By: kiritozhang Translator: alanyu
I had been disgusted with Niuaero series bikes the moment they were released, due to enough lessons from SpeedX and LeTV. My very first impression was that Niu wanted to make a profit in troubled situation.
The style of Niuaero Road-09 is so unique that I thought it was a TT frame but equipped with a road drop bar, as Niu didn’t prepare any media data and I couldn’t find any detailed information on it. As a result, I posted a Weibo to roast it. Then, I received a WeChat message from the designer: “Don’t shoot! I’m on your side! I designed this bike and it’s all based on science!”
Finally, I decided to give Niuaero a go after the patient explanation of the designer.
The Niuaero Road-01 is a media bike offered by Niu instead of purchase myself, but I will review it without any bias. If you ask me how much benefit I have got from them, my answer is zero.
The bike production line of Niu is called Niuaero and there are three different frames: Road-01 alu frame, Road-03 carbon disc frame and Road-09 carbon disc frame. The full bike they sell have four different levels with Road-01 splitting into Road-01 Lite (MSRP USD 579) and Road-01 Sport (MSRP USD 999). Besides the difference of the accessories, the Sport version has a full carbon fork while the Lite version only has an alu fork.
I thought that the Lite version was equipped with carbon fork and Shimano 4700 groupset and would buy one myself. However, after I was told the alu fork and Shimano R2000 groupset, I gave up my naive idea. Finally, I received this free Road-01 Sport.
There is no detailed information of their bicycles on the official website of Niu, and you need to find some more information on the official online shop on jd.com and tmall.com, or niuaero.niu.com. The question is, whose information is more detailed and accurate? Besides the online shop, there are also local dealers of Niu’s electric motorcycle who are selling their road bike. However, they are only specialized at electric motorcycles, so definitely no a good choice to ask more information on road bikes. The last is the local bike shop in collaboration. However, due to the failure of QiCycle (Xiaomi bicycle), LeTV and SpeedX, a lot of bike shops don’t appreciate Niuaero, so only a few bike shops are willing to collaborate with them. (Translator’s note: The road bike of QiCycle is fantastic but doesn’t sell well, while that of LeTV and SpeedX is just bad.)
Thus, I keep communication with the people of Niu to acquire the information that I need.
The reviewed product:
Frame: Niuaero Road-01 size M (54)
Fork: Niuaero Road-01 carbon
Groupset: Shimano 105 R7000
Brake: Shimano 105 BR-7010
Crankset: Niuaero 172.5mm 52-36
Bar: Niuaero 420mm
Stem: Niuaero 100mm 7°
Tire: CST C1922 CITO 25c
Saddle: Selle Royal 1203U
|Niuaero Road-01 Sport||Shimano 105||Niuaero||7.5||999|
|Specialized Allez Sprint Comp||Shimano 105||DT R460||8.3||2000|
|Specialized Allez Elite||Shimano 105||DT R460||8.7||1350|
|Giant TCR SL1||Shimano 105||Giant P-R2||8.1||950|
|Cannondale CAAD13||Shimano 105||Fulcrum Racing 900||8.3||1800|
|Trek Emonda ALR5||Shimano 105||Bontrager Affinity||8.7||1650|
(Translator’s note: Giant TCR SL1 is the model sold in China.)
I felt the light weight as soon as I took it out of the box, which was totally unexpected. I had never thought that an alu bike at this price could be so light. The weight is just 7.7 kg with Speedplay Zero, so the claimed weight without pedals of 7.5kg is accurate.
Compared with the bikes with 105 groupset of other brands, Niuaero Road-01 Sport has the best value for its price: Not only it’s the cheapest one but also much lighter than its competitors’. You need to pay more for the logo of other big brands, while CAAD10 and CAAD12 has been discontinued. It’s not cheap to buy a high-end alu bike (in China): CAAD13 rim version needs to preorder as it is not introduced by the agent, while the frame of Allez Sprint is the same price to the whole bike of Niuaero Road-01. Moreover, Giant doesn’t sell its TCR SLR series in mainland of China, which means TCR SL doesn’t have a good value for money as it is not the flagship SLR alu which was sold at a similar price.
