Aero vs allrounder race bike

This year I’m getting into gravel racing as a Masters-30 and I’d like to try my hand at road racing as well. I’ve got one of the new Grails as my gravel race bike and I’m feeling really fast on it which got me thinking about getting a race bike for the road. My current bike is is aluminium with an endurance geo, aluminium, 10 speed and 9,5kg with pedals and so on

The problem is that I’m not sure kind of bike should I get. The options I have in mind are

  • Tarmac SL8 PRO w/ Roval Rapide Cockpit
  • Van Rysel RCR PRO Ultegra w/ custom 56mm wheels or Swiss Side wheels
  • Canyon Aeroad SLX8 or CFR (sorry, did say Ultimate before but was an error)
  • Some other aero bike (I kind of like the Cervelo S5, but not sure if I see myself riding it)

This weekend I listed to the Escape Collective podcast where JP Ballard os Swiss Side says that the SL8 makes no sense and it’s not aero, which left me confused because it tests quite well on Tour, but got me thinking if I should discard the Tarmac and more importantly if it makes sense for me to get an aero bike and take the 0,5kg extra bike weight

To give a bit more context, I’m on the heavy side for my weight with 77kg for 171cm at 14% body fat (yes, I must be made of lead or something) and working with a nutritionist to get to 11-12% but the truth is that I’m always going to be relatively heavy and thus not race fast at big climbs. I can smash shorter climbs without problem

I live in Spain and there’s no much flat terrain around, it basically going up or down and have really big climbs nearby, though masters races seem to try and avoid those and take place more in rolling terrain and shorter 10-15 minutes climbs for what I’ve seen

Main goal of the bike is racing and fast group rides, my current bike will be used for most of the training and slower rides since I’m really comfortable on it and it’s proven to be bombproof

So I guess my question boils to: should I get an aero bike because my strength is in flatter / rolling hills terrain with faster speeds or an allrounder because I need all the help I can get in shorter climbs?

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Aerodynamics vs weight discussed:

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If you have decent local bike shops then there’s some interesting Spanish brands too : Orbea (new bike provider for Lotto Destiny) and BH (not in the worldtour but I know they have a recent-ish aero bike… I only remember it because of the striking fork). Can’t really help with the aero/weight discussion, but watching with interest!

You need to sit (or even better ride) a few @ggadrian . A lot of modern aero bikes are light enough that weight isn’t an issue comfort might be. Myself I didn’t go the full aerobike route but opted for the comfortable customised route and a set of aero wheels for the summer. I forget the weight penalty over my winter aluminium wheels but its negligible.

Yeah I would try to get some testrides on several bikes to see what you like, honestly most of the Aero bikes and the Semi Aero allround bikes are relatively close… Just be aware that Wheels and Tires can make a huge difference in how a bike feels…

I think you can have your cake and eat it with either the SL8 or the Super Six.

Both are within a few watts of most aero bikes but are lightweight and more important for me - fairly comfortable.

My issue with aero bikes is the vertical stiffness, while an S5 is 7w faster than my SL8 (according to tour magazine) I’m going to be far more than 7w adrift if my body is beaten up and tired.

According to the Tour magazine testing pretty much all the aero bikes from the top brands are within 10 watts of each other at 45kph. Though if looking at Canyon that would be the Aeroad not the Ultimate. To my mind that’s close enough that as long as you’re buying a decent aero bike I wouldn’t worry about the last few watts of just how aero it is. Focus instead on fit, availability, LBS support (especially if not sure on fit/sizing and if you don’t do your own bike maintenance), price, paint options (if you’re going to drop that much money on a new bike you’d better love it!), ride quality, compliance, weight, etc.

Being totally dialled in on a bike in a good aero position is certainly going to save you a lot more watts than the difference between the “best” and “worst” aero bikes in the Tour test. Of course being dialled in on one of the more aero bikes is the best of both worlds but that may not be possible given that (nearly?) all those bikes now come with integrated one piece bars, at least in the top end builds. E.g. Canyons have adjustable bar width which is great, but can’t adjust stem length without changing the whole bar, and it seems to be difficult to impossible to buy bars in different sizes from them, so if the stock stem length doesn’t work for you I’d cross that bike off your list (unless Canyon in Spain have better stock inventory maybe).


