A lot of ink has been spilled about the S-Works Aethos' staggering 585-gram frame weight (56cm in Ready to Paint) and its phenomenal ride quality, both of which are accurate. But when I think back on the time I spent riding my S-Works Aethos, I think of free fitness.
For those of you fortunate enough to ride bikes, there is usually a moment when you realize you are getting stronger. Sometimes that means you can go a few miles further, or perhaps your average speed starts to inch upward, or you find yourself on faster group rides. For me, that moment is when I reach for a harder gear when climbing, a bold move that traditionally takes me a few months of consistent riding to achieve. On my first ride on my S-Works Aethos, I cracked a smile a mile wide when I upshifted on my first hill, and that was while running 1500-gram deep dish wheels I had carried over from my last bike, so I knew it wasn't the rotational weight making the climb easier. The S-Works Aethos is just that magical of a climbing bike.
I had experienced this feeling a few years before on a Cervelo RCA that cost twice as much. However, when the S-Works Aethos pointed downhill, the RCA resemblance evaporated. The Aethos could carry speed in a way that the Cervelo couldn't. The RCA was a marvelous climbing bike, but I was always keen to get off it due to its firm ride and shrug-inducing handling. On my first descent on the S-Works Aethos, I hit 49 mph according to the speed trap I blew past, and honestly, I'm not a very strong descender.
The Aethos isn't a one-trick pony, either. I found even more respect for the Aethos when I recognized its cornering ability, ride comfort and ability to reflect part upgrades (something not all "super bikes" do). Its various traits work together to make it an excellent daily driver for most riders, particularly if you live somewhere with lots of hills.
I apologize for this paragraph, as it's going to sound like a bunch of random numbers to some of you. If so, skip it - this one's for the bike nerds. With a proper set of lightweight wheels and tires, my Aethos tipped the scales at 14 pounds 3 ounces, with an 11-speed Shimano Ultegra Di2 group complete with an 11-30 cassette. The AC x Velocolour Aethos we just finished in-house with the new Shimano Dura Ace Di2 and stellar Partington MKII 39/44 wheels weighs in at 12 pounds 6 ounces... and that's with a hefty amount of gorgeous white paint on it and an 11-34 block in the back. In other words, we can easily spec out a sub-12-pound Aethos without diminishing its phenomenal ride quality characteristics.
When someone says that frame weight doesn't matter, that they could lose a pound or two by using the bathroom before riding, I dare that person to ride an S-Works Aethos back-to-back with their current bike. The feeling is palpable to almost everyone who has ridden one, regardless of their fitness, weight and, in some cases, even their experience with road bikes. High stiffness-to-weight ratio bikes need to be felt to be fully appreciated, and in this regard, the S-Works Aethos is in a category of its own.
"So what's the catch?" you might ask. Well, for one, it's not aero at all. Classic round tubes and exposed cables catch a bit in the air, so if your rides are flat and/or barely rolling, look at a different road bike (I've been loving my new Sarto Raso, but that's for another journal). Second, the Aethos is not custom. Like a Pinarello Dogma F or S-Works SL7, the S-Works Aethos has set geometry, so if you have particular fit or handling needs, the Aethos may or may not work for you. Third, you may have a riding buddy who already owns an Aethos and want something a bit different. But that's easily solved, as we will only be doing S-Works Aethos frame-up builds at Above Category, so rest assured that your Aethos will be as unique and drool-worthy as all of our custom builds are.
Do you need an S-Works Aethos? Maybe, maybe not. But I spent over a year on mine, and I miss it.
Who wouldn't want free fitness?