We have to admit to schoolboy enthusiasm when contemplating testing the Cervélo R5 VWD (Vroomen White Design). Schedules were rearranged and a suitably challenging century ride found to explore both bike and rider. As the closest thing to the Garmin-Barracuda team’s mounts, riding the R5 was an event.
Cervélo claim a 56cm frame weighs just 760g, so it was little surprise that our machine came in at a staggering 6.34kg. Spec'ed with mechanical Dura-Ace, Dura-Ace C35 wheels with tubulars, carbon seatpost and Pro Vibe carbon bar and carbon-wrapped stem, it’s an exotic but still workmanlike build – a finely honed tool for a demanding job. The complete bike price is based on component costs, but a specialist bike shop build should be achievable for less.
The understated lines hide the refinements and strength within, and from the first pedal strokes we felt completely settled and ready to explore the R5’s performance. Beautifully balanced steering gave us confidence. The proportionately taller head tube favoured by pros for increased stiffness (and amateurs for a less aggressive position) was perfect whether sprinting, climbing or descending – rigid for precise control, informative enough for subtle feel and still minimising the vibrations from rough surfaces.
Of course, the bar and stem play a role, offering excellent stiffness even under maximum load on a 25 percent climb, while dissipating road buzz. Add to these the plush ride from the tubular tyres and compliant wheels and you really have the best of all worlds.
Cervélo’s ‘Squoval’ – their trademarked squared-off oval profile – frame tubes use the Toronto company’s Smartwall complex carbon construction. This uses most material where it’s really needed and less elsewhere.
Combined with the BBright 30mm axle bottom bracket and asymmetric chainstays, the result is incredible power transfer with no discernible flex. Cervélo’s typical ultra-thin seatstays and slim carbon seatpost introduce vertical compliance, isolating you from the very worst road surfaces and proving their worth on a six-hour ride.
It would be easy to tag a frame so light as a climbing special. But although the R5 climbs like a goat, getting us over steep climbs when over-gearing threatened to make us walk, it is a relaxed and efficiently rapid ride between the hills and a completely composed and confident descender.
Barrelling down tiny country lanes over broken surfaces through steep off-camber corners, the bike’s limits were never reached. It remained unerringly stable whatever the speed.
Even though the cost is near mortgage territory, our time with the R5 has made us want to sell up and move in.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.