Specialized present the new S-Works Aethos road bike, promising pure riding pleasure. Far off from race numbers and checkered flags, the Aethos is all about unforgettable experiences – and it weighs just 6 kg! Read on to find out whether Specialized deliver on this promise and how the bike fares on the roads of South Tyrol!
Specialized have broken new ground with the development of the brand new Aethos road bike, veering from the path that the US brand have consistently followed over the past few years. Instead of developing an even more aerodynamic and faster bike, they’ve put their focus on something completely different: riding pleasure! The bike isn’t designed to get you on the podium and fill the glass cabinet in your living room with medals and trophies. Rather, the Aethos is geared towards the pure experience of riding your bike. The aim is to allow man and machine to become one and maximize these precious moments where everything unnecessary fades into the background. Specialized’s latest road bike is said to have been developed for riders who are after more than accolades. It’s all about the experience of riding instead of just keeping an eye on the time and wanting to reach your destination as quickly as possible.
Let’s all say it together now: Specialized S-Works [Ay-Thōs]
In developing their latest offspring, Specialized have broken old rules, established new ones and shifted existing boundaries, creating a road bike the world has never seen before… At least that’s the wording of the official presentation. With the help of a supercomputer, they ran through countless simulations to reduce material where possible without sacrificing stiffness. Instead of reinforcing the frame in certain places such as the bottom bracket and the down tube as before, which also adds weight, the Aethos frame is said to be more homogeneous. Strangely enough, it’s not the down tube but the top tube of the new S-Works that acts as the frame’s backbone. As with a steel road bike frame, care was taken to ensure that the Aethos is able to twist along the horizontal axis when cornering, instead of seeing the front and back of the frame as being separate. This shouldn’t only offer increased grip but also compliance, resulting in more stable handling.
The idea behind the weight saving was to spread certain forces acting on the frame over lots of fibres and not to concentrate them on specific areas while the remaining fibres are ignored. By distributing peak loads evenly over the entire length of the tubes, it was possible to significantly reduce their weight. The result is a road bike frame that, according to the manufacturer, weighs only 585 g in size 56, which is less than a full water bottle. We live in crazy times! According to Specialized, the new S-Works is a high-tech bike for everyone and not designed to appeal to racers. However, on closer inspection, you’ll quickly notice the UCI badge, which then seems a little out of place!
Components and geometry of the Specialized Aethos
Currently, there is only one model of the Aethos available, featuring the flagship S-Works FACT 12r carbon frame. The only decision prospective buyers have to make is whether they want the model with Shimano’s DURA-ACE Di2 groupset or they prefer SRAM’s RED eTap AXS? The price is the same for both: the bike can be yours for € 11,799. In addition to in-house S-Works components, the Aethos rolls on a set of Roval Alpinist CLX wheels, which we introduced at the beginning of the summer (article here). The 700x26C Turbo Cotton tires are also supplied by Specialized. However, you could go a little wider, with clearances for up to 700x32C tires in the Aethos.
Update In the meantime, the Aethos is also available in the inexpensive Pro and Expert versions from € 5,299. All models feature electronic shifting, but the buyer has to make concessions in terms of carbon quality (FACT 10r- instead of 12r-carbon), the wheels used (DT Swiss R470 or Roval Alpinist CL instead of Roval Alpinist CLX) and Specialized’s own components.
The bike’s sensationally low weight of just 6.2 kg is size 56 is achieved without having to resort to specially made lightweight components, allowing Specialized to keep the maximum permissible weight at 125 kg. If you would prefer building your dream Aethos yourself, you can purchase the frameset alone for € 4,499, which features a very beautiful paint job.
Drivetrain Shimano DURA-ACE Di2, 2 x 11, 52–36 t
Cassette Shimano DURA-ACE 11–30 t
Brakes Shimano DURA-ACE 160/140 mm
Wheels Roval Alpinist CLX, 21 mm inner width, 33 mm rim depth
Tires Specialized Turbo Cotton 700 x 26C
Seat post Roval Alpinist, 20 mm offset
Handlebar S-Works Short & Shallow, 420 mm
Stem S-Works SL, 100 mm
Weight 6.2 kg in size 56
Price € 11,799
Availability as of now from Specialized dealers
Overview of the Specialized Aethos models
|S-Works Founder’s Edition||Shimano DURA-ACE Di2||FACT 12r Carbon||Roval Alpinist CLX||€ 12,999|
|S-Works Shimano||€ 11,799|
|S-Works SRAM||SRAM RED eTap AXS|
|S-Works frameset||–||–||€ 4,499|
|Pro SRAM Force eTAP AXS||SRAM Force eTAP AXS||FACT 10r Carbon||Roval Alpinist CL||€ 7,699|
|Pro Ultegra Di2||Shimano ULTEGRA Di2||€ 7,299|
|Expert||DT Swiss R470||€ 5,299|
Geometry of the Specialized Aethos
|Seat tube||431 mm||462 mm||481 mm||504 mm||532 mm||567 mm|
|Top tube||508 mm||531 mm||540 mm||562 mm||577 mm||595 mm|
|Head tube||109 mm||120 mm||137 mm||157 mm||184 mm||204 mm|
|Chainstay||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm|
|BB Drop||74 mm||74 mm||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm||72 mm|
|Wheelbase||973 mm||975 mm||978 mm||991 mm||1,005 mm||1,012 mm|
|Reach||375 mm||380 mm||384 mm||395 mm||402 mm||408 mm|
|Stack||514 mm||527 mm||544 mm||565 mm||591 mm||612 mm|
Compared to the Specialized Tarmac SL7 (click for review), the Aethos is available in just six frame sizes from 49 to 61. Even if the geometry figures are marginally different due to the headset cover on the Tarmac SL7, the effective geometry is the same. Specialized seem to have found a geometry that, even after several models, has proven to be ideal for a large target group! Thanks to their Rider First Engineered technology, Specialized promise the same stiffness and comfort for every rider on every frame size. That might sound relatively banal but it assumes that each frame size is developed separately with individually optimised properties. The concept is based on the hypothesis that shorter = lighter. If you’re a tall featherweight, you’ll simply have to make the best of it.
