KTM Aera 29 Comp review

Old-school carbon racer that's seriously smooth

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £1,500.00 RRP

Our review

Compromised kit and twitchy handling, but smooth ride is a joy on longer trail missions
Buy if, You want a smooth old-school experience
Pros: Smoothly buoyant ride feel, retro racers will love the steep and sharp handling
Cons: Slightly diluted power delivery and twitchy, flexy feel won’t suit aggressive riders. Components suffer from cost of carbon frame
Skip to view product specifications

KTM’s Aera Comp is dated in several ways and the carbon frame cuts into the component budget, but the bowed tubes and skinny stays create a flowing ride feel, and the handling isn’t as sketchy as you might expect.

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KTM Aera 29 Comp frame and kit

The KTM is all about skinny tubes and curves. What’s essentially a slim head tube is only oversized on account of a ledge that curves up from the triangular down tube and two reinforcing ribs dropped down from the diamond-shaped top tube. This gradually flattens and curves back, before splitting into triangular seatstays.

The extended seat tube has a quick-release seat-collar to hold the skinny seatpost. It also kinks halfway down, but the chainstays are still quite long. They start deep before expanding inwards in a triangular section and then taper back to the old-school 135mm QR dropouts.

The down tube also curves and tapers, before flaring out slightly to support the press-fit bottom bracket. The rear gear cable runs inside the top tube, while the front is routed through the down tube to feed the side-swing front mech. This is a clamp-on unit, so moving to a 1x set-up won’t leave you with redundant mounts. There’s only one set of bottle bosses.

While the Aera is KTM’s more affordable carbon cross-country offering (a bit more cash gets you the premium Myroon), the composite chassis still cuts heavily into the kit budget. The RockShox Recon Silver fork has steel stanchions and less-sculpted lowers. It’s got a quick-release axle too, which reduces tracking stiffness.

There’s no chain-taming clutch on the Shimano XT rear mech, the Deore shifters are 2×10 units and the M396 brakes have a stretched lever feel, thick bar clamps, split-pin pad retention and cheap rotors.

The Aera’s ‘slammed for speed’ character is confirmed by the fact the stem logos only read right if it points down, not up, and the bar is just 700mm wide. While power pick-up from the Shimano rear hub can be slow and clunky, the wheels are light and the Schwalbe tyres are quick-rolling and smooth. Just be wary of poor grip in the wet.

There were definitely times when the compliance in the frame kept the tyres sticking through corners or on climbs when they’d have spun out otherwise
There were definitely times when the compliance in the frame kept the tyres sticking through corners or on climbs when they’d have spun out otherwise
Steve Behr

KTM Aera 29 Comp ride

Considering that its geometry and equipment look archaic by the latest trail standards, I got on with the KTM well. The super-steep 71.5-degree head angle and narrow bar in the down-sloped stem took some adjusting to, but overall, the steering felt relatively well balanced, in terms of reaction speed and weight.

The KTM’s steep, twitchy, short-reach character means you’re less likely to accidentally push it into situations where the flex in the fork and front end, the limited wet-weather grip or the wooden-feeling brakes will suddenly become a serious issue than on a slacker, more aggressive bike.

There were definitely times when the compliance in the frame kept the tyres sticking through corners or on climbs when they’d almost certainly have spun out otherwise.

That said, if you’re a powerful, punchy rider looking for a more trail-capable ride, then the Aera probably isn’t right for you.

The front end puts you on the defensive as soon as things get steeper or more technical, and the bowed frame and slim stays lose a noticeable amount of peak power between pedals and rear wheel. Relatively slow pick-up doesn’t help, and the cheaper kit levels negate any weight advantage gained from the carbon frame.

When it comes to rougher terrain, though, that flow and flex definitely helps the KTM sustain speed and pedalling rhythm.

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The steep steering lets you twist and dance through tight lines up climbs too, and its lively overall feel meant post-ride feedback from most testers was much more positive than their initial reactions suggested it would be.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Aera 29 Comp
Brand KTM Bikes

Available Sizes 17in 19in 21in
Rear Tyre Schwalbe Rocket Ron Performance 29x2.25in
Wheelbase (in) 46.46
Top Tube (in) 23.94
Seat Tube (in) 18.9
Chainstays (in) 17.32
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 12
Spoke Type 32x 14g stainless steel
Weight (kg) 11.69
Stem KTM Team KT-6, 90mm
Shifters Shimano Deore (2x10)
Seatpost KTM Team alloy rigid
Seat Angle 73
Saddle Selle Italia X1
Rims Mavic XC 421, 25mm
Rear Wheel Weight 2510
Rear Hub Shimano Deore M615
Bottom Bracket Shimano press-fit
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore
Brakes Shimano M396, 180mm rotors
Cassette Shimano HG50, 11-36t
Chain Shimano
Cranks Shimano Deore M617, 38-24t
Fork RockShox Recon Silver RL, 100mm (3.9in) travel
Frame Material Carbon fibre
Front Hub Shimano Deore M615
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore XT
Front Tyre Schwalbe Rocket Ron Performance 29x2.25in
Front Wheel Weight 1950
Grips/Tape KTM Team
Handlebar KTM Team, 700mm
Head Angle 71.5
Headset Type KTM
Frame size tested 19in