It has been worth the wait! As soon as I mounted the Cycpro Ai-4 frame I knew it was something special. Up till now most aero-bikes either sacrifice comfort for aerodynamics or vice versa. Softride came close to the ideal design but the increased weight meant that it never reached its full potential. The lightweight Cycpro frame further improves on Softrides superior aero characteristics without sacrificing comfort or stiffness. Made from the highest quality composite materials combined with optimal geometry results in crisp speed. I know, because I was able to get hold of the latest 2010 model Ai-4 frame. My frame came equipped with Dura-ace ( easy for bike shops to service ) & fully dressed weighs just on 8 kgs.
The Cycpro brand is the brainchild of Marc Battistella, better known by his nickname Beamboy as the Softride distributor for Australasia in his previous life. Marc felt frustrated that the superior design had not resulted in better sales so recognizing the drawbacks of the Softride frame he set to work on ways to improve them. It has been a 3-year process of trial & error but he seems to have hit the jackpot at last with the ride being so smooth that the frame can be ridden by anyone with basic bike skills.
The Ai-frame doesn’t comply with ICU rules and therefore can’t be used by road cyclists or pro-ITU Olympic Distance athletes. But age groupers, ITU long course & WTC ironman pro-athletes are given a significant advantage. I obtained the bike a few days before the New Zealand OD titles recently & I was only able to squeeze in a couple of short rides to familiarise myself with the beast. The bike felt right straight away with only a few minor set-up adjustments required. It also felt fast, very fast. So I ignored the general advice never to use new equipment in a major event unless you had a good chance to thoroughly test it.
Race day confirmed that I had made the right decision. These days I come out of the water somewhat behind the front group, then, compliments of the inverse relationship between age & strength, I tend to drift back a bit further on the bike leg. But not this time ! The bike cut through the air like a knife & I was able to mix it with the front of the non-drafting field. The looks of surprise on the faces of my fellow competitors when they spotted me near the front only matched those of my own. The result was the 6th fastest overall bike time.
The course was flat winding itself around Wellington Harbour. But the conditions were challenging with strong swirling winds & a rough road with plenty of potholes and residual gravel from a recent poorly executed re-sealing job. Despite the rough road the bike felt utterly comfortable & responsive. The teardrop-shaped frame was also not affected by the violent wind gusts coming from all directions & a better run than expected placing me in 8th position overall ( had the superior ride given me a psychological boost ? ) If I only had this bike 20 years ago ! Further field testing has shown the Ai-4 to be consistently faster then my standard tri-bike by at least 60-90 seconds over 40 km. The bike does not climb badly either due to its competitive weight.
Besides the current Cycpro 2010 Ai-4 frameset the inside news is the Ai-5 later next year made from advanced manufacturing techniques enabling a down-tube hydration system will be revolutionary. It will have special integrated aero-forks with the front brake hidden within etc etc. The Cycpro Ai-5 will be the ultimate ride for the pro’s. For me, the conventional 2010 Ai-4 model option will do.. for now.
By John Hellemans ( April 2010 ) Sports Medicine Practitioner & legendary coach based in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is a multiple age-group world triathlon champion. Over the years John has coached many elite pro-triathletes, duathletes & national pro-teams to world titles. Winning the New Zealand 2010 Olympic Distance 55-60 age group title by a massive 15 min with a lengthy 82cm seat height on the medium Cycpro Ai-4 frame ‘BIG’ John also finished incredibly under 4 min behind the overall winner.