Mark Cavendish’s 2017 Tour de France ended in a high-speed tangle with Peter Sagan in stage 4’s sprint finish. Although Cavendish is out of the Tour along with Sagan, his Cervélo S5 is worth a look, with its feather-light paint job, race-tuned Chris King hubs, custom-shaped ENVE aero bar and front-mounted sprint shifters.
26g paint by Silverstone
Silverstone Paint Technology is an outfit that works with F1 teams on treatments that can be tuned for function, such as heat resistance as well as aesthetics. On Cavendish’s bike, the green-to-silver fade is remarkably light and thin.
Silverstone claims the paint adds a mere 26g to the frame and fork, which is about a quarter of what a standard high-end paint job adds.
The paint is so thin — 2 microns, the company claims — that you can see through it in several areas Ben Delaney / Immediate Media
Further, the paint is a claimed two microns thin. In several areas, you can see the carbon showing through.
If you want to talk about the minutiae of marginal gains, you could make a, ahem, thin argument that a two-micron layer allows the original aero shaping of the bike to remain unfettered and thus faster than a shape covered in thicker paint.
In any event, it looks good, with the green of Cav’s personal brand fading into the silver of South African charity MTN Qhubeka. The lines on the top tube symbolize a sprint, with Cavendish of course represented by the line extended out to the very front.
Cervelo’s artist envisioned the series of lines as sprinters accelerating, with Cavendish of course being the one out front Ben Delaney / Immediate Media
Race-tuned hubs by Chris King
Keith Bontrager’s maxim of “cheap, strong, light – pick two” can be adapted to many things on a bicycle. For race gear, you could say “durable, fast – pick one” when it comes to tires, chain lubrication or bearing seals.
For Cavendish’s wheels, ENVE has two race treatments on the Chris King hubs. Instead of typical plastic seals that touch the bearings to keep out grime, Chris King uses seals with a slightly smaller inner diameter, so they don’t slide on the axle and can thus be kept from contacting the bearings.
This set-up means more maintenance, but a little bit less friction and so a little bit more speed.
ENVE uses no-contact seals for its pro-race tune, which reduces friction but increases maintenance Ben Delaney / Immediate Media
The second treatment is pre-burnishing the bearings themselves. While some bearings get slower with ware, Chris King claims its bearings get faster — so the company can pre-wear hubs with a drill.
Forward-facing sprint shifters
Shimano’s Di2 satellite shifters are popular in the pro peloton, allowing riders to shift the rear derailleur with their thumbs while keeping all their fingers tightly wrapped around the drops. Although of course you can shift from the drops any time, this set-up is particularly popular with sprinters, which is where the name comes from.
Typically, riders have the shifters set on the inside of the drops, just under the hood. But Cavendish likes his on the front of the drops, like a trigger.
Dimension Data mechanics first clip the satellite shifters into place, then wrap the bar with tape like normal. Finally, a small incision is made over each shifter, and the tape is pushed back so the button can poke through.
Shimano’s Dura-Ace 9150 shifters can also be programmed to shift from the button on the top of each hood.
Having sprint shifters facing forward lets Cavendish keep all his fingers, including his thumb, tightly wrapped around the bar while sprinting Ben Delaney / Immediate Media
Custom ENVE aero bar
ENVE’s stock aero bar features the flat top section common to aero designs, but also a curved-in profile on the drops. The idea is that the narrow stance brings in a rider’s arms and shoulder for a more aero overall package.
But Cavendish likes a standard straight vertical drop, so that is what he received from ENVE.
ENVE’s standard aero bar features drops that angle inwards towards the center of the bike. Cavendish asked for standard drops, and got them Ben Delaney / Immediate Media
Browse the gallery above for a closer look at Cavendish’s Cervélo S5.