We test three new additions to the carbon-fibre, aero road bike market from Boardman, Scott and Litespeed
When it comes to the numbers, the Scott Foil was by far the best performer in every test we did. Having had extensive conversations with aero consultant Simon Smart we are not in the least bit surprised. It works well with the stock Mavic wheels, excellently with the Zipps (much of the development was done with the similar-width, albeit shallower, 404). It even held speed well with shallow wheels. All in all, there is seemingly no flaw in the Foil’s aerodynamic prowess. Despite the looks, it really is rather slippery.
Splitting the Boardman and Litespeed was far trickier than quickly glancing over the numbers. Delving a little deeper we can extrapolate a few things. The Litespeed is very good when used with very deep section wheels — the stock wheels were 15mm deeper than on the other two bikes. When used with shallow-section wheels on the roll-down test, the gap between Boardman and Litespeed was almost halved. At the lower average speed of the power test, the Litespeed fell below expectations.
The 45mm deep Enve-rimmed power measurement wheels appear not to fall into the C1R’s aero sweet spot and the slower speed exasperated the results (again that drag increasing with the square of the speed thing crops up again) The other element that became apparent was the consistency of the Boardman’s results. It appears that the AiR/9.4 is a far better performer with a different range of wheels than the C1R, boding well for all round usability.
As a quick aside, the shallow rim results appear unusual at first but it’s worth noting that when we ran similar roll down tests starting at speed rather than from a standstill, the shallow rims performed less favourably. The light rims’ ability to quickly accelerate slightly skewed the results. This was also evident when drilling deeply into the numbers. Once up to speeds over 20mph, the deeper section wheels held their speed over the second half of the test distance, whereas the Fulcrums were losing theirs. If we had a longer test run site, this would have shown more readily in the results: apologies for that.
And so to the final results: the aero results were quite clear at indicating a ‘winner’ but, is it the best bike in the test? For crit racers, sprinters and tough rouleurs who value power transfer over everything else, the Scott is a superb bike. If it wasn’t aerodynamically superior, it would still make a great bike for this type of rider but we feel it still needs a little work. Long rides on the Foil beat the rider up a little too much. We aren’t lucky enough in the UK to have perfect tarmac, and on heavy, rough roads the buzz through the bars quickly becomes tiresome. Some lighter testers found themselves bounced off line far too readily on uneven corners. If Scott can address this issue (and we feel it does need to) the Foil could easily be the only bike you’ll need. For now, it’s just a little too pigeonholed to be the best here.
That leaves the Boardman and Litespeed. We have discussed the aerodynamic characteristics earlier and the AiR/9.4 just nudges it overall in our opinion so, that leaves the ride. There is a clear winner in this regard. In terms of their geometry, they are very similar, but the Boardman feels far more balanced. The Litespeed may have a stiff head tube and bottom bracket but unfortunately the weak link of
the top tube/seat tube junction loses it too much precision when you’re really pushing the bike
Value for money will also, always come into play, and in this respect the Boardman AiR/9.4 is streets ahead. That would have cut little mustard here at CW if the bike’s ride and performance weren’t up to scratch, but there was never an issue on the Boardman. Sure the Scott was stiffer and more direct in sprints, but the Boardman was not a flexy bike. Neither was it too wooden feeling — often a trait of thin-profiled, thicker-walled frames that lack feel. The Scott Foil R1 would make a better racing bike for a very specific type of rider but, overall, Boardman’s AiR/9.4 is too good an all-rounder to be pipped to this particular post.
Half-mile roll-down test
Scott Zipp 00-01-14
Litespeed Zipp 00-01-14
Boardman Zipp 00-01-19
Scott stock 00-01-21
Litespeed stock 00-01-23
Boardman stock 00-01-27
Scott shallow 00-01-15
Litespeed shallow 00-01-16
Boardman shallow 00-01-18
Power needed to ride at 20mph
Average power 266.75
% difference -5.74
Watts difference 16.25
Average power 267.75
Watts difference 15.25
Average power 283.00
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