The Cervelo S1 won’t appeal to everyone. Some may ﬁnd the idea of aluminium passé; others may be put off by its uncompromising ride quality. But that lack of compromise is what makes it a seriously good choice for a cyclist riding massed start races and crits. And given its aerodynamic design it’s one you could easily tackle TTs and triathlons on.
- Frame: Not the lightest, but it’s aerodynamic, tough as old boots and comes with a lifetime guarantee (8/10)
- Handling: Fast and responsive whatever terrain you throw at it, though we wouldn’t describe the ride as comfortable (8/10)
- Equipment: Shimano Ultegra is a sound performer but you might expect a little bit more at this price (7/10)
- Wheels: Shimano Ultegra again; up to the job if not inspiring at the price (7/10)
This is a model with one of the longest histories of any we’ve tested, stretching back to 2001. It’s been going long enough to undergo a name change – it was originally known as the Cervelo Soloist Team, and was claimed to be the world’s ﬁrst aerodynamic road bike. Bjarne Riis’s CSC team used it on the road in 2004 and 2005.
This might all make it seem a little outdated. Surely, these days, aluminium is a thing of the past? Well, not necessarily. This bike has picked up a lot of accolades in its time and, more importantly for a racing bike, it has a tremendous record of wins dating from the CSC years: Paris-Nice, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Critérium International to name but a few.
In fact, Cervelo describe the S1 as "the most affordable way to ride what the pros ride" – something Boardman might take exception to after Nicole Cooke’s heroics in Beijing last year.
The ﬁrst thing you notice about the Cervelo is the wing-shaped down tube, even before you spot that the frame itself is made of aluminium – both of which are unusual in top-end road bikes these days. But there are good reasons for both.
Although radical-looking aerodynamic frames are the norm in time trial and triathlon circles, there’s no reason why a road bike shouldn’t be more aerodynamic, even if when you’re riding in a bunch any aero advantage is going to be much smaller. It’s certainly not going to slow you down.
And aluminium? Well, it’s tough. So tough that Cervelo co-founder and designer Gerard Vroomen describes the S1 as “bombproof” and is conﬁdent enough to offer a lifetime guarantee with the frame. Which is handy if you crash a lot.
Although Cervelo claim that the S1 manages to combine aluminium’s legendary stiffness with the sort of comfort you might get from carbon ﬁbre, we weren’t entirely convinced that the S1 offers you a plush ride.
Riding the Cervelo immediately after a carbon bike, you notice the difference straight away – and we’re convinced that we could tell this difference blindfold too. It’s not too harsh to ride comfortably – in fact we got in some pretty big distances on it – but that comfort is minimal, and over harsher surfaces you certainly feel it more than a carbon bike.
This may sound like a criticism, but when you’ve got 40 or 50 miles under your belt and you decide to shift up a few gears for an out-of-saddle blast or you have to tackle some hills, then you can really appreciate the S1’s qualities. This bike feels seriously quick, which should be no surprise given its record. It also responds perfectly to any changes of direction and is great at descending.
Even more than usual, the Cervelo S1 is a bike that you should test ride – if you’re a strong rider who likes to turn a big gear and really throw your bike about, this bike is one you should seriously consider.
And while our test model came in at around £2,300, this includes a saddle that cost nearly £100 and carbon bars that cost nearly the same. It would be possible to build up a complete bike for a good deal less without a massive performance drop-off.