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Cervelo's R5 is an excellent all-rounder. For everything from long and steep climbs to big rides over questionable surfaces, it's sufficiently light and supremely comfortable. The aero touches and stiff frame meant I was equally happy pacing around the flat and sprinting up short climbs. Of course, there are lighter and more aero bikes, but the blend of qualities here is just so.
I have to say, I wasn't blown away when I was first setting up the Cervelo R5. In my hands, sure, it wasn't at all heavy, but equally, it didn't quite have that feathery feel of a build that plays around the 6.8kg UCI weight limit. Once I was out and rolling, though, the R5 quickly began to show how wrong I was to take just one metric and focus on that in isolation.
Plump but quick rolling tyres and a super-comfortable seatpost made for a smooth – and, ultimately, fast – ride over the coarse tarmac of South Wales' most significant climbs. On the ungodly steep ramps of the smaller roads, where I'm searching for every watt, I was thankful for just how direct the power transfer felt – particularly the lack of flex around the head tube.
Of course, if you were riding a bike a kilo lighter, you'd likely come back with even more flattering times, but there's plenty the R5 still has left to offer.
On the way back down those hills, for me, the handling was spot on. The movements of my hips translated exactly to the lines I wished to take – the results were immediate, yet still with the feeling of being in complete control. Although one caveat to the excellence of the geometry for descending is that the relatively short front centre leads to some pretty significant toe overlap on tighter switchback climbs.
Although not an aero bike, it's still a pleasure ticking over at higher speeds. On a trip back to the more rolling terrain of Sussex, it didn't feel like a constant fight keeping the pace up – and would have been faster still with a set of deeper wheels. Of course, if you really wanted to maximise speed on the flat, you'd go for a different bike, but it's nice to still get a flavour of that on just the one.
And although not a plodding endurance bike, the ease with which it's possible to adjust the stem height and the exceptional comfort from that D-shaped seatpost has meant I've been more than happy on the R5 for rides up to six hours.
Cervelo claims that the new R5 is 130g lighter than the previous model, with a claimed weight of 703g in a size 56cm. This is impressively light, although not boundary pushing – not many frames slip in under the 700g mark, but there are a few.
The other big change from the previous iteration regards the stiffness. I didn't ride that model, but David Arthur said: 'For the most part it's reasonably smooth, but get onto a patch of broken tarmac and it struggles to soak up the vibrations and sends the shocks through to the contact points.'
Addressing those criticisms, Cervelo has reworked the fork to retain its lateral stiffness while dialling back the longitudinal stiffness. Presumably the new fork helps soak up some of the vibrations that would otherwise travel through the cranks to your pedals and feet.
The seatpost itself is super flexy too – just resting my arm on it makes it move noticeably.
Additional cushioning can be provided by the tyres, with widths of up to 34mm able to be accommodated by the generous clearances.
The bottom bracket area, though, is quite overbuilt to minimise flex when pedalling and it still uses a press-fit interface rather than a switch back to threaded – as some brands are doing.
Being a race bike, the front end is pretty low at 547mm in a size 54cm. That's 1mm higher than the Canyon Ultimate but 10mm lower than the Merdia Scultura – so quite aggressive for a climbing bike.
The reach, on the other hand, is notably short at just 380mm (Ultimate 385mm; Scultura 395mm). Combined with the steep 73-degree head angle, this leads to a fairly significantly degree of toe overlap. Naturally there are things you can do – shorter cranks and longer stems – but this is the canvas you're working from.
With 410mm chainstays, the rear end is pretty middle of the road for race bikes, which tend to sit in the range of 405-415mm. However, the seat angle is notably slack at 73 degrees.
Cervelo does have its own particular views on bike geometry and there's no way of really knowing how it will all come together before simply riding it. My experience was that everything meshed brilliantly, just with the proviso that I had to be careful of the position of my cranks on the tightest switchbacks.
Cervelo has made the pretty bold move of designing the frame to be electronic groupset only, something we will probably be seeing more of on race models.
All the components we have here are from SRAM's second-tier Force line, with hydraulic braking and 160mm rotors front and rear, as well as a crankset-based power meter as standard.
The gearing is 48/35t chainrings with a 10-33t 12-speed cassette, giving a huge amount of range. To put that into perspective, the top gear is larger than a 52x11 combination, while the bottom gear also manages to be smaller than the 34x32 combination typical of a generously geared endurance bike.
The 10-33t 12-speed cassette also manages to cram in more single-tooth jumps than you get on a racing 'classic' 11-28t 11-speed cassette. This makes the jumps between more of the gears that bit smaller and therefore smoother. At least, for the most part. The jump between the second largest 28t sprocket and final 33t sprocket is pretty massive – but I can't complain as every time I've reached for it I've been very much glad to have it.
