Aurum Magma first-ride review: Meet Contador and Basso’s new bike company
We’ve known for some time that former Grand Tour winners Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso were cooking up a new bike company — it’s been kept about as quiet as a jackhammer played through a megaphone. We even knew that the first model would have disc brakes, a low weight and a carbon construction. Heck, Contador even rode the thing to a (now-beaten) Everesting world record.
However, only now has the brand name been revealed – Aurum. It’s the Latin word for “gold” and is a fitting name for a premium Spanish bike company focussed on making racing products, especially one with input and ownership from two riders who have spent their fair share of time standing on top of podiums.
Along with the grand reveal of the teased brand name comes the company’s first model, the Magma. It’s a high-end all-round road racing bike which purposefully winds the innovation clock back to offer less integration than much of its closest competitors. And while I can tell you that the bike rides nicely, it’s really the simplicity of component compatibility that makes it an appealing offering.
ABikes = Aurum
- What: New company and first model bike from Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso.
- Key features: All-round disc-specific road design; size-specific geometry, tubing dimensions and layup; semi-concealed cabling works with any cockpit and drivetrain, fits 30 mm tyres.
- Weight: 805 g (54 cm frame), 6.74 kg as tested (without pedals)
- Price: €4,099 for a frameset, complete bikes from €9,799.
- Highs:Wonderfully stiff under power, quick but not nervous handling, few proprietary components, clever design elements, aesthetics.
- Lows: Stiff ride quality, slack seat tube angle, brake hose touches steerer tube, water can enter head tube.
Competitors turned close friends, Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso rode against and alongside each other throughout their riding careers. Recent years have seen the two join forces in running the Continental-level Kometa-Xstra cycling team, which for 2021 changes its name to EOLO-Kometa and will step up to UCI ProTeam ranking (and ride Aurum bikes). More recently they’ve created a skincare company, Bend36. Aurum is the latest venture from the two.
There is one common misconception I’d like to clear up here before we continue. The two-time Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso (aged 42) has nothing, zilch, nada, zip, to do with the 43-year-old Italian Basso bicycle company. There is simply no relationship between the two.
Under Aurum, Contador and Basso aim to use their racing experience to help develop high-performing bikes. And while the obvious thought is that they’re just faces to assist in selling generic bikes to their countless adoring fans, it’s thankfully not that. With the guidance of an experienced carbon bike designer, a Taiwan-based frame manufacturer, and a few others, the two retired pro cyclists have indeed been hands-on in requesting what they want from a bike and testing multiple prototype iterations in the process. These frames are unique to Aurum and it’s obvious there’s been some substantial investment in the new company.
That company will initially start as an online consumer-direct offering, one which will see the bikes assembled in Madrid and shipped to customers with the bare minimum assembly required (like what Canyon does). With time Aurum hopes to complement that distribution model with a network of trusted retailers to stock and sell their products. Velodrome, a high-end store in Barcelona, is the first bricks-and-mortar retailer for Aurum.
Aurum will offer a lifetime warranty on its products. This is rare for a brand new bike company, and there are many more established performance brands not offering this.
For now the brand appears to be focussed on the premium performance market, but Contador didn’t rule out that more affordable options could exist in the future. Meanwhile, Basso added that they’re already working on new models, suggesting that a gravel bike is likely the next thing we’ll see from them.
The Aurum Magma is exactly the type of all-round bike that Contador and Basso would have picked when they were racing. It fits into the same category as many other recent road bike releases in that it’s a race bike that aims to find the “balance” between low weight, comfort, efficiency and some amount of aerodynamics. Think bikes like the Specialized Tarmac SL7, Trek Emonda SLR, Scott Addict RC, Cannondale SuperSix Evo, or Colnago V3R, just to name a few new ones.
And like many of those new bike releases, the Aurum Magma is only available for disc brakes.
However, where nearly all of those new bikes have moved deeper into proprietary integration, the Aurum Magma is refreshingly traditional. It uses a standard 27.2 mm round seatpost, it has a round steerer tube which allows for any stem and handlebar to be used, and it can even be set up with either electronic or mechanical shifting.
At a claimed 805 g for a 54 cm frame (Contador’s size), the Aurum Magma is light but not exceptionally so. The initial goal was to keep the frame weight below 850 grams, and so clearly having the very lightest bike was never the key focus here. According to Contador, shaving further weight would have sacrificed the frame stiffness and dependability they sought.