The frame of Road-01 is made of 6069 alu, the same material to that of CAAD series. The weight of the frame (size 56) is only 1170g.
The picture on the Tmall shop showed a weight of 920g, which astonished me a lot.
The alu frame is not like carbon frame whose tube shape can be designed and made as wished. The mainstream aero shape can influence the production, strength, yield rate, etc. Thus, the downtube is compromised, whose shape is kammtail type but with edges. There are three cage bolt nuts on the downtube, so you can choose a more aero position for a single bottle or a twin bottle position.
The seatstay is the most outstanding part. This is an aerodynamic design as it brand name “Niuaero”. The wing shaped seatstay is like a big tail on Honda Civic Type R. According to the designer, this seatstay shape can save 4 W at 40 km/h compared to the round tube seatstay of Cervelo R3.
The chainstay is flattened, which can improve the vertical compliance, adsorbing small vibration and improving the comfort.
The fork is also aero shaped as that of Pinarello F8, which reduces the drag by isolating the airflow of the fork and the wheel.
The frameset uses full direct mount brakes, and equipped Shimano BR-7010 as stock brakes instead of that of the third brands. Among the bikes I have reviewed, the third brands’ DM brakes are usually worse than Shimano’s in smoothness and braking power. You can use 28c tires, as there is still a lot of space around my 25c tires, which are ballooned to 27mm.
The chain is KMC X11.93. The routing of the rear derailleur is internal through the downtube and external under the chainstay. The hanger is not good as the skewer can be blocked by the link of the derailleur when you need to dismount the wheel. Niu will release the direct mount hanger to solve this problem.
The crankset is an OEM product, which is not hollow. It uses SRAM three-bolt direct mount pattern. The weight of a 172.5mm 52-36t crankset is 749 g, similar to that of Shimano 105. The spindle is 386 type and you can mount the spider power meter of SRAM three-bolt pattern. However, I think those who want to upgrade the power meter will choose to change a whole set, such as SRAM Force/Red Quarq.
The frame’s BB is T47. Compared to BSA, it has a better compatibility to 30mm spindle and the threaded BB is always the most durable type. You can use the reducer such as FSA’s 30 to 24 to mount Shimano’s crankset.
However, the BB and crankset are not well mounted by Niu. They were creaking when I rode it for the first time. (FXXXK!!! NIUUU!!!) I had to remount them again to eliminate the creaking. The problem is, a lot of bike shop (in China) don’t have T47 tool now, and it needs time to be popular.
The seatpost is a carbon one, 27.2mm with 20mm offset, which can improve the comfort, but the clamp is oversized, resulting in inconvenience when you want to change the saddle, and even more inconvenience if your new saddle is not hollow. The seatpost is 202g.
The saddle is Selle Royal 1203U, which is an OEM product. It has a soft padding, resulting in a high comfort. The sides are relatively flat and the profile is waved, which is suitable for the rider who doesn’t rotate his pelvic much. The rider who rotates his pelvic a lot will feel perineal oppression. The weight of this saddle is 250g.
The alu drop bar weighs 284g (420mm) and the stem weights 138g (100mm). The shifters in the picture above has already been adjusted. The claimed reach is 77mm on the official website, while it is marked 80mm on the bar. The shape of the bar is quite strange, and the angle of the shifter mounted by the factory is shitty.
This picture shows the original status of the shifter. Who want to ride with this? If you buy Niuaero bike in an electric motorcycle’s shop, I highly doubt whether they could solve this problem.
The bar has a backsweep, and it’s not clear whether the 80mm reach includes the backsweep. There is a clear tolerance between left and right and I suggest changing the bar.
The headset cap is smaller than the headtube on this media reviewed bike, as you can see the silver part. The retailed version will solve the problem.
The brake housing is not long enough and there is an interference between the wire and the cable stop, which makes the rear brake can not be used. The bike shop would be shut down soon if they mounted the bike like this.
