How have aero bikes changed? Dan Lloyd’s 2010 Cervélo S3

Si Richardson takes a closer look at Dan Lloyd’s Tour de France aero bike

ClockUpdated 10:02, Sunday 5th November 2023. Published 09:35, Sunday 5th November 2023

Cervélo launched cycling’s first aero road bike, the Soloist, in 2002. It was a revolutionary moment in the sport, heralding a new era of aerodynamics, one that had defined the direction of the bike industry to this day.

Few could have predicted its significance at the time and the bike has provided a benchmark for Cervélo’s range of aero bikes ever since, including the S3 which cut its teeth in the pro peloton during the late 2000s at the hands of the Cervélo Test Team.

It’s a familiar name in GCN headquarters as it’s the team that our very own Dan Lloyd rode for between 2009 and 2010 - not that he ever mentions it. Dan kindly gave us his version of the bike from his glory days in the pro peloton so that we could take a closer look.

To learn more about how the bike compares to a modern aero road bike, check out the video at the top of this page.

Tried and tested at the Tour de France

When we say glory days, we mean it… by GCN presenter standards anyway. Dan used the bike at the Tour de France in 2010, cycling’s premium event. He spent the majority of the race simply trying to survive, eventually finishing 161st out of 167 riders.

By the time he used it at the Tour de France, the bike was already a seasoned veteran in the pro peloton, having been launched in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It didn’t waste any time making its presence known, taking second, third and fourth in the men’s race.

A result of rapid innovation, the S3 was already the fourth generation of Cervélo’s aero road bike, dropping only six years after its first was launched in 2002.

A stepping stone in aerodynamic development

For its time, the S3 was the pinnacle of aerodynamic performance, but it’s strikingly different to modern aero machines.

Now aero is synonymous with deeper and relatively wide tube profiles, but the S3’s are noticeably thin. So much so that the water bottle cage looks drag-inducingly bulbous - not something you would see on modern aero road bikes.

Tube trends have moved on a lot since and most modern bikes feature truncated aerofoils, which offer enhanced aerodynamic performance, plus they make it easier to make a bike stiffer. The downside? Modern aero bikes suffer from a weight penalty, highlighted by Dan’s S3 which tips the scales at only 6.64kg. That’s under the UCI limit, so modern race bikes can’t legally achieve that, but you’d struggle to find many aero bikes that could without some very extreme component choices.

For context, it’s 600g lighter than the Cervélo S5 Jonas Vingegaard used at the 2023 Tour de France, which we previously got our hands on.

It’s hard to imagine but back in 2010, the aero versus lightweight debate didn’t exist; it simply didn’t need to as aero bikes were already light. Now it’s one of the most divisive topics in cycling.

Dan’s Cervélo S3 set-up

As it became Dan’s training bike the season after, when the team changed to Garmin-Cervélo, the bike doesn’t feature the original Cervélo Test Team components. Dan no longer owns the original Zipp wheels and so we dug out some old Mavic Cosmic Carbon Ultimates which the riders would have used when the team changed in 2011 - it’s a good case study in the complexity of sponsors! They’re not quite as aerodynamic as the Zipp 404 wheelset that adorned the bike in 2010, but they are outrageously light.

Power on the bike was driven by a conglomeration of the SRAM Red groupset and Rotor Q-Ring crankset. The bike has also received a dose of modern tech in the form of Wahoo’s Speedplay power meter pedals.

How does the bike perform compared to a modern aero road bike? Watch the full video at the top of the page to find out.

Check out more tech features on the GCN website, linked here.

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