The Cervélo R5 has been mixing things up at the Grand Tours for many years and the fourth generation has already won one of the major multi-stage races before release. Can the 2022 road bike perform on flat terrain or is it a thoroughbred mountain goat? We’ve already put the R5 Force eTap AXS to the test!
Isn’t a mountain stage on a Grand Tour just amazing? It’s the ultimate highlight for fans on the track but it’s super stressful for organisers and a massive test of nerves for supervisors and teams. Riders drop out of the leading group one after the other and team managers can only hope that the next one falling behind won’t be their team captain. The riders themselves are in their own world and no longer notice the hustle and bustle around them, the wall of frenetically cheering fans they’re riding towards, and the instructions from the team’s management. All that matters is the strength left in their legs and a bike that conserves as much of their remaining energy reserves as possible. It’s precisely for this that Cervélo promise to have created the perfect tool, the brand new R5.
Let’s briefly look at the requirements that a bike must meet for the above scenario. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Of course, the bike must be light. The development team behind the Canadian bike brand have thought of this too and put a lot of brainpower and know-how into the weight optimisation of the fourth generation R5. The result is quite impressive, shaving a whopping 130 g off the frame compared to its predecessor, which is equivalent to half a galaxy in the world of high-performance racing. The frame set comes in at slightly more than 1Kg – 703 g for the frame and 329 g for the fork. With this as the starting point, building a bike that meets the 6.8 kg UCI weight limit should be easy, especially since several components, including the seat post, stem and handlebar have also been put on a diet.
What else must a road bike be capable of whose only goal, according to Cervélo, is to get the rider to the summit as quickly as possible? In addition to the weight, power transmission and efficiency rank just as high. However, when developing the previous generation R5, stiffness was given too much attention. As a result, the bike was overly stiff up front and didn’t match the comfort of the rear end. However, a balanced level of comfort is crucial, especially on a Grand Tour where riders have to perform at the top of their game for several weeks in a row. Only relatively well-rested riders can attack on the mountain after ten days in the saddle. That wouldn’t be the case if they got beaten up by their bike during the previous week’s riding, having to absorb every bump in the road with their body. As such, the developers have made internal adjustments to the head tube and fork to make the front end more comfortable, though without sacrificing stiffness where it counts.
In addition to increasing tire clearance from 30 to 34 mm, which is remarkable for a road bike of this category, the frames have become more compact across the board by dropping the top tube and seat stays. As such, the seat post length is increased and thus offers more compliance. Finally, the Canadian brand claim to have kept their eyes on that which other brands often lose sight of in the pursuit of optimal stiffness and comfort. A mountain stage rarely consists of a single climb and even if a race usually isn’t won on the descent, it can definitely be lost there. To Cervélo, a bike for the mountains that can’t handle hairpin bends is like a cup of decaffeinated coffee. They’re right!
Details, components and geometry of the new Cervélo R5
The new Cervélo R5 is available in a total of four different versions, two with SRAM and two with Shimano groupsets. However, all of them feature the same asymmetrically built New Reserve carbon wheels and carbon components, only differing in the choice of the groupset. The R5 Red eTap AXS is the flagship model and costs € 11,999. For Shimano fans, the R5 DURA-ACE Di2 is available for the same price and features the new DURA-ACE Di2 9200 groupset, which we’ve already put to the test. The more affordable versions are the R5 ULTEGRA Di2 going for € 8,299 and the R5 Force eTap AXS, which we tested and is available for € 8,799. With a 48/35 t chainset and a 10–33 t cassette, the gear range is suitable for most scenarios and the SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset delivers a solid performance and plenty of stopping power. That said, it does look a bit bland on such a beautiful bike, so if looks are important to you, we recommend opting for the version with the RED eTap AXS groupset. Our size 56 test bike weighs 7.44 kg, which is heavy for a bike made to conquer mountain passes. Given the lightweight frame set, there’s a lot of tuning potential left. If you want to build the R5 according to your preferences and with your choice of components, the frame set alone is available.
