Cervelo Unveils New S5

Cervelo launched a new S5 today, the brand’s aero road bike, and I’ll write about it below. First I want just to mention Cervelo in the context of Team Jumbo Visma (TJV) and the just-concluded 2022 Tour de France.

This is the Cervelo’s 20th anniversary in this most popular grand tour. To start off the 2002 Tour American pro Tyler Hamilton decided not to use his Cervelo P3SL in the prologue (as I recall Look Bicycles were the actual team sponsor). Tyler’s teammate, French pro cycling legend (turned triathlete) Laurent Jalabert asked Tyler if he could borrow that intriguing bike and powered it to a virtual dead heat in that stage. Cervelo parlayed that incident shrewdly to jump from tri to road.

It didn’t take Cervelo long to make its mark on the Tour. Carlos Sastre won the GC only 6 years after that 2002 Tour. Even more profound an influence on customers were the TT and Classics exploits of Fabian Cancellara, Dave Zabriskie, Tor Hushovd and others. Here we are 20 years after Jalabert and the P3SL and Cervelo has prospered. It’s been a long time since one team delivered a beatdown as thorough did this team (winning yellow, green and mountain jerseys and 5 stages).

The team’s riders did all this on Cervelo bikes close to stock and in all cases entirely available to you and me. Even the aerobars the team rode are available, though they look nothing like the bars that come stock on a P5 Disc. The team used Visiontech’s custom aerobars and I’ll write about these separately.

While not universally adhered to by all team riders on all stages, in general TJV rode the new S5 overviewed today on flatter stages, the R5 on mountain stages, and the P5 Disc during the time trials. They rode the Caledonia 5 on the Tour’s 5th stage (the stage with the cobbles that caused the mayhem). While a lot of teams opted for very low-slung time trial framesets with high pedestaling, TJV just rolled out their stock tri/TT bikes, and riders aboard these bikes proceeded to take 1st and 2nd on the final time trial. One of Cervelo’s charms is that its TdF team bikes have always – back to 2002 – been available to you and me with very little if any customization. (That’s not always the case with bike makers, even if the bikes ridden in grand tours appear superficially to be stock bikes.)

The new S5 is launched today officially but has been ridden by TJV throughout this year’s Tour. It appropriately features the curved seat tube popularized by Cervelo first in its tri bikes, notably on that 2002 P3SL. The new S5 is little more aero due to Cervelo taking advantage of more relaxed UCI rules on tube profiles. It’s a little lighter as well (claimed is 65 grams less drag; 53 grams less weight).

This is an aero superbike, but it’s not got the adjustment limitations of most integrated bar/stem systems. Stems from 80mm to 130mm in 10mm increments are available, with 30mm of stack. There’s only one set of bolts affixing the stem to the frame rather than increasingly longer bolts as the handlebar stack grew taller (which was the case in the model just prior). Because of the architecture of this handlebar, the frame appears long and low and you would expect the stack and reach numbers to be off-kilter versus what we're used to. But if you look at where Cervelo measures stack and reach (in the schematic just below) it’s not at the typical place. Stack is measured pretty much in line with the top of the top tube and that’s where stack is normally measured, in practice, because the top of the head tube is near the top of the top tube. On this bike, the top of the head tube is several centimeters below the top of the top tube, and the steep upward angle of the stem that goes on this bike compensates for the very low head tube top. Got it?

So, for congruency’s sake, I’m fine with how Cervelo measures it. You can pretty much compare the stack and reach of the S5 against those metrics on other bikes and it’s apples-to-apples.

If you watched the Tour this year – or any grand tour over the last several years – you’ll notice more riders climbing with their hands on the hoods, fewer with their hands on the tops, than would have been the case a generation or two ago. I believe a lot of this is due to shorter cockpits. Yes, today’s hoods are longer than those made pre-century, but those hoods were mounted lower on the handlebar. Also offsetting this are the short-reach bars of today (and have you noticed that more of today’s riders are using gravel-style flared bars?).

But there is one other factor shortening today’s cockpits: riders place their saddles a little closer to the bottom bracket. Why? That’s a subject for a separate article, but I believe it has to do with gearing. Greg Lemond started riding right about when I did, and my first bike had 5 cogs on the back. My chain rings were 52/42 and my 5-speed freewheel had cogs from 13-21. We rode further back because we had to push a pretty low cadence up steep hills back then. We needed leverage, and we pulled on the handlebar’s tops. It’s a different style of riding. Today riders sit further forward, hands on the hoods, higher cadence, even during seated climbs.

Cervelo noticed this too, and its new S5 is built with a seat post that has 15mm of setback rather than the 25mm of setback in the post of its prior S5 model.

Cervelo also noticed that riders are choosing fatter tires for their road bikes, and the S5 can handle up to 34mm tires as measured, which means at least 32mm road tires as advertised. This is wider than the widest tire one would consider riding on an aero road bike, but that clearance does make this a very versatile bike if you – unlike the riders of TJV – aren’t also blessed with a Cal5 and an R5 in your garage.

There are 3 colorways: black, sapphire ice, tiger eye (red); and sizing that’s typical Cervelo: 48cm, 51cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm. Builds are available with Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra Di2; and SRAM RED and Force eTap AXS.

It’s a premium bike that only features premium builds. The available kits are Force and Ultegra electronic 12-speed groupsets up to Dura Ace and RED. The remaining 2021 versions are scarcely less pricey. Cervelo’s S3 – the more affordable aero road bike – is no longer in the line. Everybody wants the S5.

This new S5 is the ultimate aero road bike, pretty much priced that way, and I only have one admonition if this bike is for you. You see the available stems. Make your Cervelo dealer earn the margin. My instinct tells me that not all dealers will carry size runs of the V stem, though they should. The S5 is one of the few aero road bikes with integrated front ends that is completely adjustable. Changing the stem is easy; rerouting hydraulic lines, maybe not so much. But there is no reason not to make sure the bike fits you. If I bought this bike and found that sometime within the first month I want to change the stem length, or height, I’d make sure the bike shop agrees to perform this for me at no extra charge. This is a reasonable expectation.

Here’s more about the new Cervelo S5.