I'm considering building a road bike and getting into running Crits this Summer and I'm unsure as to go with an Aero bike or a climbing (lightweight) bike.

Based on my general understanding, when not going up steep hills (which of course is not done in Crits) as a general rule of thumb an Aero bike is definitely faster.

Based on this I would have expected to see most Crit riders on Aero bikes, but when I watch YouTube videos of Crits most of the riders are on lightweight bikes. There are only 3 reasons I can think of for this:

1) Cost, non-professional riders may already own an endurance bike used for long weekend training rides or commuting on rough roads and not have the $$$ to drop on a 2nd bike just for running occasional Crits.

2) If in the pack most/all of the race, some degree of the Aero benefit would be negated (of course this is not a very good reason b/c if you intend to win then obviously you would not be in the middle of the pack, at least not in the end).

3) Most Crit circuits have frequent turns, perhaps endurance or climbing bikes are better for this purpose?

Even considering the above reasons, the whole point of a Crit is to go absolutely as fast as possible for a relatively short amount of time, therefore I would have expected to see almost all Crit participants on an Aero bike, but from watching Crits on YouTube is seems very few Crit riders use an Aero bike. Can somebody explain this further?

  • It would help if you defined what you mean by "aero bike", ideally with reference to the rules governing bikes used in crit races.
    – Móż
    Jan 28, 2017 at 22:57
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    Two comments: 1) Some riders do use aero road bikes; 2) if you're new to crit racing you'll see that at the lower category levels crashes are common, so you probably wouldn't want to use a newer more costly bike and newer more costly wheels. As it happens, many of the aero road bikes are newer and more costly.
    – R. Chung
    Jan 28, 2017 at 23:38
  • Thanks for the comments. To elaborate, I'm in the process of choosing between the Dengfu FM098 dengfubikes.com/ROAD_FRAME/129.html or the Dengfu R01 dengfubikes.com/ROAD_FRAME/130.html . Either of these frames are under $600 shipped, so damage would be unfortunate, but its not like wrecking a $12,000 Trek Madone. As far as rules for crits, do most crits use the UCI rules linked to by andy256 below, or are there separate rules for crits? I'm located in the U.S. if that matters.
    – cdahms
    Jan 29, 2017 at 11:16
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    The point of a crit is to be the first person across the line at the end of the race, not to go absolutely as fast as possible for a relatively short amount of time. Usually the winning strategy for the novice race categories is to do the least amount of work as possible during the bulk of the race, position yourself near the front of the pack, take the final corner as 2nd or 3rd wheel and then sprint as hard as possible. Jan 30, 2017 at 7:23
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    #1 is the most likely answer, as people typically race the bike they have or are provided. Performance success factors in crit racing have a greater reliance on race craft than does hill climbing or time trialling, so to some extent the physics factor is lessened a little compared with those events, nevertheless, it still applies and aero still matters in such racing. It matters since saving every bit of energy you save, be it through race craft and/or more aero kit is energy you can use when it really matters, such as the final sprint or making the break that counts. Jan 30, 2017 at 20:38

4 Answers 4


Revised following clarifying comments

  • OP is / will be racing in the US

  • USA Cycling has looser rules for bikes than the UCI, unless the event is qualification for a non-US event.

With these updates, the answer is simply that people rarely race on ideal equipment. Most people I know who race Crits do it either on the same bike they use for road races, Gran Fondos, or other big rides, because they don't have a more suitable bike for the purpose. Those who can afford to drop $5K to $10K on a specialist bike usually don't see Crits as the target: too many crashes, and they tend to see Crits as training rides.

Regarding the bikes you mention, they both appear on a quick glance to meet the USA Cycling Rules 2017. I was initially concerned that the curved top tube was non-compliant, but this guide and the rules already mentioned show that concern to be unfounded for racing in the US. I suspect the FM098 would not meet UCI standards, but that's irrelevant to you.

The earlier version of this answer follows and may be useful for international readers ...

ARTICLE 1.3.011 (and related articles) of the UCI Technical regulations essentially says only a general purpose bike can be used for road racing (criteriums are road races).

I interpret your aero bike to be a time trial bike. The rules explicitly ban such trials bikes from road racing.

The reason for this is the lack of maneuverability.

In practice you'll get much more benefit from sitting on the guy on front.


Especially 1.3.022 and 1.3.023.

