Cervélo jumps into adventure road with C series bikes

Bash guards, plump tyres, disc brakes and slack geometry for exploring rough roads

After months of speculation, Cervélo finally released its new C series adventure bikes, the Canadian brand's first platform dedicated to all-road riding. While one model of Cervélo's R series bikes already incorporates two ride-anywhere features – wider-tyre clearance and disc brakes –  the C series goes full bore with long and slack geometry, fender mounts and beefy tyres.

“We took a thorough look at how bikes are being used, and realized that cyclists are no longer afraid to go a step further to find the best ride experiences on their road bikes," said Cervélo product manager Philip Spearman. "These riders are demanding a new set of features: wider tyres, disc brakes and other top-shelf specs. It’s all about confidence and comfort at the end of the day.”

The C series frame comes in the top-end C5 and mid-range C3 models. All the C frames feature a standard 73-degree seat angle, but up front the head tube has been slackened down to 71, and the fork offset increased to 53mm over the R series' standard 43mm. The stack is also up from 580mm to 595mm for a 56cm size and the reach is 5mm shorter down from 387mm to 382mm. That gives the C a more relaxed riding position, with the bigger fork offset aiding handling stability on rougher surfaces. 

The minimal seat stays on the c series are very assymetric and hit the seat tube much lower down: the minimal seat stays on the c series are very assymetric and hit the seat tube much lower down
The minimal seat stays on the c series are very assymetric and hit the seat tube much lower down: the minimal seat stays on the c series are very assymetric and hit the seat tube much lower down

Arrow on the seatstays and down tube indicate how the frame flexes

Because the C series is designed around using larger tyres Cervélo increased bottom-bracket drop to 75mm over 68mm for a comparable 56cm R series bike. 

The frame is still light. A 56cm model weighs 840g, including alloy hardware.

“Although we know that a light bike is advantageous on any grade over 5 percent, pro racers have consistently told us that heavier frames with thicker tubes are more comfortable," said Graham Shrive, Cervélo’s engineering project manager explained.  "This was in direct conflict with one of our main priorities: Bringing a low-weight bicycle — 850 grams with paint and all small parts — to the endurance category.” 

Not only that, the C Series frames still needed to be stiff enough for high-performance, confidence-inspiring handling on mixed surfaces.  So marrying low weight with comfort meant plenty of work on the tubing design. Taking the Squoval 2 tubes (as found on the R5) and manipulating those shapes, by flattening them in the vertical plane where you want to introduce some movement, such as at the mid-way point of the down tube, and widening them around areas like the bottom bracket and head tube for stiffness.  

“In effect, the super-wide tube profiles exponentially increase the effectiveness of the carbon,” Shrive said. “All of this gives us a highly damped, vertically compliant disc frame that’s the lightest on the market, even with the additional frame volume.”

Cervelo's new c5 is the company's first foray into the endurance bike world: cervelo's new c5 is the company's first foray into the endurance bike world
Cervelo's new c5 is the company's first foray into the endurance bike world: cervelo's new c5 is the company's first foray into the endurance bike world

The head tube is tall and the bottom bracket is low on the C5

Stability looks to play a big part in the design too, with the wheelbase being thanks to the long, 420mm chainstays and a longer front centre. The chainstays are also now asymmetric to balance the drivetrain forces along with the disc braking. The ride position should help with the stability too; by lowering the bottom bracket you’ll effectively lower the centre of gravity, which should give the C-Series an advantage over traditional sportive style bikes even with its taller rider position.

The front-centre and rear-centre dimensions are all about balance, too. In comparison to the disc-equipped R3, the C has a longer front-centre (598mm over 575mm) and rear-centre (420 over 405mm). All that adds up to make the C bikes significantly longer than the razor-sharp-handling R bikes. Cervélo claims this stability doesn’t dull the ride, but merely makes the most of comfort and high-speed smoothness.

Cervélo included a few details to protect the carbon frame should you want to hit the gravel: a thick, rubberized chain protector is bonded onto the chainstay  a bash guard bolts onto the underside of the down tube (in the same position as an external-mounting Di2 battery). Tyre clearances all round have been increased, with the rear especially having plenty of space around the stock 28mm tyre. For those who live in less sunny climes, the bonded-in alloy fender mounts will be a blessing. The fork crown doesn’t have quite as much space as the back, so we’d reckon on being limited to a 28 tyre if you want to run a fender up front.

In a nod to gravel riding, the c5 features this bolt-on bash guard at the base of the down tube: in a nod to gravel riding, the c5 features this bolt-on bash guard at the base of the down tube
In a nod to gravel riding, the c5 features this bolt-on bash guard at the base of the down tube: in a nod to gravel riding, the c5 features this bolt-on bash guard at the base of the down tube

A bolt-on bash guard protects the down tube

Cervélo told us that this is just the first wave their disc-equipped models; the Canadian brand would not confirm or deny the existence of a disc-equipped S series bike on the horizon. 

The C5 is available in both electronic and mechanical Dura-Ace, and the C3 Force 1 model and Ultegra mechanical and Di2 version and all should be available in stores by the end of the year. Pricing starts at £3,899 / $43,00 for the C3 Ultegra, and tops out at £7,499 / $9,000 for the C5 DA Di2 model.

  • C3 SRAM Force X1                £4,599 / $4,500
  • C3 Shimano Ultegra             £3,899 / $4,300
  • C3 Shimano Ultegra Di2      £4,999 / $5,500
  • C5 Shimano Dura-Ace          £6,199 / £7,000
  • C5 Shimano Dura-Ace Di2   £7,499 / $9,000

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