By Tracy Ross
What It Does Well: The Airén 5 is a versatile road bike that is decidedly not a race bike. Which means it performs well on everything from road to dirt and even a little bit of gravel. That’s a trend for a lot of bike companies in recent years. Take high-end road bike geometry, tweak it slightly, and add features that can handle multiple surfaces. The Airén features 28mm wide tires (slightly fatter and more balloon-like than on a traditional road bike), disc brakes (for heightened stopping ability on steeps, and in foul weather conditions), and a mountain bike style through-axle for the front wheel, which stiffens the handling in corners. But the biggest difference between the Airén and a traditional race bike is the plush carbon frame with so-called “endurance geometry” that puts riders more upright in the cockpit, thus enhancing long distance comfort in the saddle. The result is a ride that feels strong yet lithe, flowy yet precise, and über comfortable on all kinds of terrain. I rode it from May to September on steep, paved climbs, fast rolling dirt, loose, dusty gravel, and twisty bike paths (as a commuter). I found it infinitely smoother riding and more stable at high speeds and on loose surfaces than my 2010 road bike, and therefore more fun—it’s also far prettier. And at $3,200, while offering the same materials and components (the Airén 5 features a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain), it’s around $700–$900 cheaper than equivalent bikes from bigger brands.
What It Does Poorly: I’m used to a sleeker frame and skinnier tires, which both climb better on pure pavement. And the 2X11 gearing, while great for flats and rollers, was challenging on the super steep hills around my house above Boulder such as Magnolia Road, with a 10 percent average grade. I’d swap in a smaller front chain ring for sustained mountain riding.
So Who’s It For? More and more companies are making bikes with real world consumers in mind—as opposed to the pro peloton. The Airén is a great century bike, but you could ride it on dirt roads too, and the disc brakes mean you could run it as a winter bike, as well, for commuting. You can also set it up with racks or panniers. The only thing you wouldn’t want to do with it is race a hill climb. If this sounds like you, the Airén is your one-bike quiver, especially for the price. $3,200; 19 lbs; diamondback.com