The rim is 27mm height, 17mm internal width and 22mm external width, the hub is made by Vuelta with 16 spokes front and 21 spokes 2:1 rear. The weight is 694g + 861g = 1554g.
The skewer has to be locked backwards as there is no space for it pointing frontwards. It is not a good direction. The skewer may be opened in a crash from a bike behind you. If you have noticed the skewer direction of the Pro’s bike, you can’t find any one with the rear skewer pointing backwards.
Niuaero is collaborating with Farsports. You can choose Ventoux C3/C5 package, which can save you some money compared to buying the wheelset separately.
The stocked accessories have quite a lot problems as mentioned above, so I changed a lot.
I have a lot of FSA products. (Translator’s note: “I’m rich.”)
The stocked alu wheelset is not enough for racing although the wheelset is quite light among the bikes at its price. The acceleration of the wheel is not good, no matter at low speed or high speed. Compared with Campy’s Zonda, whose weight is similar, its performance is clearly worse. It’s not a big problem when you mainly ride below 30km/h, but if your speed is over 35km/h or over 40km/h in a crit, it can slow you down. Upgrading to the C5 can be a good choice if you ride on flat. Besides the wheel and the bar, the tires also need to be changed. CST C1922 is not grippy at all, neither on dry nor on wet. It’s very unstable. Continental Ultra Sports is much better though the price is similar. Don’t save that few dollars on the tire.
If your pocket is not too shallow, I suggest upgrading to C3/C5 TL package, which includes a pair of Schwalbe Pro One. (Translator’s note: not the latest ADDIX model.)
I seldom mention the paint or color in my review. However, you have no choice on that. Road-01 only has this matte black-red. In my experience, the riders (in China) tend to choose more colorful and more fashion style at this price.
The geometry of Road-01/03 copies that of Specialized Tarmac SL6 completely. It’ very rare that a brand copies another completely while many domestic brands will change a bit. The advantage is Specialized has a good geometry and you can choose the size directly based on the chart of Specialized. There are two size 56 on the chart of Niuaero, the later one should be 58 for XL.
The seattube length is 52cm of a 54 frame. Don’t confuse yourself.
Facing with so many problems, I didn’t expect too much on this bike. However, after I changed all those problem accessories and had a ride on it, it’s fxxking good! The 6069 alu + T47 BB + 386 crankset combo has a high stiffness, resulting in a high acceleration. The comfort is not as good as a carbon frame, but it’s not bad as the carbon seatpost does its job.
Niuaero Road-01 is the only alu bike that makes me feel “So delicious”. (Translator’s not: find details on “So delicious” on https://pandaily.com/you-call-yourself-a-real-chinese-see-if-you-know-the-hottest-15-buzzwords-of-2018-in-china/)
I haven’t ridden too many different alu bikes recently. Besides the classic Cannondale CAAD series, Specialized Allez Sprint is worth its price. Merida Reacto Lite is too bad, while Road-01 has an extremely good value for money, which make me look forward to other bikes from Niuaero.
Because the frame copies the geometry of Specialized Tarmac SL6 completely, the handling has a good balance between stability and flexible. However, it’s a bit aggressive so those who mainly ride for fun may need more spacers.
Metal fatigue cannot be felt in a short term test, but the decay of the stiffness after several years of use exists objectively. Maybe some people will ride with their CAAD series or Allez Sprint for many years due to their love, but I don’t think people would stick with Aero-01 for many years, as Niuaero lacks its own brand culture and fans. All in all, if your budget is no more than USD 1000, this Niuaero Road-01 is a good choice.
Pros: The frame material and manufacturing, stiffness, weight, value for money;
Cons: Strange drop bar, bad tires, low assembly accuracy, few purchasing way.
Summary: This is a CAAD12 with the geometry of Tarmac SL6, or a high-end alu version of Tarmac SL6. Although it has a good riding quality and a high value for money, and can satisfy with the demands for racing and fun, it lacks its own “Niu” features.
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