There are certain products that are truly the gold standard. Launching a new family sedan? The Camry is your competition. How about a new tablet? Look at how it stacks up against the iPad. And when any company comes out with a new aero road bike the immediate comparison is the Cervélo S5. Just look at Felt’s data on their new AR – the comparison started with the S5. So when the opportunity presented itself for us to get some serious hands-on time with an S5, we jumped at it. But this is going to be more than just a review of the S5. We also plan on seeing what it takes to turn this S5 into a true jack-of-all-trades bike – something just as at home on a Gran Fondo as it is racked in transition.
The Cervélo S5
Everyone’s first impression of the S5 is that this bike is built to cheat the wind. The deep tubes and cutout seat stay makes this look more like a TT bike than a road racing machine. Nicknamed a P4 with drops (and for very good reason, but more on that later), Cervélo built this to be the ultimate aero road bike.
Many of the features we find on Cervélo TT bikes have made it to the S5. The dropped down tube smoothes the airflow from the fork to the down tube, filling in the turbulent air gap behind the fork crown.
The seat tube wraps around the rear wheel and flares at the top in conjunction with the seat stays to hide the rear brake (in a way that is very reminiscent of a P3).
The S5 features two water bottle positions hidden behind the flared down tube. It’s worth noting that using the lower bottle position saves a claimed 14 grams of aero drag (though limits you to using a single bottle).
When developing the S5, Cervélo benchmarked not just road bikes but TT / Tri bikes as well. In 2011 they took the S5 to the tunnel against the Giant Trinity Advanced, Shiv TT (with nosecone), Plasma 3, original Trek Speed Concept 9, and their very own P4. I doubt anyone would be surprised to see Cervélo make the statement that the P4 took on all challengers. What shocked us was seeing that they claimed the S5 slightly beats the P4 (and this was when the P4 was still very much on the market). You can check out their complete data – here.
Fit wise, Cervélo claims the S5 is built with the same classic road handling and fit as their R-series. To do this, they have fitted the S5 with a dual-position seat post that allows a range of 20mm behind to 20mm ahead of the traditional position (an important feature if your plan is to use this bike for both road races and triathlons).
Wow. That’s the first thought that comes to mind when you start to push the speed on an S5. This bike is a rocket ship. To date we have been riding the S5 bone stock (except for our preferred saddle), and yet our average speeds are within 1-2mph of the times (over a known course) we reach on our fully outfitted TT bikes. Obviously we’ve been blown away by this, even if only because our TT machines are equipped with 60-80mm carbon wheels versus the Fulcrum Racing wheels that our test bike came equipped with (though that will be changing in the coming week). This is a serious speed machine.
Cervélo sent us their S5 Ultegra equipped with mechanical Ultegra 6800 (11-speed). This is our first chance to spend some significant time with 6800, and so far we are impressed. Shifting is smooth and precise. And in many ways, rear shifting is more reminiscent of the previous generation Dura Ace than Ultegra (not a bad thing). When shifting, you get strong, positive feedback on the shifts. The 6800 hoods are extremely comfortable. We are enjoying spending times in the hoods versus the basebars on our TT machines on long group rides.
The only issue we have seen so far is that the S5 does seem to share a bit of its handling with its TT brethren. The frame flexes more than we expected at the bottom bracket under hard acceleration, giving us pause in the corners as a result. We have little doubt that over time we will come to anticipate the flex and be able to ride the S5 deep into the corners, but we are just not there yet. We also don’t anticipate it will become the same canyon carver our LaPierre Xelius is. We had hoped that the lighter VWD frame may have increased stiffness, but Cervélo has told us otherwise.
The S5 is a rocket ship – it has only been a few weeks but we feel like we are just breaking the surface on how fast it can go. To get to the next level we are planning on a few enhancements. Sitting in our HQ garage is the perfect set of wheels for the S5– Mavic Cosmic CXR 60 C’s. We also have a set of Profile Design T3+ carbon aerobars to help us take advantage of the dual-position seat post and get us low into the aero position. Over the next month, our plan is to take the S5 on group rides as well as individual workouts TT style. We’re looking forward to seeing just what the S5 is capable of and whether it truly has a dual personality – can it dance around the corners as well as it can sprint the straight-aways? Keep watching the WiRs to find out.