However, while that frame figure isn’t class-leading, it quickly makes up for that by allowing total control in component selection. It won’t be difficult to make this thing impressively light for a disc brake bike. Build it up with a lightweight mechanical groupset, pick some lightweight finishing kit and you’ll easily get this thing well below the UCI’s limit.
Aurum states that the fork and front triangle were optimised with aerodynamics in mind, and that’s evident by the use of widely-used NACA truncated airfoil profiles, notably seen at the head tube, down tube, top tube and slender fork blades. The company did its initial designs in CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics), and verified them with 3D-printed models in a wind tunnel.
However, the company has yet to provide any actual data about the aerodynamic performance of its new bike or how it stacks up against the competition. The focus on the front of the bike suggests Aurum sought aerodynamic benefit, but perhaps hasn’t gone to the same level of detail that some more established brands have. According to Aurum lead designer, Iñigo Gisbert, this approach was because most aerodynamic gains are had at the front of the bike, while removing it from the equation at the rear allowed them to focus on stiffness, comfort and reduced weight. Either way, the company says its bike is competitive with “other top-level all-rounder type of bikes.”
The frame defies current trends by connecting the seat stays at the very top of the seat tube. According to Gisbert, this traditional design creates a torsionally stiffer triangle that requires less reinforcement when compared to dropped stay designs. In turn, those seat stays — of which there is more to flex — can remain more compliant. Of course, this flies in the face of what most other brands have been doing lately. Most drop the seat stays in order to improve compliance through the seat tube while dropping weight and improving aerodynamics. Aurum’s approach is somewhat more old school, but certainly, there will be many who prefer the aesthetics that come with it.
A careful eye will reveal a few asymmetric elements. For example, the left and right chainstays vary a fair bit, while the fork offers similar differences to resist the braking forces from the left. The tube dimensions and layups vary for each of the six frame sizes, something that’s become common practice amongst the leading brands.
Another aero element sees the cables kept inline with the frame and tucked in at the front of the head tube. Concealed cables have become a common feature of new bike releases, but Aurum’s approach is slightly different to most and sees the cables enter below the top headset bearing. This means that you can easily change the headset spacers, headset top cap or even the normal top headset bearing just as you would on an older bike. The lower 1 3/8″ headset bearing is trapped by the brake hoses, but at least you can easily get to it for cleaning.
This bike is refreshingly simple to work on — you know, like things used to be. However, and as I’ll get to, this design isn’t without issue.
The Magma’s geometry is optimised with 25-28 mm tyres in mind, however, there is room for more. Aurum officially quotes a 30 mm limit, however, I suspect you could squeeze a measured 32 in place without much issue. Still, ultra-wide tyres are not the intent here.
Other frame features include a minimalist integrated seat post wedge to hold that regular round post in place, something that’s angled so that any multi-tool or torque wrench can be used without issue – it works well, too. There’s a BB386EVO press-fit bottom bracket shell, into which Aurum installs a CeramicSpeed bottom bracket. And there’s also a modular cable routing port on the down tube which can be used for the routing of mechanical gear cables or to host a Shimano Di2 junction box via different supplied covers (the cover on my eTap sample is neatly blank).
Geometry that’s turned down a notch
The geometry of the UCI-approved Magma certainly confirms it’s a race bike, but thankfully Aurum hasn’t made it excessively low or long. Across the six available frame sizes the stack and reach figures are closely comparable to most other like-minded race bikes out there, being a smidge more relaxed than the Specialized Tarmac, and a hair more aggressive than the BMC Teammachine SLR01.
The sizing designation is based on the stack figure — so, for example, a 54 cm frame offers a 545 mm stack; a 56 has a 567 mm stack. And speaking of the stack, Aurum will provide two headset top caps, one 8 mm and one at 20 mm to allow changes in the stack while retaining a more integrated look.
Aurum has used two different fork offsets (50 and 44 mm) in order to retain a consistent trail figure of 59-60 mm across the size range. This figure is indeed a few millimetres higher (slower) than what Contador and Basso would have likely raced with, and so I can’t help but think they’ve purposefully detuned the fit and handling in order to reach wider appeal. Personally, I think it’s a smart move, and there are many other great-handling race bikes (the BMC SLR01 comes to mind) that have done similar.