First ride review of the Specialized S-Works Aethos
Enough of the theory and the impressive numbers, which, though they read nicely, are no guarantee for a good road bike. How does the bike fare on the demanding roads of beautiful South Tyrol? If our photographer has done his job well, you should see how cool the Aethos looks out in the open. The classic shape of the frame is a welcome change from the aero look that characterizes most of 2021’s road bikes. The dimensions are very pleasing to the eye and the somewhat more voluminous top tube is hardly noticeable. In combination with the minimalist branding, the finish successfully combines understatement with a few special details. Every detail of the Aethos looks extremely high quality!
The Aethos accelerates with the lightness of a gazelle and makes no distinction between flat terrain or ascents. Sluggishness is a foreign word to this road bike, willingly accelerating in every situation. On flat terrain, at very high speeds of around 40 km/h, there are bikes that are more efficient. The lack of aerodynamic optimisation and the low rotating mass of the wheels means that you have to stay on the pedals to maintain your speed. However, the effort required to do so is minimal. You never feel like you’re dragging a parachute behind you. The Specialized generates an incredible amount of speed on the descents. There may be faster bikes on the straights, but in the corners, the Aethos is one of the fastest bikes we’ve ever ridden!
In terms of handling, the Aethos sets the standard. The balance between composure and agility is almost perfect and we couldn’t find anything to criticise in this regard. The bike is stable enough for high-speed attacks in a straight line but still agile enough to navigate tight corners at high speed. It’s always predictable and direct, there are no surprises or strange fluctuations in the handling of the Aethos. The magic of the bike lies not only in its incredibly low weight but also in the way it can twist horizontally and thus generate grip and speed through corners. Beginners benefit from the frame’s compliance, giving them more grip and stability. Pros can tease even more out of the Aethos by putting tension on the frame at the apex of the corner, effectively “charging” it. This gives you more momentum as you exit the turn – similar to a bow and arrow.
Thanks to its balanced handling, the Specialized Aethos instils you with confidence and a feeling of control. When cornering, the bike generates as much grip as a well-built steel bike. Its susceptibility to crosswinds is hardly noticeable and you can take your hand off the handlebars without having to fear for your life. The Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 brakes are easy to adjust and, as usual, offer excellent braking power. To be honest, the bike is so light that you first have to learn to trust it. In the past, super-light bikes usually weren’t the most stable. However, no matter how demanding the terrain, the handling and performance of the Aethos instil you with so much confidence that you’re quickly able to relax. You’ll quickly get used to the bike and learn to trust it, and the grip offered by the Specialized Turbo Cotton tires (review here) only adds to that feeling.
In terms of comfort, Specialized’s new road bike is among the best, offering an excellent level of compliance. The vibration damping of the frameset is very good and the damping properties of the tires and seat post also contribute to a comfortable ride – it feels like a steel bike! And that with a 585 g carbon frame. Who would have thought it possible? Even the most die-hard opponents of carbon will have to acknowledge that Specialized’s engineers have achieved something remarkable. If you’re going to veer off asphalt roads – which you definitely can do aboard the Aethos – we recommend fitting 700x30C or even 700x32C tubeless tires for more grip and comfort. It’s generally a sensible upgrade, making the bike a lot more versatile than it already is.
Specialized Aethos vs. Specialized Tarmac SL7
If you’re a fan of the Specialized Tarmac (review here), you might ask yourself: how does the brand new Aethos compare to the US brand’s high-performance race bike? The Aethos offers significantly more comfort and is, therefore, the perfect companion for everyday rides. The 700x32C maximum tire clearances are identical on both bikes, while the aerodynamically optimised Specialized Tarmac SL7 is faster on flat terrain and in windy conditions. However, when it comes to cornering and climbing, the Aethos is often superior to the Tarmac. You can feel that the bikes related in terms of their handling, although the Aethos is a tad more composed than the Tarmac. So, which bike is right for you? If you usually ride on flat terrain, regularly encountering headwinds, often have a race number pinned to your jersey and looking for absolute racing performance, the Tarmac is the better choice. In contrast, the Aethos is the perfect partner if race numbers are a foreign concept and you just want to have a good time on the bike. Apart from that, if you do have racing ambitions, it’s also suitable for races in technical and demanding mountainous regions.
Our conclusion on the Specialized Aethos
Boom! With the brand new Aethos, Specialized have developed a bike that has destroyed some dreams and let others become reality. It’s the first super-light bike that allows you to have full confidence on the descents, offering a level of stability and composure typically reserved for much heavier bikes. Although the Aethos can’t quite keep up with an aero bike on flat terrain, it leaves the competition behind on acceleration and through the corners. Even the most devoted steel fans who frown at carbon bikes should take a closer look at this bike with its superb level of comfort.
- outrageously light
- very comfortable
- balanced handling
- quick acceleration
- 700 x 26 C tires and tubes unnecessarily limit the bike
- after you test ride this, your bike will no longer be fun to ride 😉
Words: Benjamin Topf, Philipp Schwab Photos: Valentin Rühl