The Áspero-5 is Cervélo’s evolution of the Áspero gravel bike. Its intentions are clear: performance and speed instead of adventure and bikepacking. Besides overhauling the cockpit, the frame and fork were put on a diet, aiming to create the world’s fastest gravel bike. Read our review of the Áspero-5 Force eTap AXS 1 to find out if Cervélo have achieved their goal.
Speed and gravel – according to the Canadian brand, they’re inseparable. Why shouldn’t a gravel bike have the same ambitions as a high-performance road bike? Why should victories, trophies and podium finishes be reserved for roadies? For Cervélo, it’s clear; the new Áspero-5 isn’t intended for leisurely rides or Sunday outings with the family. Though bikepacking is booming (click here for our all-encompassing guide to bikepacking) and many brands are trying to hop on board on the already fast-moving bandwagon, the Canadian brand is taking a different path. Mounting points for luggage or mudguards? None here. The Áspero-5 is equipped with bosses for two bottle cages in the front triangle and two bosses on the top tube for a small bag. It doesn’t get simpler than that.
Our gravel bike buyers’ guide categorises bikes and riders according to certain types. Hardly any other bike can be classified according to these as easily as the Cervélo Áspero-5: a need for speed – the gravel bike as a road bike alternative. With the latest iteration of the Áspero, the brand has oriented the bike even more towards racing, speed, and performance. The UCI label and the aerodynamic shape make no secret of it: this bike is fast, designed to be at the races, from the start to the finish line sprint! Despite the need for speed that the developers must have felt when designing this bike, they didn’t neglect one of the most vital features of a modern gravel bike: wide tire clearance. The Áspero-5 can accommodate tires up to a size of 700 x 45C or 51 x 650B, perfectly in line with the gravel bike sweet spot that we’ve established. In the following section, we will look at what’s new about the new Áspero-5 and the different models available.
The Cervélo Áspero-5 in detail
The Cervélo Áspero-5 is the kind of bike that immediately triggers our must-have reflex. Regardless of whether it’s the inconspicuous black finish on test or one of the other two finishes available, Lime Shimmer and Purple Sunset, the gravel bike is a feast for the eyes and looks fast just standing there. Fast, stiff, and goading riders to push their limits: according to the manufacturer, the carbon frame of the new Cervélo Áspero-5 is 10% lighter than its predecessor, which is also claimed to have resulted in a 3% reduction in wind resistance. For racers who fight for every second on the clock, this is not to be sniffed at.
The Canadian tinkerers have done their homework regarding cable routing and kept the gravel bike’s cockpit very tidy. All cables are routed internally, from the handlebars through the stem and into the C-shaped steerer tube. The new Cervélo ST32 stem was taken over from the Caledonia 5 road bike, which just recently had to assert itself against the competition in our big road bike group test. If you haven’t checked out the group test yet, you can get our latest issue right here, free of charge as always! The stem makes it easy to mount accessories like a GPS device and comes in lengths ranging between 70 and 130 mm, depending on the frame size. With a semi-aero profile and deep channels through which the cables run into the stem, the all-new Cervélo AB09F carbon handlebar is intended to save valuable watts. With a pleasant reach of 80 mm, 121 mm drop and 16° flare, our test riders felt comfortable on it straight away. It ranges in width from 38 to 44 cm, depending on the frame size. Next, we will take a closer look at the components.
The components of the Cervélo Áspero-5
The Cervélo Áspero-5 is available in three versions. As the name suggests, the Áspero-5 Force eTap AXS 1 – as tested here – features a SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset and 1×12 drivetrain, going for € 7,999. If you prefer a 2x setup, you’ll be well served with the 2×11 drivetrain of the € 8,499 Áspero-5 GRX R815 Di2. For the flagship model, the Áspero-5 RED eTAP AXS 1 featuring SRAM’s premium groupset, you’ll have to lighten your account by € 10,499. All three versions come with a power meter fitted, which is consistent with the bike’s intended use and target market. The Reserve 32 carbon wheels with a generous 24 mm internal width and 700 x 38C Panaracer GravelKing SK tires are also standard on all three bikes, though featuring different hubs. The Áspero-5 RED and Di2 equipped models come DT Swiss 350 hubs, whereas the Áspero-5 Force has to make do with DT Swiss 370 hubs. Those who prefer a 1x drivetrain are likely to ask themselves whether they should buy the Áspero-5 Force or the Áspero-5 RED. If you ask us, we can confidently recommend saving yourself the € 2,500 surcharge for the flagship model. The performance difference is hardly noticeable for most, and the weight difference is insignificant since the RED model relies on the same 10-36 t Force cassette – a sensible combination with the 36 t chainring, giving you a suitable gear ratio for steep climbs. You can find a comparison of the weights of the respective SRAM eTap AXS components in our introduction of the brand-new SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset.
