Cervelo S2 review£5,771.84

Exotic speed machine

BikeRadar score4/5

The original Cervélo Soloist Carbon was an instant success, and now the three-bike 'S' range (the £999.99 S1 frame is alloy, the £3,499.99 S3 is more compliant) offers powerful riders an outstanding race platform.

Ride & handling: Power delivery and aero edge make this a real blitz machine

As one of the iconic bikes of recent years, we couldn’t help but approach the S2 with reverence. However, our initial experience with the bike was underwhelming. This soon changed when we realised that this machine needs muscle, not subtlety, to prove its point. Feed in some proper power and you unleash the carbon fibre Conan within.

The superlight DT Swiss tubular wheels – with instant engagement from their Star Ratchet hubs – and the rock-solid feel underfoot mean there’s no lag or loss of wattage. As soon as the speed surges to a point where the aerodynamics start to have an effect, the S2 really gets into its stride.

Bend those elbows and flatten your back and the S2 spins a lactic dance or muscles monster gears with an awesome authority. It doesn’t so much encourage you as demand you keep that drive coming, as it blitzes down the road at vision-blurring speed like a bike possessed.

The flippable saddle clamp gives a forward set 76-degree seat angle for maximum aero power. This makes the Cervélo ideal for fitting a pair of short clip-on bars to for time trial use, without losing its high-velocity all-rounder versatility.

The impressively low complete bike weight (6.53kg/14.39lb), long top tube and outstanding power transfer means it storms climbs with gritted teeth tenacity and taut efficiency. But it’s the S2’s performance on descents that’s breathtaking.

The totalitarian authority with which it tracks and carves through corners is in a league of its own. It plummets straight-line sections in a dizzying speed crescendo and scythes through corners with clinical precision.

Its default setting is lump-in-throat speed, daring you to leave brakes untouched, the big bars pushed ludicrously low to the tarmac and your neck straining to see the fastest exit line as the Gs kick in.

It’s a credit to Cervélo that there’s this much power and precision without masses of punishment too. It’s not a bike you’d call comfy or cosy, but you’ll never get shaken out of your cadence or have to back off because of the road surface. It’s not for faint-hearted or subtle pedal-dancing riders though.

Chassis & equipment: Cervélo technology and heritage command a high price tag

With more than 300 pieces of carbon in the chassis and custom-developed speed-specific aero sections, the S2 is a seriously slick structure that’s more than 25 percent lighter than its alloy predecessor.

While the 16cm head tube is relatively tall in terms of getting a tuck, it’s a boon for less flexible riders, and shrinks relative to size. The extra height also creates an outstandingly rigid front end for super-accurate, aggressive cornering.

The top tube and down tube flow smoothly out from behind the head, creating a wind-slippery teardrop section. This continues down the tall down tube, before swelling to engulf the conventional bottom bracket shell.

The seat tube is a slim teardrop section with a machined collar and matching seatpost with swivelling two-position head. Out back, super-deep chainstays and 3D dropouts with a replaceable gear hanger provide the undiluted propulsive force of the frame.

Inwardly curved, semi-aero seatstays and a skinny wishbone top end complete the circuit. Brakes are mounted conventionally and there’s no wheel-hugging effect from the frame. Gear cables vanish vertically into the frame behind the head tube and the rear brake cable is concealed from the wind.

The straight-legged, slim section 3T Funda fork, with carbon-wrapped alloy-sleeved steerer, continues the aero advantage without reducing comfort. No fewer than six frame sizes ensure an accurate fit.

The S2 frameset comes with frame, fork, Cane Creek headset and seatpost for £2,199, so the rest of the kit is your choice. It’s worth commenting on some of the choices here. The slick, quiet shifting of the latest Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 groupset means there’s no echo through the frame and the super-stiff hollow-ringed chainset is a great match to the resolutely rigid lower end of the frame.

Superlight, immediately responsive DT Swiss wheels put a real spark into the ride as well as continuing the aero aspect. A carbon-fibre-shafted PRO stem and alloy bar finishes off the cockpit, while the San Marco Zoncolan saddle looks smart but isn't the most tuck-friendly perch you could use.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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