aethos comp review
My legs are burning. I’ve been climbing for a few minutes and the grade has just pitched upward as the smooth pavement turns and heads toward the top of the canyon. Despite knowing that I will not be taking any KOMs on this climb, I also know that I haven’t ever climbed this section as fast. The stead I’m riding is new, and it feels like a race car compared to the knobby-tired bikes I’m usually pedaling up this road.
I was concerned about picking up a road bike after years of living without one. I’m picky when it comes to small tires and light, drop-barred bicycles and I wasn’t sure that this mid-level bike would live up to my expectations. As a smile forms on my face, I realize that I have been riding for about 40 minutes and I haven’t felt anything that makes me regret my recent purchase.
The Specialized Aethos isn’t your typical road bike. Or at least it isn’t in the sense of the design parameters that have hindered bike technology for decades. Those parameters, set by the International Cycling Union (UCI), dictate that a bike ridden for any competition sanctioned by the governing body cannot weigh less than 15 pounds. This meant that any bike designed with the intent of being a race ready road bike, could not weigh less.
Specialized decided that the Aethos didn’t need to be restricted by parameters that only applied to professional racers. They decided to build a bike that was incredibly light, but still handled well. The result was a 14-pound (in the S-Works model) road bike that can handle anything you can throw at it. Is it race legal? Nope. Does anyone care? I’m sure some people do, but I certainly do not.
I’m not used to spinning like this.
Normally I ride a singlespeed mountain bike, but today, I’m in the saddle turning cranks. Being someone who is always looking to fit bigger tires under my skinny butt, I’m happily surprised that the Aethos does not transfer all the jarring road feedback into my back. It smooths things out like you would expect, keeping you seated and absorbing vibrations and smaller bumps while taking the edge off the bigger ones.
I’ve opted to put a slightly bigger tire than what comes spec’d and to set it up tubeless. The roll up is fantastic and the lower tire pressure adds to the comfy ride that the Aethos frame provides. If you haven’t tried going tubeless yet, I would highly recommend it. Tubes are for suckers.
Stiff yet compliant. Yea, I know. It’s the cliché response when one is talking about carbon road bikes. It’s the main selling feature, right? Carbon gives you the chance to engineer in stiffness while also giving the bike a smooth, comfy ride. As I’ve already said, the Aethos does the latter and almost every carbon road bike I’ve ridden typically has. Where I end up being picky is the former.
For some people, it’s the sound of a rotor just barely kissing the brake pads that drives them absolutely bonkers on a long climb. For me, it’s feeling a frame flex. This is where I was hesitant to purchase a bike that fell solidly in the mid-level price range. I’ve been burned by bikes that cost twice as much as this one.
And that brings us right back to where we started.
As the pavement pitches upward and that smile spreads across my face, I give it the test. I stand up, dropping a few cogs when I do, and crank. I’m expecting there to be a lag and that noodly feeling that I hate. Instead, the bike jumps forward the way I like. I push down on the pedal again keeping the cadence low and heavy. It’s not the stiffest bike I’ve ridden, but it climbed like a rock star. I guess dropping a couple of extra pounds makes up for that. More importantly, while not being the stiffest, it certainly didn’t have that noodle that drives me bonkers.
Add to this astounding ride quality the benefits of electronic shifting and you have yourselves a winning package. The Aethos Comp comes in at $4800 equipped with SRAM Rival AXS. This new group has the same crisp, wireless shifting that AXS is known for at a lower price point. Personally, I like the way the Rival hoods feel compared to the Red, even if they are a bit heavier.
All in all, I’m not quite ready to start calling myself a roadie again, but this bike is Moose approved.