Cervélo launched the initial Áspero back in 2019. It was one of the first gravel bikes to move away from the versatile fixture-loaded gravel by way of bikepacking template we’d seen on most gravel-bike platforms.
Instead, Cervélo stripped back fittings to a minimum and sharpened up the geometry, producing a race bike for the dirt.
The Áspero comes in two flavours. The high-end Áspero 5 has a lightened frame (990g) and an integrated bar/stem system that fully routes all the hoses through the frame, along with a dedicated D-shaped carbon seatpost the brand claims saves 32g in drag.
This, however, is the original Áspero design, which comes with a standard bar and stem, down tube and fork crown entry points for the brake hoses.
At 1,100g (56cm) for the frame, it’s not heavy, and it has the same fork as the Áspero 5 – complete with its clever adjustable dropout, which flips for and aft 5mm. This is to equalise the trail of the fork when you’re using either 700c wheels or 650b, keeping handling consistent.
The fork offset switches between 46mm and 51mm on sizes 54 and up; on the 51 it’s between 49 and 54mm; on the 48 it’s between 52 and 57mm to make sure there are no toe-overlap issues and to keep handling consistent across the sizes.
Cervélo Áspero Rival XPLR eTap AXS 1 disc specifications
The Áspero Rival comes with a complete 1x SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset, with a 40-tooth single chainring driving a 10-44 cassette.
It seems Rival AXS has, especially in gravel circles, become something of an egalitarian option. In this Bike Of The Year category alone, we have a brand offering the same setup on a bike less than half the price. Look around and you’ll find a wider range of pricing still.
It’s really testament to just how good Rival AXS performs that I didn’t feel short-changed performance-wise by the way it works.
The Reserve 32 carbon rims are gravel-specific and tubeless-ready (though the bike comes with tubes), 32mm deep and with a 24mm internal width that ideally shapes the Panaracer GravelKing (tubeless) tyres.
The DT hubs have an impeccable reputation for toughness and, at around 1,600g for the pair, these Reserve wheels are a definite plus.
Finishing things off are a selection of quality components from Easton: an EA70 stem, EC70 carbon gravel bar and a 27.2mm Easton carbon seatpost.
The post may not be the D shape of the premium bike, but it’s worth noting a standard post means plenty of options should you want to change, or even fit a gravel dropper post.
Sitting atop the post is Prologo’s excellent short-saddle design, the Dimension. It’s one of my favourites and I’m always pleased to see a bike specced with a perch plucked from this range.
Cervélo Áspero Rival XPLR eTap AXS 1 disc geometry
Cervélo’s take on gravel geometry is a smart one if speed on- and off-road is your thing. In fact, the ride position takes many of its cues from the brand’s R-Series bikes that are built for racing. Cervélo calls it Performance geometry, so it’s not quite as long and low as the R5.
Its stack of 605mm mirrors the brand’s endurance bike, the Caledonia, but it’s got a longer reach at 406mm compared to 396mm when looking at a 58cm-sized bike.
The steep seat angle (73 degrees) makes for a bike that’s road-race-bike aggressive when you’re stomping on the pedals. The 72-degree head angle is only a degree less than you’d expect on a road bike.
The wheelbase isn’t as long as you find on most gravel machines, at 1,046mm (58cm), and the 420mm chainstays are pretty much road-bike standard.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74||73.5||73||73||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||71||71.5||72||72||72||72|
|Top tube (mm)||512||532||553||575||591||608|
|Head tube (mm)||83||107||133||159||188||214|
|Fork offset 700C/650B (mm)||52 / 57||49 / 54||46 / 51||46 / 51||46 / 51||46 / 51|
|Trail 700C/650B (mm)||58.6 / 58.1||58.6 / 58.1||58.6 / 58.1||58.6 / 58.1||58.6 / 58.1||58.6 / 58.1|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||78.5||78.5||76||76||73.5||73.5|
Cervélo Áspero Rival XPLR eTap AXS 1 disc ride impressions
Since 2019, I’ve had plenty of time on previous incarnations of the Áspero, including its pricier 5 stablemate.
I’ve always been impressed by the brilliant way in which the bike gathers pace, and the stiffness of the chassis, especially through the bottom bracket and head tube. It makes for a bike that’ll handle road sprints with ease. It thrives at speed, and is absolutely at home on fast fire roads, roughened descents and unmetalled roads.
