Lightweight vs aero - which bike climbs faster?

We put two bikes to the test to try and answer this long-debated question

Clock12:33, Saturday 9th September 2023

The debate around which is better, a lightweight climbing bike or an aerodynamically optimised build, is one of the biggest discussions in cycling. Lightweight bikes were long the accepted best option for climbing, but then in recent years the science has shown us that actually, a slightly heavier but more aero bike will actually be faster, even in the hills.

But is that actually true? We always keep up with the science over here at GCN, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to try it out for ourselves too. With the recent release of the Orbea Orca, a lightweight bike that is bucking the trend of the ‘aero is king’ ethos, we thought we’d reignite this debate with a good old fashioned head to head test. And of course, we called in our resident hill climber Andrew Feather to help.

Read more: New Orbea Orca goes all-in on climbing performance

Andrew took on Belmont Hill, a feared and prestigious Strava KoM in the south west of England, pitting the new lightweight Orbea Orca against its heavier aero counterpart. We compared his time, power and other data to see which bike was better. And the results may just surprise you - they certainly surprised us.

To find out how Andrew got on, and hear Si Richardson’s conclusions from his experiment, tune into the full video above.

Want to get to know hill climber Andrew Feather better? Check out our documentary Feather: Natural Born Climber over on GCN+.

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