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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 3:46 am 
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Location: Prescott, AZ
We have seen the world of mountain bikes really evolve and explode with new technology that has made a massive impact in the performance of the MTB. The mountain bikes from the mid 1990's compared to today's machines are not even close. There would be no way to compete at a professional, or even skilled amateur level on such an old bike. The suspension, brakes, bike weight, and geometries were very archaic back then. Now they are completely different machines.

Road bikes are a different story. The bikes from the 90's really aren't much different from what we see today. Sure, there have been some nice advancements in ergonomics, tube shapes, geometries, disc brakes, tubeless tires, electronic shifting, wider range gearing, etc... We have more customization and choice nowadays which is always a nice thing.

But it seems like the actual speed and performance is really not much different at all.

Are the new bikes faster? Yes, they are. But its alot less than the manufacturers want you to believe. I decided to take my old entry level alloy 1999 Trek with 8 speed Shimano RSX groupset for a 70 mile ride the other day, and was actually very impressed with the way it did. It was pretty surprising. I managed to keep up with the group and smash the climbs, and it honestly felt just as easy as my brand new $3k bike!

Im sure there are probably some slight differences in performance. But they really are slight and quite undetectable through feel alone. The main noticeable difference was the carbon is a bit less vibrating, and the Di2 shifting is so much more precise. The hoods are way more comfortable vs. early Shimano. But really, thats about it. I honestly didnt feel any meaningful difference in stiffness, and the bike is under 20lbs which is good enough really. There are records from the 1990s up famous mountain climbs that are still held today, despite the differences in technology....

I honestly dont feel like my old Trek would ever hold me back from achieving a KOM or winning a race.

So the question is, can road bikes get any faster? It seems like all the low hanging fruit is already taken, and marginal gains have already been implemented through aero frames, hidden cables, bladed spokes, etc... The only area that I see as a promising contribution to road bike performance is the new tire compounds we are starting to see, with the rolling resistance coming down a bit every couple years, especially with the advent of tubeless tires.

Will we ever see a jump in performance? Or is the road bike pretty much done evolving in this respect?


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:33 am 
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Records from the 1990s = EPO

The biggest limiter on a road bike is wind resistance so you are right, that hasn't changed much. The biggest difference between a bike today and a 25 year old bike is weight (a marginal gain), ergonomics (STi/ergo shifting/11 speed), tires (lower rolling resistance), and aerodynamics. Aerodynamics though hasn't yet invaded every price point of road bike.

I'm going to say that I think a top of the line aero bike (Trek Madone) is quite a bit faster than a top of the line road bike from 25 years ago. It's probably not enough of a difference for a recreational rider but a 25 watt* difference at the pro level is huge.


*just pulling 25 watts out of the air

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Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:33 am 


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:57 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 5:33 am
Posts: 99
Location: Prescott, AZ
AJS914 wrote:
Records from the 1990s = EPO

The biggest limiter on a road bike is wind resistance so you are right, that hasn't changed much. The biggest difference between a bike today and a 25 year old bike is weight (a marginal gain), ergonomics (STi/ergo shifting/11 speed), tires (lower rolling resistance), and aerodynamics. Aerodynamics though hasn't yet invaded every price point of road bike.

I'm going to say that I think a top of the line aero bike (Trek Madone) is quite a bit faster than a top of the line road bike from 25 years ago. It's probably not enough of a difference for a recreational rider but a 25 watt* difference at the pro level is huge.


*just pulling 25 watts out of the air


I have to disagree on some points, and agree on others. I personally believe that at least some, if not most pro riders nowadays are still "enhanced" in some sort of way. Thats just the nature of the business in professional sports... And you would think that modern bikes and better training methods + possible dope would shatter the old records, but really thats not the case. Certainly EPO and the best bikes help. But 90% of the story still comes down to the level of fitness and mental toughness, regardless of drugs or technology... Just my opinion.

And some things you mention are not exactly true. 25 years ago, it was mostly steel and in the 20lb range. Once alloy and carbon hit in the mid 90's, the pros were riding 15lb bikes.

And they also had STI shifters in the early to mid 90's. 7, 8, 9 speed. Honestly, once your 8 speed and above, your gear spacing is pretty good, especially when you run a straight block 12-23. 8 speed vs. 11 speed would never hold you back in practically any racing situation... I mean yeah, Ill take the 11 speed over the 8. But honestly Im not even thinking about it when Im riding. 8 speed is quite good enough...

As far as aerodynamics, I feel the riders back then didnt even think about it. You had guys doing TT's with no aero helmet, and aerobars attached to a normal road bike. They wore loose clothing that flapped in the wind. Aerodynamics has come a long way since! A huge part of that has been the clothing rather than the bike. The bike only creates a small amount of drag compared to the body.

I think where a modern bike would really shine is fast 20+ mph riding on a breakaway or solo effort, where aerodynamic wheels and frame would give some nice incremental gains that could add up to minutes over a long race. It wouldn't matter much if riding in a group, when your being sheltered...

On steep gradients, I doubt there is much difference assuming bike weight is the same.

And your right, it will be interesting to see the entry level bikes getting the trickle down technology. Aero frames would be nice, and modern groupsets are just way better than the old stuff. Again, not so much performance wise. But shift feel and ergonomics are way better nowadays. I much prefer a modern Tiagra vs. Dura Ace 7700 etc...


