Two fast, aerodynamic road bikes make their debut at Tour de France

In case you’ve been too caught up in World Cup fever to notice, the Tour de France gets underway tomorrow. Over the course of the next three weeks, the best cyclists in the world will go head to head on what promises to be one of the toughest road racing routes in recent memory. This year’s Tour will include some incredibly difficult mountain stages designed to push even four-time winner Chris Froome to his absolute limits. But some riders will find the race to be just a bit easier, thanks to a pair of new bikes from competing manufacturers, both of which promise to be the fastest ever.

Earlier in the week, Cannondale took the wraps off of its new SystemSix model, a bike the company has called “the world’s fastest.” A few days later, Specialized followed suit by unveiling the S-Works Venge, saying it’s the fastest bike it has ever produced. Both models are disc-brake only, come with electronic gear shifters, feature components designed to work specifically with one another, and offer state-of-the-art geometry. As you can probably imagine, they also come with some serious price tags that put them out of reach for most riders.

Which of these two models will actually reign supreme on the roads of France remains to be seen, but they take a very similar approach to one another when it comes to making improvements in terms of speed. Both Cannondale and Specialized focused on making these two bikes as aerodynamic as possible, cutting down on drag wherever possible. The result is unique shapes to the down tube, top tube, and seat tube, as well as the head tube, which has been built to integrate neatly with the fork and frame.

“Aerodynamic drag is the single greatest resistive force that riders have to overcome, so it is important to everyone, not just racers,” Nathan Barry, design engineer at Cannondale, says. “SystemSix delivers more speed, to more riders, more of the time.”

Both the SystemSix and Venge are meant for all-purpose riding, not just sprinting or climbing hills. To that end, both see significant gains in performance no matter where they are ridden. Specialized says that its latest creation is actually 8 seconds faster over a 25-mile route when compared to previous models, while Cannondale claims riders use 10 percent less power while cruising along at an 18-mile-per-hour pace. The company also boldly claims that the SystemSix will beat any other bike in the world in a 200 meter, 37-mile-per-hour sprint, besting the competition by more than four bike lengths.

For now, we’ll have to wait to see how these bikes perform in the Tour de France to understand how these numbers translate to the real world. But amateur cyclists will eventually get their chance to test them out as well. Cannondale will offer the the SystemSix in four men’s models and one women’s version, with prices starting at $4,000. The top-of-the-line version that the pro riders will use comes in at a cool $11,000 however. Meanwhile, the Specialized S-Works Venge starts as low as $2,500, with the elite model priced at $12,500.

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