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    I took his question to mean a road bike with aero-influenced tubes.
    – R. Chung
    Jan 28, 2017 at 23:26
  • @R.Chung Yes, it's not 100% clear. The same link still answers his question :-)
    – andy256
    Jan 28, 2017 at 23:30
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    Right, but in his first sentence he said "I'm considering building a road bike" so I think he must mean something like a Cervelo S rather than a R, or a Felt AR rather than a F, or a Specialized Venge rather than a Tarmac, or a Trek Madone rather than an Emonda. Each of those bikes is UCI-legal for road racing. Except that I can't fit the tires I'd like to use, I had considered converting my Cervelo P2K into a crit bike.
    – R. Chung
    Jan 29, 2017 at 2:18
  • @R.Chung By convert I suppose you mean swap the bars?
    – andy256
    Jan 29, 2017 at 4:48
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    Thanks for all the responses. Yes, I had an aero road bike in mind, not a TT bike. Specifically, I'm trying to decide between the Dengfu FM098 dengfubikes.com/ROAD_FRAME/129.html or the Dengfu R01 dengfubikes.com/ROAD_FRAME/130.html . The FM098 is similar to a Treck Madone or a Specialized Venge. If I understand the above link correctly, these would still be crit legal, correct? Is maneuverability of an aero road bike really that much worse than a lightweight/climbing bike so as to give up the aero benefit in a crit? If so I'm still supprised by this.
    – cdahms
    Jan 29, 2017 at 11:03

I race the 2 largest, longest, and most popular Crit series in the US that happen to be held in the Midwest (ToAD and Intelligentdia Cup). Both have hills. Sure 65’ (20 metres) of climb per lap isn't bad but try doing that 25 times.

1600’ (500 metres) of climb an hour is fairly legit once you add in the attacks up the hill and the other attacks to gain position on the flats.

So if you're racing very local, sure consider it flat and focus on finding a weight/aero balance. If you plan to compete on a larger scale, weight is definitely more important for hilly, semi-hilly, windy, and snappy accelerating in crits.


Given that a crit requires a lot of hard accelerations out of corners and a lot of braking into corners, I would have thought a lightweight bike will give you more benefit than an aero bike.

Although the aero bike will give you some help at speed, as may above have said, you are usually riding in a bunch anyway, where you may well be spending a decent amount of time on someone else's wheel anyway. On the assumption that the aero bike will be heavier you will have to put more watts in to get back up to speed out of the corners and this would likely negate any serious benefits from the aero profile.

In theory, you would be able to brake slightly later on a lighter bike (marginal but still noteworthy) and, more importantly, be able to get it back up to speed out of the corners quicker and more effectively, saving you a few watts each time. As long as it was sufficiently stiff to cope when you sprint hard, it would be my choice for crit racing every time.

With all this being said, it's usually more about the legs pushing the bike than the bike itself!

Happy to hear other opinions though...

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    From a physics only point of view (i.e. putting handling characteristics to one side), a more aero optioned bike will generally accelerate faster than a lighter one, at least when one compares the sort of mass and aero differences typical for comparable bikes, or for instance choosing heavier aero wheels over lighter less aero wheels. For example, I did an analysis of of several acceleration scenarios in this post: Jan 30, 2017 at 20:14
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    The reason for this is that even when accelerating, i.e. when one is using some of their power to increase kinetic energy, the total energy demand still includes a very high proportion of power required to overcome air resistance, and as one's speed increases, the aero factor dominates, and acceleration rates are relatively low. Jan 30, 2017 at 20:20
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    Apologies, I left out the link from comment above: alex-cycle.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/the-sum-of-parts-ii.html Jan 30, 2017 at 20:21

I have raced in about 15 crits, and yes, you do draft and no, you dont pull at the front unless you want to lose. Aero is great if it is free. if at the cost of weight, then go with lighter. It is all about staying with the peleton and the peleton is going to surge. The race is all about hard accelerations and intelligent drafting. Light weight will help with accelerations... that is what you will learn, accelerate and recover. unless you are coming from another discipline that requires incredible power you will be dropped and spend time building your short term power and sprints. you wont have any concern about aero ever. in other words when you start losing, you will try to figure out how to accelerate. you will care about conserving energy and lowering wind resistence by strategically positioning yourself behind other riders. you will never craft a plan to go into the wind by yourself but incrementally find that slightly easier with aero handlebars because that is certainly not a better choice no matter how aero the bike and a sure way to lose.

you can do the math an easily overestimate the benefit of aero if you are assuming your bike is breaking the wind....not in crit racing, thats the job of the cyclist or pack in front of you. but you still have to apply work to accelerate mass, thats why you want less mass and sure...diet is going to be a factor, but a light weight bike is nice.

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    Funny, I have probably raced 200+ crits in my life and often find myself on or off the front. If you are just trying to survive, then yes it can be a game of drafting until the sprint. If you have the fitness to win, going off the front is a great way to breaking up the peloton as well as to form a break group. Crits are the most fun (IMHO) when you can attack and counter attack. If your mindset is only to survive you will often get pushed to the back and likely won't be in position for the finish. Crits require aggressive tactics.
    – Rider_X
    Sep 6, 2017 at 4:30

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