You are completely right on comfort being important. On Saturday I did a 6h fast gravel ride and by hour 5 my legs were “fresh” and could still put down power and attach hills but my body was so battered from vibrations that it was hard to keep the power up. Not sure how much it is going to be a factor in shorted road races (1 to 3h I guess) but definitely something to keep in mind

As for the SL8 I have a good discount from my LBS on it and was really close to pulling the trigger last week, especially because my wife has a Aethos and I really like that bike, but since I heard Jean-Paul Ballard disagree on the Tarmac SL8 being aero at all (contradicting Tour results) I’m really confused. Also I could save a good chunk of money going the Aeroad route or get a lighter and maybe more aero bike with Van Rysel RCR

LBS support for a bike like the Tarmac would be a big factor in my decision, for repairs/maintenance and possible warranty issues.

The problem with the Aeroad is the integrated cockpit. You’ll need to make sure you can get your fit right, and hope you don’t crash or have another issue with the bars because replacements can be difficult to get. It’s possible the service would be better for you in Europe but it seems like many people in the US are very unhappy.


This reminds me of a problem within academics - everyone fights over excruciating minutiae because they agree on everything else :rofl:

The bikes you listed cannot be differentiated based on speed unless you want to discuss marketing. Pro tour riders win races on all of them. Picking one of these bikes over the other is not going to win or lose you a race. Trying to say one is better or worse than the other is a tremendous waste of time. For God’s sake, Remco won a world championship on an SL7 and then 1 year later MVDP won a world championship on an Aeroad. Trying to say which of those is “better”? Good luck

What ISN’T a waste of time is deciding which one you like the best. Looks, colors, available sale price, build kit, favorite team - these are all more relevant to riders than which of these super-bikes you choose.


Don’t be. It’s a good bike, Specialized have their own wind tunnel and supply multiple Worldtour teams, they’ve made very aero bikes before (the Venge) there is no way they’re going to produce a bike that isn’t at the very least competitively aero, even if you take all their marketing claims with a pinch of salt. Maybe it isn’t the most aero bike out there, but it will be close enough to not worry about it. If you can get a good price on it and have a LBS you like that can support your purchase including making sure it’s sized right, I would say it’s a great choice.


The title of the post is interesting in itself - Aero vs Allrounder is an anachronism at this point unless you are including TT bikes. Whether you pick an SL8 or an Aethos, you’re still going to struggle up climbs of substantial grade and distance without fitness. That 500g ain’t gonna help you.

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I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the interview.

The SL8 doesn’t look aero, but the numbers don’t lie.

It isn’t as aero as the top aero as the top aero bikes but it seems to be aero enough. I don’t believe for a second that the authority on aero group testing would fabricate results, so I’d go with tour’s review.

Was quite surprised when he said that…and he said it quite confidently. Basically outright dismissed it in terms of aero. Wish Ronan had a dug into his reaction more.

Basing your decision on world tour race results is a bit of a waste of time, IMO. All the bikes listed have won big races….and like.y none of them were won because of the bike being ridden.

The best criteria for making a decision is fit. Compare the stack & reach from each bike and make sure you can get the fit you want / need. Everything else is secondary from there.


Why not just slap some deep section aero wheels on your Grail?

That new Grail with its integrated cable routing and aero handlebars looks like an excellent quiver killer for both road and gravel.

If you’re saying this because he mentions “Tour results”, I started to post the same, but then realized he means a magazine called Tour.

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I’m a slightly above average 40yr old cyclist. I bought a S5 because my LBS recommended it as both fast and comfortable. I could not be happier.

With the right fit and 30mm tires it’s a super smooth ride.

No, I was responding to others posting race wins…but those may have been in confusion to the point you mention.

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If you believe the Tour aero tests, the penalty for a SL7/SL8 (short tube semi aero bike) vs a full aero bike is about 6w at whatever kph of wind. Keep in mind that they never test with water bottles and cages on the bike, which would even things out quite a bit. The aero bikes also ride like **** compared to the other bikes. The semi-aero bikes (Spec, dale, and canyon ultimate) ride really nice and won’t have the same aero penalties for a water bottle.
That Swissside interview was odd. That guy was fretting over 1w to be provocative. If there’s 3 bikes in you’re lineup (aero, semi, light climber) and you’re at the tour, you’re riding the semi bike every day (unless you’re a breakaway guy) as you’re in the draft most of the day and ride quality is important.