How to gain more speed for free: Top 5 aero tips that don’t cost a fortune

The more aero you are the faster you will go and you don’t have to spend a fortune to reap some easy benefits

Clock15:42, Thursday 11th April 2024

Becoming more aerodynamic on a bike is an obsession for many cyclists. For pro cyclists, it's a necessity as teams and riders look for all sorts of bizarre looking solutions as they seek to shave valuable fractions of a second off their times. And while most of us aren't that extreme there is generally a unifying desire to go that bit faster, more efficiently each time we head out on a ride.

The good news is you don't have to become obsessive about it or spend silly amounts of money on the latest kit and technology to pick up some pretty significant aero gains. Hank and Manon have shared some of their top budget tips to make you more aero and get faster in a flash.

Get the right body position on your bike for more efficient speed

This is the biggest single difference you can make for the best results. Your body makes up around 80% of the resistance when you are riding, so even if you have the highest spec aero bike you can afford, if your body position isn’t optimal you won't be as effective as possible when looking for those extra watts.

The basic thing to remember when it comes to aero positioning is you're trying to make your body as small as possible on the bike to reduce that resistance. The best way to do this is by bending your elbows, bringing your torso down closer towards the bars, rolling your shoulders in slightly and tucking your head.

It sounds simple enough but can take a bit of getting used to if you're looking to hold that position for any sustained period of time. It's worth working on your core strength and flexibility with some simple exercises and routines. With practice you should find this position becomes easier over time.

It's also worth noting, you don’t have to be aero all the time. Follow the lead of the pros and use the aero tuck position when descending or trying to conserve energy. You can employ this technique while coasting or pedalling.

Lower the stem on your bike

This might seem a little extreme but the reason for doing it is it will help you capture less air with your upper body. In fact, some tests suggest that lowering your stem by 20mm can reduce your aerodynamic drag by up to 10 watts which is not insignificant.

The downside to this modification is it’s harder to hold that position as you're using different muscle groups to ones you might have before. Plus, we all have varying degrees of flexibility so this won't work for everyone. So while it is a very low-cost way of getting more aero it might take a little time before you feel completely comfortable with it.

If you do go down this route make sure you lower the stem in gradual increments. This should be no more than 5mm at a time and give it a while before you make further changes so you have a chance to assess the benefits.

Read more: GCN Tech Clinic – Slammed stems, quick links & charging Di2

Consider narrower handlebars for more aero positioning

The wider your bars the less likely you’ll be able to get into a good aero position. So one thing you could consider is a set of narrower bars. It used to be that as a rough guide, your bars should be about as wide as your shoulder width. However, as the desire to become more aero has increased cyclists, particularly among the pros, this has become even narrower than that.

Really you're looking for a point that helps accentuate the tucked position without becoming uncomfortable. Equally, you don't want to go to the other extreme with bars so narrow that it has a detrimental effect on your handling ability. Aero isn’t useful if you’re wobbling about or worse than that, crashing!

Choose the right clothing for more speed

This isn’t just about the clothes you wear but also how you’re actually wearing them. You can be as aero as you like but if you’re wearing a jacket that’s unzipped and flapping around in the wind it’ll act like a parachute, creating greater resistance and ultimately slowing you down. We’re not saying you need to go fully pro and have a tight fitting skinsuit but it's a good idea to wear a fitted cycling jersey and shorts that will offer less resistance. Also make sure any zips on your clothes are fully zipped up to stop air flying down your top and ultimately slowing you down.

How your helmet can be more aero

There are plenty of different helmet options on the market depending on how serious you want to get, and generally, the fewer vents you have on your helmet the more aero you’ll be. In the name of keeping things cheap and simple here’s a quick hack if you normally ride in a fully vented helmet. Carefully place some electrical tape across some of the vents to help give it a more aerodynamic shape. Take your time to get a neat finish, as you don’t want bits flapping around – this will defeat the object.

If you are riding in hot weather, especially if you're climbing, make sure you leave some of the vents open as you’ll need that airflow to help cool you down and stop you getting too hot-headed!

Read more: What is the right helmet for me – Aero or vented?

How wheel depth can affect aero efficiency

Those are cheap and easy tips to better aero efficiency. If you’re really serious about aero gains and are willing to spend a bit more money then the benefits of deep-section wheels shouldn’t be underestimated. The deeper they are the more aero they’ll be. The downside to this can be that they make bike handling trickier as they essentially act as a sail and can end up blowing you and your bike around a little. We’d recommend going for a 40mm or 50mm rim depth for the best results.

What have we missed or what are your tips to get more cheap aero wins? Let us know in the comments section below this article.

For more riding skills and know-how check out our dedicated section on the GCN website.

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