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Cervélo R5 Force AXS review

The latest incarnation of the R5 is everything a modern, race-oriented road bike should be

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £8,599.00 RRP | USD $8,400.00 | EUR €8,799.00
Pack shot of the Cervélo R5 Force AXS road bike

Our review

A superlative machine in every respect bar value
Pros: Sublime handling; supple smoothness; light weight
Cons: Not the best value out there
Skip to view product specifications

I’ve been lucky enough to be at every launch of Cervélo’s four R5 iterations, and the bike has remained pretty much undiluted from the 2011’s original winning formula.

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It started as a lightweight, all-round race bike with expertly manipulated carbon fibre, then came the pro-ride stiffness with a smattering of aerodynamics thrown in, but the designers have kept it away from the limitations of an out-and-out aero road bike, allowing the company’s S-Series bikes to cover that niche.

Cervélo R5 Force AXS frameset details

All this means that you still have a traditional-looking frameset based around a two-triangle diamond. In fact, put this new R5 alongside the original and it’s a case of spot the difference rather than anything apparent.

I’ve always liked the R5’s balance of lightness, great handling and stiffness, but the 2017 third-generation model didn’t quite live up to those first impressions on smooth Italian mountain roads when I got it back to the rough and rutted tarmac of home.

While it still retained the lively agility that defines the R5, I found its front end overdid the stiffness, making it a chattery experience on poor roads.

The Cervélo R5 Force AXS road bike
It’s a very clean-looking bike, with no wires or cables on view.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

It seems Cervélo and its team riders concurred because the brief for this new bike was to drop weight, improve the aero and, most importantly, bring more comfort to the front end. Cervélo has achieved this by applying R&D from its brilliant Caledonia endurance bike and Aspéro gravel machine.

The solution? To lower the stiffness of the head tube to 45 per cent of the stiffness of the bottom bracket (the BB is where your power, and most of your weight, goes through). There is also more compliance in the fork, though Cervélo is keen to point out that the fork has kept the same lateral stiffness.

Cervélo R5 Force AXS geometry

The speed-friendly geometry of the R5 has always been a highlight, and thankfully it’s been left well alone, bar adding a few millimetres to the BB height to adjust for the trend towards larger-volume tyres (the older R5 was designed around 23mm race tyres, rather than the more current 25 or 28mm).

The Cervélo R5 Force AXS road bike is equipped with Vittoria Corsa tyres
The Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0 tyres have excellent grip.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The R5 still has its 73-degree head and seat angles, a low stack (597mm on my 58cm test bike) and a long reach (398mm on the 58cm). This gives it a sporty ride position, but not so slammed as to be wearing after hours in the saddle.

Cervélo has also managed to shave 130g from the frame, which it claims weighs a very respectable 703g, plus it has added a new 329g fork.

A new stem, bar and integrated design, along with aero tweaks, also combine to reduce drag by 25g compared to the old model. How does all this play out on the road? In short, it’s a resolute success on all levels.

The Cervélo R5 Force AXS road bike is equipped with own branded bar and stem
A carbon bar and stem hide the brake hoses.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

I was worried this latest R5 would go down the aero/dropped seatstays route, so I’m happy Cervélo has retained what makes it a titan among race bikes: the compelling mix of low weight and fast handling, with a stiffness that produces an overwhelmingly efficient pedalling response.

It’s one of the best bikes I’ve tested in recent times on climbs, and now there’s a layer of smoothness to the front end for speedy descents too.

485154565861
Seat angle (degrees)737373737373
Head angle (degrees)717273737373
Chainstay (mm)410410410410410410
Top tube (mm)515531548564581598
Head tube (mm)93114137163192218
Fork offset (mm)57.551.545.545.545.545.5
Trail (mm)57.357.357.357.357.357.3
Bottom bracket drop (mm)74.574.5727269.569.5
Wheelbase (mm)9729749779941,0111,028
Standover (mm)695724755778800824
Stack (mm)497522547572597622
Reach (mm)363371380389398407

Cervélo R5 Force AXS spec details

All these factors are enhanced by some great component choices. The Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0 tyres are superb, the linear tread making a distinct zip noise when running fast in a straight line, but it’s in the corners where the graphene-infused compound seems to stretch like gum and provide some truly epic levels of grip even in the damp, slimy conditions of a British autumn.

The new HB13 carbon bar, combined with a slick carbon stem, offers hidden full integration for the brake hoses and, being a wireless SRAM-equipped bike, there are no wires to worry about either.

