Cervélo's R2 shares its frame with the R3 model, which has won Paris-Roubaix three times, and is trickle-down technology in action. Claimed weight for a 56cm frame with hardware fitted is below 1kg, so it’s no surprise that even with some comparatively basic parts fitted, it still manages to be admirably light. Its pedigree carried it to a podium position for its price bracket in our sibling magazine Cycling Plus's recent Bike of the Year 2016 awards.
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The carbon fork was originally designed for the limited volume R3 Mud northern Classics machine, and offers extra beef up front plus room for larger tyres.
We like the understated grey finish with orange highlights, and the clean, simple lines of the R2’s frame look classy and purposeful. Look a little closer and some performance cues become obvious, such as the Squoval (square/oval) tube profiles, giant BBright bottom bracket area and simply enormous asymmetric chain stays.
Cervélo was one of the original innovators of skinny seatstays, and the R2 continues the family theme, the thin stays topping out in a neat monostay. They’re slightly dropped from the top tube junction, and there’s plenty of deflectable seat tube and seat post left to provide seated comfort.
Plenty of exposed seatpost helps keep things comfy
The flat-sided head tube of our 56cm frame measured 17cm tall, and the shallow headset top cap means just a 5mm spacer is required to create this tester's ideal race position. Should you want an extraordinary saddle to bar drop, negative rise (AKA dropped) stems are an option.
In terms of specification, the frameset quality inevitably means there are some compromises made to meet this price tag – some of which will hardly result in disappointment. Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs promise reliable shifting, and the FSA Gossamer compact crankset is another trusty performer.
A 105 drivetrain and FSA Gossamer crankset are cost-saving choices, but good ones
FSA also supplies Gossamer brake calipers, and an SL-K carbon seatpost, while the cockpit is well-finished 3T fare. But Shimano’s RS010 wheelset and Vittoria Rubino Slick tyres struck us as items that might damp progress a little once out on the road.
Light and efficient character
The R2 is characterised by a light touch, gliding serenely along with great efficiency. From the off, we found the position perfect, and felt well balanced while spinning along. Of course, this being the UK, the weather was wet and windy, and flying through the mud-covered, slimy lanes, the R2 displayed the sort of intuitive seat-of-the-pants control usually reserved for bikes that really hurt your wallet.
Road feedback is a constant and very positive conversation, and feel is superb, keeping you aware of every contour, and building enormous confidence. It’s rare to feel so at one with a test bike so quickly, and it's a mark of the frame’s quality that we could easily predict how far to push it in the slippery corners. Exiting corners and standing on the pedals unleashes a surge of acceleration, as the stiff head tube, beefy BBright bottom bracket area and super stays do their work.
Shimano's RS010 wheels sustain speed well but are sluggish accelerators
As suspected though, there was a sense of recalcitrance from the wheelset. Although the frame channels so much energy to the rear wheel, it responds like a reluctant teenager.
It is possible to propel the R2 along at great speed – once rolling, the Shimano RS hoops sustain velocity well, but they’re just a little leisurely to get going.
In the hills, the R2 is a relentless climber, feeling completely at home when aiming for the sky, and it caps that with utterly solid descending skills. The Gossamer Pro brake callipers aren’t as firmly sprung as Shimano units, but there’s enough power there for confident speed scrubbing and big stops.
The 17cm head tube and shallow top cap made achieving our preferred position a cinch
So it’s a stunning frame, but is that enough to paper over the small gaps on its spec sheet?
In my opinion, yes. When a bike rides this well, you already have the beating heart of a thoroughbred, and everything else can be improved to match as and when possible. The fact that its potential makes itself blindingly obvious despite tardy wheels and some workmanlike components is even greater testament to what’s on offer here.
It’s one of the clearest cases of a frameset crying out for an upgrade that we’ve ridden, and even as sold, is definitely a bike well worth experiencing, as over time a little swapping out will see it age like a fine wine.