Nowadays every bike company has to have an aero frame and for many, the aerodynamic advantages of these frames makes them the number one choice for a variety of fast road work, criteriums, road racing, time-trials and triathlons, where a simple switch of the handlebars helps cover all events. But the reputation of aero frames has suffered particularly for lacking lateral stiffness, so recent developments have seen a middle ground adopted, and this is one such frame, the appropriately named Handsling Bikes A1R0, simply pronounced ‘aero’…
All Handsling Bikes frames are made to order and the A1R0 is currently offered in either Toray T800 or the more economical T700 carbon, though no one has, as of yet, ordered it in T700. Handsling do not currently manufacture in T1000 or similar grade carbons, as though you can produce lighter frames, the longevity is greatly affected; not an issue for a sponsored rider perhaps but not so great for those spending their own money.
On first inspection it is chunky, even by aero frame standards. You may be surprised that there is a relatively thick 1 1/8th to 1 1/2th steerer housed within the headtube, chosen to maintain stiffness when sprinting or cornering hard, or under hard braking, an area where Handsling Bikes felt a lot of other aero designs, with narrower head tubes, let the rider down. Obviously it’s a compromise but you have to prioritise what will benefit the rider most and in testing it was obvious that the sure footed ride provided by this headtube was the way to go.
That same testing also lead to a re-design of the fork that was initially specced with this frame. Despite being aero it was just not stiff enough under braking or hard efforts for our team riders, so more carbon was added to the rear of the fork to increase its stiffness without adversely effecting its aero shape.
The rear of the head tube is ‘scooped out’ to provide a more aero profile and better integration into the top and downtubes. As with most aero frames, there is a vertically huge but laterally narrow downtube. While this blends in nicely with the headtube junction, it then has to flair dramatically where it meets the massively oversized BB386 bottom bracket junction. If the bike is to be considered an all-rounder, then this feature is essential to ensure lateral, pedalling stiffness.
To further enhance pedalling stiffness the bottom bracket is joined to truly massive, asymmetric chainstays, providing the extra stiffness needed to keep the back wheel firmly on track. The result is a really dedicated speed machine; aero, yet still laterally stiff, ideal for both those strong breakaway specialists and powerful sprinters looking for every advantage.
The only possible downsides are the weight and the ride. There is a lot of carbon in this frame, so it naturally weighs a bit more than a pure climbing machine. Still its not heavy any any means at around 1100g for a small and 1310g for a large frame, and 450g for the fork. It still builds up into a 7kg bike with Dura-Ace.
As for the ride, all that carbon means it can be harsh on rough surfaces when using deep carbon wheels. For longer road races, Handsling Bikes recommend 40mm ideally, up to no more than 60mm carbon wheels if you must. If you are racing a crit or on a circuit with good road surfaces, you can get away with deeper, 86mm rear for example, to really make the most of the aero tube shapes. If you use the bike for training, longer events or sportives then 30mm deep carbon wheels or some shallow aluminium hoops will have a hugely positive effect on the ride quality, as will using 25mm tyres.
The frame comes with its own full carbon aero seatpost, sports a replaceable rear mech hanger and a braze on front mech; naturally all the cable are routed internally and the frame accepts all electronic and mechanical Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo groupsets.
Handsling Bikes offer full or partial builds as well as the option to buy the frame only. The example below has Handsling’s 40mm deep, 27mm wide carbon race wheels, which use the respected Chosen hubs from Taiwan and Sapim’s cx-ray spokes to keep everything together. This particular example has the addition of ceramic bearings from HSC Ceramics. The wheels are 1250g tubulars shod with Tufo’s superlight Elite S3 tubs, which come in at less that 225g each.
This A1R0 also sports a HSC Ceramics BB386 bottom bracket for the Shimano Dura-Ace chainset and the standard pulleys in the rear mech have been replaced by HSC Ceramics carbon/ceramic versions. Aside from that, the groupset is standard Dura-Ace mechanical in 53/39 set-up with a 11-23 rear cassette. A Selle Italia SLR saddle, Speedplay Zero stainless pedals, and Deda’s hugely oversized 35 carbon bars and aluminium stem provide the contact points on this example. This particular bike, built with the small size frame, weighs in at exactly 7.1kg.
The geometry is pure racing with a short wheelbase, quick responses and tight angles. This translates to really confidence inspiring handling when riding. The frame really has a solid feel to it that urges you to press on in every situation; it is certainly not a frame for ‘pootling’ around on.
It is excellent in cornering allowing the rider to adjust his line with ease mid-corner. In sprints the stiffness is obvious with every pedal stroke propelling you towards the line and again, if you need to react quickly, the frame is almost there before you, helping you switch into the free space with ease. Under sustained effort the aero tube shapes really come into their own and allow you to maximise the return from each pedal stroke.
Handsling Bikes offer a full custom paint service so you can have the bike painted to match your team kit or create something totally unique, and all frames are currently guaranteed for 2 years against manufacturing defects.
RRP is £1199 for frame, fork and seatpost only.
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