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Cervélo R5: First look and ride impressions of the 2022 climber’s bike

The right reductions raise the performance of this road machine

Cervélo R5 Photo by: Nick Iwanyshyn

Cervélo has launched its fourth iteration of the Cervélo R5. The previous update for the climber’s road bike was in 2017. Since then, the company received feedback from WorldTour pros about how to improve the frame, a process that began in 2019. With the model year 2022 Cervélo R5, it seems that what the bike needed was stuff taken away.

Less stiffness?

The stiffer the bike, the better it is. Right? Well, kinda. You want a frame to be rigid around the bottom bracket, down tube and chainstays so that your input at the pedals turns into the maximum amount of forward movement. Any side-to-side flex wastes your energy. Cervélo found that its R5 frame was plenty stiff, so on the new model, it hasn’t really made any changes to the bottom-bracket area.

One complaint that Cervélo received from pro riders, however, was that the R5’s fork was too stiff and too harsh. “So, with the new fork, we kept the lateral stiffness where it was, but we dialed back some longitudinal stiffness, where the majority of the ride feel comes from,” says Scott Roy, head engineer. One of the strongest critics of the previous R5 fork was Tom Dumoulin. According to Cervélo, Dumoulin says that it’s fantastic now. Primož Roglič’s succinct feedback: “Good bike.”

Roy and his team made slight adjustments to the shape of the fork blades as well as their carbon-fibre layup to gain more compliance as you face road chatter. In corners, however, the fork still has the same lateral, or side-to-side, stiffness to keep the bike’s turning abilities precise, especially on long mountain descents.

Cervélo R5
The front fork of the Cervélo R5 has less longitudinal stiffness than the previous fork, but the same lateral stiffness. Its down tube is lighter. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Stiff numbers

How stiff, or not-so-stiff, are various parts of the frame and fork? Here’s a tour of some of the numbers that Cervélo has released.

The head-tube stiffness is 99 Nm/deg. Bottom bracket stiffness is 221 N/mm. Lateral fork stiffness is 6.34 kg/mm. Longitudinal fork stiffness: 10.6 kg/mm.

Cervélo also provides a head-tube/bottom-bracket stiffness ratio for the R5, which it says is 44.8 per cent. According to the company, a ratio of 45 per cent is the ideal—a magic formula, if you will. I asked about this golden ratio of stiffness. “It’s by no means definitive,” says brand manager Sarah Taylor, “not yet at least, as we are still refining it and dialing it in for specific use cases. But before we started this project, we looked back through our historical database of bikes (ours and the competition) and started to notice a trend.” The Cervélo S5 has that ideal ratio for its tubes. Taylor says that the company will be refining that figure as it continues to develop its bikes, and as it receives feedback from customers and pro riders alike.

Cables begone

Following the trend you can see with most high-end road machines—whether they are aero bikes, climber’s rigs or endurance machines—hoses and cables are disappearing from view. The R5 uses a system similar to that of the Cervélo Caledonia, which launched in 2020. The hoses and any wires run beneath the tops of the handlebar (Cervélo HB13), into the Cervélo ST31 carbon stem and in front of the fork’s steering tube. The setup is neat, clean and aero.

Cervélo R5
Where are the brake lines? They run beneath the tops, into the stem and inside the front of the head tube. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

While integrated systems such as the bar/stem combo on the Cervélo R5 look great, they can be a challenge when it comes to maintenance or modifications. To make life a little easier, Cervélo uses split spacers to adjust the stack of the stem. Each spacer snaps into place beneath the stem, easily fitting around the steering tube and the hoses.

With the hoses and cables out of sight, designers eked out even more aero gains in the shape of the new, longer head tube. The head tube on the previous Size 54 R5 was 125 mm. The new model is 137 mm. Depending on the size of the frame, the head tube is 10 to 15 mm longer on the new R5. While aerodynamics is not a priority on this frame, the trend with climber’s bikes is to still find aero advantages where possible. Engineers decided to get those gains at the head tube because they opted to take a hit at the down tube. There, a reduction in surface area was the focus as they wanted to lower the overall weight of the frame.