The wheels are the Reserve 34/37s which have differing rim heights of (no prizes for guessing) 34mm at the front and 37mm for the rear. The set comes with a claimed weight of 1,300g, which is really quite light, although again, not boundary pushing.
Along with the depth, the internal rim width varies between the wheels as well, the front being really quite wide at 24mm and the rear a more modest 22mm. Together, the differing rim profiles are supposed to provide a better balance between stability, weight, and optimal aerodynamics.
They are fairly shallow, but still provide an aerodynamic boost and you benefit from not being pushed about as much as you would in crosswinds if you were riding deeper section wheels. This is definitely something I appreciated on exposed roads; as a lighter rider the differences can be more obvious – for the better in this case.
Wrapping the wheels are a pair of Vittoria Corsa G2.0 tyres in a nominal 25mm width, although they measured up to bang on 28mm at the rear and fractionally wider still at the front, thanks to those roomy internal rim widths.
Like the rims, the tyres are tubeless ready for lower rolling resistance and added defence against punctures. The bike came set up with inner tubes and I didn't swap them out for sealant, yet I still never punctured. Considering the roads that some of my 'optimistic' route planning has led me down, that is quite an impressive track record.
Up front is Cervelo's own HB13 Carbon handlebar paired with an ST31 Carbon stem. The first thing to mention is that, although the cable routing is entirely hidden, the cables actually run in a groove in the handlebar, rather than being threaded internally, while the headset spacers are split and can be stacked on top of the stem.
Being able to easily adjust the stack height without cutting or bleeding anything would have gone without saying on most bikes half a decade ago – but for the current crop of race bikes this is one of the better designs.
The ergonomics of the bar, with its 80mm reach and 123mm drop, are quite compact, but not unusually so. The flattened tops of the bar might well save a little drag, but do stop you from playing around with the roll of the handlebar, though this didn't really need that kind of tweaking.
I've already talked about the seatpost, with its significant degree of flex that you can literally see when resting your arm on it. Perched on top is Prologo's short and rounded Scratch M5 PAS TiRox saddle.
Its padding is separated into five zones, with the foam density tailored in each for optimal support, while the fairly long central cutout helps with relieving pressure and promoting blood flow to prevent numbness and discomfort.
Priced at £8,599, this is certainly an expensive option for a bike built up with SRAM Force eTap AXS.
The Cervelo R5 is expensive, even for a bike of this spec level. It's also not ultra light – if striving for the minimum mass weighs most heavily on your mind, you'd likely be happier on a Specialized Aethos or Canyon Ultimate. But as a genuine all-rounder that's quite easy to live with, the R5 stands out.
Fantastically fast all-rounder that also delivers impressive amounts of comfort
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cervelo R5 Force eTap AXS
Size tested: 54
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame – Cervelo R5 all-carbon, disc brake compatible, 12mm x 100mm / 142mm thru-axle (F/R), internal brake hose routing
Fork – Cervelo R5 all-carbon, tapered steerer tube
Headset – FSA IS2 1-1/4 x 1-1/2
Bottom Bracket – SRAM DUB, BBright press-fit format
Stem – Cervelo ST31 Carbon, with internal brake hose/cable routing
Handlebar – Cervelo HB13 Carbon, with internal brake hose/cable routing
Front Brake – SRAM Force HRD, hydraulic disc brake caliper with SRAM Paceline 160mm rotors
Rear Brake – SRAM Force HRD, hydraulic disc brake caliper with SRAM Paceline 160mm rotors
Brake Levers – SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD, hydraulic
Front Derailleur – SRAM Force eTap AXS, 12-speed
Rear Derailleur – SRAM Force eTap AXS, 12-speed
Shift Levers – SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD, 12-speed
Chain – SRAM Force, 12-speed
Cassette – SRAM Force XG1270, 10-33, 12-speed
Crankset – SRAM Force AXS 48/35, with power meter
Front Wheel – Rim: Reserve full carbon, 34mm deep, 22.6mm internal width, tubeless-ready / Hub - DT370, Center Lock, 12mm x 100mm thru-axle / Spokes - x20
Rear Wheel – Rim: Reserve full carbon, 37mm deep, 21.6mm internal width, tubeless-ready / Hub - DT370, XDR freehub, Center Lock, 12mm x 100mm thru-axle / Spokes - x24
Front Tyre – Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0 25c, tubeless-ready
Rear Tyre – Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0 25c, tubeless-ready
Saddle – Prologo Scratch M5 PAS Tirox
Seatpost – Cervelo SP24 Carbon Aero
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
The Cervelo R5 is designed as a World Tour-level climbing bike. It's aimed at those seeking top performance, with money no object, mostly – in this SRAM Force spec, it's still got one eye on value, along with results.
