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My 2020 Bike – not really Cervelo R5 review
My climbing bike for 2020 is going to be a Cervelo R5 based on the standard 2018 frame with rim brakes.
The bike has mostly original components, although I have added some Dura-Ace bits and pieces in the guise of a Shimano R9100p power meter and Shimano Di2. Despite thinking that Shimano will move to 12-speed on the road next year, I’ve decided to convert EVERYTHING I have to Shimano 11-speed which may well involve buying a new TT bike as well 😉
The wheelset is Trek-based yet, along with several other aspects of the bike, I’m not fully decided if they will last out the full year.
Anyway, we’re talking about my road bike and specifically my climbing bike. Perhaps, more specifically, it’s my ‘functional, fancy bike’, so I’ll probably be using it when riding with friends where it needs to look the part aesthetically as well as BE the part when the watts are being cranked out up in the hills.
I’ll start out this post by talking a bit about the usage it’s going to get as well as some of the reasons I bought it before then delving into some of the componentry, or at least the more interesting aspects of the components. So this article is definitely NOT a detailed Cervelo R5 Review but I will add in some thoughts on the frame as well.
My Planned 2020 Usage
2020 is hopefully my big year. I’ve gone up an age group for triathlons so I need to finally get a proper medal in a ‘vaguely competitive’ race next year. Most likely that will be in a Half- or Full-Iron distance race and I’ve already started my plan for that.
Whilst my target races do include some hilly bike legs which could favour the R5, I will probably end up doing all those races on a TT bike. Nevertheless, I need to get some serious bike miles under my race belt between now and April and that will be exclusively on one road bike or another and then, after April, I might switch all my 2-wheeled training across to the TT bike in the lead-up to the races.
Putting thoughts of triathlons to one side, I’ll also be using the R5 for Pru Ride London and the Dartmoor Classic. I might even go on a bike holiday with friends to somewhere featuring Alpine scenery or somewhere warmer featuring a dormant volcano on a Mediterranean island. #R5OnAPlane
What is a Cervelo R5?
You can easily spend over £8,000 on a fully pimped Cervelo R5. I spent nowhere near that much. An Ultegra-full, R5 frame from 2018, like mine, will cost you less than £2,000 if you shop around and already have your own wheels. This is not a freebie from Cervelo, they did offer me a discounted one earlier this year (via Sigma) but it still would have been £2159 for the disc frameset so I bought a second-hand one instead (after I checked it wasn’t stolen).
There is a cheaper R3 as well as an R5. The R5 is a supposedly ‘better’ carbon bike which is built more for lightness and hill-climbing rather than the speed, per se, of a road racer (S3, S5). You might opt for the S5 rather than the R5 which is a similar bike that’s more suited to going a bit faster thanks to a stiffer (?) more aero frame, although I suspect the aeroness of the frames makes little difference in reality for most of us.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, the R5’s carbon frame is still relatively stiff. That’s great because it means most of the power you generate will be used rather than wasted as the frame flexes. Stiffness can introduce a degree of rigidity at the expense of comfort yet, apparently, many carbon frames these days are able to be designed to accommodate both stiffness and comfort.
With my rather nice saddle and even 23mm tyres, I easily find the ride more than comfortable enough to crank out 100 mile rides.
The R5 seems twitchy and responsive to me and the handling seems pretty good too. I’m a go-fast-in-straight-lines kinda cyclist, so you won’t value my opinion on the frame’s ability to tackle speedy descents as I will occasionally be using my brakes and will always be following someone else in such scenarios.
I’ve been semi-reliably informed that the Cervelo R5 is the second-best climbing bike on the market, apparently the Specialized Tarmac SL6 Expert/Pro is better. That nugget of info came from an online reviewer, so you know what to do with that 😉
Q: Why did I buy a Cervelo R5?
A: Many of my cycling friends have Cervelo bikes which I like the look of (I am VERY shallow). The R5 is light and I specifically wanted a Di2-ready frame for rim brakes
Cervelo R5 – Design Elements
OK, mine’s got several green stripes on it. I don’t particularly like the green stripes but, hey, I was on a budget. Now we’ve got that fashion faux pas out of the way I just wanted to comment on some aspects of the frame that seemed important to me.
Seat post – This is a rather bizarre almost semi-circular shape in cross-section. The flat part faces rearwards and that’s pretty annoying as the standard bits of rubber that come with the Garmin Varia Radar are not designed for that, although they do just about work as shown below. The seat post comes with adjustment markings already etched onto it which are nice to have but not unusual. Yet, what is unusual is the bit where the seat post goes into the frame. There are two separate “bolts” here that keep the seat post in place, possibly if one fails there is a degree of redundancy? maybe not, but either way it’s all covered over with a nice rubber cover which keeps the road-gunk out. Also, if you take the seat post out then the uppermost bolt mechanism effectively marks the old position of the seat post so you can very easily re-fit it at exactly the same height. (Well, I thought it was a good idea).
Forks – I fiddled about with the forks quite a bit and still need to make the stem a bit shorter – as you can see from the photos. My initial task was to get the handlebars lower and that involved removing the forks and switching around about 2cm worth of spacers as the previous owner had a highly upright riding position! (The image below is AFTER I’d taken off 2cm!). When I’d finished that, I just couldn’t properly tighten up the headset and the forks would judder slightly under braking.
Next, I noticed that the lower headset bearing rests directly onto the shaped carbon fork, I wasn’t expecting that and for a while imagined that someone had assembled the bike incorrectly and missed out the bit that the bearing should rest on (like in earlier Cervelo models). But that turned out to be OK – I checked and the bearing should rest directly on the strengthened carbon forks. In fact, the reason I couldn’t properly tighten the headset was that I had lowered the handlebars and not cut down the fork at the same time, that meant the tightening nut inside the fork was being compressed in the wrong place (hard to explain). Anyway, I cut the forks down a bit and all was good. #MoreCuttingNeeded.
Wheel/tyre clearance. I typically have thinner wheels+tyres and still don’t believe that wider tyres are faster despite all that newfangled sciency stuff. But even if I were to upgrade to 40mm wide tyres the frame would still just about accommodate them. There’s a whopping great gap.
Clearly a modern frame like the R5 has been designed with all kinds of cabling in mind. Yet the default entry point for mechanical gear cables is somewhat ugly as they both enter the top tube vertically just near the headset. You’ll see later that the person who wired my bike up with Di2 copied the standard cabling route and it looks a bit rubbish, so I’ll have to change that.
A modern bottom bracket like on the R5 is (or should be) able to take the significant forces that go through that part of the frame. It doesn’t look too chunky down there (but chunky enough), so I’m happy with that aspect of the frame.
Shimano Di2 on my Cervelo R5
I’ve swapped some bits onto the R5 which originally came to me with a full mechanical Ultegra groupset.
My favourite bit of tech on the whole bike is the Di2 charging port at the end of the handlebars – that’s a Shimano EW-RS910 (now you know). It’s such a great place to stick the charging port. I think there is an alternative option for locating the charging port at the top of the downtube on other frames, which is an equally neat solution. Contrast that with an image of my S3, further below, where the equivalent charging port is fastened underneath the stem…which doesn’t look cool and gets in the way of fastening a stem mount for your 3rd bike computer 😉
The Dura-Ace shifters include a built-in, 3-way port and I think the guy swapping the Di2 bits onto my bike did NOT realise that. Thus I have a Di2 cable from each shifter entering the top tube separately. I’m going to have to change that myself and, at the same time, drill some holes in the handlebars as the Di2 wiring is currently running almost entirely underneath the handlebar tape rather than inside the handlebars #Sigh.
I’ve still not decided on exactly how I will route the cable coming from the handlebars and going into the top tube. (Suggestions welcomed)
In case you were wondering, the Di2 derailleurs are both Ultegra components and the shifters are Dura-Ace. All the Di2 bits seem to work together regardless of whether they are Ultegra or Dura-Ace.
Here is some very interesting reading on Di2 and an image or two of the stem-mounted Di2 charging port.
and here is some more Di2 info, this time about Di2-related metrics…
Both those two previous link cover detailed topics that are RARELY discussed elsewhere, so you might find them interesting if Di2 is your thing.
Two final points on my Di2 setup, firstly the battery is inside the seat post and secondly, the Bluetooth/ANT+ transceiver is outside the frame just before the Di2 wires enter it.
Shimano Dura-Ace R9100P
The ‘P’ makes all the difference. The R9100 is the Dura-Ace crankset and the R9100P is the considerably more expensive Dura-Ace crankset…with a built-in power meter. Da, da, daaaaah.
With the 9100P, it looks like some of the power meter wiring is physically integrated inside the cranks/axle rather than simply being solely a pod which attaches to the outside of the crank a la 4iiii – although there is a pod too. All things considered, the 9100P looks like a relatively clever piece of engineering but it then requires a magnet to be fastened onto the frame in order to sense cadence which adds a bit of 2017 into the mix. I’m guessing that Shimano will update the R9100P in 2020 where we will probably see an R9200P and with that, they may well vary the design considerably.
I’m also going to be looking at the accuracy of the R9100P compared to a few other PMs, so far I am seeing a 1% difference to my Assioma pedals when I use them – 9100P is 1% lower.
But the thing I am enjoying most here with the 9100P is being able to ditch the LOOK pedals on the Assioma and return to Ultegra pedals and Shimano cleats. I do like the Assioma pedals as a power meter solution but I’m hoping that the next update to them in 2020 will deliver Shimano cleat compatibility.
Shimano 50-34T and 11-32T Rings
Even with the spinny 34+32 gear combo, I can still find hills in Surrey to grind up. You’re probably the same, although both of us are probably too embarrassed to admit that.
To accommodate a larger rear cassette you should be able to get away with a standard derailleur hanger, which I think is what I have. However, if you don’t adjust the derailleurs properly you may well find that the derailleur wheel stops the chain shifting from the biggest cassette cog. The longer derailleur cage also seems to help the chain run better in the more extreme gears.
I believe that the 50-34T and 11-32T combo is the most extreme one officially supported by Shimano yet I’m pretty sure I’ve seen someone I cycle with running 34 on the front and rear. What I have is enough for me.
For most of my cycling in the hills, this gear combo is perfectly fine. On the days when I blast around Richmond Park or over to Windsor, then I would definitely prefer a bigger ring on the front and a smaller jump between the rear gears as I sometimes find myself having to shift gears a couple of times to get it just right. I could probably use a different wheel, cassette and/or bike on those days but it’s usually too much hassle to change.
Bontrager Affinity Comp Saddle
I mean…it’s a saddle. It’s comfy and looks nice. It has a long groove down the middle for comfort and CrMo rails underneath.
Despite having little to say about it, I kinda like it and my bottom agrees.
FSA Handlebars and Random Stem.
I think these are original equipment, although I’m not sure. They are nice enough and comfy enough for me, and I like how the drops are not too droppy. ie going from hoods to drops does not require a massive change in comfort and position.
The R5 is all set up now as per my Retul bike fit and that seems to have mostly cured the hip issues I was having from 2017-2019. However part of that ‘cure’ was probably having a slightly higher position than I could get away with so one of the first things to do is to either lose a couple of mm from under the stem or turn the stem upside down.
But one of the BIG things hacking me off here is that the handlebar and stem are a shiny black and the frame is matte black. This is a WTF moment if ever there was one but I’m almost certainly going to have to put up with the aesthetic discomfort as even if I did the easy job of changing the stem, the handlebars are more of a job to change
Wheels & Tyres
I don’t personally worry too much about the aerodynamics of the frame on any bike as the effect of the body position is far greater. However I do worry about most key performance aspects of tyres (tires) and wheels ie aerodynamics, weight (on this bike) and rolling resistance.
This climbing wheelset is a Giant SLR 1 30mm, Carbon. They’re OK, I guess, but I’d like to change them to metal rims. 30mm or 24mm would be cool. I’m thinking about these 3 as options: Bontrager Aeolus XXX 2 TLR, Shimano C34 and Enve SES 3.4 but would prefer tubeless and I guess I’d prefer a non-carbon braking surface if I thought about it.
As many of us know, the Continental Gp5000 / 5000TL is probably the best option for an all-round performance tyre and, despite the image above, my preference is normally for a 23mm but the 25mm does give that little bit extra comfort on the bumpier roads that I often am forced to use by my peers.
Cervelo R5 Discounts
As of January here are some decent bike discounts. Plus this list gives you an idea which retailer stocks which brands.
- Competitive Cyclist USA – 9% to 30% off Cervelo. eg $2000 or 30% off Cervelo S3 Ultegra (also Ridley, Pinarello, Santa Cruz, Bianchi, Wilier)
- Tredz UK – up to 38% of Giant eg £3000 off Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 2019 (also Ridley, Argon, Orange, Ridgeback, Orbea, Genesis)
- Sigma Sports UK – eg 26% £2500 off Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6 Disc (also Specialized, Bianchi, Cervelo, Focus, BMC, Trek) – Although this is my local bike store I have ZERO financial links with them nor directly with Cervelo.
- Wiggle EU eg 40% £1700 off Wilier Cento1 Air Road Bike w/Ultegra Di2 – 2019 (also Wilier, Rondo, Vitus, Ridley, de Rosa, Felt)
- Rutland UK – eg 20% £2000 off Bianchi Specialissima CV Red eTAP 2019 Carbon Road (Focus, Cannondale, Cube, Giant, Scott, Bianchi, Specialized)
Cervelo R5 – Summing Up
I’m generally happy with how this setup works. though, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m not 100% happy with the looks of some of the details.
I’m happy with the frame and the ride, though I’ve yet to see any of my important hill segments beaten and my lighter frame doesn’t seem to make any difference whatsoever when it comes to beating certain of my peers.
The N+1 rule remains true with this purchase. I’m lucky enough to have a shed with lots of room but I’m going to have to start to rationalise my bike collection before buying anything else.
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