If you've been watching this year's Tour de France then you'll have probably seen the likes of Jonas Vingegaard and Wout Van Aert aboard their Cervelo S5 and R5 race bikes. It's clear that both bikes are precision tools for their aero and climbing roles respectively, but what if you want one bike that can do it all? Well, Cervelo does in fact make a bike to fulfil that exact purpose; it's called the Soloist, and we've had a play!
Over the last three weeks, Jonas Vingegaard has been putting his Cervelo R5 climbing bike (above) to good use; it's the bike of choice for Team Jumbo Visma when the road starts going upwards. It's also the R5 that has already been ridden to both Giro d'Italia and Tour de France success this year.
Unlike many brands, Cervelo offers its sponsored teams/riders multiple bikes, and so for flat and rolling stages where aero is the key to success it's the Cervelo S5 (above) that's first out the garage (and also first over the line!).
But most of us mere mortals don't have the need, space or finances for two WorldTour-level bikes, so what happens if you put the R5 and the S5 in a room together and turn off the lights…? We imagine it would look quite like this!
Like most people's, my day-to-day riding doesn’t look anything like Van Aert's or Roglic’s; rather, it includes quite a few more lanes, potholes and, of course, cafes.
Then at the weekends I like to test myself against other local riders whether that's in the local crit, road race or simply on a group ride, which inevitably ends up getting a bit competitive.
I, therefore, want a bike that’s quite literally the best of both worlds, something that offers low weight, like the R5, space to fit some nice wide tyres, and a frame that puts its middle finger up to the wind, like the S5, so that when I get dropped I can't blame the bike... Well, the Soloist claims to be all those things, so let’s take a closer look.
Obviously, the first thing you notice about any bike is the looks, so let’s start there. I personally think that this is a stunning looking bike, and as with many of the latest models to be released, the cables and hoses are now neatly integrated – you didn’t find that on the original Soloist!
The integrated cables bring with them some claimed aero gains, but what I’m most happy to see is that they’re routed under the stem rather than through it. This means that you can tune your fit by changing handlebars and stem length without having to rebleed the brakes. It also makes life much easier if you ever want to pack it up in a box for trips away.
I’m also a big fan of the three colourschemes that Cervelo offers: Alpenglow White, Gold Dust and Embers, as shown here, though you really have to see it in the flesh to do it justice.
The new frame features more clearance than most road race bikes out there, with space for up to 34mm tyres, in fact. The UK roads are getting a bit tired these days and show no signs of improving, and that’s forced me onto wider rubber, and to be honest I can’t ever see myself going back.
I’m now racing on 28mm tyres and am struggling to see the negatives. And then for training I’m opting for even wider than that, often 32s, as the increased rolling resistance is minimal, and the lower pressures and comfort are well worth it.
Of course, to make this bike look and perform even better you could consider upgrading the wheels – for example, to a set of carbon deeps.
I had the chance to put some miles in on a set of Reserve 40/44 wheels, the wheelset that the range-topping Soloists come with.
Not everyone is familiar with Reserve; it's a sister company to Cervelo and I’m pretty confident that its wheels will be gaining popularity in the UK as Jumbo Visma show us what they're capable of during the 2023 season.
Beyond the frame itself, a wheelset upgrade is one of the biggest changes you can make to the way a bike rides, and a modern set of carbon hoops like these can increase your speed with far less of the scary twitchiness of carbon deeps of old.
In fact, I’d happily use this 40/44 wheelset year-round, and they do look cool! Not only are these light, super wide and tubeless ready, but Reserve says that it's developed them using “turbulent aero” which means that they work in the real world and not just on a sheet of paper or in the wind tunnel.
The road bikes out there that do offer this much clearance all seem to be rather endurance orientated. Now, I don’t have anything against endurance bikes, they’re absolutely great for just that, endurance rides, and Cervelo offers the perfect companion with the Caledonia model.
However, the Soloist lifts the handling geometry straight from the R5 climbing race bike. Cervelo says it's a platform with "poise, stability, and precision" and we have to agree.
Moving down below deck and you’ll find the Cervelo engineers have been doing some more recycling. The BBRight 47 threaded bottom bracket is exactly the same standard that you’ll find on the R5-CX. Threaded bottom brackets stir up plenty of emotions, but I like them...
It may come as a surprise, but I, like most people, don’t have a pro team mechanic following me around, and that means that when I inevitably test another crankset or nick a groupset off another bike, it’s up to me to install it. Personally, I find it easier to install threaded BBs as opposed to press-fit. I've spent far too many hours hammering and swearing at poor fitting press-fit bearings over the years!
Speaking of groupsets, remember mechanical groupsets? Oh yes, we know there are some fans out there. Well, this bike can run them; you can even buy it off the shelf with the ever-faithful Shimano 105 mechanical. How about that for a premium bike released in the last few years!?
So, some numbers. Weight-wise, the Soloist frame sits slap bang in the middle of the R5 and S5, 250g heavier than the R5, and 250g lighter than the S5. Drag-wise, the boffins at Cervelo like to use grams to measure drag… they claim that it’s 190g slower than the S5, but 126g faster than the R5.
Paper is all well and good, but what’s to love even more is that it works out in the real world. You and I can’t quantify a frame's aero drag out on the road, but on my rolling testing loop I can tell you that there are bikes that feel fast and bikes that feel slow; this is firmly the former.
Cervelo says that the Soloist is the ‘just-right’ answer for the rider trying to find a smart, intentional compromise... which sounds kind of expensive...
Well, in actual fact the Soloist bucks recent trends and comes in significantly less than its WorldTour parents. Build them up like-for-like and this new Soloist comes in around £2,500 cheaper than the super aero S5, and £1,400 less than the equivalent R5 mountain goat – some seriously significant dosh.
It’s not like Cervelo has skimped on the componentry either. All but the lowest spec Soloist come with the excellent 28mm Vittoria Corsa N.Ext TLR G2.0 tyres, and all have Selle Italia saddles. And as with all Cervelo models, there is no change in the frame material through the builds, so even your entry-level bike has a WorldTour quality frameset with a lifetime warranty.
Of course, there are other brands out there also taking this “one bike does it all” approach. The key distinction in my mind is that whereas many bikes are designed and developed for 10 super-keen, skinsuited-up pros, the Cervelo engineers have taken all their proven WorldTour pedigree and combined it into a bike that’s actually designed for the likes of me and you; the competitive amateur who wants speed and reliability without compromising serviceability, durability or looks.
So, rather than going out and copying the pros, maybe the Soloist is the answer to your next bike dilemma.
For more information on the builds, prices and technology, visit:
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Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...