Cervelo says: 'R5 has one job''get to the top, fast. But for all the glory and fanfare that comes with a summit finish, they're rarely the only climb of the day. And while a race isn't usually won on a descent, they can certainly be lost. A climbing bike that can't carve a hairpin is a bit like a cup of decaf coffee. This is the fourth iteration of the R5, and while weight and stiffness have varied over the years, the handling, poise, and unmatched prowess on a descent have been consistent since day one.'
My experience was that Cervelo has hit its intention pretty much spot on. The R5 offers a particular blend of all-round performance. It is expensive, but it's still not the priciest and you can see where much of the money is going.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
With the bike only compatible with electronic groupsets, and with there being no SRAM Rival option, this model technically sits at the bottom of the range alongside the Shimano Ultegra Di2 build. Perhaps more helpful is to say that this model is second from top, with only SRAM Red and Shimano Dura-Ace models above it.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The frame blends a low weight (claimed at 703g) with a high degree of lateral stiffness – I couldn't detect any flex when sprinting or climbing. That said, the ride was still super comfortable, with the fork and seatpost soaking up the bumps. My only criticism is that the geometry of the frame and fork lead to a lot of toe overlap with the front tyre.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Carbon fibre is used for both the frame and the fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The head angle is quite steep at 73 degrees and likely contributes to the toe overlap. Despite this, when descending and cornering at speed, the R5 feels like it's on rails. There's no single measurement that will fully explain a bike's handling, but the moderate length of the chainstays at 410mm and 72mm BB drop will play a part.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The front end is quite low for a climbing bike, but the reach a little short.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
For a racing bike, the R5 is extremely comfortable, helped most notably by the extremely flexy seatpost. But the plumped out tyres certainly help smooth the bumps as well.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The stiffness and compliance are kept to all the right places. I didn't feel jarred by high-frequency vibrations rattling up through the fork, but at the same time, when putting in all-out efforts, I didn't feel any flex around the bottom bracket or the head tube.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The power transfer feels very efficient, not just in the solidity of the frame, but also in the smoothness with which the bike rolls over even coarser tarmac. It feels fast and like no effort is being wasted.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
There was a fairly large degree of toe overlap. It wasn't a problem for high speed riding and descending, but on slow switchback climbs with tight corners I did have to watch out for my crank position when steering.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Lively yet controlled.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike only needed a shift of my weight or a flick of my hips to elicit a change in line. But for that, it still felt fully controlled, not twitchy at all and only making the moves I wished it to. And when I did wish, it did them fast.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The seatpost has the most significant effect on the comfort, being notably flexy. Also the wide rims really plump out the tyres too. I don't feel like any changes are necessary to make the bike more comfortable.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
It's the frame and the beefy overbuilt bottom bracket that have the greatest effect on the bike's stiffness. Again, I see no reason to change anything to do with this, it was more than sufficiently stiff for me.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels and tyres probably make the greatest impact regarding the efficiency. Lightweight, they didn't hold me back on the hills, while the shallow section still provides enough of an aerodynamic boost to make pacing along the flat fun rather than a struggle.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The 48/35 and 10-33t combination is a pretty perfect match for essentially every ride you'd be likely to do on the bike. If you're concerned about chain articulation (how the links of the chain bend to wrap around rings and sprockets) from a big ring smaller than 53t, I'd really hope you're already able to push at least 375W for an hour at sea level.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
The wheels have a claimed weight of 1,300g and are a fairly shallow section. They feel like the perfect balance between low weight and aero for the build – you could get better performance if you were willing to pay a whole lot more.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
The Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0s are fast rolling, grippy and impressively puncture resistant. I took the bike on some pretty questionable roads but never suffered a puncture.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The SRAM Force shifters have been around for a while. They're easy to operate and the shifting is quite fast. The only real criticism about the controls is that in pressing both levers to change gear, you can't simultaneously shift at the cassette.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It is more expensive than similarly specced options from Specialized, Giant and Canyon, but it's an exceptional all-rounder, which adds value.
Use this box to explain your overall score
There are bikes which do perform better in certain regards, whether that's comfort, climbing or sprinting. But the R5 stood out in being adept in every department. It's an exceptional all-rounder. Although it is quite expensive for the spec, considering its performance, the value is still rather good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Gravel riding, indoor turbo and rollers, track