First ride review: new Cervelo S5 is simpler and faster
The new S5 might look like the old S5 but it is a bit lighter, a bit more aero, and a lot simpler.
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Two days on from its sponsored team Jumbo-Visma’s domination of the Tour de France and on the day Marianne Vos will pull on the yellow jersey of the Tour de France Femme for the first time, Cervelo has finally and officially announced its latest flagship dedicated aero race bike, the new S5.
Although the entire Jumbo-Visma squad has been racing on the new S5 throughout this season, with both Van Aert and Vingegaard racing green and yellow jersey matching S5s on the Champs Élysées, Cervelo had kept pretty quiet on the existence of the new frame.
Today, Cervelo confirmed all the details, upgrades, and tweaks to the new frame and specs for the four complete bike options.
It wasn’t just Cervelo’s marketing department keeping quiet on the new bike, the bike’s engineers and designers kept the updates relatively low-key, too. The new S5 is a refinement of the previous iteration with a focus on making the already fast bike more user-friendly rather than an entirely fresh design. The tweaks are subtle: deeper frame sections, a new fork to simplify the front end, and more tyre clearance.
Refine to simplify
The previous iteration of the S5 remains a fast bike, but few bikes on the market, if any, feature a more complex and time-consuming fork, stem, and handlebar setup to work on. In addition to the time-consuming internal cable routing, the previous S5 features a two-piece external steerer fork assembly making up the front nose cone. It requires specific screw lengths for each stem stack height. And then there are the additional spacers and wedges for adjusting bar height and rotation. And on top of that, the design allowed the preload cone to potentially damage the head tube. In short, the overly complicated setup might see some owners booking time off work just to adjust handlebar height, reach, and angle.
Thankfully Cervelo has greatly improved the front-end user-friendliness for the new S5. The entire fork, including nose cone, is now just one piece. Gone are the stack-specific bolts, replaced with one bolt length compatible with all 30 mm of spacer stack adjustment. The handlebar attachment is simplified and allows for up to 5° of rotation without any additional wedges. The refined bar shape now features a perfectly flat bar to hood transition area for improved comfort. And the potential for head tube damage has been fixed, too.
Unsurprisingly, the internal wire and hose routing remain, meaning a stem or headset bearing change will still require a hefty chunk of time. Still, setup and adjustment are comparatively a breeze. Our test bike S5 arrived fully built with the stem detached from the fork mount. Attaching the stem, and adjusting the bars ready for a ride took about five minutes (although cutting the seatpost to length due to the interrupted seat tube design took quite a bit longer).
In more good news, in reducing the S5’s front-end complexity, Cervelo also found 53 grams of weight saving. That’s not a huge saving when considering the total weight of the new S5 (more on this in a bit), but any weight shaved on this aero platform is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, all this ease of use comes at a cost. The new bike is only compatible with electronic shifting. And anyone with the current S5 hoping to swap their specific stem and handlebar sizes to a new frame will be disappointed to learn the new front end is incompatible with the old stem and bars.
One thing that remains forward compatible is the S5’s previous generation 25 mm offset seatpost, a part that Cervelo will continue to offer. However, Cervelo says it has listened to bike fitters the world over, who are said to be positioning riders further forward, and so the S5 now comes stock with a 15 mm offset seatpost, while a 0 mm version is expected to be available, too.
Somewhat surprisingly for a new aero frame, Cervelo’s overview of the new S5 relegates the first mention of aero enhancements to third on the list of improvements. And to reiterate, that’s not unexpected given how radical and fast the S5 already was in its design.
That said, Cervelo has still provided some aero enhancements, mostly thanks to the UCI’s decision to relax its frame design regulations in 2020. The new regulations allowed Cervelo to deepen the tube profiles of what was already the fastest aero bike on the market.
These aero tweaks are most notable on the deeper head tube, the taller bottom bracket area, a new profiled nose on the fork steerer, a tidier dropout, and the larger compensation triangle where the seat tube meets the top tube. More subtly, Cervelo has updated the trailing edge of the truncated tubes with what the company describes as a “more aggressive shaping”.
To simplify all that, the new S5 features much deeper and more aggressively shaped tubes which Cervelo claims reduce the aero drag by 65 grams compared to the previous S5.
All that extra surface area certainly looks fast, but one would typically assume such larger frame tubes means more weight. The previous S5 is known to be on the heavy side, and while dedicated aero bikes rarely make the best platform for a true weight-weenie build, I was concerned the new S5 would be heavier again. Thankfully, and despite the greater surface area on many tubes, Cervelo has managed to keep the new S5 a smidge lighter than its predecessor (the exact difference is still to be confirmed). Lighter it may be, but my 56 cm test bike still weighed in at 8.03kg with Shimano Ultegra 12-speed Di2 and Reserve’s new 52/63 wheelset, before pedals.
Regarding Reserve’s new wheels, Cervelo increased the clearance to 34 mm (measured tyre width) for the new S5. According to the brand, the new frameset is optimised around the increased width in the wheels and matching tyres, something that it believes to be faster aerodynamically and more comfortable.
The new wheels, developed under Reserve’s Turbulent Aero philosophy of developing and testing the wheels based on real-world turbulent and windy conditions, are said to stall less dramatically at greater yaw angles (follow the link for a CyclingTips Nerd Alert podcast on the topic). Reverse claims them to be 50 grams faster in laminar (traditional) flow, and 54 grams faster in turbulent flow than the outgoing Reserve 50/65 combo.
The right or wrong set of wheels and tyres can make or break any bike. Based on just two rides so far, the inclusion of Reserve’s new 52/63 with 28 mm Vittoria Corsas on the new S5 certainly helps to make it.
First ride impressions
With two little things called the Tour de France and Eurobike happening over the past month, I have only managed two rides on the new S5 to date. And as such, a longer-term review will follow. In the meantime, early impressions suggest that Cervelo has created a stunningly fast race bike.
Yes, the S5’s weight remains on the high side. And even the newly simplified front-end still overly complicates the simple stem. However, all that was forgiven on the first ride. The weight and stem are the knock-on effect of improved aerodynamics, and the S5 more than delivers in both the sensation of being fast and average speed numbers from what I’ve seen to date.
The S5’s deep aero tubes and wild cockpit setup had me expecting a bone-jarring, heavy, and sluggish ride feel. And yet, I was immediately surprised by just how light, nimble, and responsive the S5 feels.
As a dedicated aero bike with a pre-existing focus on pedalling stiffness, the S5 will never be as compliant or comfortable as any number of other less-aero bikes on the market. Still, the S5 has surprised me with just how smooth it rides over rough rural roads, most likely largely thanks to the more voluminous tyre system now provided.
Cervelo will offer the new S5 in a choice of four complete builds: Shimano Dura-Ace (£12,500 / €12.999), Shimano Ultegra Di2 (£9,199 / €9.699), SRAM Red AXS (£12,999 / €13.499), and SRAM Force AXS (£9,599 / €10.199). Each build is equipped with the new Reserve 52/63 wheelset and is available in a mix of black or sapphire/white colour ways. Pricing for the USA and Australia is still to be confirmed.
Cervelo will also offer a frameset option priced at £5,399 / €5.499, including the frame, fork, stem, handlebars, and seat post. Plus, if you go the frameset route, there’s an extra “Tiger Eye” (aka red) colourway.
Expect a deeper dive and a more comprehensive review soon. In the meantime, you’ll find more information at Cervelo.com