There are plenty of bold claims being made about the new Cervélo R5, but none of them are the usual ones about flyweight frames, which in some regards is what we are usually used to hearing from Cervélo, but now it's all about how the bike feels and how it handles.
I recently took the Cervélo R5 out for two days riding north or Bergamo in Italy, and into steep hills, mountain climbs and snake-like road descents. It’s the ideal ground for taking the R5 through its paces.
Cervélo R5 spec overview
- Weight: 6.831kg/15.06lbs (Size 56cm)
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Carbon
- Gears: Shimano 9100 Dura Ace 52/36, 11-30
- Wheels: Mavic Kysrium Elite UST
- Tyres: Mavic Yksion YST tubeless
- Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace
- Bar: Cervélo Aero road
- Stem: Cervélo carbon
- Post: Cervélo D-shaped carbon
- Saddle: FiZik Antares
Straight from the gate, the R5 feels taught. Standing out of the saddle and stomping on the pedals gives a pulse-like response, it feels like every ounce of your energy through the pedal stroke is pushing you forward with no losses from flex through the frame.
Where it really surprises though is that for a chassis that feels this stiff it certainly doesn’t feel harsh. In fact, settle into the saddle and get up on the hoods and the R5 is sweetly smooth, with the D-shaped carbon post and its long laid back head offering plenty of compliance.
The build of mechanical Dura-Ace combined with Mavic’s all new UST Tubeless Ksyrium wheel/tyre system works very well. I'm impressed with the new mechanical Dura-Ace and its more mechanical feel, having a bit more snap and positive clicks between gears compared to the previous generation's light, silent operation.
The new Ksyriums offer the same great performance with a stiff flex-free rim and smooth hubs. The new tubeless tyres are sticky and grippy, though they do look somewhat on the narrow side for a 25. I measured them and they do indeed measure up at 25, which just goes to show how different tyre manufacturers sizes vary in the extreme (especially when mounted on wider rims than the Mavics).
The tyres look swamped by the extra clearance that the R5 frame and fork offer, so I’d have no reservations with a wider carbon rim, and perhaps even a 28c tyre should the fancy take me.
The new carbon bar is stiff and very well shaped. I like the way the aero-flat tops slightly kick back towards you, so when you're in the midst of a long extended climb, and get into a rhythm on the tops, your hand position is spot on and not in the usual elbows out style you get when the sweep is more forward.
My only criticism is that the front end does occasionally feel solid, almost a little dead feeling, like its bouldering over rougher surfaces rather than smoothly flowing, like an endurance bike, such as its own C-Series, does. It’s a combination of the increased stiffness in the head tube, a stiff bar, and tyres with a little more psi in them than I’d prefer, and in all honesty a sacrifice I'm happy to make when the bike handles this well.
However, a change in tyre pressure helped, so I’d be more likely to experiment with tyre choice to get things really smooth.
When I eventually crested some tough climbs and the road turned down, the R5 became a truly impressive bike. The steering responses are just spot on, and the ability to control the bike through weight shifts to hit the apex through a hairpin is among the best I’ve tried — up there with Cannodale’s Evo and Bianchi’s Specialissima, along with a couple of new debuts I'm not allowed to mention yet.
Cervélo R5 Dura Ace early verdict
I like the idea of the slightly lower front end, whether it goes enough into the pro-territory (like the S5) to satisfy the ‘slam your stem’ brigade I’m not sure, but for me the bike felt right. It's comfortable and relaxed up on the hoods, and tight, controlled and quick when down in the drops.
Overall, the R5 is a great all-rounder; it climbs brilliantly, descends like it's on rails and puts a huge grin on your face while you do it.
I like this new direction for Cervélo, first with the S5 getting more aggressive and smoother at the same time. Then the excellent C-Series and its all-road ability, even the Ironman specific P5X has a remarkably comfortable ride for a low-pro bike. Now this, an R-Series that isn’t about winning the low weight/high stiffness war, its just a damn fine road bike, admittedly an expensive one, but damn fine all the same.