Cervélo’s R series is the brand’s Grand Tour bike, designed for big climbs and high mileage days at fast speeds. The R series is also its most successful range, when it debuted in 2003 Carlos Sanchez and Tyler Hamilton both rode it to victory, and Fabian Cancellara won at Roubaix in 2006 on the R3.
The new bike has been designed to improve the ride, so you’ll see simple things like an increase in the tyre clearance to enable use of 28mm tyres on a wide rim.
From working with its pro team, Cervélo has also revised the geometry. Some riders wanted to get a lower, more forward position so were effectively sizing down, which could have a negative effect on stability and handling.
Cervélo started the transition to a new geometry standard with the revised S5 from 2015, to allow for a lower position. Now Cervélo will give you a pro fit (long and low) on the S5 and R5, while lower models have a more sport-focused shape.
Cervélo has also looked at trail, bottom bracket drop, wheelbase and chainstay length. Simply put, more trail adds stability, less makes it quicker to steer, so the R gets a slightly reduced trail figure, making it faster handling.
Straight from the gate the R5 feels taught, standing out of the saddle and stomping on the pedals is met with stunning acceleration. Where it really surprises is that for a chassis that feels this stiff it doesn’t feel harsh.
Settle into the saddle and get up on the hoods and the R5 is sweetly smooth, with the D-shaped carbon post, with its long, laid-back head, offering plenty of compliance.
The comfortable Antares saddle shifts for and aft as the post absorbs the hit, it’s a weird feeling, but one not dissimilar to the Lapierre’s elastomer-infused buffer.
The SRAM eTap drivetrain works well. Yes, the shifts seem a little longer and deliberate at the front than Shimano’s latest Di2 but I love the reduction in cables, giving the R5 a super-clean appearance.
Zipp’s new 302 carbon clinchers are the aero pioneer’s latest, more affordable aero wheel. The shape isn’t nearly as bulbous and blunt as its 303 Firecrest design. I was impressed with the tight build of the wheels, and their performance in serious crosswinds was confident. Braking in the dry is firm and noise free, but they lack the feel given from the Showstopper brake track on pricier Zipps, and wet-weather performance was good not great.
The new carbon bar is stiff, and very well shaped. Our only criticism is the front end does occasionally feel solid, almost a little dead feeling, and a little at odds with the smoothness of the rear.
Climbing on the R5 is a joy, the combination of lightness and a great gear range encourages fast climbs, and the balance of the frame means you’ll get out of the saddle more readily.
When the road heads down the R5 becomes a truly impressive bike. The steering responses are 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.
The new R5 is a great all-rounder, it climbs and descends brilliantly, and puts a huge grin on your face while you do it. Plus it’s similarly highly-specced to its closest rivals, the Tarmac and Émonda, but cheaper.