It may have seemed that globalisation and the rise of carbon frame manufacture in China and Taiwan had marked the end of the local bike design industry. This new world of cheaper, faster semi production-line manufacturing allows the big brands to pour their funding into wind tunnels, FEA and marketing. The flipside, however, as demonstrated by the Mathiske Aerowave Corsa is that local designers can now forge their own way into the market, by utilising this same wave of economic and flexible manufacture.
Lewis Mathiske has been building frames since the eighties. With a family background of engineering, the entry of carbon frames into the market sparked Mathiske’s inner designer. However, between UCI rules and the practicalities of manufacturing carbon, it wasn’t until more recently that the Mathiske series of carbon frames has become a reality. In 2012 he won the International Design and Innovation Award at the Tapei Cycle show, beating many of the big budget companies along the way. The bike on test here is the end product of this process and the result of a frame design that has undergone an evolution to produce what Mathiske describes as a very fast bike.
The Mathiske Aerowave Corsa is a multinational product, but not in the same sense as the frames produced by the big companies. Design of the bike is performed here in Australia by Lewis Mathiske, complete from 2D sketches through to the 3D model from which the carbon moulds are determined. Layup is performed in China by a Taiwanese company to complete the multi-nation affair. Mathiske has worked closely with the overseas production team to ensure a product which does his original design intentions justice.
The Aerowave Corsa design is based around the idea of balanced ambitions. The design walks the difficult path of pursuing aerodynamics as much as is feasible before stiffness and frame strength are compromised. Additionally, the frame has been produced with a geometry which can feasibly be utilised not only as a road going race bike, but also as a time trial or triathlon machine. The frame features further adaptation towards TT use (despite having an ISP); the seat clamp allowing for several different mount positions, enabling the saddle to be mounted further forward or backward if required.
First ride impressions were those of speed and stiffness. The Aerowave rides really well, the geometry, surprisingly doesn’t feel twitchy or unstable, but rather lively and fast. Aerodynamics of frames and wheels are virtually impossible to judge clearly via ‘feel’, but overall the bike gave the impression of being very slippery. The balance between aerodynamics and frame strength seems to have been struck well. In fact, the one criticism which could be levelled at the frame is that it is a bit too stiff. The chunky seat tube area coupled with the deep ISP profile allow minimal filtering of road vibrations before they reach the rider. This bike however is clearly not intended for the weekend warrior, but those wanting to race, and race fast. As such, the sense of rigidity in the frame increases the sensation of speed and liveliness. Frame weight is 1180 grams. This is not in the realm of the super-light climbing frames on the market today. However, considering the inclusion of the seat mast and the deep aero profiles of the frame, the weight figure is not unreasonable. The weight penalty was not very perceivable on the road and whilst not being a machine built with climbs in mind, it felt comfortable on long ascents and fast on the way back down.
For this review the frame is fitted with mechanical Shimano Ultegra 11 speed, Selle Italia SLR saddle, PRO Stealth Evo integrated stembars and Mathiske’s own Silk S4000 40mm clincher wheelset. Whilst not designed by Mathiske himself, the Silk wheelset has incorporated a few of his suggestions into its manufacture, including reinforced hook bead and basalt braking surface. The 1490 gram scale figure is very respectable for deep profile clincher wheels and the straight pull laced rims seemed strong and highly responsive.
The mix of componentry worked well without being amazing. The Ultegra 6800 is a good bulletproof groupset. It combines reasonable weight, with quality shifting at a very competitive price. It performed unnoticed during the test, signifying what a good shifting package should do. The PRO integrated stem and bars were a nice addition to the build, but they did prove a challenge for the early morning rides with no regular round profiles to which to attach a front light. There is a dedicated computer mount available for these bars but it was not attached for this test. Integrated stem/bar packages certainly look the part while offering weight and aerodynamic advantages. The practical compromises often required in terms of lack of fit flexibility and accessory mounting options however, mean that they are often not ideal for everyday use.
The componentry selection is perhaps a little incongruent, high quality carbon clinchers and very pricey carbon bars would perhaps be better matched with a Dura Ace or Campagnolo Record groupset. In saying this, the use of Ultegra keeps the price down. The component spec can also easily be modified in consultation with Lewis during purchase.
At the end of the day the lasting sensation one was left with when riding this bike wasn’t only the speed of the stiff and slippery frame, or the mix of accessories adorning it. Rather, it was the awareness of riding a machine designed in our own backyard, one that hold its own against the big boys in the bike world. And that feels good.
An Aussie designed frame matched with good wheels and a solid groupset, the quality could not be faulted.
The frame lives up to the design brief: highly aerodynamic, stiff and all while providing a nimble road feel and the ability to be adapted to several disciplines. The Aerowave Corsa fills a unique niche in the marketplace.
The combination of componentry could perhaps be better selected to reflect the price point. There is an option to use Shimano RS81-C35 in place of the proprietary Silk wheels, dropping the price by over $1000, making this locally designed frame hugely competitive value.
Local design, high quality build, adaptable frame application, good ride dynamics. There isn’t much not to love. A great bike for those wanting something unique yet performance driven.
FRAME: Aerowave Corsa: Hi mod unidirectional carbon
FORK: Hi mod unidirectional carbon
SHIFTERS: Shimano: Ultegra 6800 11spd
FRONT DERAILLEUR: Shimano: Ultegra 6800
REAR DERAILLEUR: Shimano: Ultegra 6800 11spd
CRANK: Ultegra 6800 53/39T
CASSETTE: Shimano: Ultegra 11-2
BOTTOM BRACKET: BB30 Praxis Works
WHEELS: Mathiske S4000 Carbon Clinchers
TYRES: Vittoria Rubino Pro
BRAKES: Shimano Ultegra 6800
HANDLEBAR: PRO Stealth EVO Carbon Handlebar-Stem Combo
SADDLE: Selle Italia SLR
DISTRIBUTOR: Mathiske Racing www.mathiskeracing.com