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Tour de France

Good enough for Thor … riding the Cervelo S5

Nick Legan rides Cervelo's new S5 (the same model Mr. Hushovd is using). Plus a look at Hushovd's personal bike.

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Riding the Cervelo S5
After only one ride I felt right at home on this 56cm S5. Except for the saddle (I brought my own well-used Arione Tri 2) this is how I rode the bike. The tall head tube made a negative stem necessary. The look of the bike is very form-follows-function. Photo: Nick Legan

The day before the Tour started in Les Herbiers I had a chance to ride Cervélo’s new S5 with several other journalists, among them Phil Liggett. The bike is now featuring prominently under the wearer of the maillot jaune, Thor Hushovd. Dave Zabriskie is the only other rider on Garmin-Cervélo on the bike, though several riders including Tyler Farrar and Christian Vande Velde have one at their disposal.

My one-ride impression:
The geometry of the S5 differs from the S3 that it replaces. At first I was saddened to hear this because I rate the S3 as one of the best handling bikes that I’ve ridden recently. But out of the road, the S5 impressed me. This could be because the geometry for the S5 was taken from the extremely popular R3 (Even the pros love the R3; Tyler Farrar rode one to his stage 4 victory).

The chainstays are longer by 6 mm, but wheelbase is actually the same at 992mm when comparing S3 and S5 56cm frames. The front-end geometry is slightly different too. But out in the real world (especially after only a single ride) it was hard to notice the difference. I did throw the S5 into a few corners and jumped hard a few times over rough roads and Cervélo’s latest bike was very good no matter the circumstance.

The head tube on the S5 is fairly tall at 17.9cm on a 56cm frame. That’s almost as tall as the Specialized Roubaix, which features a 19cm head tube on a 56cm (the S3 has a 16cm on a 56cm). Most pro riders will have their stems either sitting on the headset cap or use a negative degree stem. Cervélo borrowed a 13cm, negative 17-degree stem from the Garmin team so I could achieve my position on the bike. With that in place and my saddle adjusted (easily thanks to the new seatpost head) I felt instantly at home aboard the S5.

The seatpost has two clamping positions, forward for an effective 75-degree seat tube angle and rearward for an effective 71-degree seat tube angle. The overall range of adjustment is huge and should please both Greg LeMond impersonators and triathletes In fact this is the perfect triathlon bike for those seeking one bike for both road training and triathlon racing.

Riding the Cervelo S5
I also got a chance to take a close look at Thor Hushovd's personal S5 after stage 5. Check out the gallery below for more details on the yellow jersey bike. Photo: Nick Legan

I’ve been looking for more options from bike manufacturers who insist on proprietary seatposts for some time and love seeing them in production. Thank you Cervélo!

Cervélo says that the S5 is 12 percent stiffer than the S3 but the new bike felt more reluctant to accelerate compared to the S3 that I rode extensively earlier this year. I think most of that was in the wheels though. The Mavic Cosmic SRs are good all around wheels but not the liveliest I’ve ridden. I do like the aluminum braking surface though and personally don’t mind the extra weight when the rain comes in.

Thoughts after a nice ride
With only a few hours on the bike it’s hard to have any well-formed ideas about the S5, but the simple fact that I was able to easily achieve my position and then go and ride it without any further adjustments is a good sign. I like the somewhat more relaxed geometry. The S5 seems to like big swooping lines. Even Phil Liggett mentioned what a nice bike the S5 is. As a side note, Liggett said that the last time he snuck in a ride at the Tour de France was in 1987 and he rode up l’Alpe d’Huez with Stephen Roche, or at least started the ride with him …

The aesthetics of the bike are definitely polarizing. Some journos instantly fell in love with the look, others shuddered at the sight of it. I’m somewhere on the fence. I don’t think it’s the prettiest bike I’ve ever seen, but as a tool in the pursuit of speed it appeals to me. Purpose-built race bikes are the product of form following function. Details like the two cage mount positions on the down tube show the extent of Cervélo’s obsession for making bikes, and riders, faster.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.