Does Cycling In An Aerodynamic Position Uphill Make You Faster? | GCN Does Science

Does Cycling In An Aerodynamic Position Uphill Make You Faster? | GCN Does Science


– In a recent video we talked
about how much of a benefit you could get by getting
more aero on your bike even when you are climbing. However, that was using
an online bike calculator. – That’s right. So we decided that we’d
actually better come and test it out in real
life so we’ve come back to the very same climb
Cheddar Gorge in the UK and to see exactly whether
or not it was right. (upbeat instrumental music) How are we going to test this then? Well to put it simply we’re each going to ride up the climb twice. The first time riding on the tops, so in a really upright position, and the second time in the most
aero position we can manage. (upbeat instrumental music) Here we go then, run one. We’re riding at different
prearranged power outputs. Dan is holding 290 watts and
I am going to try for 350. And as you can see, this
is the non-aero run. The climb itself is 3.3 kilometres long at a gradient of 5%. Oi stop sniggering, that’s
actually pretty long for the UK. It’s very much a climb
of two halves though so the bottom kilometre
is an average of 8% with one section up to 17%
whereas the top is just 3%. (upbeat instrumental music) (sighing) Run number one. Non-aero, feels a bit weird doing that. (upbeat instrumental music) Right then, run number two, aero. We are riding two very different bikes as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I’ve got my Canyon Aeroad with Zipp 454s, all about aerodynamics. And then Dan is on his Orbea Orca with lightweight DT Swiss 1400 wheels. Is that gonna affect the results? Data is collected in the
same way on both bikes though with Quarq Dzero Powermeters and
Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt head units. (upbeat instrumental music) Now as usual, with the
results we’ve got to give a little shout out to
your Wahoo head unit. These also have been
beamed instantaneously to our phones to be analysed. Dan, what are you? – Well I got a little bit
carried away on the steep section at the start when I was
in the aero position so I did four watts more
and I saved five seconds. And on the second bit I
did do exactly the same so 287 on the second part both times and saved a further
nine seconds so in total that’s a saving of 14
seconds so roughly actually what the bike calculator predicted. – Really, because I didn’t have
such good results actually, I was only nine seconds faster
for all the extra effort that going aero entails. And so my conclusion on that
is although I was quicker I wouldn’t bother to go fully aero. I’d compromise somewhere between the two and ride in my preferred
position holding on to the hoods. – Yeah, I was gonna say
that I found the second run a lot harder than the first one. I don’t think I’m used to
being in an aero position quite as much anymore
now that I no longer need to go as fast as I possibly
can everywhere I go on a bike. I do wonder whether had I
just gone as hard as I could on both runs, I would’ve been a lot faster in my normal position because
I’d have been more comfortable putting out more power. – Yeah, I think probably
that would’ve been the case. There you go then, conclusion. Aero is important but it’s
not everything when climbing. – Although, we should
mention it once again, we caught Cheddar Gorge
with a distinct tail wind up the climb so maybe
that skewed the results. Possibly we could revisit
with a headwind at some point. – Let’s have a rest first shall we? – Right, if you would
like to subscribe to GCN just click on the globe
somewhere on the screen right now and then here’s two more videos for you. Just down here is our experiment to see how much difference body weight makes when you’re on a climb. – Yeah, or what about bike weight? Can you buy yourself
more speed when climbing? That one is just down there.

82 thoughts on “Does Cycling In An Aerodynamic Position Uphill Make You Faster? | GCN Does Science

  1. Another question: what weather is best for setting a personal best? I guess too cold isn't good, but too warm isn't either.

  2. Cheddar is not a good test, as the 3% section is too shallow. I guess you were crossing the line >15mph, so definitely into aero benefits. I've done the climb all the way to Priddy and was hitting 20mph near the top.

  3. Nibali went full aero today(first attack Quintana, sitting with his elbows on the bars) and look how that ended up.

  4. is it also a question of how comfortable you are meaning you can put out more power? you rode to a set power for both runs but could you hold a higher power riding on the tops for instance?

  5. I am sure you are aware that time up a climb depends on more than power and position. Given the differences were fairly small, things like wind; temp and air pressure are important (and could vary in a short period). Could you please post these variables (eg from windfinder) for all 4 runs. Also give all the effort you went to of getting yourself and the crew to the location, filming etc, its best to do more than 2 runs each. I suggest: A then B then B then A (four runs each) then average is much better because its randomizes the effect going first vs going second. I am 100% sure you know all this, so perhaps take it on board for your next excellent video please. ps. if you are serious about finding differences posting the strava record for each run would help those seriously interested in this question a lot. thank you

  6. That's probably the most camp thing I've seen on GCN, Si with this little thing at 4:09. I don't even know what to call that

  7. I ride uphill in an aero dynamic position because it makes me feel like a beast, and I imagine present pedestrians gawping in awe and think; "blimey! He must be pro!".

    But in reality I look like sack of wet towels trudging up a 5% gradient… 💪😭

  8. I find when the gradient increases I naturally move into an aero position instead of sitting up.

  9. A lot depends on your speed. If you were able to average 30kph up the hill, the time saved would be higher than if you averaged 20 or 25kph.

