Review: Specialized Aethos Pro road bike outperforms (and redefines) its category
The new Specialized Aethos is simultaneously simple and amazing. Much like an iPhone, it appears sleek and minimal on the outside, but with incredible technology and performance hiding inside.
Admittedly, Specialized just sort of brought back “a road bike”. But that oversimplification underserves just how good this bike is. Yes, it pushes the boundaries of how light a mass production (or even a full custom, boutique) road bike frame and fork can get. It also pushes the ride quality beyond what I’ve found on other bikes recently.
This thing is an absolute joy to ride, and I had a really, really hard time finding any faults with it. Like, any. OK, maybe one. But let’s look at the details first…
Aethos Frame & Tech Details
From a distance, you’d never know this was anything special. The Aethos’ presence is subdued, and I love it. On a recent group ride, I had two different friends ask what it was…the graphics are that subtle. Note the paint color in these photos…it’s blue, yet so thinly applied that you can still see the carbon through it. When the sun catches it just right, it’s gorgeous.
Closer up, little curves and shapes appear. Slopes leading into the head tube…
…a slight flare the the base of the seat tube, tapering at the ends of the head tube…
…and even a little bump at the front of the chainstays as they wrap under the bottom bracket. The tubes are all comparatively thin by today’s standards, which is part of how this frame ends up so light. Claimed weight for the Pro and Expert models is just 699g for size 56, with paint.
It does this with normal features and standards, like a BSA threaded bottom bracket.
The frames are designed around electronic drivetrains, so you’ll only find wire ports on the complete bikes. It’s cleaner, and also less hardware to save weight. But, on the Pro and Expert versions, there are cable ports and hardware you can attach if you want to build up a frameset with a mechanical group. But whyyyyyyyy….?
Dropouts and thru axles are minimal…
…with beautifully recessed ends. Even the brake hose routing is clean, leaving almost nothing visible.
The Alpinist seatpost only comes in 27.2mm diameters, to the top tube wraps around the thinner seat tube, directly into the seatstays. This wider stance gives the bike decent tire clearance (pics below), and more laterally/torsional rigidity.
Just a couple pics of the carbon layers visible through the paint.
The front derailleur mount is removable, with a cover plate available for 1x setups.
The bikes come with 700×26 tires, but Specialized says it’ll clear up to 700×32.
The cockpit is comfortable, with their carbon handlebar with flattened ergonomic shaping on the tops.
The Roval Alpinist seatpost is crazy light (claimed 136g), but you’ll want a saddle with a cutout in order to easily access the adjustment bolts.
Rounding out the spec are their Roval Alpinist CL wheels, which aren’t tubeless compatible. And this would be my only complaint – tubeless is the future.
The S-Works 120tpi Gripton tires have puncture protection, but that didn’t stop a piece of glass from cutting through to the tube and flatting me on my first ride.
As much as I love and prefer a tubeless setup, I’ll admit that these tires rode really well. And the wheels are so light, spooling up quickly and handling on par with expectations for a high end wheelset, maybe better considering their weight. More on their performance below.
Specialized Aethos Actual Weight
I tested the Aethos Pro Ultegra Di2 in a size 58. Actual weight for this bike was 14.86lb (6.74kg). That’s without pedals, but does include the tubes in the tires as it comes out of the box.
Retail price for this model is $7,400. That gets you a complete Shimano Ultegra Di2 group, S-Works Short & Shallow carbon bar w/ Supacaz bar tape, Specialized alloy stem, and Body Geometry Pro saddle with hollow ti rails and carbon base. The standout components are the Roval Alpinist carbon seatpost, and their ultralight Alpinist CL wheels…which are not tubeless compatible, hence the tubes. They come wrapped with 700×26 Specialized S-Works Turbo 120tpi tires with BlackBelt puncture protection.
Aethos Ride Review
As we’d expect from a featherweight bike, it climbs like a dream. It feels light, in a good way. There’s “bad” light, and then there’s a well-spec’d bike that feels and rides light without getting noodly or scary. The Aethos is the latter, offering a solid, stable ride while also being ridiculously light.
But let’s be real…a bike that’s a couple pounds lighter is like throwing your water bottle off before ascending. It’s the sum of the parts that makes a bike climb well, and this one’s got some good parts.
Everything starts with the frame. Specialized has all the charts and graphs to prove the Aethos (even the much lighter S-Works version) is stiff in all the right ways and places.
On the road, that translates into a bike that handles power input smoothly and efficiently. There are bikes that feel like they have more instantaneous acceleration, but I’ll take the pleasant smoothness of this bike any day. Don’t get me wrong, the Aethos is no slouch, it just doesn’t have to prove itself by hammering your backside.
Its handling is spot on. Front to rear, it feels really well balanced and just drives through corners. I just want to keep saying smooth, smooth, smooth…but also precise. It just rolled into, around, and out of corners so well that I could really concentrate on my entry and exit points, maintain more speed, and not have to worry about whether the bike would obey my commands.
Descending on the Aethos is equally enjoyable. The bike was every bit as stable at 42mph as at 15mph. We have one particularly fast, sweeping descent near a quarry here, where pebbles and grit often litter the road, the pavement’s less than perfect, and it’s easy to hit 40+mph curving into the bottom of it. I’ve never felt more stable hitting that section than on this bike.
As much as I try to avoid heaping glowing praise on something (because, you know, we’re supposed to be objective-bordering-on-snarky, right?), hot damn do I love this bike! It honestly does everything well, it’s comfortable, and it’s light as sin. Win, win, win.