Cervélo Caledonia Rival eTap AXS review
Cervélo’s fast endurance ride for less moneyGBP £4,800.00 RRP | USD $4,700.00 | EUR €4,999.00 | AUD $6,400.00 Skip to view deals
Cervélo’s original Caledonia 5, released in 2021, impressed with its smart mix of sporty handling and smooth running.
It certainly rivalled the likes of Cannondale’s Synapse and Giant’s Defy for big-mile speed, but the downside is its price tag, which in 2023 starts at £7,400.
Thankfully, Cervélo also makes the standard Caledonia, which starts from £3,300 for the Shimano 105 mechanical models and rises to £5,500 for an Ultegra Di2-based build.
In the middle sits this Rival AXS-equipped model – how does it fare in the blurred landscape of today’s endurance bike scene?
Cervélo Caledonia Rival eTap AXS frame
The premium Caledonia 5 and the standard frame share exactly the same geometry. The differences come at either end of the bike.
Up-front, the Caledonia gets a standard head tube and round steerer fork, moving away from the 5’s D-shape steerer.
The brake hoses route internally at the fork crown and down tube (rather than running through an integrated cockpit).
Taking this simpler approach may add a small amount of aerodynamic drag and a few grams of weight, but it arguably makes the Caledonia an easier bike to work on (and to travel with).
At the back, it runs a standard 27.2mm round seatpost, clamped in place by a standard binder, rather than the internal clamp and D-shape post on the 5.
What it does share is the same removable bridge and bosses – so this Caledonia can be run with full mudguards, making it a great year-round option.
The 35mm tyre clearance leaves plenty of room to run wider tyres – Cervélo says it can accommodate up to 31mm-wide tyres with mudguards in place.
The standard Caledonia gets the same carbon layup and construction methods, with a claimed weight of 1,031g for the frame and 432g for the fork (in a 56cm size with all hardware fitted and fully painted).
The down tube features three bosses for two bottle cage positions.
Cervélo recommends using the higher position when running two bottles because it improves the aerodynamics.
It also gets top tube (bento box) mounts hidden behind a covering plate, should you want to carry a feedbag for those epic days out.
Cervélo Caledonia Rival eTap AXS geometry
Cervélo’s take on endurance bike geometry certainly shows plenty of thought, with the broad idea being to increase stability over the race-ready R5.
The head angle is relaxed slightly to 72 degrees, with a 50mm fork offset (the R-Series has a 73-degree head angle and 45mm offset). This means the Caledonia gets a trail figure of 60mm running on 700x30c tyres.
A typical fast-handling race bike has a trail figure of around 57mm. The thinking behind adding 3mm is not to make the Caledonia overly relaxed in its steering responses, but rather to make it more controllable on a wider variety of surfaces.
Effectively, it’s the sort of bike you’d enjoy riding on the mixed surfaces of the north European classics, such as La Ronde and Paris-Roubaix.
The seat tube angle is a regular 73 degrees, while the chainstays run out to a longer 415mm (the R5 has 410mm chainstays).
By lengthening the wheelbase a little and upping the fork offset, the Caledonia is pitched to add stability rather than dulling the fun elements of a ride.
My 58cm test bike comes with a 605mm stack and 396mm reach. Compared to Cannondale’s Synapse (a longtime benchmark in the endurance bike field), it’s 5mm lower and 3mm longer.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74||73.5||73||73||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||70.5||71.5||72||72||72||72|
|Top tube (mm)||502||522||543||565||581||598|
|Head tube (mm)||89.5||109.9||136||162.3||191.2||217.5|
|Fork offset (mm)||59||53||50||50||50||50|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||76.5||76.5||74||74||71.5||71.5|
Cervélo Caledonia Rival eTap AXS build
The Caledonia’s build is based around SRAM’s wireless Rival AXS group.
SRAM’s lowest-price wireless groupset has a lot going for it. The shifting is accurate and quick, especially at the rear (it uses the same electronic control and motor systems as the drivetrain brand’s premium offerings).
The 12-speed gearing spread combines a 40/35-tooth crankset and 10-36t cassette – it’s a perfect endurance pairing.
If you’re more familiar with Shimano’s ranges, it’s equivalent to a 50/34-tooth chainset with an 11-34t cassette.
There’s plenty of speed potential at the top end and a more than low enough gear to see you up over the most epic ascents.
The Rival hydraulic brakes are paired with large 160mm rotors.
The lion’s share of the components are own-brand. Up-front, there’s a tidy alloy stem that comes with a faceplate-fitting GPS mount and Cervélo’s compact-drop alloy bar.
The alloy 27.2mm seatpost is similarly well finished, albeit a curious choice on a £4,800 bike. One might reasonably expect to see carbon here. A Cervélo-branded saddle sits atop the post.
The perch is short in line with modern trends, well-padded and well-shaped. Although choosing a bike saddle is subjective, its comfort levels easily matched established saddle-brand offerings on my test rides.
The wheelset is the DT Swiss Endurance LN (available only as part of the OEM build, not aftermarket).
The alloy rim is shallow at a little over 30mm, blunt aero-shaped and with a 22mm internal width that’s well suited to larger road bike tyres.
The wheelset is fitted with 700x30c Vittoria Zaffiro Pro V G2.0 tyres, and comes set up tubeless.
The Endurance LN hubs spin smoothly and the rear hub uses the new 370LN hub internals, which are based on the same ratchet system as the latest DT 350 hubs.
That means both quiet running and a quick 10-degree engagement.
The Endurance LN wheels weigh in at 805g for the front and 975g for the rear. The overall 1,780g puts them squarely in the middleweight road bike wheels category.