The bottom bracket drop is kept at a common 71 mm figure, with the exception of the smallest size which drops to 74 mm. Meanwhile, the rear chainstay length starts at 407 and tops out at 410 mm — again, a common figure for a modern disc-equipped race bike.
Perhaps the only sticking point for me is with the 73º seat tube angle that features on all sizes. Bike fits are trending more forward and a traditional 73º figure is likely going to be a little slack for some. Thankfully you can fit any 27.2 mm seat post you’d like, and I’d be fitting a zero offset if this bike were my own.
And that leads me to a point about total customization of cockpit components. There’s no denying that the latest bikes with fully concealed cable routing look great, but such innovation has introduced other obvious compromises. Contador was fairly critical of heavily integrated cockpit components, stating that the limited fit options provided are not ideal for all riders. Meanwhile, the Magma allows you to fit any 1 1/8″ stem, with any height stem spacers, and matched with any shape and width handlebar you prefer. And while some other more integrated brands still allow you to fit standard components, making such a change often introduces unsightly cable routing compromises.
Prices and build options
For now, Aurum has just the one bike model. It’s available as a frameset or in three complete build options. Each of those options can be had in the tested Glacier Blue paint, or a black version that saves a little weight, too.
The Aurum Magma isn’t a cheap product in any configuration, and that’s clearly not intended from a brand name that literally means “gold”. Expect to pay €4,099 (approx AU$6,750) for a frameset, with complete bikes starting from €9,799 (approx AU$16,150). Common import expenses, such as duties and local taxes will be at the expense of the customer, as will postage. According to Aurum, shipping (before taxes) to the UK will add €95, Ireland will be €95, and the shipping bill for Australia/NZ customers is €350.
Notably, Aurum won’t be selling to North America to begin with.
All three complete build options are unquestionably high-end. There’s the one I tested — effectively a full SRAM factory build — with Red AXS eTap shifting, Zipp 303 Firecrest tubeless wheels, and Zipp SL carbon touchpoints. This model is €9,999. My sample isn’t fully to production spec — the wheels supplied were 303 Firecrest tubulars, and the Quarq power meter was missing, too. All told my 52 cm sample weighed 6.74 kg (without pedals), and while the rolling stock is light, the rest of the build isn’t.
The other two bikes are built with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. The lowest-priced bike of the range (€9,799) has Enve SES 3.4 Disc wheels and Enve carbon touchpoints. And if these first two are too pedestrian, then the other Dura-Ace build features Lightweight Meilenstein Evo Disc TL wheels and matching touchpoints. That last one is €11,999 (approx AU$17,000), €500 more than the bargain-priced S-Works Tarmac SL 7.
There are no Campagnolo build options for now, but Basso did suggest there’s always the frameset option.
Bikes at this price point should look like a premium product, and Aurum has absolutely nailed that element. The tiniest of components, from the thru-axles, to the low-profile alloy bidon cage bolts, to the headset top cap are all specific to Aurum and feature the company’s branding. All production bikes will be fitted with Aurum-branded bar tape and bar-end plugs, too (they weren’t included on my sample). Further premium details include the aforementioned CeramicSpeed bottom brackets fitted to the complete bikes, while even the stock headset bearings are stainless steel for added durability.
The pricing clearly puts the Magma in the realm of other price-no-issue bikes, so how does it stack up out on the road?
Ride impressions and a few sticking points
This is a premium carbon road bike designed by people who have designed other high-end road bikes. The materials, methods, and tube shapes used here aren’t really different from what many other high-end carbon bikes are using. And even the geometry is within a millimetre or two of other bikes that have proven to offer great handling.
That said, while so many high-end bikes are extremely similar, they do have subtle differences, and I believe the Magma’s defining element is its stiffness. Many pro riders often speak about race bikes needing to be stiff under power, and that without this feeling, the assumption is that the bike is slower. I know Contador and Basso believe this, and their influence can be felt in the Magma.
The Magma is impressively reactive under power. Whether it’s an uphill attack or a high-speed sprint, there’s just no sign of the bike yielding when pushed hard. Even intentionally looking for flex between the seat tube and head tube revealed nothing — this bike is torsionally rigid. I believe Aurum’s claim that going noticeably lighter in the frame would have sacrificed this element.
Aurum claims to have balanced the ride comfort and stiffness, but I believe the latter remains the bigger kid in this game of see-saw. The ride is less compliant than expected (while using control tyres, wheels and saddle), however, it manages to toe the line of telling you the re-surfacing history of the road without making you want to look for a smoother line to follow. No this isn’t the most comfortable race bike, but it doesn’t go into the territory of being skittish or sounding like a percussion instrument, either.
