Cervélo should take the lion’s share of credit for the aero-road bike genre. Its original aluminium Soloist was aero-shaped back in the Canadian company’s early days. The Soloist has since become just S, and we’re now seeing the fourth generation of its flagship aero road machine, the S5.
The S5 looks like a step into the future and is radically different than its competitionCourtesy
The new S5 looks like a step into the future and is radically different to its immediate competition. The potential complexity of its unique front end – the new fork doesn’t have a traditional steerer – didn’t faze us once we’d had chance to inspect it and run through the fitting; in fact, once you’ve bought the bike and had your dealer set it up we’d expect it to be trouble free.
Aside from the radical design, which also includes a time trial-like cut in on the rear wheel and the dropped down-tube that acts as a shield for the trailing edge of the front wheel, where the S5 differs from its previous models is just how taut it feels. The previous model had a bit of flex you could feel when cornering on the limit or sprinting. None of that is present here.
Cervélo claims that it’s upped the ante when it comes to bottom-bracket stiffness (a 25 per cent increase) and head-tube stiffness (13 per cent), and it’s something you can certainly feel. The S5 just goes where you point it – no fuss, no drama, just superb control.
The cutaway seat-tube shelters Enve’s SES wheels for drag-reducing benefitsPhilip Sowels/Immediate Media
Shape-wise the S5 is an aggressive bike. Steep head and seat angles and a low stack and long reach (on our 58cm) mean you’re in a position to attack. Don’t let that put you off, though, as despite the aggressive position, the excellent Prologo Dimension saddle and brilliant new combination of the AB08 bar and V-stem balance each other perfectly and do a brilliant job of nulling vibrations from rough roads. It’s not in the same league as the seriously smooth Trek Madone, but compared to older aero bikes it’s outstanding.
The build is exactly what you’d expect at this price. Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and 9170 hydraulics handle the braking – the same setup as the Madone – and here it works just as well. We like that Cervélo opted to combine a 52/36 chainring up front with a wide 11-30 cassette, as we never found ourselves lacking for a gear, whether descending at speed or climbing super-steep gradients.
The ENVE 5.6 wheels combine a deep 64mm rear with a slightly shallower 54mm front, and wear 25mm Continental GP4000S IIs, which come up significantly wider on these rims. We were impressed with the ENVE’s smooth running and ability to gain speed quickly and hold it well. They’re a fine match for a chassis that seems to gain mph with such ease. That said, we experienced greater wind influence from strong crosswinds on the front wheel than either the KNOT64 of Cannondale’s SystemSix, the Bontrager on the Trek and the Roval Specialized’s Venge is running.
If you put in the effort, the S5 is a personal-best destroying missileRobert Smith
The S5’s handling is the standout characteristic, blending superbly sharp responses with smooth stability at speed. If you put in the effort the S5 is a personal-best destroying missile.
It’s a pricey proposition, and the sharp handling, firm yet comfortable ride and radical looks might not be to everyone’s taste, but the S5 is a wonderful glimpse into the future of aero bike design.