Cervélo R5
The new Cervélo R5 head tube is longer and more aerodynamic than the previous iteration. On the Size 54 frame, the head tube is 137 mm, marking an increase of 12 mm. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Weight begone, too

Professional teams wanted a lighter R5, a frame that would allow them to build bikes as close to the UCI minimum of 6.8 kg as possible. Designers not only shaved weight at the down tube, but at the top tube as well. They lowered the junction at the top tube/seat tube/seatstays by 15 mm, making the frame more compact. The change also exposes more seatpost, which gives it more flex and you more comfort on long rides.

Cervélo R5
The top tube/seat tube/seatstays junction is 15 mm lower, exposing more seatpost. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Cervélo says the frame is 130 g lighter, a reduction of 16 per cent compared with the previous model. The fork is 329 g. The weight of a Size 56 frame is 703 g. Also losing grams are the stem and handlebar, both 12 g lighter. The seatpost sheds 20 g.

Cervélo R5
This model of Cervélo R5 comes with a SRAM Force eTap AXS crank (48/35 tooth rings) and a Quarq DZero power meter. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

My test bike (Size 54) weighs 7.6 kg. It’s spec’d with SRAM’s second-tier wireless groupset, the Force eTap AXS, and a Quarq DZero power meter. The bike rolls on Cervélo-designed Reserve wheels: 34-mm rim depth up front and 37-mm rim depth in the back. The rims are laced, curiously, to Zipp hubs instead of the DT Swiss components Reserve wheels usually come with. Cervélo had to get creative because of the supply chain issues affecting the whole bike industry, so it worked with Zipp to round out the wheels.

Cervélo R5
The Reserve rims are laced to Zipp hubs. The SRAM Force eTap AXS derailleur moves the chain across the 10-33 tooth cassette. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Big tires

For a climber’s bike, the R5 can go pretty big with its tire clearance. Treads as wide as 34c can fit within the frame and fork. Complete bikes ship with 25c Vittoria Corsa tires. Designers adjusted the trail ever so slightly, about 0.5 mm, to account for wider tires. The stack and reach of the R5 have remained the same across all of the frame sizes.

Cervélo R5
The frame and fork have clearance for tires as wide as 34c. This bike is spec with 25c Vittoria Corsa tires. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

Prices for 2022 Cervélo R5 models

Model Canadian Price
R5 Dura Ace Di2 $15,400
R5 Ultegra Di2 $11,150
R5 Red eTap AXS $15,400
R5 Force eTap AXS $10,800
R5 Frameset $6,400

First ride impressions of the Cervélo R5

The Cervélo R5 is a fast and responsive frame. I don’t have mountain passes in my backyard, but the R5 did gallop up my local climbs. Its cornering is sharp and precise. As for the compliance added to the front fork—I have to admit that’s a pretty difficult change to gauge. I can say that my long rides on the R5 have been comfortable, so it seems the fork is doing its job of mellowing the buzz from the road.

Cervélo R5
Three 5-mm-thick split spacers sit beneath the 100-mm-long stem. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

The Size 54 frame fits me well. It puts me in a fairly aggressive position. On top of the bearing top cap, I ran three 5-mm spacers, which raised the 100-mm stem by 20 mm. Working with those split spaces was a snap. To really get my fit dialed, I might run a 90-mm stem as there’s no more steering tube for another spacer. I’d call that change fine-tuning as really, the out-of-the-box setup was good kilometre after kilometre.

While the pros will turn to the R5 for the business of winning races, for me, riding such a refined road bike is just a pure joy, whether it’s taking me up a nearby hill or on roads far from my home.

Cervélo R5
The Cervélo R5 heads upward. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn
Cervélo R5
Cervélo R5. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn