Cape Town firm Cabal launched its second-generation race-snake bike – the Cabal Aero 2 – in November 2021 – and boy, is it fast. And fun. Fast and fun. We first rode a Cabal in late 2017 – the introductory Ascent 1.0. It was a frame dedicated to the mountain goats, a svelte 870g unit with relatively old-school looks, but thoroughly modern ride qualities. Four years later, we got another bite at the Cabal cherry.
What do you get out of the box? First – will you just look at that paint job! I know, we shouldn’t start there; but goodness, she is a beauty. Actually, starting with the end of the process is a good idea, as it speaks to the eye for detail Cabal shows in all aspects of the bike’s journey from concept to your lounge. The signs of top workmanship are clear. There are no alignment issues, not even a creaky press-fit BB, and that attention to detail comes through in the ride.
The custom pre-preg Japanese Torayca T800 carbon lay-up makes for as stiff a ride as you could ever want from a carbon machine, but with enough compliance to keep you wanting to ride further. The 1 080g frame will accept 28mm tyres (our test rig had 25s), should you really need to ride something this fast silly distances; but for the couple-of-hour rides we managed to fit in on the Aero 2, there was no cause for long-ride comfort concerns. The Fabric Scoop saddle helps with that – again, a nod to a bike specced by people who actually ride.
You will need to factor in the overall attitude of the bike when sizing and fitting; it is a properly slammed race machine. Part of every Cabal sale is a professional bike fit. The firm believes that the only fast bike is one that fits – and this customisation is carried through from the factory to your door.
A low stack height and a sleek, integrated bar/stem combo ensure a fast, aero position to go with the smooth, F1-inspired aero touches on the frame: Kamm tails abound, the rear wheel is perfectly foiled by the seat tube, the head- and down-tubes meet and separate in the slipperiest way possible. And the fork, the svelte naked-carbon seat post and the 22mm internal-width, 40mm-deep ARD40 wheels have all been aero-optimised.
Ride the wind
So on paper, a sleek machine that wants for nothing, performance-wise; even with a lower-tier SRAM Force Hydro mechanical groupset. But how would that translate, out on the road?
Unfortunately (or fortunately, from a Strava perspective), our short test period with the Aero 2 coincided with Cape Town’s first black south-easter week of summer. 35km/h winds don’t necessarily offer the best experience, especially with deep-section wheels… but actually, the ARD40s were quite manageable. The slammed, long stem on the super-stiff bar/stem combo helped catch the side gusts before they became problematic, and then came into its own (as did the wheels) when I hit the tail-wind home stretch.
The power transfer is immediate, through the frame, the wheels and the bars. My PB list on Strava bears that out, even allowing this old codger to dip into some all-comer top-tens for the first time in a while. The Aero 2 encourages you to find all your watts to get you up to speed – it feels so immediate, and so lively. And once you’re there, maintaining that speed is, um, a breeze.
Longer climbs and sweeping descents are less accommodated by the speedy nature of the Aero 2 – not because of the tech at all, just by virtue of the long, low position, which makes full-gas comfort challenging when you’re battling gravity for long periods; and accuracy on the downhills is critical. Think tight criterium handling, rather than languid alpine cornering – again, this is a race bike, and concentration and confidence are both required and rewarded.
You won’t find a Cabal in your local bike shop, and for good reason: buying one is a personal, fully-customised process that starts with a pro bike fit, and travels through optimising every aspect of the paint job (Jared at BMC in Cape Town can create anything you want) and speccing the ideal stem, bar and crank dimensions, to build a bike that is you. Off-the-shelf is great, but only if it fits; Cabal deconstructs all of that, and together you rebuild – for you.
The Aero 2 is certainly not entry-level, in the road-bike pyramid (the Force 22-equipped one we rode is the lowest in the range, at a shade under R70k); but that’s simply because the firm focuses on race-ready machinery for the rider who has worked his or her way up through the bike hierarchy, and is ready for some zero-compromise.
And the usual caveat about back-up and warranties when buying a bike that doesn’t come from one of the manufacturing giants isn’t a factor; the founders have built the business around a personal touch, accessibility, back-up and customisation, and they partner with established bike shops across the country who take care of the technical side of things.
Cabal Aero 2: The Takeaway
A handful of refinements and updates (and that paint job!) all help the Aero 2 maintain Cabal’s place on our list of favourites. Just remember that this is a pure race machine; it will reward you for every watt you provide, but it does demand some all-day-adventure sacrifice.
Price: R69 000 (as tested)
Weight: 7.53kg (56cm) |