Experienced bike handlers will likely enjoy the feedback the Magma provides. It’s also worth noting that the Zipp SL components on my test sample are on the less-forgiving end of the compliance spectrum — there are plenty of opportunities to add or subtract stiffness through changing the cockpit components.
With well-proven numbers, the handling offered no surprises. This isn’t the very quickest-handling bike on the market, but I actually prefer road bikes that are turned down to nine. Here the Magma is quite similar to something like the BMC Teammachine — there’s a good level of composure and it doesn’t require laser focus at speed. As a side perk, the slightly longer front centre means there’s less (but still a little) toe overlap than expected.
There isn’t much I don’t like here. That intentionally high level of stiffness will please those who appreciate bikes that make you feel powerful, and the handling should make most feel like descending legends. However, the Magma isn’t perfect, and I’m not talking about the vague aerodynamic claims.
As touched on, that 73º seat tube on my 52 cm sample just feels a little too slack. I certainly prefer a more forward riding position and a zero-offset post will only just let me get the saddle as far forward as I’d like.
However, my bigger concern is with the internal cable routing. With enough time cables rubbing on paint or carbon can wreak havoc, and I have my concerns about how the rear brake hose contacts the fork steerer tube.
The bike’s lead designer, Gisbert, believe it’s a non-issue. “With a properly cut hose length, that allows for ~90º rotation both left and right, the rubbing between hose and steerer is minimal,” he said. “For the rear brake hose, guide the hose around the steerer on the opposite side of the lever (for Moto style, with rear brake on the left hand, guide the hose around the right side of the steerer tube). The rear brake hose should enter the HeadTunnel on the same side as it will go around the steerer.”
And perhaps Gisbert is correct. My sample was setup with moto-style brakes, and with the rear brake hose entering the frame on the wrong side. Routed correctly (with the hoses crossing over each other for my moto-style brake setup), the issue would be reduced, but perhaps not entirely removed. The advice is to extend the insulation foam tube over the brake hose (already recommended to avoid rattles) to where it contacts the steerer. Another temporary fix could be to wrap the contacting area of the steerer in a slick, anti-abrasion tape. All that said, I still think Aurum should consider adding an internal clip or cable tie port in order to keep the brake hose entirely clear of the steerer.
That internal cable routing design also leaves a large mouth to the inside of the frame. Anyone who’s ridden with others in the pouring rain will know that road spray goes everywhere, and I do worry that such a funnel into the frame isn’t ideal. The supplied stainless steel headset bearings are likely to overcome this, but a rubber cover would likely be a nice addition.
Similarly, I think Aurum could have gone one step further with the design of that cable port plate. Segmenting that cable port plate (much like the split headset spacer designs of more integrated bikes) could allow for you to disconnect the front brake hose and replace the lower headset bearing. However, in the current form, you’ll need to cut the end of the brake hose if that lower headset bearing ever needs replacing.
There’s a lot to lava ’bout the Magma
Small issues aside, the fact that I’m praising a bike that lacks the integration of its counterparts is indeed quite telling. Many of the latest cleanly integrated bikes work wonderfully, but you’re at the mercy of what the brands figure is the best bar shape, bar angle, or stem angle. More importantly, I have real concerns about replacement part availability down the track. That fear is greatly reduced with a bike like the Magma.
As I’m writing this it’s become apparent that this bike just sounds like an all-rounder from a previous generation of bikes. And while there’s an element of truth to that, the Magma still manages to ride and feel as good as any other top-tier bike I’ve ridden in recent times.
I can’t say that Aurum has found the perfect balance of stiffness, weight, comfort and aerodynamics in the Magma. There’s a whole lot of subjectivity to what that perfect balance is, however, what’s evident is that Contador and Basso have created themselves a bike that they want to ride. For Aurum, that balance trends toward “feeling fast”, a bike that wastes nothing no matter what you give it. But the trade-off is a lack of absolute comfort or an impressive figure on the scales.
Perhaps the bigger question is whether Aurum has done enough to differentiate itself from other pre-existing premium options within this over-saturated market. That’s a tough one to answer, but I will say that they’ve successfully created a premium-feeling and -looking product that isn’t out of place at this top level.