Mike's post nailed it yesterday, so hopefully without kitchen sinking the thing, I'll give more details into why "groad bike" and not "grountain bike" for me and how I came to the choice I did.
Webster Hill Road in Pomfret is a favorite. Getting there takes a 20' climb which you can do on paved (Pomfret Rd) or not paved (Cloudland Rd), and it accesses about 30 "this is the prettiest place I've ever been" dirt roads.
As Mike said, I do a high percentage of my riding on the road. Despite drivers and roads getting worse every year, I like road riding. Many of you likely know that I've been able to do a lot of riding in central VT this year, and the road riding there is just insane. So is the mountain biking, and so is the dirt road riding. I say "dirt road" very purposefully, as that's what they are. They're often smoother than paved roads, but you've got loose stuff on them and of course the more than occasional big rut. They also don't have any grade restrictions, and some of these things are STEEP. When I get together with friends we'll sometimes go for a crazier route with more Mike-type stuff on it, but as nice as the concept is I'm not going bike packing or doing 7 hour rides. A Vermont Overland-type of event or two per year will be nice, but that's probably the far reach of it. And then when in RI, it's really road riding and also some sandy/loamy forest roads.
"Gravel" in the RI/MA south coast looks a lot like this.
So I didn't want any suspension or a bike that was wicked slack and too much focused on stuff where I'd really rather be on my mountain bike. I don't need a ton of mounts or anything like that, I'm not going deep in the backcountry on this thing. I generally like Cannondale but AI dishing was a no-go for me. That narrowed my option set to bikes that look a whole lot like cross bikes, and I almost bought a cross bike about 5 times in the last few years, but something made me wait. I love the idea of a Seven or a Moots, and we love the people at Habanero so I considered that, and the Cervelo Aspero made its way into my shopping cart a few times. And then the Aethos came along, and I was smitten. Call it what you will, but I love the round tubed, bike-flavored bike look of the thing, and that the design mandate is "this should ride as well as a road bike can." No aero stuff (not that there's anything wrong with that, it just doesn't flip my switch), but perfectly aimed at the "road" half of my portmanteau. Of course it didn't address the "g" I wanted to put in front of "road," but supremely compelling nonetheless.
Fueled by the views. This is looking east toward NH from Joe Ranger Road in Quechee, VT.
When the Crux hit, in all honesty my perfect bike was there. It was more than I wanted to spend (for the record I didn't get the S-Works version), and the brand is incongruous with a lot of what I'm about, but they built my perfect bike. Even down to the color (mine's like the one below). There's a funny story about how the actual purchase went down, but my size and preferred color was in a shop window and that was all she wrote.
The build is going to be mostly from leftovers, in equal parts because the frame took a lot of the budget, because I have a good supply of nice leftovers, and because you can't get any parts these days. So it will be mostly Force 1x, with a Wolf Tooth 42t chain ring and Red brake calipers (all I could get, and my post-mount Force calipers don't fit). FSA SL-K bars/stem/post. Selle Italia SLR saddle (I'm a princess for that shape). Single-side Garmin Rally SPD power meter pedals (a splurge). Perforated black bar tape with pink under the perforations that I hope looks cool installed. Eventually we're headed for eTap but for now it's mechanical.
The 1x thing is a bit of a conundrum for me. If the frame took mechanical 2x, I'd do that, but it doesn't so I'm dipping a toe back into 1x here.
So the most important question - if that's the bike, how about the two sets of wheels? Well the rims are easy. The "road" set is Cafe Racers and the "gravel" set is All Road 35s. The road tires are going to be ~ 32mm, and the gravel tires are almost certainly going to be 38mm Schwalbe G-One All Around (the pair I already own that still has good life in it). All tires will be tubeless. The hubs are keeping me up at night. I'd happily use any of the brands we sell - we really wouldn't sell them if we didn't want to use them. I think the Cafe Racers are going to get a set of Bitex in oil slick finish, because I think it will look cool. The All Roads will likely get a set of silver WI CLDs. I'm doing color-matched rim decals because, again, I'm precious and because I can and there's vinyl that's a darn close match to the papaya accent color.
Because I still absolutely love riding my HOT BUNS I'll keep it as a spare/loaner bike, but she's getting a bit tired. The 10 year old steerer tube that's been through hell and back makes me a bit nervous sometimes, and the vanishing clear coat makes the bike look like it's got eczema. But it's been a great bike and I love it so I'll keep it ready to ride. It will be nice to have a bike that we can actually use in photos.
It's a busy month for me so it's not too likely that I'll get this built before about Thanksgiving, when we'll go see the Women's World Cup at Killington. Once it's built, I'll post photos so you can see the finished product.