This is the bike the new generation of aero machines should call ‘Dad’. Canadian bike manufacturers Cervélo pioneered the wind-beating road bike market with the Soloist. Today’s aluminium S1 is essentially a development of that bike.
- Frame: If you follow pro cycling, the Cervélo’s shape will be familiar. It’s stiff, responsive and aero, but gives your backside a hard time compared with its carbon rivals (8/10)
- Handling: Well-honed geometry and the light but stiff 3T Funda Pro all-carbon fork make for precise and stable steering, whether on the ﬂat or carving a steep descent (8/10)
- Equipment: Shimano Ultegra performs reliably as ever, and the PRO Vibe bar and stem match the stiff and racy character of the bike. The San Marco saddle is well shaped but ﬁrm (8/10)
- Wheels: No complaints here. The RS80 wheels are light but have a mid-section proﬁle to cut through the air cleanly. The Continental tyres are top quality (9/10)
You can buy the S1 frame and fork for £999. That seems a lot for an aluminium bike, but not when you consider it’s won Paris-Nice, the Critérium International and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. If you ignore the name change, this is a fairly old design; old, but not old hat. There are clear similarities in tube shapes between the S1 and the £3,500 frame and fork of the S3, and the geometry is identical.
The frame is shaped using what Cervélo call TrueAero shapes – long tail aerofoils with a 3:1 ratio to avoid falling foul of the men with clipboards from the UCI. The head tube is shaped to be aero too, with a narrower section between the bearing races to reduce the frontal area. The seatstays are pencil thin compared with the chunky tubing used elsewhere on the bike. Cervélo say this reduces weight and makes the bike more comfortable – we'll come back to that later.
Throughout the frame, tube thicknesses are greater at the sides so the bike can better resist side-to-side movement. And resist it does. Lean the S1 over hard and the stiff frame and excellent 3T Funda Pro fork hold a precise line. Punch out of a corner, and it would take the quads of a shire horse to get more than a few millimetres of ﬂex at the bottom bracket – all your effort goes to the road. The Shimano RS80 wheels help translate that power into acceleration.
They're light (940g front, 1,370g rear including tubes and tyres), which helps the S1 spin up to speed quickly. The rims have a part-aluminium, part-carbon construction, which gives the security of aluminium braking but with the weight saving (not to mention cool points) of carbon. In practice we found the braking short of bite in wet weather, even with the usually dependable Ultegra callipers doing the stopping, but had no complaints in the dry. The wheels are ﬁtted with Continental Force and Attack tyres (22mm front, 24mm at the rear), which roll and grip well.
Our bike was built up with a full Ultegra groupset, which worked as efﬁciently as you’d expect of one of Shimano’s top component lines. There’s a much softer feel at the shifters than you’ll ﬁnd with SRAM kit – which you prefer is really a matter of taste. Ultegra’s metal cranks may lack the bling of carbon rivals, but they’re light and, more importantly, strong. If aluminium cranks aren’t fancy enough for your liking, well, that’s one of the advantages of buying a frame and fork and speccing the rest of the bike yourself – you can ﬁt whatever kit you want.
One thing we'd think twice about is the gear ratios. Our test bike’s 39/23 bottom gear shows that, in this build, the S1 is a pure racing machine. There’s no concession to hauling a winter spare tyre over the hills. No concessions are made to your backside, either. The San Marco Regal E saddle is a comfortable shape but thinly padded. Over rough tarmac it might as well be made of concrete.
The frame doesn’t help, either. In spite of the thin rear stays, ride this bike at speed over a badly surfaced road and you’ll be on ﬁrst-name terms with every last bump in the road. For the rider who puts speed and value ahead of comfort, that may be a price worth paying.