Road Bikes vs. Aero Bikes

Choosing a bike can be more confusing than you thought it could be, but once you get to know what you really want, as well as the bike type that tick all the boxes off on your list, it will be easy-breezy. If you’re rather looking for a guide about mountain bikes, this article might be able to help.

Many people are now more engaged in cycling than ever, not only because of its health benefits but also for its utility and flexibility. Cycling has also become a well-known sport recently, attracting people of different ages to cross borders in staggering numbers. Since we mostly pedal on flat roads and highways in this sport, we ride using road bikes. Aero bikes are also a choice in this sport which begs the question, what is the difference between a road bike and an aero bike? Which one is better?

For starters, let us note that there are three main types of bike: mountain bikes, road bikes, and city bikes. Roughly explained, a road bike is precisely tuned in to take its rider as fast as he pleases and as far as his legs can endure in a flat road surface. The way aero bike is designed makes it fall under the road bikes spectrum. Nonetheless, aero bikes have distinctive features that set it apart from other typical road bikes. Let’s go over them.            


As a race machine, aero bikes are all about aerodynamics. These bikes assume a more aggressive geometry compared to other road bikes. As we know, the bike’s geometry dictates the rider’s body position. The head tube of an aero bike is comparably shorter than other road bikes such as let’s say, an endurance bike. This geometry makes your shoulders lean forward while your head goes a bit down to facilitate a smooth flow of air with less wind resistance as you gain momentum. The fork rake of aero bikes is slightly drawn backwards, giving it a steeper angle which allows for smooth steering and turning to adapt to speed race conditions quickly. On the flip side, other road bikes have a slacking head tube angle which gives them a broader turning radius for that fast, yet stable maneuver.          


bike gearing

Aero bikes use a much larger chainring like the 53/39 chainring as opposed to other road bikes. This is perfect for speed racers as it allows a faster top speed. On the other hand, most road bikes use a 50/34 chainring or what we call a compact chainset. This three-tooth difference in the chainring lowers the gear range overall, giving the bike a strong climbing hill capability.


a cyclist in green jersey riding a bike in a blurred background

Compliance significantly differentiates aero bikes from other road bikes. When designing a bike, it is vital that these two things are considered: comfort and speed. Compliance refers to the feels you get when you ride your bike – is it tense but fast, or is it more relaxed and steady? Hence, when choosing your bike, you have to mind your priority: are you aiming more for comfort, or are you going for that need for speed? 

Aero bikes necessarily have a rigid frame that makes the body assume a lower position. Not only that this position (which was mentioned earlier) reduces wind resistance, it will also allow for a smooth transfer of power all over the rider’s body. All of your muscles contribute to your overall speed when you ride an aero bike, and so, your body has to get into a position where all muscle power can be utilized efficiently to achieve that optimal speed. Simply put, an aero bike is designed mostly for speed and performance, which, in turn, sacrifices comfort. While for other road bikes, the frame is tuned to maintain the balance between comfort and performance. The tubes and frames are angled and shaped so that it provides a more stable and relaxed ride.         


Let us review these following points:

  • Aero bike is a type of road bike.
  • Aero bikes need fine control compared to typical road bikes.
  • Aero bikes incorporate the principles of aerodynamics.
  • Aero bikes provide more speed but less comfort compared to other road bikes.
  • Aero bikes are built for high performance, while other road bikes allow for comfort and stable performance.

Aero bikes and other road bikes may fall under the same umbrella term, but they perform perfectly under different circumstance. At the end of the day, when choosing your bike, it is once again, important to know your priorities and goals. Buying a bike is an investment that can benefit you in the long run. Whatever you choose, know that the road is long and winding, and the adventure is yours for the taking.