The Reserve wheels add to the responsive feel because they’re seriously stiff, unmoving under sprints and flex-free in the corners. However, they don’t feel harsh at all and the Panaracer GravelKing tyres are more than supple enough to take the sting out of sharper edges.
I would ideally have liked the bike set up tubeless to make the most of the tyres’ performance, and the two double-snakebite punctures I experienced on my test rides wouldn’t have happened either.
At 8.66kg, this is a light bike, which helps it make short work of climbs and sharp trail inclines. Even though the bike feels stiff under pedalling, it does a pretty good job when it comes to feeling stable at speed, with the frame’s back end and the fork having just enough compliance to stop you getting bounced offline too soon.
It can’t quite match the composure of Giant’s new Revolt, or the softness of bikes such as BMC’s URS LT, or last year’s Bike Of The Year-winning gravel bike, the Cannondale Topstone Lefty, but it certainly has something special of its own.
The 40th chainring is smaller than on its rivals, but it’s well judged if you intend to ride predominantly off-road.
The 25-inch bottom gear is as light as you like, making it easy to start pedalling from a standstill even on the loosest and steepest surfaces.
At the other end, the 110-inch gear is great for fast off-road riding, but keeping pace with a mate on a road bike did mean spinning a high cadence when riding on the flat.
The 38mm-wide GravelKings make for a very fast (for gravel) tyre on the road, however, and I do like the way they feel in dry conditions.
The flexible sidewalls and tenacious grip in the dry both inspire confidence, and the smaller dimensions of the tyre enable you to ride with more thought for lines and surface choices, and get the best from the bike.
The Áspero certainly isn’t a bike for bouldering down a rock-strewn trail. Instead, it’s one that deserves a bit of panache.
Cervélo Áspero Rival XPLR eTap AXS 1 disc bottom line
The Áspero was a ground-breaking gravel bike when it first arrived. Today, it’s still one of the high watermarks for what makes a fast, lightweight and fun bike to ride.
If, however, you’re looking for a bike to get your adrenaline pumping on big (fast) days out, I’d recommend it wholeheartedly.
The one caveat is that if you like to mix muck and tarmac more evenly, then a larger chainring may well be the way to go to make sure you can keep up with any Lycra-clad roadies you meet on the way.
Oh, and one last thing: make the rolling stock tubeless as soon as you can. This bike is health-warning rapid, so if you’re running tubes, they’ll get trashed and bitten all too soon.
Gravel Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested
Testing for our 2022 Gravel Bike of the Year category started on a loop around Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
This fast blast takes in wide, well-paved gravel roads, proper mountain bike singletrack trails and forest fire roads, with the ride out using connecting towpaths and bridleways, and the ride back taking in a bit of tarmac. It’s exactly the kind of multi-terrain route on which we want a gravel bike to excel.
Following this, each bike was then taken on a 70-mile/113km route over mixed terrain with plenty of elevation changes.
The bikes were then ridden back-to-back over a few weeks, during which we assessed the pros and cons of each, finally coming to a decision on the best gravel bike on test based on how well it handles, its spec choice and – arguably most importantly of all – how much fun it is.
Our 2022 Gravel Bike of the Year contenders are:
- Cervélo Aspero Rival AXS
- Cinelli Nemo Gravel Disc Ekar Mendini
- Cube NuRoad C:62 Pro
- Giant Revolt Advanced Pro 0
- Vielo V+1
|Price||EUR €5699.00GBP £5499.00|
|Available sizes||48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm|
|Tyres||Panaracer GravelKing SK Folding 700 x 38|
|Stem||Easton EA70 Alloy|
|Shifter||SRAM Rival eTap AXS HRD 12-speed|
|Seatpost||Easton EC70 Carbon|
|Saddle||Prologo Dimension STN|
|Rear derailleur||RAM Rival XPLR eTap AXS 12-speed|
|Handlebar||Easton EC70AX Carbon|
|Bottom bracket||SRAM Dub|
|Fork||Cervélo all-carbon, tapered Áspero-5 fork with adjustable trail|
|Cranks||SRAM Rival AXS 1 40T|
|Chain||SRAM Rival, 12-speed|
|Cassette||SRAM Rival XPLR 12s XG1251, 10-44|
|Brakes||SRAM Rival HRD, SRAM CenterLine 160mm rotors|
|Wheels||Reserve 32mm DT370 XDR, 24h (F), 24h (R), 24mm IW, centre-lock, tubeless-ready|