Specialized Aethos Review
Introducing the Specialized Aethos. Launched in fall of 2020, the Aethos is a love letter to road cycling - beautifully elegant, simple yet technologically amazing and absolutely sublime to ride. Designed to capture hearts and minds rather than win medals, the Aethos is a winner in our books either way. The Specialized Aethos is clean and simple looking, but underneath is one of the most advanced bikes ever produced.
Filling a completely new niche in Specialized's lineup, the Aethos is a bike built purely for the love of riding. By throwing out the conventional wisdom that bigger tube junctions and more material equates to a stiffer more responsive frame and choosing to carve a completely new path in bike design, Specialized were able to create not only the lightest ever disc brake road frameset, but arguably the best riding too.
When we say the Aethos wasn't built for winning medals, with modern geometry, amazing handling and light weight it for sure could be piloted to race victory, but that isn't the point. It's more an exercise in designing the best handling bike possible with little to no regard for aerodynamics. Not only is it light and amazing to ride, it has smart features and a classic design that has a broader appeal. A threaded BB and cabling external to the handlebars means a bike that's easy to work on and ride day to day. Classic road bike lines give it a timeless appeal that all riders can appreciate. The only thing it's not is an aero race bike.
Clean lines and simple tube junctions aren’t the only thing separating the Aethos from the norm
By throwing out the rulebook and starting fresh, the engineers at Specialized were able to make some wild discoveries in the world of carbon frame construction. It's typically thought that adding material around the BB area creates a stiff and responsive frame, and so it's common to see bikes with large down tubes and chunky reinforced bottom brackets in the name of a stiffer bike. While this is true to a degree, their carbon engineers in Freiburg had stumbled upon a new theory of how forces moved through the frame while developing a more aerodynamic bike. Specialized decided to follow the rabbit hole deeper with the Aethos and see where it took them. Based on the results of thousands of computer models and testing, based on three key elements - BB stiffness, front end stiffness and overall stiffness. the new data was astounding and provided key insights to help Specialized produce the ground breaking new bike.
According to Zedler the Aethos is both the lightest production disc brake road frame and has the highest stiffness to weight ratio
By combining all of the cumulative data and analysing it to come up with one frame design, Specialized's main finding with the Aethos was that the shape of the tubes was more important than anything else. By using a large diameter top tube and down tube at the head tube junction that tapers to small diameter tubes at the BB and seat tube junctions with special attention to the shaping of these junctions rather than the tubing simply being big was what created ultimately the stiffest frame. With the tube shaping being responsible for stiffness, this allowed Specialized to remove all "stiffness layers" of carbon and reduce weight dramatically, creating the lightest ever production road disc frameset.
By using these new tube profiles, Specialized were able to build in stiffness where it's needed, and drop it where it isn't. The independent Zedler stiffness test by Tour magazine put some of the top road bikes head to head and the Aethos came out on top with the best stiffness to weight ratio by quite some margin.
Stiffness, compliance, light weight. In short, it rides beautifully.
Stiffness and low weight is great, but how does this translate to ride quality? With the new tube profiles of the Aethos carrying the stiffness of the bike, Specialized were able to remove any layers of carbon creating unwanted stiffness, both making the bike lighter, but also allowing them to tune all parts of the bike to be as compliant or as stiff as it needs to be to deliver the best possible ride quality.
Light weight and a super stiff frame means the Aethos climbs like a mountain goat
The result of this attention to detail is a bike that is sublime to ride - planted and smooth feeling, yet responsive. It allows the rider to truly feel connected to the road like never before. The exceptional balance of stiffness and compliance means that it has superb road feedback with just enough vibration damping to keep the ride comfortable.
A stiff frame means amazing responsiveness when putting power down and the Aethos climbs incredibly, with seemingly endless acceleration. Specialized's dedication to the cause of creating the best handling bike they could means that the Aethos is one of the most intuitive and easy bikes to ride and despite the incredibly low frame weight handles amazingly on the descents, railing corners yet super stable.
The Aethos is only available with electronic shifting or as a frame-only.
Builds and Pricing
The Aethos is a special bike and deserves a special build kit. For this reason it's only available with the best components around. Starting at the Comp Rival level it comes with a complete Sram Rival AXS 12sp wireless groupset and a wheelset rolling on DT Swiss R470 rims. The Expert level comes with Shimano's latest Ultegra 12sp groupset and Roval C38 carbon wheels. Moving up there's a build with every level of electronic group from both Sram and Shimano including the Pro Force, Pro Ultegra, topping out with either the S-Works Dura Ace or Red Etap Axs builds. The Aethos is also available as their lower end frameset or as a S-Works frameset.
Shop Specialized Aethos
As always, if you'd like to know more, feel free to reach out to our customer service team at email@example.com or visit our store to check out a bike in person or take one for a test ride!