How light do you want your bike to be? If you're the type who frequents cross-country races, your answer might be ''As light as possible.'' Unfortunately, that usually comes with geometry that feels like it's trying to end your life the second things get a little wild. No, I'll take a pass on the 17lb featherweight, its 90-degree head angle, and all the scabs that I'd end up with, thank you very much.
Unno, that Spanish brand who brought us the ultra-chic Dash trail bike
(full review on the 7th, finally, by the way), might have the answer in their Aora hardtail frame that weighs just 685-grams in raw form and sports a very un-cross-country-like 67-degree head angle. That sounds fun, doesn't it?
Sure, it's 790-grams once you put on the axle and derailleur hanger that I guess you need, but whatever. That's still a very, very low number, one that Unno says makes the Aora "the lightest production XC hardtail on the market today.
'' For the record, Scott's Scale frame, which is often many riders' go-to starting point for their fly-weight, weighs a hardly acceptable 59-grams heavier. What a porker!
• Intended use: cross-country racing
• Wheel size: 29''
• Head angle: 67-degrees
• Rider weight limit: 198lb
• Weight: 790-grams
• Availability: Jan 2019
• Frame MSRP: 4,000€
Most of the ingredients needed to make an Aora frame.
The Aora's low weight is partly a result of how the frame is manufactured at their Barcelona HQ, with the folks at Unno creating the entire frame in a single mold rather than building it in halves and then gluing the pieces together.
The company has also touted using some pretty high-end carbon, too, which further helps to lower the weight - and raise the price.
Unno builds the Aora in their own factory in Spain, and they even machined their old molds.
While the 790-gram number is certainly worth pointing out, it's what Unno has done with another number that's more interesting to me: The Aora's head angle is just 67-degrees, making it one of the most relaxed pure race bikes out there. Yes, that sounds downright pointy compared to what's used on the front of bikes intended to spend more time off the ground or in a bike park, but in the Aora's world, that's slack AF. Some perspective for you: The Scale sports a 69.5 front end, Cannondale went with 69-degrees for their F-Si Hi-Mod frame that weighs a claimed 900-grams, and the Specialized S-Works Epic has a 69.8-degree head angle and weighs a claimed 890-grams.
Relatively speaking, the Aora appears to be both really freaking light and relatively slack. That could be a good combo.
Other details include a proper 31.6mm seat post size rather than the hokey 27.2mm diameter that some companies go with to save 1.2-nanograms. That means you can run a full-length dropper so you can actually enjoy how the bike handles, too.
You're not going to have any excuses when it comes to weight if you build one of these up nicely.
You know there has to be a catch or two, though, right? One of the big sticking points for a potential Aora buyer has to be its sizing - it's only available in a M/L-ish size with a 441mm reach that's intended to work with a short stem. Oh, and you can't weigh more than 198lb. And the frame's 4,000€ price tag.
I don't doubt that the Aora is pretty neat, but all those quibbles mean that most of us won't ever see one of these bikes in the carbon. So does this thing even matter? It certainly does if World Cup cross-country bikes end up two degrees slacker and running shorty stems a few years from now.
Do you think cross-country geometry is going to end up going down the same longer, slacker trail as all-mountain and enduro bikes have, or is the Lycra set destined to be sketchy forever?