Pro Bike: Rory Sutherland's UnitedHealthcare Boardman AiR 9.8

Another team makes the jump to aero road

Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) is racing this year's Tour of California on board a Boardman AiR 9.8 – the company's flagship aero road bike. He joins the growing number of pros who are turning to aero rather than light weight machines.

The UCI's 6.8kg minimum bike weight has had a number of ancillary consequences aside from its original intentions.  First, we saw the proliferation of power meters both for training and while racing, and then rim sections have gotten progressively deeper as riders looked to more useful places to add some extra mass. 

Now that their eyes have been awakened to the benefits of aerodynamics, though – and as weights of other components continue to fall – aerodynamic road frames have steadily gained in popularity with UnitedHealthcare and star rider Rory Sutherland being among the latest to hop on the bandwagon.

Sutherland is on Boardman Bikes' latest AiR 9.8 chassis, whose shape was adapted from the company's time trial rig.  Aerodynamic tube profiles are used for the down tube, seat tube, and seatpost, and deep sections are also used for the fork blades and seat stays.  Boardman uses particularly flat surfaces on the insides of the fork blades and stays, though, with the claim that that yields smoother airflow when the wheels are factored in – and especially when deep-section rims are used.

Enve Composites provides carbon rims for the UnitedHealthcare team

Speaking of wheels, UnitedHealthcare is somewhat unique in that the team uses fully hand-built rolling stock instead of factory pre-builds – and they're also primarily on vulcanized Maxxis clinchers, not tubulars.  Enve Composites provides carbon rims of various depths, new lower-drag (and quieter-running) R45 hubs come from Chris King, and they're all laced together with Sapim's increasingly popular CX-Ray bladed spokes. 

SRAM S975 SRM power meter

SRAM supplies the bulk of the running gear, including a complete Red group plus the company's S975 SRM power meter.  Ritchey fills in most of the rest with its alloy WCS forged stem, semi-ergo WCS Curve alloy bar, and WCS saddle (pushed way back on the rails).  Remaining tidbits include Gore Ride-On cables and housing, an AceCo K-Edge chain watcher, SwissStop brake pads, Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals, Arundel Dave-O carbon cages, and a Garmin Edge 500 computer.

While the UCI minimum weight rule may have inspired the pro peloton's move towards power meters and aerodynamic technology, it's worth noting that Sutherland's bike isn't actually right on the cusp of that limit, though.  Actual weight as pictured is 7.56kg (16.67lb) – though any bit of extra mass certainly didn't seem to hold Sutherland back much during his impressive ascent of Sierra Road at the end of Stage 4

Complete bike specifications

  • Frame: Boardman Bikes AiR 9.8, size XL
  • Fork: Boardman Bikes AiR Ultralight UD
  • Headset: Ritchey WCS Carbon Press Fit tapered, 1 1/8-to-1 1/2in
  • Stem: Ritchey WCS 4-Axis, 13cm x -6°
  • Handlebars: Ritchey WCS Curve, 44cm (c-c)
  • Tape/grips: SRAM
  • Front brake: SRAM Red w/ SwissStop Yellow King pads
  • Rear brake: SRAM Red w/ SwissStop Yellow King pads
  • Brake levers: SRAM Red DoubleTap
  • Front derailleur: SRAM Red w/ steel cage
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM Red
  • Shift levers: SRAM Red DoubleTap
  • Cassette: SRAM OG-1090, 11-26T
  • Chain: SRAM PC-1091
  • Crankset: SRAM S975 SRM, 175mm, 53/39T
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM Red BB30 w/ Wheels Manufacturing adapters
  • Pedals: Speedplay Zero Stainless
  • Rims: Enve Composites 45 Clincher
  • Front hub: Chris King R45, 20h
  • Rear hub: Chris King R45, 24h
  • Spokes: Sapim CX-Ray w/ alloy nipples
  • Front tire: Maxxis Cormet, 700x23c
  • Rear tire: Maxxis Cormet, 700x23c
  • Saddle: Ritchey WCS
  • Seat post: cboardman Carbon AiR
  • Bottle cages: Arundel Dave-O (2)
  • Computer: Garmin Edge 500
  • Other accessories: AceCo K-Edge chain watcher, Gore Ride-On derailleur cables and housing

Critical measurements

  • Rider's height: 1.88m (6'2")
  • Rider's weight: 76.7kg (169lb)
  • Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 803mm
  • Saddle setback: 100mm
  • Seat tube length, c-t: 565mm
  • Seat tube length, c-c: 510mm
  • Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 620mm
  • Saddle-to-bar drop (vertical): 93mm
  • Head tube length : 175mm
  • Top tube length: 585mm (horizontal)
  • Total bicycle weight: 7.56kg (16.67lb)

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