First ride review: The new Cervelo S5 is easier and faster
Two days after the domination of its sponsored team Jumbo-Visma on the Tour de France and the day when Marianne Vos will put on the yellow jersey of the Tour de France Women for the first time, Cervelo has finally and officially announced its latest flagship dedicated to the aero racing bike, the new S5.
Although the entire Jumbo-Visma team raced on the new S5 throughout this season, with Van Aert and Vingaard in green and yellow jerseys matching the S5s on the Champs Élysées, Cervelo had remained fairly silent about the existence of the new framework.
Today Cervelo confirmed all the details, upgrades and tweaks to the new frame and specs for all four complete bike options.
It wasn’t just Cervelo’s marketing department that was keeping quiet about the new bike, the bike’s engineers and designers also kept the updates relatively low-key. The new S5 is a refinement of the previous iteration by emphasizing the usability of the already fast bike rather than an entirely new design. The tweaks are subtle: deeper frame sections, a new fork to simplify the front end, and more tire clearance.
Refine to simplify
The previous iteration of the S5 is still a fast bike, but few, if any, bikes on the market feature a more complex and time-consuming fork, stem and handlebar setup. In addition to the time-consuming internal cable routing, the previous S5 features a two-piece external steering fork assembly that makes up the front nose cone. It requires specific screw lengths for each rod stack height. And then there are the extra spacers and shims to adjust the height and rotation of the bar. And on top of that, the design allowed the preload cone to potentially damage the head tube. In short, the overly complicated setup could see some owners taking time off just to adjust the height, reach and angle of the handlebars.
Fortunately, Cervelo has significantly improved the front-end usability of the new S5. The entire fork, including the nose cone, is now one piece. Gone are the stack specific bolts, replaced with a bolt length compatible with the 30mm of spacer stack adjustment. The handlebar attachment is simplified and allows up to 5° of rotation without additional wedges. The refined bar shape now features a perfectly flat transition area between bar and cowl for improved comfort. And the potential for head tube damage has also been corrected.
Unsurprisingly, the internal routing of wires and hoses remains, meaning a stem or headset bearing change will still require a lot of time. However, the configuration and adjustment are relatively simple. Our S5 test bike arrived fully built with the stem detached from the fork stay. Attaching the stem and setting the bars ready for a ride took about five minutes (though cutting the seatpost to length due to the interrupted seat tube design took a bit longer).
On top of the good news, by reducing the front-end complexity of the S5, Cervelo also found 53 grams of weight savings. That’s not a huge saving considering the new S5’s overall weight (more on that in a moment), but any weight shaved off that aero platform is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, all this ease of use comes at a cost. The new bike is only compatible with electronic shifting. And anyone with the current S5 hoping to swap out their specific stem and handlebar sizes for a new frame will be disappointed to learn that the new front end is incompatible with the old stem and bars.
One thing that remains compatible with the front end is the 25mm offset seatpost from the previous generation of the S5, a part that Cervelo will continue to offer. However, Cervelo says they have listened to bike fitters around the world, who would position riders further forward, and so the S5 now comes with a 15mm offset seatpost, while a 0mm version is also expected to be available. .
Somewhat surprisingly for a new aero frame, Cervelo’s preview of the new S5 relegates the first mention of aero improvements to third on the list of improvements. And to reiterate, that’s not unexpected given how radical and fast the S5 was already in its design.
That said, Cervelo has still made some aero improvements, mainly thanks to the UCI’s decision to relax its frame design regulations in 2020. The new regulations have allowed Cervelo to deepen the tube profiles of this which was already the fastest aero bike on the market.
These aero tweaks are most noticeable on the deeper head tube, taller bottom bracket area, a new contoured nose on the fork steerer, a sharper dropout, and the taller compensation triangle where the seat tube meets the top tube. More subtly, Cervelo updated the trailing edge of the truncated tubes with what the company describes as “more aggressive shaping.”
To simplify all of this, the new S5 features much deeper, more aggressively shaped tubes that Cervelo claims reduce aerodynamic drag by 65 grams compared to the previous S5.
All that extra surface area certainly feels fast, but one would generally assume that taller frame tubes mean more weight. The previous S5 is notorious for being heavy, and while dedicated aero bikes are rarely the best platform for a true weenie-weight build, I was concerned that the new S5 might be heavier again. Fortunately, and despite the larger surface area on many tubes, Cervelo has managed to keep the new S5 a bit lighter than its predecessor (the exact difference is yet to be confirmed). Lighter maybe, but my 56cm test bike still weighed 8.03kg with Shimano Ultegra 12-speed Di2 and Reserve’s new 52/63 wheelset, before the pedals.
As for the new Reserve wheels, Cervelo increased the clearance to 34mm (measured tire width) for the new S5. According to the brand, the new frameset is optimized around the increased width of the wheels and matching tires, which they believe is aerodynamically faster and more comfortable.
The new wheels, developed under Reserve’s Turbulent Aero philosophy of developing and testing wheels against real-world turbulent and windy conditions, are said to stall less dramatically at greater yaw angles (follow the link for a podcast CyclingTips Nerd Alert on the subject). Reverse claims they are 50 grams faster in laminar (traditional) flow and 54 grams faster in turbulent flow than the outgoing Reserve 50/65 combo.
The right or wrong set of wheels and tires can make or break any bike. Based on just two rides so far, the inclusion of Reserve’s new 52/63 with 28mm Vittoria Corsas on the new S5 certainly helps do that.
First driving impressions
With two little things called the Tour de France and Eurobike over the past month, I’ve only managed two rides on the new S5 so far. And as such, a longer-term review will follow. In the meantime, first impressions suggest Cervelo has created an incredibly fast race bike.
Yes, the weight of the S5 remains high. And even the newly simplified front-end further complicates the simple stem too much. However, all of that was forgiven in the first round. The weight and stem are the knock-on effect of the improved aero, and the S5 offers more than just fast feel and average speed numbers from what I’ve seen to date.
The S5’s deep aero tubes and wild cockpit layout made me expect a shockingly heavy and slow ride feel. And yet, I was immediately surprised by the lightness, agility and responsiveness of the S5.
As a dedicated aero bike with a preexisting focus on pedaling stiffness, the S5 will never be as compliant or comfortable as any other less aero bike on the market. Still, the S5 surprised me with its smooth ride on rough rural roads, probably largely thanks to the bulkier tire system now provided.
Cervelo will offer the new S5 in a choice of four complete builds: Shimano Dura-Ace (£12,500 / €12,999), Shimano Ultegra Di2 (£9,199 / €9,699), SRAM Red AXS (£12,999 / €13,499) €) and SRAM Force AXS (£9,599 / €10,199). Each version is fitted with the new Reserve 52/63 wheelset and is available in a black or sapphire/white color mix. Pricing for the US and Australia is yet to be confirmed.
Cervelo will also offer a frameset option priced at £5,399 / €5,499, which includes the frame, fork, stem, handlebars and seat post. Plus, if you opt for the frameset, there’s an additional “Tiger Eye” (aka Red) colorway.
Expect a deeper dive and a fuller review soon. In the meantime, you will find more information on Cervelo.com