This past September, I took a few spins on the new Cervélo S5 during a couple of days in the shadow of Rocacorba in Banyoles, Spain. After, I felt it was important to put this Canadian designed bike to test on Canadian roads in the early stages of a Canadian winter, before too much snow started to fly.
Rolling up to the group ride for the first time on this beast is certainly a different experience. With the S5, you’d better be prepared for some gawking. Also, be prepared to take a good long pull on the front. Nobody wants to hear about your aero gains while you’re sitting in.
In all seriousness though, the changes made to the S5 make this a bike that’s both incredibly fast and comfortable enough to ride every day. While I often think that those two concepts must be achieved with separate bikes, the argument Cervélo is making here is that if you’re not comfortable, then you can’t maximize your power while you’re riding. To that end, while the S5 has an integrated bar/stem combo, it has the ability to fit 30 mm of spacers beneath the stem to put you in a more upright position as necessary. And as I found out even 10 mm makes a big difference.
We built up our long-term test bike with the stem slammed. On my longer solo rides, I found this made the biggest difference, though not in a good way. I found I was just too stretched out to really enjoy the ride. The hoods were still in a comfortable place, but without spacers, riding in the drops created too much tension both in my hamstrings and in my upper back and neck area. These issues weren’t present when I first threw my leg over this model. The clear lesson here is to not be stubborn and use the spacers. You might think that the low position looks sweet. But you know what isn’t sweet? Not being able to throw down watts because you’re too stretched out. To give Cervélo credit, these adjustments are way easier than on a lot of other bikes of this generation. There’s no need to re-bleed the brakes or re-route the shifting either, which should make home mechanics much happier.
My test bike came built with a full Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 build. As you would expect, the shifting was precise, fast and predictable. It remained that way throughout my time with the bike, performing as expected in good weather and slushy, salty, gross weather as well. But I was way more comfortable bringing that bike out in less-than-ideal conditions because of the disc-brake system on the Dura-Ace 9170 groupset. The excellent modulation of the brakes kept me feeling safe in any conditions I put that bike through. Gone was the need to feather the brakes against the rim to clear water before applying real pressure. Despite running carbon rims, where braking was often a suggestion instead of a reality on rim brakes, I could safely come to a stop whenever I wanted. In the end, this setup meant I was more confident to really push the pace even in the most horrid conditions. And isn’t that the point of a bike like this? It’s supposed to make you go faster. Ironically a big part of doing that is how fast you can bring it to a stop. If there was one thing I didn’t like about the latest version of Dura-Ace, it’s that Shimano has succeeded in slimming down the hydraulic brake hoods so much that they can be hard to hold onto in the winter with big thick mitts on.
If the fully blinged out Dura-Ace 9170 groupset is at all a bit much for you, the Cervélo S5 is also available with Ultegra mechanical and Ultegra Di2 builds. For everyone but the Leah Kirchmanns of the world, the Ultegra models will give you every ounce of performance you could ever need. Plus, the replacement cost of, say, a derailleur will be a little less arduous after somebody takes you out at the Tuesday-night world championships.
If you’re looking for a ride that will push you as much as you will push the bike, the S5 is certainly a candidate to fulfil your n+1 needs. Every time I got in the saddle, I felt a preternatural urge to go faster on the bike. Maybe it’s the slick tube shapes that get into your subconscious and make you want to work harder. Maybe it’s the ease with which the bike holds its speed when you get it going. The engineering and design put into shaping the bar/stem along with the build choices reward any effort with immediate speed. Who doesn’t love to go fast, right? Eventually, I’ll have to return this bike, but until then, I’m keeping one eye on the long-term forecast for a day just warmer than 0 C, just so I can get one more long, fast ride in with the Cervélo S5.