“The Cérvelo R5 Di2 is one of the finest racing bikes we've ever tested.”
The Cérvelo R5 Di2 is a very rare beast – a true superbike that you can live with and ride all day, every day
Canada’s Cérvelo has always been at the heart of racing – its first bikes we’re conceived for just that and as long as it's been able to it's been involved in the world’s biggest races. For 2015 it looked like Cérvelo might miss the year's biggest race, as its deal with Garmin had come to an end (with Garmin partnering with Cannondale). Cérvelo however went with relative new comers MTN Qhubeka who have secured a spot in this year’s Tour. It’s the bike you’ll see the likes of Britain’s Steve Cummings, ex-Sky sprint specialist Edvald Boasson Hage and Matt Goss on board.
• Highs: Wonderful handling, beautifully smooth, devastatingly quick too
• Lows: The wheels are great, but not superbike stuff, average saddle
• Buy If: You want a great handling ride and love spending time in the drops
Cérvelo’s R series bikes have always been about lightweight and stiffness with a decent dollop of smooth comfort thrown in. The more radical S5 is the speed machine; the R is the bike for huge mileages. That does do the R5 somewhat of a disservice though. The frame is based on (in fact it’s the same mold) the highly exclusive and hugely expensive RCA (handbuilt in Cérvelo's California design studio), which is the fruition of a study into lighter weight and improved aerodynamics. Cérvelo’s own ‘Squoval 3’ tube shaping (square-oval) has, it claims, a small but not insignificant 7.4 watt aero advantage over the previous design.
The chassis of the R5 is a quite wonderful thing. The handling is brilliantly balanced – it's lightning quick to respond yet never ventures into nervousness or drama. It’s one of those rare beasts where the accuracy of the steering is so absolutely pin-point you’ll exploit every twist and turn no matter how tight to gain an advantage.
Cérvelo was one of the pioneers of using oversized and asymmetric chainstays to enhance drivetrain stiffness, yet offsetting with slender (and more flexible) seat stays to add a little comfort. That’s continued and on this R5 it does a superb job of cutting down on road noise. It's helped by the slender 27.2 carbon post (which also hosts the Di2 battery), but hindered a little by the Fizik Antares saddle. The Antares' flat and slender profile is neither as easy to manoeuvre around as on than the brilliant Arione, or as wonderfully comfortably shaped as the legendary Aliante. In Fizik’s performance-leading line-up it’s always been something of an also-ran. We’d opt for either of the Italian’s alternatives over this every time.
The Cérvelo patented BBright bottom bracket shell adds a layer of solidity and a feeling that none of your effort is lost, that simply everything is pulsing you forward ever quicker. Cérvelo worked closely with Spain’s Rotor on BBright so it's no surprise to see the CNC’d 3D+ chainset here in place of Shimano’s Dura-Ace to match the rest of the bike's Di2 set-up.
Like with so many of the latest superbikes, the Cérvelo R5 Di2 has become the defacto choice, with peerless shifting that’s consistently quick and accurate. Here it’s presented in a pro-spec combo of a 52/36 ring pairing and a close 11-25 cassette. We thought that may be a little tall for some of the steepest slopes on our testing ground but the R5 just feels so wonderfully efficient we were never found wanting for an extra sprocket.
Just as the Cérvelo R5 Di2 is peerless in its shifting, so too are the Dura-Ace brakes in their stopping. The progress nature of the power makes for a set of stoppers that are only topped by the very best hydraulic systems. When matched to the alloy braking surface of the HED Ardennes Plus LT wheels they offer secure stopping in all conditions. The Ardennes Plus LT is a top-notch wheel, its wide 25mm rim shaped makes for a smooth tyre profile, which adds comfortable compliance, but not at the expense of speed. The build quality is top notch too and the hubs are smooth. At 1,564g a pair they’re also reasonably light. On the negative side it's a wheelset that retails at £800, and on a bike that retails for a penny shy of £6,700, which does mean it feels a little rich. Even with the Ardennes, the R5 still manages to sneak under the UCI’s legal limit (and in a large 58cm size), with a set of range-topping carbon hoops it’d smash it apart. Like the Trek Émonda, the R5 just reinforces how outmoded and out-dated the legal sanctioned weight limit is.
Elsewhere the carbon cockpit and post are all from FSA’s range topping K-Force line. The ovalised top shape of the bar has a distinct falling angle towards the ultra-compact drop. It’s a shape we really like and with a bike as rapid as the R5 you’ll want to spend as much time as possible in the drops, and this compact shape just encourages that.
It’d be easy to become blasé with the R5 in the face of new kids on the block like the Trek Émonda, Pinarello F8, and Colnago VR-1, but that would be a big mistake. The R5’s stellar performance is still as wonderful as it was when it launched and it remains one of the finest lightweight racing machines we’ve ever tested.
Cérvelo R5 Di2 Specification
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace
Cranks Rotor 3D+ - 52/36
Frame Material Carbon
Front Tyre Continental Grand Prix 25mm
Handlebar FSA K-Force compact carbon
Rear Tyre Continental Grand Prix 25mm
Saddle Fizik Antares
Shifters Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Stem FSA OS99 CSI
Weight (kg) 6.7
Wheelset HED Ardennes Plus LT
Frame size tested 58cm
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