Is a stiffer bike really faster?

We take a closer look at one part of the holy trinity of frame design

Is your sprint your main concern? Image: Chris Catchpole
(Image credit: Chris Catchpole)

Stiffer, lighter, faster! It seems nearly every newly launched race bike aims for the superlative in all three of the holy trinity. Weight is easily quantifiable, aerodynamics ditto – but stiffness is more difficult.

Instead, we tend to hear ‘it’s 15 per cent stiffer’ than the previous model, or 'it's as stiff as the last model, but the weight has been reduced - so stiffness to weight is improved'. These more woolly claims are largely used because different brands have their own methods of testing stiffness, and a bit like the ‘mine goes to 11’ method of indexing shoe stiffness, the scales aren’t comparable.

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan the Editor of Cycling Weekly website. An NCTJ qualified traditional journalist by trade, Michelle began her career working for local newspapers. She's worked within the cycling industry since 2012, and joined the Cycling Weekly team in 2017, having previously been Editor at Total Women's Cycling. Prior to welcoming her daughter in 2022, Michelle raced on the road, track, and in time trials, and still rides as much as she can - albeit a fair proportion indoors, for now.