Cervélo R5 eTap

The lat­est in­car­na­tion in Cervélo’s R "Se­ries, the new R5 comes with a racier ge­om­e­try and, as Pro­cy­cling’s War­ren Ros­siter dis­cov­ers, it’s one of the best all- rounders out there

Procycling - - Contents -

The all-new Cervélo R5 made its full­pro­duc­tion de­but at this year’s Giro d’Italia, and to great suc­cess, with Di­men­sion Data’s Omar Fraile tak­ing vic­tory on stage 11 in Bagno di Ro­magna. The win made this it­er­a­tion the lat­est in a long line of suc­cess­ful R-Se­ries bikes.

The first of the R-Se­ries’s suc­cess dates back to 2003 when Car­los Sas­tre and Tyler Hamil­ton were win­ning stages at the Tour de France rid­ing the R2.5. Two years later Cervélo de­buted the R3, be­fore Fabian Cancellara won Paris-Roubaix with it in 2006.

The R-Se­ries mod­els are Cervélo’s grand tour bikes, and the R5’s all-round ca­pa­bil­ity is de­signed for big climbs and high mileage days at fast speeds. Pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions of the R5 have all come and gone, but each bike has cen­tered on be­ing light­weight and stiff. The idea be­hind the R5 is de­rived from Cervélo’s Rca frame, which weighed in at 667g and was only re­cently sur­passed as the world’s light­est pro­duc­tion frame by Trek’s new 640g Emonda, the bike rid­den by Al­berto Con­ta­dor to his swan­song stage vic­tory on the Alto d’An­grilu at this year’s Vuelta a Es­paña.

The new bike isn’t de­signed to be the light­est on the mar­ket, though hit­ting the scales at 850g, it’s hardly a heavy­weight. In­stead, Cervélo have con­cen­trated on im­prov­ing the ride of the bike, so they’ve changed sim­ple things. For ex­am­ple, they’ve in­creased the tyre clear­ance to en­able a 28mm tyre on a wide rim with plenty of clear­ance (the pre­vi­ous ver­sion of the R5 only had clear­ance for 25s). They have also de­signed a seat­post with more flex.

Cervélo have also re­vised the bike’s ge­om­e­try. With Di­men­sion Data, they found their stan­dard ge­om­e­try meant that some pros who wanted a lower, more for­ward po­si­tion were ef­fec­tively siz­ing down, which could have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on sta­bil­ity and han­dling.

Cervélo started the tran­si­tion to a new ge­om­e­try stan­dard with the re­vised ver­sion of the S5 bike in 2015, where the stack was re­duced across the sizes to al­low for a lower po­si­tion. So now Cervélo will give you a pro fit (long and low) on the S5 and R5, with lower mod­els hav­ing a more sport-fo­cused shape.

For han­dling, Cervélo has looked at the trail, bot­tom bracket drop, wheel­base and chain­stay length. Trail can be thought of as the tyre con­tact patch be­hind an imag­i­nary line drawn through the head tube to the road. More trail adds sta­bil­ity and less makes it quicker to steer: the R gets a slightly re­duced trail fig­ure, giv­ing it faster han­dling.

The bot­tom bracket drop has been re­duced by 3mm to 72mm. Some of this change is to mit­i­gate the in­crease in tyre sizes, but it also low­ers the cen­tre of grav­ity to give the bike a more bal­anced feel through cor­ners. The chain­stay length is set at 410mm and front cen­tre is 594mm (on a 56cm frame) with a wheel­base of 993mm. The idea is to bal­ance front and rear so that the bike feels nim­ble but not twitchy.

Straight from the gate, the R5 feels taut. Stand­ing out of the sad­dle and stomp­ing on the ped­als is met with stun­ning ac­cel­er­a­tion; it feels like ev­ery ounce of your en­ergy through the pedal stroke is push­ing you for­ward, with no losses from flex through the frame. Where the bike re­ally sur­prises though is

When the road turns down­wards the R5 be­comes a truly im­pres­sive bike. The steer­ing re­sponses are spot on

that for a chas­sis which feels this stiff it cer­tainly doesn’t feel harsh. In fact, set­tle into the sad­dle and get up on the hoods and the R5 is sweetly smooth. The D-shaped car­bon post with its long, laid-back head of­fers plenty of com­pli­ance, which you can ac­tu­ally feel. If you ride into a pot­hole or ridge in the road the com­fort­able Fizik Antares sad­dle shifts fore and aft as the seat­post ab­sorbs the hit - it’s a weird feel­ing but not one that’s off-putting. It’s com­pli­ant, rather than harsh, which is what we’d have ex­pected from older gen­er­a­tions of the R-Se­ries bikes.

