Despite its familiar looks, as the bike used by the Garmin Sharp team, the aerodynamic Cervélo S5 is still fresh and new, and quite a head turner.
Our Team version frame is lighter than the standard S5, but heavier than the lofty VWD range topper, and at £3,000 just for the frame it’s maybe over-clubbing it for a winter hack. Still, needs must…
First impressions were of silence, and even with a nagging headwind we seemed to be gliding along more smoothly than usual. The already tall head tube’s size is exaggerated by the deep down tube overlapping the fork crown to enclose the usually turbulent space between frame and front wheel.
And with a TT-style, rear wheel hugging seat tube and slim down tube that flares to shroud the bottle mount, the S5 has real world aero benefits that seem to reduce spray too. As our loop turned across the wind, though, and we exposed the bike’s extensive flanks to it, our ride became more akin to sailing.
The carbon Pro Vibe bar and stem work hard to keep road buzz and vibration at bay, and mostly succeed, but the epic seatstays and chainstays don’t offer such rear end cosseting, and big hits make their way directly to the saddle. Thankfully, although the Selle San Marco Mantra saddle looked far from comfortable, its largely split design is surprisingly good at toning down the uncompromising back end.
During stormy conditions the mechanical Dura-Ace groupset continued to deliver slick snicks between gears, even under load, and in the hills the S5’s ruthless efficiency showed itself. The tight back end and short wheelbase give immediate drive and help you fire up climbs, despite the weight of the deep C50s being on a par with typical training wheels.
When putting the pressure on over the top, the contrast between the stiff rear end and slimmer front can cause a snaking feeling if you tend to mash big gears rather than caress them, and crosswinds only exacerbate the situation, adding extra lateral torque.
The S5 lacks the incisive sharpness of the all-rounder R5 range. It’s sometimes more tiller than scalpel, and it requires a shift of expectation regarding response on technical descents. But it’s a glorious learning experience, and after a couple of hours it was second nature.