Groupset SRAM Force eTap AXS, 1×12, 36 t
Cassette SRAM Force, 10-36 t
Brakes SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD 160/160 mm
Wheels Reserve 32 rims with DT Swiss DT350 hubs
Tires Panaracer GravelKing SK 700 x 38C
Seat post Cervélo SP19, 25 mm offset
Handlebar Cervélo AB09F carbon handlebar, 420 mm
Stem Cervélo ST32, 90 mm
Weight 8.2 kg in size 56
Price € 7,999
Availability as of now
The geometry of the Cervélo Áspero-5
As with its predecessor, the Áspero-5 gravel bike features the so-called TrailMix insert in the fork dropouts. With the help of the oval insert, the trail of the fork can be adjusted by +/- 5 mm for consistent handling with both 700C and 650B wheels. Depending on your preference, the TrailMix can also be used to adapt the bike’s handling. To find out exactly how the fork’s trail affects the handling of a bike, we recommend checking out the in-depth guide on wheels available in our current issue! However, the brake adapter also must be changed before you can swap out the wheels, barring you from quickly switching to a different wheel size on the fly. We were also struck by the relatively steep 72° head angle and short 420 mm chainstays. Carry on reading to find out how this affects the bike’s handling.
|Top tube||512 mm||532 mm||553 mm||575 mm||591 mm||608 mm|
|Head tube||83 mm||107 mm||133 mm||159 mm||188 mm||214 mm|
|Kettenstrebe||420 mm||420 mm||420 mm||420 mm||420 mm||420 mm|
|Radstand||990 mm||1.000 mm||1.010 mm||1.027 mm||1.046 mm||1.063 mm|
|Reach||370 mm||379 mm||388 mm||397 mm||406 mm||415 mm|
|Stack||505 mm||530 mm||555 mm||580 mm||605 mm||630 mm|
The Cervélo Áspero-5 Force eTap AXS 1 in review
One thing was immediately evident as we climbed aboard: the new Cervélo Áspero-5 is one of the most aggressive gravel bikes we’ve ever put to the test. Do you like cruising along comfortably and looking around to see what’s going on? Not on this bike – all it wants is for you to put your head down and get on the pedals. The Áspero-5 accelerates very easily and quickly gets up to cruising speed. And aboard the Cervélo gravel bike, cruising speed is almost on par with that of road bikes. Speed and efficiency are among the bike’s greatest strengths. It maintains its pace effortlessly, just carrying on as you watch the kilometres fly by. This shows that the development team at Cervélo gave a lot of thought to the tires and, commendably, made the right choice. The Panaracer GravelKing SK models, as featured in our gravel tire group test, are excellent for those who like to ride fast beyond perfectly manicured asphalt roads.
Going from level terrain onto the first incline, the Áspero-5 presents itself as a capable climber that doesn’t shy away from long ascents. Only the steepest of inclines require you to shift your weight onto the front wheel to keep it planted and in control – a downside of its short chainstays. On the descents, the gravel bike proves to be very agile, playfully mastering every corner. The precise and direct handling is sure to put a permanent grin on the faces of experienced riders. If you had to put coins down on the apexes of mountain pass corners and aim for them on your way down, you would hit your mark every time without having to correct. However, gravel newbies are likely to be overwhelmed by the bike’s highly agile character and are better off with a more balanced bike.
If you had to put coins down on the apexes of mountain pass corners and aim for them on your way down, you would hit your mark every time without having to correct.
Regarding comfort, the Cervélo Áspero-5 shines on compacted surfaces and poorly maintained roads. Small vibrations are effectively dampened before reaching the rider and the front and rear offer a balanced level of compliance even on coarse gravel and broken asphalt. You’ll have to slow down when things get rougher as the gravel bike will soon reach its limits, feeling nervous with bigger impacts. However, we must note that this isn’t the kind of terrain for which the Cervélo Áspero-5 is designed; the sooner you can bring it back onto compacted paths, the sooner you can get back up to the kind of speeds this bike loves.
Cervélo Áspero-5 Force eTap AXS 1 conclusion
We can confidently confirm that the Cervélo Áspero-5 goes like a rocket! Riding at Mach 3 on compacted surfaces? Check! Racing for a top spot on the podium? Check! Hit your chosen lines perfectly in every corner of a 1,000-meter descent? Check! New to gravel and planning your next bikepacking adventure far off the beaten track? This is not the bike for you. The Áspero-5 is a bike for experienced and ambitious gravel racers to whom all that matters is speed! If you’re new to the sport and looking for a good-natured and balanced bike, steer clear of the Áspero-5.
- excellent acceleration
- efficiency and speed second to none
- direct and precise
- clean and attractive look
- lack of comfort on rough terrain
For more information about the Cervélo Áspero-5, visit Cervélo.com
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Words & Photos: Philipp Schwab