Aurum is the exclusive bike brand from the multiple Grand Tour champions, Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso. Their two current road bike models, the Magma and Essentia, come with a Grand Tour price tag, with the top-spec version of the Magma priced at an eye watering €13,199. You do get the thirty years of combined experience in the pro peloton from Contador and Basso built-in though.
Aurum claims their bikes are the highest-performance available and they now throw their hats into the best gravel bike market with the new model, the Manto, which they say is the ultimate gravel racing bike. It follows the same fairly high pricing at €3,499, which is just for the frame, and with the same performance and principles as its road sibling, the Magma, but with gravel-specific geometry.
With the new Manto gravel model, Aurum has aimed to deliver an agile, light and fast machine. But as they did with the Magma road bike, they've also balanced the handling with claimed comfort and compliance for long rides, with plenty of stiffness while climbing and sprinting out of the saddle.
Alberto Contador added his thoughts on the new Manto. "After all the experience designing and developing the Magma, we decided to take on a gravel bike, a discipline that allows you to ride everywhere, get away from traffic if you like, and explore countryside paths, with the same spirit – the highest performance. We have spent countless hours riding it, fine-tuning it and thinking about how to make it better, to be worthy of sitting next to the Magma in our bike catalog."
Aurum claim to have created the fastest gravel bike on the market by balancing crucial riding characteristics. We delved further into these claims to find out more.
Conceived as a race machine, the Manto has a very similar rider position as the Magma, but adapted for gravel riding. While discussing gravel frame geometry, it was crucial to both Contador and Basso that the high-performance riding characteristics from the Magma would be translated to the Manto model. Aurum revised and adjusted the dimensions for the bigger gravel tires and the different characteristics of off-road riding.
Handling-wise, they have increased the front center and trail to gain stability with bigger tires, without decreasing the quick handling capabilities. The rider now sits more centered between the two wheels, which should increase the feeling of confidence in slippery or technical terrain while keeping an optimal riding position for maximum effort. This racy handling is present across the range of five frame sizes with geometry optimized for each size.
Aurum has used an 86mm wide bottom bracket, so the airfoil downtube of the Manto tapers out from the headtube to maximize torsional stiffness which forms the backbone of the Manto. The downtube dimensions of every frame size have been scaled individually for a proportionate stiffness level. Aurum say the result is consistent stiffness characteristics throughout the size range.
The seat tube on the Manto is designed to provide both stiffness and comfort. It tapers out at the lower end to connect smoothly to the bottom bracket, while the upper part of the tube is thinner and round for a more comfortable ride. The chainstays are tall and spaced apart, which makes for a strong structure that maximizes drivetrain efficiency and also allows for wider tires up to 45mm to be used.
Using aero-proven NACA airfoils, the Aurum aero-engineers designed the best-fitting tube profiles. These tubes are mainly based on the wind-tunnel-tested Magma, but enlarged to match the wider rims and tires used for gravel riding. The tubes got their trailing edge truncated at different depths depending on the frame size and the torsional stiffness needed from each area. A properly truncated airfoil can remain as aero as the full-depth profile, with the benefits of reduced weight and volume.
In addition to the claimed well-balanced mix of stiffness, comfort, racing geometry and light weight, Aurum also add that aerodynamics play an important role in gravel riding as well, to maintain speed and stability. For the Manto, the engineering team focused on the aero shape development for the headtube, downtube and fork legs especially, as these are the primary surfaces to battle the aero drag, and then blended them smoothly with the other areas of the frame.
ECT carbon fiber
Achieving a low weight was an important goal for the Manto project. However, it was not the main focus of the development, as having balanced riding characteristics was deemed more important. Quite often reaching for the last gram of savings can result in a loss of structural strength or riding comfort. At the same time, too much focus on the weight figures could constrain the aerodynamic optimized shaping which is designed to contribute to higher speed in most riding situations.
Aurum's ECT (Experience Carbon Technology) is about using the right type and grade of carbon for each area of the frame, combined with an intricately optimized layup to avoid excess overlapping of fiber plies. This layup also varies depending on the frame size – which adds another level of complexity. This type of technology means additional costs and complexity, but for Aurum, they say it is essential to achieve the goal of high performance.
The inside of the frame is formed by EPS mandrels covered in Latex, used for best compaction and inner surface smoothness. Heavy, high-grade steel molds are machined, allowing higher molding pressure to create a stronger, lighter structure, with better surface smoothness.
The result of using high-pressure, precision molds combined with Latex-covered EPS mandrels is a smooth, compact structure in and out, resulting in being lighter yet stronger.
The Aurum Manto will be available in three colors (Castilla, Astur and Mediterráneo) and in five sizes (48, 51, 54, 56 and 58). Builds come in frame only priced at €3,499 and frame, cockpit and seatpost at €3,999. Currently there is no option for a complete build, so the price will jump significantly depending on groupset and wheels you choose to add. For more information and to order direct check out aurumbikes.com.