It makes the R5 a very clean-looking machine. The hose routing is cleverly open on the underside of the bar at the stem, making it an easy bike to break down to pack for travel.

I love the shape of the bar with its deeper-than-compact drop and winged tops, plus it’s clad with super-quality tacky tape.

Contact points can often make or break a bike. Cervélo has it right with the cockpit and in pairing its D-shaped compliant carbon post and ProLogo’s comfortable Scratch M5 saddle with its PAS pressure-relief channel. The 143mm width may not suit everyone, but it works for me and, if not, it’s a premium saddle that you’d have no trouble selling on.

The Cervélo R5 Force AXS road bike is equipped with a ProLogo Scratch M5 PAS Nack saddle
The Scratch M5 saddle has a PAS pressure-relief channel.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The wheels are from Reserve, and boast an interesting design. The rims are different, not just in height (like Enve), where the front is 34mm deep and the rear 37mm, but also in width.

The front internally measures 22.6mm and the rear 21.6mm. That sizes up the brilliant tyres, which are nominally 25mm to 29.2mm for the front and 28mm at the rear. In fact, this R5 can now take a 34mm tyre, but I can’t imagine you’ll need that unless you’re doing miles over Belgian cobbles.

The rims are built up onto DT Swiss 370 hubs, which aren’t the highest-grade DT hubs, but they’re pretty bulletproof.

The Cervélo R5 Force AXS road bike is equipped with SRAM Force/Quarq chainset power meter
It’s useful to have a crank-based power meter.
Russell Burton / Our Media

Reserve offers these wheels aftermarket in a premium package with DT’s flyweight 180 hubs for 1,300g a pair, but the R5s will be closer to 1,600g with their more modest hubs.

SRAM’s Force AXS is often overlooked in the Chicago brand’s wireless range because it’s not as light or premium as the pro-level Red or as bargain-priced as Rival AXS, but it is a great setup.

The intuitive SRAM shifting – right hand harder, left hand easier, together to shift the front mech – is ever-present, as is the superb integration with the excellent AXS app with its automation settings and huge levels of analysis.

Where the R5 scores again is with the inclusion of the reliable and accurate crank-based power meter, designed by SRAM’s Quarq brand. It gives this bike a real sense of being a total package that you won’t need to add anything to.

Male cyclist in black top riding the Cervélo R5 Force AXS road bike
This is everything a modern, race-oriented road bike should be.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Cervélo R5 Force AXS bottom line

There are certain bikes that define their genre, and this R5 is a true example of everything a modern, race-oriented road bike should be.

It’s devastatingly fast both uphill and down, handles with assured swiftness with not a trace of instability, and it’s more than comfortable enough to see you through day after day of long, hard miles without leaving you prematurely beaten.

It absolutely belongs in the same exalted company as Giant’s TCR Advanced SL 0, Cannondale’s SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod and Merida’s Scultura Team as one of the best road bikes in 2022 – as well as legends such as Specialized’s Tarmac SL7 and Trek’s Émonda SLR.

Male cyclist in black top riding the Cervélo R5 Force AXS road bike
It’s devastatingly fast both uphill and down, and handles with assured swiftness.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

However, the £8,599 price tag for a bike with a second-tier (albeit excellent) groupset, and wheels with pro-level rims and enthusiast-level hubs, is a concern.

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The awesome Scultura Team with new semi-wireless Dura Ace Di2, power meter and proven pro-Tour Vision wheels costs £7,750 – £850 less – while the SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod with Ultegra Di2 is cheaper still at £7,250 (though without a power meter).

Product Specifications

Product

Price EUR €8799.00GBP £8599.00USD $8400.00
Weight 7.54kg (58cm)
Brand Cervelo

Features

Features SRAM Force/Quarq chainset power meter
Cervélo Faceplate front computer/accessory mount
Cervélo rear accessory mount
Available sizes 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Brakes SRAM Force hydraulic discs
Cassette SRAM Force, 10-33
Chain SRAM Force
Cranks SRAM Force AXS, 48/35
Fork Carbon
Frame Carbon
Handlebar Cervélo HB13 carbon
Rear derailleur SRAM Force AXS
Saddle ProLogo Scratch M5 PAS Nack 143mm
Seatpost Cervélo SP24 carbon
Shifter SRAM Force AXS
Stem Cervélo ST31 carbon
Tyres Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0 25c
Wheels Reserve 34/37mm tubeless carbon rims on DT Swiss 370 hubs