KTM Aera 29 Comp review

Old-school carbon racer that's seriously smooth

BikeRadar score3.5/5

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.

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 2x10 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

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.

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.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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