We review the Cervelo S5 road bike
Cervelo’s S5 frameset is structurally unchanged for 2013 but it has gained a smart new paint scheme – largely matt black, but relieved by a light grey panel on the wide seat tube – and bold graphics, which reduce the impression of frame bulk caused by its uncompromising quest for aerodynamic performance.
FRAME AND FORK
The original aero road bike company still has one of the most aerodynamic machines in the S5, and if it ain’t broke, why fix it? The slender head tube looks almost delicate head-on, but as with most of the S5, has a far bigger lateral profile for strength. Internal gear cables neatly enter the top tube just behind the stem and don’t impede handling, while the rear brake cable passes through the top tube.
Cervelo’s clever dropped down tube design almost eliminates the space between front tyre and frame, preventing air from swirling between them, and is subtly integrated with the narrow fork crown. The fork blades have a knife-like appearance, echoed by the upper portion of the down tube, which flares out to shroud the bottle cage mounts before reaching the epically-proportioned bottom bracket area.
The seat tube follows a curved path upwards, closely hugging the rear wheel, and the short, bladed seatstays help shield the rear brake from the wind. The chainstays are simply massive – so much so that fitting the rear wheel requires a special technique to avoid trapping the chain. The aero seatpost offers two clamp positions – one for conventional riding, plus a more tri-friendly forward set-up – with enough adjustment to suit all tastes.
The S5 is only available as a frameset. This includes a seatpost, headset and bottom bracket as well as the frame and fork, and is available either as tested or in a loftier VWD spec, as used by Team Garmin-Sharp. Both are compatible with mechanical or electronic cabling.
Cervelo’s UK distributors Madison built up our test bike with the new mechanical 11-speed Shimano Dura-Ace 9000, which addresses all of the shortcomings of the previous groupset for simply imperious operation. The tough aluminium PRO Vibe stem and PLT bar were comfy and workmanlike, and the aluminium-and-carbon Dura-Ace C35 clinchers proved themselves to be fast and bombproof all-rounders. Our first experience of PRO’s Turnix saddle was a revelation – it felt super-supportive and comfy even on five-hour rides.
The build tested would cost £6,596 if you paid the full RRP for all the components, but we’re sure you could spec a similar bike a fair bit cheaper if you hunted around for some bargains.
After a few shakedown rides at home, we took the S5 to Lanzarote for a week – surely one of the spiritual homes of aero machines. The chassis is weightier than some, but with sensible rather than exotic finishing kit, our test bike’s overall weight of 7.29kg was still very reasonable. Because of the long head tube, we sized down to a 54cm frame, which still gave plenty of room to stretch out to an aggressive position.
The Cervelo feels solid and stable, with a thirst for speed. On long, straight roads into headwinds the bike’s aero advantages are apparent, helping you to maintain good average speeds with less perceived effort than your riding buddies, and downhill, just getting into an aero tuck gives acceleration that even heavier riders can’t match.
Expecting it to be windy, we figured that 35mm-deep rims would be a sensible choice on the flat without hurting too much up- or downhill. The hybrid C35s aren’t super-light but they’re certainly no hindrance, accelerating quickly enough to win multiple town-sign sprints, climbing well and resisting ravaged roads without fuss. When crosswinds are a factor, especially when descending, the S5’s stability helps to offset the wind tugging at the front wheel, and only once at 45mph did we need to ease up.
Those giant chainstays and the huge BBright bottom bracket transmit every watt to the rear wheel, with no trace of power-sapping flex. The aero seatstays aren’t built for comfort though, and pass every road ripple through to your behind. The front end is comfortable enough but the S5 isn’t a bike for the cobbles, and rough roads will build fatigue sooner than on some of the Cervelo’s rivals.
The frame resists lateral flex amazingly well for one so slim, never allowing it to intrude on the ride, and the S5 is an able climber. Handling is generally predictable and precise, but our riding partners did comment on how many bites we sometimes had to take at corner apexes when pushing hard or in the wind – something which wasn’t ideal in close company. On some tight downhill bends it seemed impossible to hold a smooth line. We put this down to wind acting against the side of the frame and wheels, and also the front end rigidity, which reduces cornering feel compared to some of the other bikes on test, especially on rough surfaces.
- Frame and fork
Size tested 54cm
Sizes available 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Weight as tested 7.29kg
Frame weight 1,040g
Fork weight 350g
Frame Cervelo S5, carbon
Fork Cervelo FK26 UL, carbon
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace 9000, 53/39T
Bottom bracket SRAM BBright, press-fit
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace 9000, 11-speed, 11-25T
Chain Shimano Dura-Ace 9000
Derailleurs Shimano Dura-Ace 9000
Shifters Shimano Dura-Ace 9000
Front Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 C35
Rear Shimano Dura-Ace 9900 C35
Tyres Continental GP4000s
Wheel weight 680g/850g
- Other components
Stem PRO Vibe, alloy
Bars PRO PLT Ergo, alloy
Saddle PRO Turnix
Seatpost Cervelo Aero
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace 9000
+ As fast as it looks
+ Clear aero advantages
– All those aero features don’t come cheap
– Very rigid rear end and occasionally uncertain steering