Cervélo Caledonia Rival eTap AXS ride impressions
The Caledonia is everything a great endurance bike should be.
The ride is smooth, with the 30mm tubeless tyres taking the buzz out of poor road surfaces and the slender simplicity of the frame only adding to the bike’s smooth-gliding feel.
However, that’s not to say the Caledonia doesn’t respond in kind when you want to ride harder. Stand up from the comfortable perch and give it your all on the pedals, and the bike lights up with all the verve of a race bike.
That also means the Caledonia makes for a great climbing companion in spite of its middling overall weight (for the price).
The solidity of the frame shines on out-of-the-saddle pulls up steeper ramps, and the comfort levels are more than ample for a seated steady-cadence climb on longer ascents.
Descents are swallowed up, with the combination of stability and steering responses that are quick enough to make line corrections or react to unexpected obstacles with confidence.
Where the Caledonia really wins out is in just how cosseting the ride is, while still being lively and above all fun.
The frame, fork and big-volume tyres combine to smooth out buzzy road vibrations that slowly sap your energy and leave you hanging on at the end of a triple-digit distance ride.
The Cervélo saddle only adds to the comfort levels and the supple tape up-front makes up for the comfort limits of the skinny alloy bar.
The Rival AXS drivetrain is swift enough to keep up with slamming down the cassette, upping the power sprint efforts, while the rear derailleur’s sprung-loaded clutch keeps the chain from slapping the chainstay.
Rival’s braking is good, especially when paired with the large 160mm rotors.
I got a little scraping from the front rotor on an especially wet and cold outing, but overall the control, power and feel are top-notch.
It all adds to Caledonia’s overarching feel of controlled and considered speed.
The DT Swiss wheels have a lively, responsive feel despite the middling weight, and pair well with the Zaffiro Pro tyres.
I experienced a little air loss from the rear rim and tyre combination, but after a couple of roadside pumping sessions, the Vittoria tyre settled and sealed properly.
The Zaffiro Pros are good for compliant comfort and quick enough for a four-season tyre.
Compared to more premium rubber, I found control on damp and greasy surfaces a little wanting, and had a similar experience on a couple of colder days when the road surface was approaching frosty.
After dropping tyre pressures to 5psi below what I’d usually run, my experience improved. That said, I would advise switching to something a little lighter and faster when the weather brightens up as a first upgrade.
At 8.87kg for a size 58, the Caledonia is light enough without being spectacularly so.
That said, its responsive pick-up to pedalling efforts and its swift, yet controlled steering responses make for a bike that’s easy to get up to speed and keep there.
In short, it gives a good impression of a lighter bike.
Despite the glowing ride, though, it’s expensive compared to some similarly focused and similarly specced bikes. It’s £1,400 more expensive than the Merida Scultura Endurance, and more than £1,000 more than Giant’s Rival AXS-equipped Defy Advanced 0.
Although the build is adequate, for a bike knocking on the door of £5,000, I’d have hoped for some higher-grade components.
A carbon seatpost is par for the course these days, while a carbon bar shouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility. Perhaps a wheelset and tyres a notch or two further up the scale would improve value too.
Cervélo Caledonia Rival eTap AXS bottom line
The Caledonia is a brilliant example of a modern pure road endurance bike.
There’s no all-road dilution going on here, and I respect it for that – after all, there are plenty of road riders out there perfectly happy without gravel riding in their lives.
The handling wouldn’t feel out of place on a race bike, and the road manners and smoothness are approaching best-in-class status.
The Cervélo Caledonia is expensive when compared to some of the competition. However, it’s a superb-riding endurance bike. With a leaner, keener price tag, it would be a superb buy, too.
Endurance Bike of the Year 2023 | How we tested
Each of the bikes selected for our Bike of the Year 2023 endurance category was first given a high-tempo two-and-a-half-hour ride to see if any adjustments needed to be made.
The meat of the testing took place over an 82-mile/132km route.
It was then a case of riding the bikes back-to-back and eliminating them one by one until I was left with the best of the bunch.
My decision reflects each bike’s balance, how well it handles, how it’s equipped and, most importantly, how much fun it is to ride.
For the endurance bike testing alone, I notched up in excess of 1,200 miles/1,931km.
Our Endurance Bike of the Year contenders
- Wilier Granturismo SLR UDi2
- Rondo RATT CF2
- Vitus Venon Evo Force AXS
- Cervélo Caledonia Rival
- Merida Scultura Endurance
Thanks to our sponsors, Lazer, FACOM tools and Band Of Climbers for their support in making Bike of the Year happen.
|Price||AUD $6400.00EUR €4999.00GBP £4800.00USD $4700.00|
|Features||Accessories: Cervélo Faceplate front computer/accessory mount, Cervélo rear accessory mount, removable fender mounts|
|Available sizes||48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm|
|Bottom bracket||SRAM DUB Wide, BBright|
|Brakes||SRAM Rival, SRAM Centerline Center Lock 160mm rotor|
|Cassette||SRAM Rival, 10-36, 12-speed|
|Cranks||SRAM Rival, 48/35T, DUB|
|Fork||Cervélo All-Carbon, Tapered Caledonia Fork|
|Front derailleur||SRAM Rival AXS, 12-speed|
|Handlebar||Cervélo Alloy, 31.8mm clamp|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM Rival AXS, 12-speed|
|Saddle||Cervélo Road Saddle|
|Seatpost||Cervélo Alloy 27.2|
|Shifter||SRAM Rival AXS, 12-speed|
|Stem||Cervélo ST27 Alloy|
|Tyres||Vittoria Zaffiro Pro V G2.0 700x30c|
|Wheels||DT Swiss Endurance LN, 24mm, XDR freehub, centerlock, tubeless compatible|