A combined review of the premium-level Aethos from Specialized and the new Hyperon wheels from Campagnolo.
The phone rings and it’s Michael at the LBS, Cycle Spot Mona Vale.
“Hey mate, there’s another bike box here for you,” he says.
Us: “Really, that’s odd, we weren’t expecting one, does it say anything on the box mate?”
Michael: “Campagnolo … but it’s a r-e-a-l-l-y big box!”
Us: “Bugger, I haven’t got a moment to scratch myself, could I pop by next week? Hang on, mind taking a quick look to see what’s inside?”
(tape ripping and cutting sound … then an audible gasp and long pause.)
Michael: “Ummm… It’s an S-Works Aethos with the latest Campagnolo Hyperon wheels and Super Record EPS.”
Us: “There in 15!”
That’s how the arrival of this dream test bike went, as sudden and surprising a delivery as we found this completely customised and ‘Campagified’ Aethos accelerates.
One of Campagnolo’s test fleet, the factory-assembled ruby and black Aethos was sent over from Italy as a platform to truly showcase the capabilities of the company’s latest top-tier wheelset, the Hyperon Ultras. And, what better frameset to bring the best out of the dream wheelset – the 1240g Hyperons complementing the 700g Aethos frame like a smooth hand and a silk glove.
Once assembled – a job that didn’t take Cycle Spot’s Michael long thanks to Campagnolo’s aforementioned mega bike box – the likes of which we’d never seen before – the build pulled the scales to an incredible 6.3kg, about the weight of the box!
In pretty well record time, we left the bike shop and headed straight to West Head Rd, one of greater Sydney’s ultimate road cycling destinations, and the perfect place to test this Americano / Italiano super bike.
Speedplays fitted, first push of the pedals revealed the surprising real-world weight of the build. Despite being close to 50 per cent less than the mass of other bikes we’ve recently reviewed, its road manners and general handling felt far more solid than skitzy as one might expect.
The frame – that weighs less than a litre of milk, a little more than a loaf of bread, and about the same as a decent pair of cycling shoes – is surprisingly stiff and reactive, particularly when you stomp on the pedals. I used to say my old Vetus 979 had an auto-shift mode – push hard on the pedals and the ‘Duralum’ frame twist would activate a gear change or two. But there’s absolutely no hint of anything like that with the Aethos. This is as rigid and firm as any high-end new-release race bike.
With a very traditional looking geometry and finish, those exposed cables, an actual multi-piece stem and bar, seatpost and clamp etc, the classy finish is refreshingly unique in the 2020s. It’s a timeless bike, one that’s rare to see out on the roads, and certainly a bespoke build.
The test bike was fitted with new 26mm Pirelli P-Zero tubeless race tyres. Oozing suppleness, feel and grip, this top-quality Italian rubber perfectly matched to the Hyperon Ultra wheelset. What sets Campagnolo’s premium 37mm race wheels apart from the rest – other than their eye-watering $6K price tag – is the fact they are made from a single sheet of carbon fibre. Campagnolo use this single-joint rim construction technique to reduce any potential weakness.
The company says the reasoning behind this is for “the rim to be extremely stiff and hardwearing”. Having ridden the wheels up and down the twisty & turns Akuna West & East climbs numerous times, we can attest to their claims. Besides the fact we were risking life and limb, or at least some serious road rash, by cornering hard on less than 1.3kg of carbon fibre, the wheels performed absolutely flawlessly and were phenomenally fast.
Where you really notice the speed, and where these wheels are no doubt designed to shine, is when it comes to mid-range acceleration. This was extremely evident at the bottom of Akuna, on the smoother East to West side, when pedaling out of corners. Push hard at around 20 to 25k/ph and the feeling you get as the bike surges forward is just phenomenal. The rig just wants to go, go, go!
Up, Up & Away
A couple of kilometres up the road and the going starts to get vertical again. As you’d expect from a six-point something kilo bike, it climbs as if it has wings. While a crazy light bike is no excuse or substitute for lack of fitness, it really did feel good to be climbing at pace while not in the finest personal form. It’s a bike that makes you want to be a better rider – it revels in – and is designed for – standout cycling.
Like the frameset, the Hyperons are a totally addictive wheelset to ride, and the engineering and design that’s gone into them is clearly evident. The wheelset features ceramic bearings – under the CULT (Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology) that run on synthetic oil on stainless-steel races which have been specially treated to make them resistant to wear.
To the finish of the wheelset, and the classy high-gloss surface complements their performance attribute and completes the overall aesthetic.
While Shimano and SRAM are far more commonly seen on S-Works bikes, the synergies with the Campagnolo groupset and wheels are obvious. The Hyperon wheels are designed and engineered to offer supreme agility and performance, to excel in lightness, handling and reactivity.
And they, it would seem, are exactly the attributes the S-Works Aethos designers had in mind when breaking the modern mould and dreaming up a high-performance bike based upon traditional lines.
Coupled with the Campagnolo kit out, the bike oozes class, quality and style. Its finish is befitting of the high-end superbike it is, and its stunning paintwork is tasteful, stylish and in keeping with the bikes boutique, retro flavour.
Up there with the finest from Colnago, Pinarello, Time and other boutique manufacturers, the Aethos – particularly when kitted out with Campagnolo’s best – can match it with the best of them.
The ride, handling, climbing, descending, mid-range acceleration, comfort, fit and overall finish are simply outstanding. It would almost be criminal to use this as a daily rider or training bike.
This is a special beast, a build that deserves to be proudly on display for most of the time, and ridden when you know it will truly done justice. Having said that, life’s too short. Just ride the damn bike and enjoy it.