Cervélo R5 Force eTap AXS
Seatpost Cervélo SP24 Carbon Aero Post
Brakes SRAM Force HRD 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Force eTap AXS 48/35T (10–33T)
Stem Cervélo ST31 Carbon 100 mm
Handlebar Cervélo HB13 Carbon 420 mm
Wheelset New Reserve 34/37
Tires Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0 25C
Size 48 51 54 56 58 61
Weight 7,44 kg
|Seat tube||403 mm||434 mm||463 mm||486 mm||503 mm||526 mm|
|Top tube||515 mm||531 mm||548 mm||564 mm||581 mm||598 mm|
|Head tube||93 mm||114 mm||137 mm||163 mm||192 mm||218 mm|
|Chainstays||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm|
|BB Drop||74.5 mm||74.5 mm||72.0 mm||72.0 mm||69.5 mm||69.5 mm|
|Wheelbase||972 mm||974 mm||977 mm||994 mm||1,011 mm||1,028 mm|
|Reach||363 mm||371 mm||380 mm||389 mm||398 mm||407 mm|
|Stack||497 mm||522 mm||547 mm||572 mm||597 mm||622 mm|
Cervélo R5 Force eTap AXS first ride
Damn, this thing moves! There was hardly any other point on which the test crew could agree on as easily as the bike’s acceleration and speed. Cervélo’s focus on stiffness has paid off as the R5 road bike is always willing to accelerate. Whether you’re spinning the cranks uphill or in the big ring on the home stretch, it’s just waiting for you to launch an attack. It maintains its speed very efficiently on high-speed sections and flat terrain, quickly racking up the miles. It shows itself to be an extremely light-footed climber on mountain passes, even if you’re taking it easy, just sitting down and spinning the cranks or standing up to pedal. Our test riders have rarely found climbing the varying gradients of the local mountain on our test loop so easy, and it’s not down to fitness.
On the highway straight to heaven – Rarely could we conquer the mountains of South Tyrol as quickly and efficiently as on the new Cervélo R5!
One thing is clear, the R5 is and stays a racing machine that demands to be ridden at full speed or faster. The front occasionally tends to tip from side to side when riding slowly, though it never feels nervous. As soon as you start riding a little faster and get into the speed range that the R5 likes, it feels increasingly composed and stable, instilling you with confidence. Nevertheless, it can steer with ease even at high speeds and doesn’t require excessive input from the rider, as is the case with some other road bikes. Much to the delight of our test riders, it stays precisely on line through even the most demanding corners. You want lightning-fast direction changes at full speed? The Cervélo R5 is your bike, darting back and forth on descents, going through the apexes of bends both long and tight with razor-sharp precision. The brand delivers on its promise as the bike isn’t only a formidable contender on the climbs but can also take on its fiercest competition when going downhill.
If you think you’ll have to sacrifice comfort on a thoroughbred racing machine like this, you’ll be surprised. That said, you can’t expect any miracles from a bike that promises podium finishes, maximum power transmission and high efficiency, and the R5 is nowhere near as comfortable as its all-round counterpart, the Cervélo Caledonia-5 (review here). Nevertheless, the voluminous 700 x 25C Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0 tires offer a decent amount of vibration damping and the combination of the geometry, long seat post, and ergonomic handlebar provides a good level of comfort both front and rear. Our test riders, who are between 1.83 m and 1.85 m tall, found the riding position on the size 56 to be aggressive but not overly stretched, feeling at one with the bike. We were particularly impressed with the ergonomics of the in-house HB13 carbon handlebar, providing a comfortable grip in every hand position right off the bat. Well done, Cervélo!
Our conclusion on the Cervélo R5 Force eTap AXS
With the new R5, Cervélo hit the nail on the head, providing both pros and hobby racers with an absolute weapon. Despite weighing 7.44 kg in size 56, the bike climbs up any mountain with ease, efficiently maintaining its speed in every situation and impressing us with its decent and balanced comfort. The R5 isn’t only a threat on the climbs and the envy of the competition but also offers precise and reliable handling on the descents.
- very light-footed climber
- precise on the descents
- very efficient, whether on flat terrain or uphill
- ergonomic handlebar
- good vibration damping
- at 7.44 kg in size 56, it's not the lightest
You can find more information about the Cervélo R5 at cervelo.com
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Words: Tobias Hörsch, Philipp Schwab Photos: Benjamin Topf