Over just 19 years, Cervelo has carved itself a cycling heritage almost as rich as Dan Martin’s – the Garmin Sharp rider’s parents are former British pro Neil Martin and Stephen Roche’s sister, so cycling is in his genes. At the time of writing, Martin is recovering from a broken collarbone sustained in the Giro but when he recovers this is what he’ll be riding.
The R5 sits below the RCA in Cervelo’s R-Series line-up, but the 2014 model is actually last year’s RCA frame, its Squoval 3 tubing bringing a claimed 7.4 watt aero advantage, 9.5 percent stiffer bottom bracket and 15 percent greater torsional head tube stiffness than the previous R5. It also weighs just 6kg with a cage and Garmin mount. Add Garmin Vector pedals and pods (351g), another bottle cage (28g), chain catcher and a solid outer chainring and it’s still short of the 6.8kg the UCI requires, even with an all-metal cockpit and Di2.
Martin has his 13cm stem sitting on 15mm of spacers
Set up for Martin, the 54cm R5 has 15mm of spacers beneath a 13cm +/-17-degree stem. The cockpit is function over form, with the levers perched high in an old-school position that clearly suits him. We found the reach manageable, though the accentuated drops position is aggressive, but that lever setup gives great security on the hoods and provides a useful handhold.
The forward position takes some adapting to out of the saddle and subtly slows steering, which gives the R5 added stability for bunched racing and makes cornering more deliberate. It still has electric response when required and scalpel-like accuracy when picking a line.
The frame is wonderfully balanced and brutally efficient, with the BBright bottom bracket and asymmetric chainstays unerringly converting watts to speed. Cervelo was the first maker to popularise slim seatstays, and the much-emulated design is still effective at calming rough roads; with the 27.2mm carbon seatpost the comfort’s acceptable, even with the skinny carbon Antares saddle.
The only problem you're likely to find on an R5 is staying within sensible speed limits…
Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 with internal battery makes for clean lines and instant shifting, although Garmin Sharp use Rotor cranks rather than Shimano – and Dan Martin runs Rotor’s 3D+ and round NoQ rings, whereas our machine sported its elliptical Q-Rings. In use, the eccentric shape isn’t obvious, but the consensus is that to get the best out of them you’ll need to ride them exclusively for a few months. The cranks are as stiff as any top-level unit, though, and they work faultlessly.
Mavic’s Cosmic Carbone Ultimate wheels weigh just 1645g with 23mm Mavic Yksion tubs and are very urgent. The 40mm-deep rims are largely unaffected by crosswinds, super-responsive, climb superbly, have excellent lateral rigidity when descending or sprinting, plus consistent braking. Martin’s bike doesn’t usually feature Mavic tubulars, but the 23mm Yksions are grippy.
The only downside to riding such an extraordinary bike is feeling obliged to ride fast all the time. Luckily, that’s the R5’s speciality, dismissing rolling terrain and racking up the miles with ease.