The best aero bikes offer free speed, however fast you’re riding. A systematic approach to aerodynamics could be the biggest step-change in bicycle design since the invention of the safety bicycle. Letting you go faster for the same effort by cutting down on drag, today the aero story hardly needs telling, the bikes and the plethora of data-driven claims speak for themselves.
Direct comparisons between rival bikes aren’t easy, as everything from the testing standards to testing apparatus differs from manufacturer to manufacturer – a fact a cynic will say is bent to each manufacturer’s will, allowing it to claim ‘our bike is the fastest’.
But no matter, it’s still undoubtable that aero bikes, as a whole, are quicker than their round tube counterparts.
The best aero bikes of 2023
Trek Madone SLR: From £7,600Cannondale SystemSix: From £5,250Cervelo S5: From £9.600Specialized Tarmac SL7: From £5,500Pinarello Dogma F: From £11,000Factor Ostro VAM: £9,450Giant Propel Advanced SL: £12,0003T Strada: £6,200Cube Litening C:68X: £4,000Felt AR Advanced: £5,760Vitus ZX-1 EVO: £5,400Canyon Aeroad: From £3,400Merida Reacto: From £2,550Scott Foil RC: £10,500Lapierre Aircode DRS: From £2,700BMC Timemachine 01 Road One: £12,100
Keep reading for a full rundown on these bikes.
What is an aero bike?
Matthew Loveridge / Cyclist
Aero bikes are road bikes designed to give you an extra turn of speed through aerodynamic features that streamline the bike’s frame. That starts with aero tube profiles.
The first aero bikes like the Cervélo Soloist had teardrop shaped tubing, but now Kammtail truncated aerofoil shapes – where the tail of the aerofoil is sliced off – are the norm. They’re lighter and more rigid, while still giving the aero benefits of a much longer tube with an aero tail.
The modern trend is to mix lightweight and aero. There are a couple of bikes here which fit into that mould, like the Specialized Tarmac SL7 and the Factor Ostro VAM, but you’ll find even more like the Bianchi Specialissima in our main guide to the best road bikes.
Related: Aero vs. lightweight bike: Which is better for climbing?
How we test and why you should take our word for it
Lizzie Crabb / Cyclist
At Cyclist, we’re constantly out testing and evaluating a huge range of bikes from the budget to the most expensive, putting in the miles on roads we know well to pick apart what works and what doesn’t.
Our team of expert reviewers led by tech editor Sam Challis has a wealth of experience riding bikes of all types. We’re riders like you who care about the whole experience of owning a bike, not just the numbers.
Here’s our pick of the freshest, fastest and most stylish aero bikes on the market.
1. Trek Madone SLR
From £7,600Feels very fast and lightClaimed 20 watts aero gains from previous model
The seventh generation Trek Madone SLR has had a radical update that has dispensed with IsoSpeed, as found on the previous generation Madone SLR 9, in favour of IsoFlow, which has a huge hole in the seat tube, with the saddle cantilevered over the rear of the bike. The new design and new OCLV 800 carbon fibre shave around 300g off the bike’s weight.
It’s a design that Trek says saves around 10 watts on the previous model. There’s a similar saving from the new cockpit with its flared bars, although we found the narrow tops took some getting used to, particularly when climbing out of the saddle. Top specs of the bike are very expensive too.
2. Cannondale SystemSix
From £5,250Aggressive aero looksFast on climbs, not just the flat
For a long period, Cannondale neglected the aero-specific market due to the simple fact its SuperSix Evo race bike was so good. However, in 2018, the US brand made enough advancements in the world of speed and released the SystemSix.
It was a bike with bold claims. At 48kmh it will save you a claimed 50W over a non-aero equivalent, while its combination of aerodynamics and weight make it faster than any climbing bikes on gradients up to 6%.
Its aggressive looks are backed up with serious speed on the flat and even uphill, despite the Ultegra spec’s 8.5kg weight.
3. Cervélo S5
Joe Branston / Cyclist£9,600New tube shapes to up the aero quotientRoom for 34mm tyres
Cervélo is no stranger to speed, and the Cervélo S5 continues the brand’s aero lineage, with the latest model seeing action with the all-conquering Jumbo-Visma squad at the 2022 Tour de France and replacing the Cervélo S5 which we’ve previously reviewed.
It’s long been lauded as one the fastest bikes out there, a fact not hurt by appearing beneath Wout, Jonas, and Co.
