Rocky Mountain Element 990 RSL BC Edition BIKE TEST
Cervelo first unveiled their R series in 2005 under the CSC squad of Bjarne Riis. Through several re-designs and test pilots from Fabian Cancellara to Mark Cavendish, the Canadian company continues to impress.
The new R3 and R5 bicycles have placed an emphasis on fit, handling and comfort – and these were the impetus behind the much anticipated changes.
The racier and more exotic R5 that was first debuted under the Dimension Data squad at the 2017 Tour of Dubai has had its head tube lowered after feedback from the team about getting low and aerodynamic on their race bikes. In fact, of the two size 56s that Pedal was lucky enough to get hold of, the head tube on the R5 was 8mm shorter than the older version.
Both framesets have experienced some changes in hopes of improving the handling. The wheelbase has actually been lengthened and the bottom bracket was lowered 72mm, giving the frames an increased trail of 57mm. This will allow the frames to accommodate the popular 28mm tires – an adjustment from Cervelo that came from wheel manufacturing data that confirmed increased aerodynamics with wider tires.
As we touched on prior, the R5 is the race model and had been designed for speed and performance. Toronto’s own Graham Shrive, a Cervelo engineer, felt that the carbon Squoval tube-shaped walls (think square and oval tubes combined) could not be thinner, so the weight of the frame remains the same – perhaps that’s why they refer to it as the Squoval Max. The tubes have been re-designed to fortify crosssections and to squeeze every ounce of performance out of what is left. The difference is a 21% increase in torsional stiffness, along with a 13% increase in the bottom bracket stiffness and an overall 10% lighter weight overall on the rim model and 16% on the disc model.
Yet it is the R3 that has been garnering a lot of attention lately as the ride is boasting some qualities that many are happy to report. Focusing on weight and the stiffness-to-weight ratio, the R3 is now as light as the old R5. Using the same Squoval tube shape while also being able to accommodate a 28mm tire, the R3 has a higher stack height up front and a lower stand-over height with extra toe clearance at the pedals. These changes make it a more comfortable ride with exceptional performance. The R3 also boasts a 4% stiffer head tube and 4% stiffer bottom bracket.
The R3 and R5 frames have both had some trick alterations to augment the overall product. An integrated chain-stay protector has been designed to alleviate chain suck. A cable management platform on the downtube (which is as wide as the UCI will allow) will be able to accommodate all future derailleur and brake systems. The R5 has spring-loaded thru axles (Rapid Axle Technology) on all models while the R3 has it on the disc model only.
One difference to note in the two frames is the seat collar. The R3 utilizes the traditional seat collar while the R5 introduces new technology with an integrated hidden seat clamp.
The R5 has been getting most of the attention on the race scene as Cervelo touts it as the stiffest rim brake-equipped road frame it has ever produced. It also arrives with an integrated cockpit set-up that introduces new AB06 bars with space for the Di2 junction box inside, and it’s more comfortable and aerodynamic than its predecessor. Add in the CS26 carbon stem that also allows for internal Di2 routing and you have a very clean sight line from the top tube.
Pedal Magazine’s Cervelos both arrived dressed in Shimano’s 11-speed mechanical Dura Ace 9100 gruppo. The major difference, straight away, was the wheelset they were spec’d with. The R5 has a Mavic Kysrium Elite package while the R3 houses the Mavic Aksium wheelset.
Excited to test both at the same time, I couldn’t resist throwing a leg over the R5 first. Sleek and stealthy, the R5 is as smooth as any high-end carbon machine in terms of tracking straight. With its purported new pro fit, stable and responsive handling, and unrivalled stiffness, the test was sure to be fun.
Standing up and testing the stiffness is unparalleled. The bike jumps at every watt you throw at the drivetrain. Absolutely no lateral flex, and any such feelings on steep inclines was via the wheelset and componentry. It handles incredibly smoothly through tight corners, giving a controlled feeling of confidence. Under severe braking, the front end performs admirably as it soaks up the torque and again tracks very straight and smooth.
We anticipated the ride to be smooth and fast as the pro riders had pressed Cervelo to lower their bikes and make them as fast as possible. With the refined geometry and subtle changes to the frameset, the bike has progressed into a smooth but quickly adaptable ride. Stomping up some short, steep inclines, the bike snaps forward and is quick to impress.
Longer rides of three to four hours were not a problem as long as the bike is dialed in. With a stem length that is perfect, your favourite saddle and comfortable shoes makes a huge difference on a high-end, incredibly stiff ride like this.
Already winning stages in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France under Edvald Bossan Hagan, the jury is “in” with regards to the performance and competency of this renowned bike.
The R3 test was an entirely different feel that maintained Cervelo’s renowned race-fit geometry. Focused on its stiffness-to-weight ratio, the R3 frame is said to be lighter, stiffer and more aerodynamic than its predecessor – and the ride proved it.
This bike has an incredibly comfortable feel with respect to dampening and overall ride quality. Geometry and pro-fit engineering have plenty to do with creating this effect and riders from novice to pro will be able to feel it.
Performance is absolutely there as the R3 handles everything I threw at it from sharp cornering to quick accelerations on climbs. The Dura Ace gruppo has a lot to do with inspired performance, but the shifting, shifting under pressure, braking and braking under pressure were exceptional. Tracking through corners and longer descents was a pleasure as everything works so nicely in unison.
As the bike certainly checks all the important boxes, I was left scratching my head why it would be spec’d with a Mavic Aksium wheelset. If there is room for improvement on such an accomplished ride, it definitely would be an upgrade to the wheelset.
Available in both rim and disc brake versions by the end of 2017, in multiple build and price options, the colours remain stealthy matte black/green for the R5 and an attractive blue/red for the R3.
Components $6,500 Weight Price n/a Shimano 9100, 11-speed Dura-Ace
Cervélo Frame/Fork All-Carbon,
Tapered R3 Fork
Geometry Head tube 73°, Seat-tube 73°
48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61
Suprisingly incredible ride
Shimano Components $9,000 Weight n/a Dura-Ace
9100, Frame/Fork 11-speed Cervélo Tapered All-Carbon, R5 Fork
Geometry Head tube 73°, Seat-tube 73°
48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61
Ultimate race bike