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:19 am 
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eyedrop wrote:
Road bikes are a different story. But it seems like the actual speed and performance is really not much different at all.


I watched parts of the Tour and other races on TV last year. The peloton was going along the flats at 33 mph at the end of the race. That seems quite a bit faster than what they did 25 years ago.

I doubt new technology is going to change bicycle racing too much in the future. Bicycling is not really a technology or equipment based sport. Yes it plays a part. But the rider is 90+% of the equation. Riders have improved in recent decades with better more focused training and diet too. As well as the drugs too. But ignoring that, riders are far more specialized today. Decades ago riders rode all the grand tours and all the spring classics. Now you only ride one. You train so you peak at that one moment and that is it. You have spring classic specialists who do not ride the grand tours. Train to be at your best for one or two months. You have sprinters who ride the first half of the tours. So train to be at your best the first half of May and July and September. Or climbers who ride for KOM only. Train to climb and take it easy on all the other days. Or help your team leader on just the climbing days. The training and specialization are better now than in the past.

As a corollary. Other sports such as football. USA football, not soccer. The players are bigger, faster, stronger now that they were 25-40 years ago. Has genetics, evolution changed that much in 25 years so humans are bigger, better, faster? I don't think so. But you have new records in running speeds. New weight lifting amounts. The training is better today.


Last edited by RussellS on Thu Apr 06, 2017 10:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:21 am 
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Posts: 2440
Location: Vienna Austria
I've said it in another thread: A guy who is just *a bit* faster than me will still beat me on a bike from the 1970s over any terrain.

Bikes don't really make much of a difference. But they are fun to build and talk about :)


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:25 am 
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OP underestimates progress, even if it's marginal vs the rider as others have said

6.8 is obviously a limiter for pro bikes, but if you're unconstrained then an aero frame, aero wheels with appropriately matching rubber and etap/Di2/EPS, with tuning can come in 2kg-3kg lighter than "equivalent" bikes of 20 years ago and be considerably stiffer and more aero

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:53 am 
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Forget the group. That's not how you test anything.

Take your old bike out and TT it. Then repeat in similar wind conditions with a new aero frame with aero wheels, eTap, around 7kg.

Ride to power of course. That's a reasonably credible way to ghetto test something. Tell us what you find.

That aside, the limitations on bikes are largely to do with UCI rules as we all know, and their hangup over fairings, and of course the cyclists themselves, of which a significant proportion are dullards who resist technology and dismiss science akin to climate change deniers.

GCN did an old v new bike test a while ago, and the new bike was of course minutes faster. Which is great really.

Anyway, bikes are people powered, I'm content with how fast they go. If speed is the goal, then drugs and genetic engineering are the way past current limitations. That's limited by conventional ethics however. Though ethics and morals change, they're relative. And when they do, cycling will get faster too.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 12:15 pm 
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Posts: 2440
Location: Vienna Austria
sawyer wrote:
OP underestimates progress, even if it's marginal vs the rider as others have said

6.8 is obviously a limiter for pro bikes, but if you're unconstrained then an aero frame, aero wheels with appropriately matching rubber and etap/Di2/EPS, with tuning can come in 2kg-3kg lighter than "equivalent" bikes of 20 years ago and be considerably stiffer and more aero


Yes, but it won't be much faster.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 2:55 pm 
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eyedrop wrote:
So the question is, can road bikes get any faster? . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . .
Will we ever see a jump in performance? Or is the road bike pretty much done evolving in this respect?


Current rules limit designs. Faster is not really possible.
With design changes, ofcourse bikes can become faster.

Is there a need for more speed? No.
The rider is the ruling factor anyway.
The focus should be on the riders not the equipment.
Exiting races don't need advanced equipment.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 3:58 pm 
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Synthetic spider silk tires should offer lower rolling resistance when they become a thing.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:56 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2016 9:08 pm
Posts: 213
Fairings can help with airflow around the body.

I thought about using a bike with fairings, and initially thought the speed increase will be great. Then I wondered how much worse it'll be crashing at higher speeds, and decided maybe I don't want one after all.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:31 pm 
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I think the biggest difference at this point is comfort. Taking my Bianchi form the early 90s out vs my BMC is just night and day. Both running Conti GP4000s at the same pressure and I would much rather have the BMC. This year's Paris Roubaix will see front suspension with the Sworks Roubaix, which I can attest is quite nice, and auto locking rear suspension on Pinarellos... Once suspension and disc brakes can be put on a bike at 15lbs then we will have much more comfortable race rigs. This should theoretically allow riders to go faster. With that said, I really do think one will go noticeably faster generating the same power on a modern top end bike opposed to an older top end bike.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:06 pm 
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Possibly they come up with a few watt savings based on new ways to reduce friction on the bearings , chain etc but mostly what determines speed of the bike is the cyclist in my opinion.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:13 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:47 pm
Posts: 40
The UCI are considering lowering the current weight restrictions and also changing the 3:1 aero restrictions in place on frames:

https://cyclingindustry.news/uci-said-t ... -bicycles/


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:44 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 29, 2008 7:55 pm
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Local shop made comparison between old and new TT bike
https://www.facebook.com/kivenlahdenpyo ... 495741098/


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Posted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 7:44 pm 


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