The new S5 has enhanced tube profiles, a very narrow headtube and the split stem design carried over from the old bike. But there’s now room for 34mm tyres and Cervélo has made it easier to adjust the bar-stem. It’s marginally more aero than its predecessor too.
4. Specialized Tarmac SL7
From £5,500Comfortable, light, fastNow compatible with tubeless tyres
Another aero bike with an impressive WorldTour palmarès, the Tarmac SL7 mixes aero with lightweight, with the S-Works spec that we tested hitting 6.8kg exactly. It’s rigid, agile and responsive with it.
Like many newer bikes, there are big clearances – up to 32mm tyres can be fitted – although there’s enough comfort for all-day riding on the fitted 26s if the racy position suits you. The latest generation of the Roval CLX Rapide wheels has gone tubeless since our review too.
5. Pinarello Dogma F
From £11,000Disc brake bike weight down to 7.0kgDisc and rim brake options
With Chris Froome on board, the Pinarello Dogma F8 gained a brace of Tour de France victories. Geraint Thomas nabbed one aboard the F10. While the F12 got its first Tour win beneath Egan Bernal.
Since then Pinarello has decided to stop upping the numbers. The latest Pinarello Dogma is now just known as the Dogma F. The definitive article, as revealed to Fausto by the god of cycling, it’s still available with traditional rim brakes.
However, even Ineos has now switched to the slicker-looking disc version, as the F’s weight is closer to the UCI weight limit than its predecessors.
6. Factor Ostro VAM
£9.450Superb handling up and down hillsMixes light weight with aero
The Ostro VAM is part of the aero/lightweight bike crew, making it one of the best all-rounder race bikes out there, with our review bike weighing just 7.2kg.
It shares its geometry with the Factor O2 VAM climber’s bike and mixes frame stiffness with a comfortable ride – something that’s difficult to achieve.
That’s with 25mm tyres, but there’s room to head out to 32mm. Its light weight makes for fast climbing and handling on descents is superb too.
7. Giant Propel Advanced SL
£12,000Rear end compliance but with a stiff headtubeEasy adjustability to bars and adequate saddle height range
The latest Giant Propel is less aggressively aero, with the tubes around the rear triangle thinned out for a more compliant ride, while front end stiffness is retained. Giant says that the frame is some 225g lighter too and our test bike with top drawer Cadex wheels weighed just 6.9kg.
The new internal cabling system is easier to live with and although Giant has kept the seatmast, there’s 45mm of height adjustment. It’s a bike that feels exceptionally quick over all terrain.
8. 3T Strada
Lizzie Crabb / Cyclist£6,200Updated Strada with deeper aero sectionsFast and aero, if a little heavy at 8.1kg
3T has updated the Strada, six years after the original was launched. It will now handle 30mm tyres and has deeper tube and fork blade profiles, taking advantage of the latest changes in the UCI’s design rules. Its front end has also gone integrated, in line with current bike design.
It’s a comfortable aero bike that feels fast, although the relatively high weight of its predecessor has persisted, which along with the wider tyres doesn’t give quite the sense of sprightliness of some competitors. The original Strada’s 1×-only design was controversial, but 3T has hedged its bets with the new model, offering separate models with and without a front derailleur hanger.
Read our 3T Strada reviewBuy the 3T Strada from 3T Bikes (from £5,500)
9. Cube Litening C:68X Pro
£4,000Quality frame shared with higher spec bikesSlightly chattery ride might be improved by a switch to 28mm tyres
The Litening C:68X Aero, which we’ve tested, sits alongside the newer, lighter Litening C:68X Air. Cube claims that the latter can weigh as little as 6.6kg, whereas the Aero which we tested comes in at 7.9kg for a size 58. It’s the product of 100 hours of wind tunnel testing and rides as fast and stiff as it looks.
The high quality frame uses spread-tow carbon fibre to keep the weight down. We were impressed by the compliance on offer that made for a more comfortable ride on the 25mm tyres than expected from the aggressive looks. There’s room to up that to 28mm too. We haven’t tested the latest Aero model, although it retains many of the features of the Pro.
10. Felt AR Advanced
£5,760Very aero but copes well in a crosswindOn the heavy side at 8.5kg
With five years of R&D behind it, the Felt AR Advanced has the wind tunnel numbers to prove its slipperiness and that’s borne out in its speed out of the blocks. The tall and narrow frame cuts through the air effectively.
