Since day one, we’ve always been told to follow the rules. Going by the book is an ethos that’s continually instilled in us; especially here, and especially now. Yet ever so often, a pioneer comes along to show that the rigidity can be broken; and for good reason. To cyclists, that was Specialized.
It’s that for riders, by riders type of gig. Where the ones powering the brand innately understand the very needs of the people they’re doing this for. When people wanted to ride cruisers in the dirt, they made the first production mountain bike. When roadies wanted to go faster, they doubled-down on carbon and built their own wind tunnel.
Specialized threw out the rule books of bicycle design, and chased quality ride experience. It wasn’t about winning, nor being the biggest player out there. It was about the greatest expression for the love of riding. And so, the team culminated almost half a century’s worth of expertise and birthed Aethos.
At just 585 grams, the world’s lightest production disc brake bicycle frameset breaks the unsaid ‘rules’ of carbon manufacturing, and yeah, those sacred UCI decrees too. That’s because a couple hundred thousand supercomputer simulations proved lead engineer Peter Denk’s hunch right—true performance lies in the shape, not the material.
We could go into how tubes with subtle, elongated conical sections deliver the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio tested, or that traditional stiffness layers were eliminated to reduce unnecessary plies and subsequently, overall substantial weight (11 percent compared to a Tarmac SL6, for anyone asking).
Except it’s a special one by Specialized this time. Besides superior handling, they took the unparalleled one step further with the Aethos Jet Fuel, where the frameset is surface pre-prepped— that is, ready-to-paint—for it to be completely aesthetically customisable. Talk about personalised expression.
To push the envelope on this project, they commissioned emerging Japanese artist Kosuke Masuda, who is also an authentic rider from Yokohama and a Buddhist monk. Masuda typically draws inspiration from his lifestyle and family with his wife, fellow artist and photographer Kei Hompo, but it’s intriguing to see the elements behind his design for his Aethos Jet Fuel.
“It seems that our bodies are not changing day by day, but in reality, new cells always replace old cells while adapting to the new environment every day,” he says*. “It’s fundamentally different from specimens in a display case. You can say that the former is ‘Alive’, and the latter is ‘Dead’.”
Fascinated by the state of being alive, Masuda sees the bike’s design and exterior in the same vein. Expected to evolve as time passes along with each ride clocked into its life, he regards the colours that inevitably change as no different from what he sees in nature.
Curving metal by scratching the surfaces and painting green rust using copper oxidisation, a closer look on these lines reveals more than a visual state of movement and life. You’ll see forefront colours and patterns seemingly invisible yet abundant outdoors; a variety that’s naturally etched in trees and stones. And of course, the undeniable traditional Japanese influences of cultural ornaments.
“What they see in the bicycle is the relationship between them and my art. For somebody, it could mean facing themselves,” Masuda explains his preference to have his art as something usable so that the relationship with the arts will be retained. He articulates that, just as a lively and responsive ride quality is intrinsic to the bike, so is his work very much ‘alive’.
It’s this very reason bicycles feature prominently in many of his works. “Humans cannot live without any interactions with their surroundings. Bicycles also don’t function without humans,” he elaborates, citing bicycles as the best medium to convey his beliefs and vision. It’s no surprise that his love for cycling is what truly makes him feel alive.
Masuda evidently carries this ethos towards his art. There are no motifs, no drafts—no rules. Just actively embracing the unintended outcomes. It’s a stellar pairing of like-minded man and machine that could very well be your story. The bike is quite literally a blank canvas poised to communicate who you are, all it takes is a step out of the system to boldly demonstrate.
*Verbatims from the artist are taken from an interpretation of the original interview done by Kei Hompo.
This unique bicycle will be auctioned off together with a One of One NFT to mint this work of art. Follow Specialized on Facebook and Instagram or visit Specialized.com for more information. Jet Fuel framesets (SGD8,250) are available at Specialized Bukit Pasoh, 7 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089821; Specialized Petaling Jaya, Specialized Penang; and Specialized Shinjuku.