The Sram eTap driv­e­train works as well as we re­mem­ber. Yes, the shifts seem a lit­tle longer and de­lib­er­ate at the front than Shi­mano’s lat­est Di2 but we love the way that by re­mov­ing the ca­bles it gives the R5 a very clean ap­pear­ance. The non-eTap bikes have ca­ble route­ing through the top tube - be­hind the stem, like the S-Se­ries bikes - for aero­dy­namic rea­sons, but the sight of no ca­bles at all looks far, far cleaner. We tested a Dura-Ace ver­sion of this bike over three days dur­ing the Giro in north­ern Italy in May, and this eTap ver­sion cer­tainly looks cleaner and sim­pler, as looped-over ca­ble rout­ing can look a bit clut­tered on the bike.

The wheels are Zipp’s new 302 car­bon clinch­ers, which are the aero pioneers’ lat­est, more af­ford­able aero wheel - though they are £1,300 a pair. The shape isn’t nearly as bul­bous and blunt as their cur­rent 303 Firecrest de­sign, and the much more toroidal shape and slim­mer width is more akin to that of pre-Firecrest de­signs.

We were im­pressed with the tight build of the wheels. Their per­for­mance in some se­ri­ously windy con­di­tions was con­fi­dent, with lit­tle in the way of in­flu­ence from cross­winds and just the oc­ca­sional per­cep­tion of pres­sure push­ing the front wheel. Brak­ing in the dry is firm and noise­free. How­ever, they lack the feel given by the Show­stop­per brake track on pricier Zipp wheels. Their per­for­mance in wet weather was good but not great, as there was a slight lack of pro­gres­sive feel when try­ing to mod­u­late the speed rather than just stop­ping al­to­gether.

The Con­ti­nen­tal Grand Prix 25mm tyres pro­vide ex­cel­lent grip what­ever the weather, and while they’re not the best the brand has to of­fer, they still grip well, last well, roll well and of­fer de­cent punc­ture re­sis­tance

The new car­bon bar is stiff and very well shaped. We like the way in which the aero, flat tops slightly kick back to­wards you, so when you’re on a long, ex­tended climb and get into a rhythm on the tops your hand po­si­tion is spot on, and not in the usual el­bow­sout style you get when the sweep is more for­ward.

Our only crit­i­cism is that the front end does oc­ca­sion­ally feel solid, almost a lit­tle dead-feel­ing, like it’s boul­der­ing over rougher sur­faces rather than hav­ing a smoothly flow­ing, en­durance bike style - like the one you get with Cervélo’s C-Se­ries range. It’s a lit­tle at odds with the smooth­ness of the rear end. This is the re­sult of a com­bi­na­tion of the in­creased stiff­ness in the head tube and the stiff car­bon bar. You could drop the PSI in the tyres a lit­tle, or switch up to a 28mm tyre in­stead (as the frame now ac­cepts them) if you ride on par­tic­u­larly rough tar­mac, and that would help sort it for a smoother ride.

Climb­ing on the R5 is a joy. The com­bi­na­tion of the frame’s light­ness and a great range of gears all en­cour­age fast climbs, and the bal­ance that the frame ex­udes means you’ll be able to get out of the sad­dle more read­ily. When the road turns down­wards, the R5 be­comes an even more im­pres­sive bike, a truly in­cred­i­ble ride. The steer­ing re­sponses are just spot on, and the abil­ity to con­trol the bike through weight shifts to hit the apex through a hair­pin bend is among the best on a bike we’ve tested, and means the R5 is up there with some of our pre­vi­ous favourites, in­clud­ing Can­non­dale’s Su­perSix Evo and Bianchi’s Specialissima.

The re­vised ge­om­e­try which low­ers the front end will ap­peal to those wannabe rac­ers as well. We found the new shape was spot on, as it is not overly ag­gres­sive or low. How­ever, if you do pre­fer the older style ge­om­e­try the new ver­sion of the R3 uses it, or you could sim­ply put 10mm of spac­ers un­der the stem of the new R5.

In all, the new Cervélo R5 is a great all-rounder bike - per­haps one of the great­est. It climbs bril­liantly, de­scends like it’s on rails, and puts a huge grin on your face while you do it. Plus, its clos­est ri­vals that have a sim­i­larly high spec­i­fi­ca­tion, such as the new Spe­cial­ized Tar­mac and Trek Emonda SLR9, are £1,200 and £1,650 more ex­pen­sive re­spec­tively. Those sav­ings would buy you a se­ri­ously good train­ing bike so you could keep the R5 for your best rides.

The new racier ge­om­e­try al­lows riders to get longer and lower for a more pro style ! it

Zipp’s 302 clinch­ers per­form well in cross­winds, with good, though not great brak­ing Pros The han­dling is so sweet it’s almost tele­pathic; climbs will­ingly Cons Front end can feel ‘hard’ on oc­ca­sion; brake feel is not per­fect

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