It’s surprisingly comfortable thanks to design features like rubber damping around the seatpost. But the Felt is on the heavy side at 8.5kg, which we felt in our testing.
11. Vitus ZX-1 EVO
£5,400Stiff front end transmits some vibration to the barsFast ad planted on downhill runs
Vitus has upped the aero credentials of its ZX-1, so that they’re the match of much more expensive bikes, with an integrated cockpit, waisted head tube and deep section wheels. That chunkiness does lead to quite a lot of road noise heading through to the bars though.
The geometry, with its long front centre and short chainstays leads to a slightly quirky low speed ride, but loads of stability at speed. At 8.1kg, it’s not the lightest aero bike, but it’s considerably cheaper than most too.
12. Canyon Aeroad CFR
From £3,400Now lighter and more aeroBars disassemble for easier transport
The German online powerhaus has been successfully turning bicycles into Grand Tour and Monument successes for more than a decade, and the latest Aeroad CFR shows no signs of that abating.
Handling is racy, offering assured tracking through tight corners, and thanks to the now de rigeur T-shaped bar-stem combo, revised truncated tube profiles and wheel hugging downtube, it’s one of the fastest bikes on the market. It’s also practical, with the ends of the bars removable for travel.
There’s a new, unreleased model out in the wild under Mathieu van der Poel. This looks to have had minor changes such as the positioning of its seatpost clamp, but otherwise appears very similar to the current Aeroad.
13. Merida Reacto
From £2,550Elastomer insert adds extra complianceFast and reactive
Between them, Merida and Giant produce 80% of the world’s bike frames, so Merida should know a thing or two about what makes a good bike, or in this case, a fast one.
The latest model Reacto ups the aero and drops the weight while adding features like an elastomer insert in the seatpost to add compliance, with a built-in rear light.
Alongside the pro-level Team E, we’ve also reviewed the much more affordable Merida Reacto 4000, which still offers a brilliant ride, just with a more everyman spec.
14. Scott Foil RC Pro
Lizzie Crabb£10,500Improved aerodynamics over the previous FoilClaimed to be lighter and more comfortable too
Scott went back to the wind tunnel with the new Foil RC and found a saving of 16 watts on the previous model. It’s also made the frame in fewer parts, saving weight. The Pro spec that we tested is a little heavier than the Ultimate, being made of less fancy carbon fibre, but it’s also over £5,000 cheaper.
The new bike takes design cues from the Scott Plasma time trial bike, with the rear wheel aggressively cut into the back of the seat tube, and frame profiles that take advantage of the UCI’s latest rule updates, but despite this, its geometry is comparable to the Addict RC aero/lightweight bike and the length of the wheelbase adds stability when riding fast.
Scott has tempered the stiff, beefy frame with an integrated bar-stem that flexes under light load, but stiffens up when you put the hammer down. At the rear, the seatpost is also designed to flex and has a large cut-out to keep things softer. The Foil RC Pro runs on a 25mm front tyre and a 28mm rear one, but there’s clearance for 30mm rubber if you want more road-smoothing.
15. Lapierre Aircode DRS
From £2,700Aggressive ride positionStiff front end offset by more compliant rear
The Aircode DRS looks a bit less chunky than many aero bikes and it lacks the usual features like dropped seatstays. The ride position is aggressive, which places you in a more aero position, helping to save watts more effectively than the most sophisticated aero gizmos and leading to good weight distribution on fast descents.
That does mean that you have more weight on your shoulders though. The front of the bike is stiff too, transmitting some chatter and making for a less comfortable ride than some alternatives. The rear of the bike is more compliant though. Lapierre specs high quality DT Swiss wheels, so there’s little need for an upgrade.
16. BMC Timemachine 01 Road One
£8,500Down tube aero module saves between 3 and 18 wattsSome flex in the cockpit
When a bike straddles time-trial and road categories it’s fair to say it’s fast, and when a reconfigured version of the Timemachine gave Rohan Dennis a rapid – yet brief – Hour Record title, that only bolstered the credentials of BMC’s aero-road machine.
The front end assembly integrates like a Transformer, while the rear end sets the stays as low down the seat tube as UCI rules allow, a design almost ubiquitous across the aero board.
More lightweight than aero? You can have both with many of the bikes in our pick of the best road bikes