Cervélo’s range has always been split between its aero-optimised S-Series road machines and lightweight Grand Tour-proven R-Series bikes. For 2016 the Dimension Data pros are onboard the R5 for the Tour de France's high passes and gruelling ascents.
Lightning fast and responsive ride
The R5 shares its design with Cervélo’s range-topping RCA, so you get the same blend of low weight and aerodynamics, even though it’s not technically an aero bike. On the road the R5 wows you straightaway, with the lightness of the chassis immediately apparent as soon as you start to turn the pedals in anger.
It’s a well-balanced and responsive ride – lightning-quick to turn, you can also accurately weave it through crowds or navigate sharp descending corners without any drama. We tried our best to ride this bike hard to its limits, but the only thing holding it back was our nerve.
Cervélo was a pioneer of oversized chainstays, and here the drivetrain stiffness is astonishing for such a lightweight bike. Cervélo’s patented BBright bottom bracket shell is solid and gives you the feeling that none of your pedalling efforts are lost. The company worked closely with Spain’s Rotor on BBright, so it’s no surprise to see its CNC’ed 3D+ chainset here, which worked seamlessly with Shimano Di2.
The thin seatstays and slender 27.2mm seatpost help to reduce road buzz, and though we haven’t always been fans of Fizik’s flat, slim Antares saddle, on the R5 it didn’t give our testers any undue grief.
Classy spec, though arguably wheels could be even better
The Dimension Data team riders may well get the new hydraulic Uno groupset from sponsor Rotor, whereas the rest of us will have to ‘make do’ with Shimano’s top-of-the-range Dura-Ace electronic Di2, which was spot on every time, as per usual. In its pro-ready 52/36 setup the Rotor rings are paired with a tight 11-25 cassette, and we really appreciated the small jumps between sprockets, which helped us to easily maintain a smooth cadence. The flipside is that on our test route’s steepest climbs we’d have liked an extra tooth or two on the largest sprockets.
The Dura-Ace brakes are every bit as good as the gearing. With their progressive power and smoothness at the lever, they can only really be beaten by the best hydraulic setups. And when mated to the alloy braking surface of the HED Ardennes Plus LT wheels they offer secure stopping in all conditions.
The build quality of the HED wheels is beyond reproach, the hubs are smooth and at 1564g they’re also reasonably light. Coupled with Continental’s classy Grand Prix 25mm tyres you’ll get comfort though not at the expense of speed. But it's worth noting that some 'cheaper' superbikes come with snazzier rolling stock – Focus’s Izalco Max has Zipp Firecrest 303s, which cost twice as much, for example.
As you’d expect on a bike of this calibre, the finishing kit is all carbon, including an FSA Di2-specific seatpost and an FSA cockpit that we really appreciated. The ovalised tops and compact hooks both provide comfortable handholds, the carbon remaining stiff while also neutralising vibrations.
But for a bike this rapid, we’d recommend forgetting the tops and the hoods – you’ll want to be riding in the drops as much as you can.