don't think I've ever come across a cyclist that hasn't put as much effort into their kit choice as they have into their bike 🤔

  24. So the take home for most people is that it none of this data really means much of anything at all….. which is pretty much the norm

  25. The sound in the workshop is terrible. If you were to hang a couple of jerseys up it would reduce that horrible echo, no kidding.

  26. All I see in the data is that 8k$ bike gets you home from the ride 1sec faster than a cheep bike in therms of aerodynamics..most expensive upgrade

  27. Everybody talks about modern training methods being so wonderful, this test just proves to me that if you put a 25 year old Eddy Merchx in skin suit he would be a force on the modern tour. I am not even sure he would need a modern bike to be competitive. Maybe just modern wheels.

  28. PLEASE DO AN EPISODE ON HIGH PSI (130-ish) WITH A FLEXIBLE (possibly steel) FRAME VS. LOWER PSI (85-ish) WITH A SUPER STIFF CARBON FRAME ON AVERAGE TEXTURE ASPHALT

  29. Interesting to see what a relatively large part the bike plays… I've always thought yeah, aero bike, great, then you stick my 80kg body onto it and spoil everything! The retro bike (a lot like mine) accounted for about 1/3 of the total 'aero watts' which is more than I would have guessed! The bicycle is a pretty messy shape I guess…

  30. Where are the actual CdA values? BTW, it's not the drag coefficient, Cd is, CdA is drag area, that is drag coefficient times frontal area.

  31. Interesting video, but it's a great pity that you didn't compare like with like – i.e. modern vs. retro with exactly the same setup. If you had made sure that the contact poins and bar widths were exactly the same on both bikes it would have allowed a genuine comparison of retro vs. modern equipment, as opposed to retro vs. modern equipment plus setup. Doubtless the drag differences between the bikes would have been less with the bars set to the same height, same bar width etc. Ok, it's true that wider bars and higher setups were more common in the past, but this is a different set of parameters and by not separating them you have effectively made the comparison meaningless in terms of measuring improvements in bike design. It's quite possible that nearly all of the drag differences were down to setup! I really think that this must be the case as I'm sure that there isn't a 20w difference at 35kph between my steel bike and my aero bike. Same with clothing – just stupid to compare unzipped retro with zipped modern!!

  32. Would have liked to see what wearing a modern helmet vs. tight retro bike cap would be. I feel that when I wear the latter I actually feel faster, even if I do look slower, hmmm? Please respond, if anyone has conducted this experiment. Thanks, man, great episode!

  33. They should’ve done a 100 km/h one without rider to see how much gas you can save when the bike is carried on the roof of a car

  34. Wind tunnels don't mean shit out on the road. There are endless variables that affect aerodynamics. Wind tunnels and cfd are bullshit for bicycles. You may see 10-20 W difference on a so-called Aero bike…🙄 you guys should know that this is bullshit since you've been hanging out with Hambini! 👍😎 #masterengineer

  35. Not really a true retro bike with clipless pedals, aero brake levers and a modern crankset. I suspect the difference of toeclips and straps flopping around makes a big difference. Well done otherwise!

  36. Personaly for all the extra dollar's plus you have to be so careful with modern bikes, sorry just not worth it for a few watts given the speeds most of us ride.

  37. The question is, how much does this pertain to the real world where wind is not coherent and directional. It does seem clear that the newer bikes have a wattage advantage, but the wind tunnel should include steep yaw angles too. Even a slow airplane will fly above freeway speeds, whereas traveling at 35mph (56.3kph) is not common among cyclists. Your helmet will make a far larger impact on watt savings than your bike frame. It may even be conceivable (in theory at least) turn your head into a crosswind, although I don't know how practical that is.

  38. So, figuring 15 to 20 watts from the modern bike better than the old steel frame, how much of that is the deeper wheels with fewer spokes?

  39. Best video ever,, very informative ,,, very serious and trying to NOT to be comedians…if I want comedy ,,, I’ll watch Mr Bean……..good job Gents….

  40. "This is, specifically, quantum physics" was such a glorious retort. Unless you're going really fast this is all pretty firmly newtonian mechanics…

  41. The best video on bike tech I've seen. Thank you for sharing the results of expensive wind tunnel testing.
    There is one more important factor outside of wind tunnels – wind. If you ride upwind at 25 km/h, let's say there is a strong 25km/h wind, your route effectively doubles in length, thus the aerodynamic resistance doubles in importance. Aero savings become far greater than stated here. Opposite is true, riding downwind diminishes the importance of aero, unless you ride much faster than the wind.
    Meteorology is your friend 😉

  42. Dear YouTube advertising algorithm. After watching a video comparing the aero drag attributes of retro and modern bikes and equipment, I am indeed interested in buying a little girl's doll called Deluxe Bestie. Everyone in my cycling club already has one and I've been feeling left out.

  43. And those results do not take into account “non aero brake levers” (flappy cables), toe clips and straps (flappy laces), not wearing draggy wool shorts (defo flappy), and Olie cheating the test by wearing Lycra arm warmers, (not at all flappy and very cheaty).
    Does this make Olie a “CHEATY FLAPPER”? 😁

  44. Love the video. Would be great if you could do something like this including a £1000ish pound bike, that is 105 setup. The sort of bike a lot of riders commonly ride, over your very nice but also rather expensive super bike.

  45. Free data is free data, but I feel like there's absolutely no point in comparing bike without rider even if it has less variance, its a bit like testing a bike drag without wheels… Also if its just purely old vs new, shouldn't the old bike be setup as close to modern as long as components allow for geometry (same positioning/narrower handlebar)?

  46. Not a road bike…..I always LOL when people talk about aero anything on a road bike. The rider is the problem and on a road bike a rider will never be aero. Its also silly to talk "aero" when you can draft on a road bike too. A TT bike and rider is a totally different story.

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