  10. Is that really an aero position with just being on the tops what about the drops surely they are more aero?

  11. Did Cheddar for the first time a few weeks ago, was told it was hard (compared to my local, shorter, climbs), so was pacing myself at the start. Got bummed by the super steep section and then proceeded to go quite slowly. Was expecting another steep bit to come, didn't realise it was a shallow gradient after the first steep bit 😛 Could have improved it.

    got 15:56 for the 4.1km Strava segment, not fantastic, but room for improvement 🙂

  12. you should test more positions… Drops, tops, elbow in L szape on tops, elbows like that on drops… And you should actually test it on descending and add siting on top tube to it…

  13. depends on what climb you're tackling..for me, going aero helps for anything below 15 degrees inclination..above 15 you're better upright or off saddle, ofc this is all your preference.

  14. That's the most aero position you could manage? Pfft, what are you, a bunch of retired pro cyclists?

  15. Bit of a strange test really 'cos surely the question to be asked is "How much power can I get out on a climb in an aero position compared with climbing in a more natural position?" Being aero might gain you the equivalent of say 5 watts but if your average power is 15 watts down, then you lose! This GCN test isolates the effect of being aero but fails to show us the full effect of being in an aero position. Can I suggest that you go back to cheddar gorge and ride it again just trying to go as fast as you can in both positions? And to do better science each rider should do the same route say 10 times in each position so some analysis can be done as to the uncertainty in the results.

  16. wondered the same when seeing someone dawdle past me on aero bars when i am dawdling to the trail on my 30lb mountain bike with sticky knobbies on hehe

  17. can you make more power sat upright for better breathing compared to been in a so called aero position when climbing ?

  18. Why not try this on a longer/steeper climb? I'm sure that makes quite a difference. (while still not alpine we've got more proper climbs up here in Scotland)

  19. I think It is no brainer that better aerodynamic position will give a faster result within the same power. I think the main question is what kind of position that allows you to continuously exert high pedalling power for the extended amount of time (1-2 hours) while climbing.

  20. question is: are you able to keep same power riding on aero position? aero will always be faster for same power output but it will also be more difficult (uncomfortable) to keep a high pace.

  21. 3% of gradient with that enormous power? definitely make different. uphill is not the point. speed is.

  22. The second run should always be harder as you are not as fresh the second time. Not too sure what to read into these tests.

  23. Hey Simon, you might have gained an additional 5 seconds if you closed the vent on your aero helmet.

  24. I like your science tests I the real world. I think there are some of the limitations riding to set power and appreciate there's not an easy way around tbis. Does riding in an aero position on a climb restrict the actual amount of power you can maintain for a given time? Could you do two maximal runs in the two positions and then compare this to the differences in the first test?

  25. Si, I see you're not using the Bolt since it won't fit on the canyon out front mount due to its aero lip. I'm using a rec-mount on my aeroad, works perfectly for the bolt computer.

  26. I don't get how men can ride in an "aero" position, where does your balls go? I can barely lean forward at all before it feels like i am getting castrated

  27. Having done this test many, many times on a 4.5% climb near my house, I know that I'll go faster non-aero because most people produce more power more upright. Even doing it over and over again (to see if you get more fatigued from producing more power), I still go faster non-aero.

    Now in the aero bars, however…

    Basically, if you compare any 2 climbing positions, there is a certain % grade that the aero position will stop being faster than the non-aero. It's different for every person, and every position.

  28. for me, being aero with an aero bar is more about power.
    i feel my pedal stroke is more powerfull at that position, both down and upstroke.
    but yeah it is not comfortable when gradien reach 9%

  29. hey,guys. I want to share a great bike light to you. If any interest, please check it
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  30. Hi GCN. I have a small car, a trunk mount bicycle rack, and a carbon frame road bike. I was talking to a friend the other day. He says I should get a hitch bike rack, and to place the bike on the platform of the hitch rack instead. He also says hanging a carbon frame bike on a trunk mount bike rack potentially damage the top tube and the frame of the bike. I wonder if it is true? I have spent about $150CAD for my bicycle trunk mount rack. Should I invest another $600-$800CAD to get a hitch bicycle rack, and throw away my trunk mount rack?

  31. as an older fatter rider I find that lower down and elbows in has helped me up the climbs
    and has helped stopping me cramp up in my legs I suppose you just have to play about with what works for you

  32. Thanks for another great video GCN! I have watched about one video a day for nearly 2 years now, and I'm still not bored! You guys do a great job of showcasing the natural beauty in your homeland (my own passion in cycling!) with a genuine love for bicycles – but not forgetting the geeks with your attention to tech and details 🙂 – you also make the show genuinely fun as well! Keep it up, best of luck! Cheers – Joel from Thailand

  33. I think it is worth noting is that you can do more riding in that aero position and you will get better at putting out the power in it.

    5 years ago I would do rides where I would stay in the drops for as long as I could during the 3 hr ride. got to where I could do 3 hrs in the drops and it became my most powerful position because I trained in a lot. sucked, but useful for bike racing where speed is priority 1!

  34. Retired pros complaining that aero positions aren't comfortable. Absolutely nothing to do with getting older & not training in aero positions anymore…

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