How Much Faster Are Modern Bikes? | Retro Vs Modern

October 31, 2019

– [Simon] Bike technology moves really
quickly. Every year new products come out that are lighter, stiffer, more
aerodynamic. All supposedly making us faster. But, how much difference does it
actually make? How much faster are modern bikes? I really want to find out. – [retro-Simon] So do I. – Nice bike. – Oh, thank you very much.
Do you fancy a race? – Yeah, okay. To the top and back? – All right. – Sounds good. – All right. You’re on, retro-me. ♪ [music] ♪ – This bike is a genuine piece of history.
It’s an Orbea, ridden to victory in the 1985 Vuelta a Espana by Pedro Delgado.
This is his actual bike, and it is a beauty. Steel frame,
Vitus 788 tubes, got just 12 gears, provided by Simplex, Weinmann rims,
Weinmann brakes, Michelin tires, actually quite wide at 25C. The only thing
missing, in fact, are the toe clips and straps. So what am I going to be racing
against, then? What is the modern bike? – I guess you could say that this is the
great-granddaughter of Pedro Delgado’s Vuelta a Espana-winning bike. It’s the
Orbea Orca M-LTD, and over the last 31 years, she’s gone on something of a diet
and lost some serious kilos. Now, no one has been near this with a
welding torch. Instead of nine steel tubes we’ve got 130 laser-cut pieces
of carbon fiber that are laid up, glued, and then baked together.
We’ve also got carbon fiber wheels, seat post, bars and stem, 22 gears this
time, Shimano’s Di2, so they’re also controlled electronically, and I’m very
pleased to say that I’ve also got clipless pedals on this one. So what is our
racetrack? Well, the summit of that hill up there is 280 meters high. We’ve got
four kilometers of beautiful twisting roads between here and there, and I’m
going to race up and then back. Simply time the difference. No power
meters, no heart rate monitors, we’re going old school, purely on feel.
How much faster is this bike? – Run number one. Let’s see if I can do a
Grand Tour-winning bike justice. Now, this being 2016, obviously,
safety first. I’m not entirely sure, as well, what Mr. Delgado’s going to make
of my choice of footwear and lack of toe clips, but anyway, let’s give it a whirl. Downtube shifters, I got
to get used to that. ♪ [music] ♪ Now the eagle-eyed amongst you will no
doubt have realized I’m no longer using Pedro Delgado’s back wheel. We might have a problem, Mike.
No, I think we’ve got a real problem. And I don’t know whether it’s because
I’ve got more power than him, I suspect not, but unfortunately I broke
his freewheel, so I’ve got an entirely retro bike except for the back wheel. Tell you what, though, 6V chain shifted
very well on an 11-speed block. ♪ [music] ♪ – Run number two coming up. Strava is on,
modern bike ready to go, let’s do it. ♪ [music] ♪ First thing you notice is how much
stiffer modern bikes are. Now, whether stiffer is faster,
I don’t know. It feels quicker. Also changing gear
that’s got to save time. ♪ [music] ♪ – I’ve never ridden a bike with friction
shifters before. So it has to be said, you not only lose so much time
faffing around on your downtube, but finding the right gear is an art form.
Even when I was actually able to use the right back wheel. I can see a steep bit coming up, so I’m
going to have to change gear. I’ve nearly run out despite having 11
sprockets at the back. ♪ [music] ♪ Close to the top. I’m getting
nervous about the descent. There’s the line. I’m getting
nervous about shifting into the big ring. Ready… I’m in! Oh, man, that
was easier than I thought. ♪ [music] ♪ – Has to be said, I don’t know whether
it’s because Pedro’s bike just didn’t fit me properly, whereas this one fits me like
a glove, but I’ve got a lot more room here. Modern geometry has us a
bit lower, so I find the harder I try, the lower I get. It’s like aero-groveling,
or something. Here’s the top. There’s the finish line.
The half-way point. Right. The descent. Venga, venga! ♪ [music] ♪ Right. We’ll stop the clock.
That was bloody good. Here we are, then. Now, firstly, I would
just like to say that this has been an excellent day. Secondly, I suppose we
can’t escape the cold hard results. So here we go. Now, on the modern bike, I
did my little 5.7K loop in 12 minutes and 52 seconds. And then, on Pedro Delgado’s
bike, I did it in a little over 14 minutes. Now, as someone has
just kindly pointed out on Strava, that’s probably the slowest that bike has
ever been. But, I would just like to say, that I think for the first time in GCN’s
history, I’m going to declare this an unfair test. That’s right, GCN has not
done science, because not only did I not have toe clips and straps, I also have
just stolen that bike from Orbea’s museum this morning, so it’s perhaps not in
exactly the same condition that Pedro Delgado rode it in the Vuelta. But,
nevertheless, it was an absolute joy to ride, and it’s been a fascinating day,
because those bikes are like night and day. Yeah, that one’s heavier, that one’s
not quite stiff, and it’s also only got 12 gears. But the simple fact is the geometry
of retro bikes is completely different to modern bikes, so it feels totally and
utterly different. The way it descends, the way it climbs, the way you get out of
the saddle. Now, I suppose we probably should make a stab at answering our
original question. How much faster are modern bikes? Well, let’s say we’ve
saved four kilos on an 8% gradient, 3-kilometer climb, that’s probably
worth a good 15 to 20 seconds. Add in the fact that it is more
aerodynamic, even going uphill, that’s probably worth about five to 10
seconds. And then descending, the brakes are significantly better, so
that allowed me to go much, much quicker. So the fact is technology
has moved on, and modern bikes are much faster. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like
to spend a bit more time on this one. Oh, sorry, sorry, I appreciate… Yeah.
I’m not going to leave you hanging. Now, if you want to see some more GCN
videos, and if you click just up there, we’ve got a GCN Does Science playlist
where we tackle some of the burning questions about cycling and cycling
dynamics. Or, if you click just down there, then we’ve got our previous retro
versus modern video, where Matt takes Stephen Roche’s bike out for a spin.
Finally, make sure you subscribe to GCN, you can do that just by clicking up there. Can I just say that I was taken out last
night, made to drink copious amounts of red wine, and it’s just hampered my
clipping-in ability, just temporarily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *