This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
Cervélo has a long history of race bikes – but the new C5 is no race machine. WIth a swept-out fork, a down tube bash guard, wide clinchers and disc brakes, the C5 represents a new category for the Canadian brand that made its name with aero race rockets. I spent three days riding the Canadian brand’s new endurance bike around Napa Valley, California, on a variety of surfaces.
- Highs: Excellent comfort, responsive yet stable handling, shimano’s top electric/hydraulic drivetrain
- Lows: Awkward saddle surface, puncture-prone tyres
- Buy if: You have deep pockets and want a truly impressive endurance bike
Although the front end is slack and the bottom bracket low, the C5 feels every inch a Cervélo. It’s still blessed with the same righteous urgency that I’ve enjoyed on every bike I’ve ridden from the brand, dating back to the all-alloy aero goodness of the original Soloist.
Usually comfort means a weight penalty, but the C5 is light; my 58cm test bike weighed 7kg/15.3lb. In fact, Cervélo claims it’s the lightest endurance disc frame available, with the 56cm weighing a claimed 840g.
The C5 is at its best on fast, sweeping descents with plenty of wide-open corners, just the sort of thing you’ll find on big Californian roads. The frame’s ability to absorb bumps and road noise is among the finest we’ve tried. Make no mistake, this is right up there with class leaders like Cannondale’s Synapse, BMC’s GF01 and Giant’s Defy.
The enormously wide down tube is designed to offer a little vertical give without lateral flex
The lower BB seems to shift your centre of gravity, enabling some serious velocities and monster cornering prowess. The long wheelbase and increased fork offset also mean that the C5’s stable, too; its ability to hold a line mid-corner on scarred and deteriorated surfaces is huge. The 28mm wide rubber helps, as you can run the pressure down a few psi and get the C5 onto some really rough surfaces.
Although Cervélo insists the C5 is not a gravel bike, it does feature a bashguard on the down tube and a seriously big, rubberized guard on the chainstay.
The frame allows for 28mm tyres and 'guards (fenders, US readers), so there’s plenty of room to go wider if you want. Adaptability also looks to be a major consideration of the design; the wildly asymmetric seatstays fit all current calipers and rotor sizes up to 160mm.
The frame’s compliant nature is matched by the long-offset fork; it offers fore-aft bump absorption that you can feel. I found myself hunting for potholes to pitch into just to experience the way in which the ‘Project California’ handbuilt fork smothers the hand-stinging smash you usually get from a carbon fork. It’s impressive stuff. It can get a little unsettled over a washboard of ruts, but that’s only because it set the bar higher than most. On other bikes I’d have backed off much, much sooner.
The derailleur hanger is integrated into the thru-axle design
As you’d expect on a bike that costs £7,499 / $9,000, the C5 is very well appointed, with Shimano’s electronic/hydraulic combination of Dura-Ace Di2 and BR-RS805 providing flawless shifting and great braking.
I like that Cervélo has adopted thru-axles front and rear. Rotor alignment was always spot-on and the brakes remained noise- and rub-free throughout the three days of testing in some often inclement weather.
The rear thru-axle's hardware is clever, with both the wheel and rear derailleur anchored in the axle threads, ensuring perfect alignment every time.
The FSA carbon cockpit is a great match for the front end. The well-shaped bar has a compliant feel, and the compact drop should suit most. For those looking for a lower position, a switch to a standard drop bar would be a decent option.
The big 28mm Continental clinchers are solid in all conditions, but we did find them a little more puncture prone than in previous experiences. Perhaps this had something to do with the thorns and flints found in Napa.
Still plenty of clearance around the 28mm Continentals
The alloy HED Ardennes + alloy wheelset has 25mm-wide rims, yet it’s still relatively light at just over 1,600g.
The only thing I found at odds with on the C5 was the saddle. Fizik’s Antares isn’t inherently a bad saddle and it has plenty of fans, but this channeled ‘VS’ version has a defined ridge either sides of the pressure relief channel that for this tester just created two uncomfortable pressure points. Only shifting my weight right back away from the ridges would offer any relief.
In all, the C5 (and its cheaper sibling, the C3) won’t necessarily appeal to existing Cervélo fans. With the C5 prioritising comfort and stability over agility and ultra-light weight, the pseudo-racing brigade may well feel shortchanged. However, by maximising comfort, compliance and handling, Cervélo created a bike that deserves a much wider audience. This is the all the bike that most people need; it remains to be seen if it’s the bike that most people want.