Cervelo S5 Dura-Ace Di2 first ride review

This article first appeared on BikeRadar.

Like many other aero road bikes of the same era (the first-generation Specialized Venge, Scott Foil, Giant Propel), many forgave the Cervélo S5 for some shortcomings in favour of its aero benefits. These niggles included slightly muted handling, a firm ride and carrying a bit of extra weight compared to its more traditionally tubed siblings.

Over the last year, however, there’s been something of a revolution in aero road — the new Madone rides beautifully, the latest Venge is a lightweight speedy dream-machine, BMC’s Timemachine road is a masterpiece of integration, and Cannondale’s debut SystemSix hits the handling high-notes. In other words, the new S5 has a lot to live up to.

For a full run-down of all of the interesting tech on the S5, check out our range overview

Cervélo S5 Dura-Ace Di2 specifications

  • Weight: 8.14kg (58cm including 2x bottle cages, Barfly Garmin mount, Shimano 105 pedals)
  • Gears: Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 Di2 (52/36, 11-30)
  • Wheels: Enve SES Disc 5.6
  • Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace 9170 with 160mm rotors
  • Finishing kit: Cervélo carbon AB08 bar, Cervélo V-Stem, Prologo Dimension Nack saddle, Cervélo carbon SP20 seatpost

Cervélo S5 Dura-Ace Di2 ride

The new S5 is one of those bikes that looks fast standing still. Compared to the older model it looks more lithe and more road than time trial, even with the hinged fork design of a time-trial bike.

It also looks somewhat imposing, it’s not a bike you look at and think it will be comfortable. So, out on the road, I was very pleasantly surprised. The S5 felt superbly smooth around the Catalonian test ground, which mixes smooth blacktop with rough agricultural backroads.

What impressed me most, though, is just how composed the S5 felt on less-than-perfect surfaces. In such a high-quality build I’d expect everything to perform as it should, and for the most part it didn’t let me down. It performed beautifully and I liked the gearing combo of a 52/36 combined with an 11-30, giving a wide spread either side of the optimum, with a handy bail-out gear for when the roads really steepened.

The deep Enve wheels accelerate well and hold speed with impressive ease. The downside of the large slab-sided rim up front was evident with the high coastal crosswinds — the 5.6s do act a little like a sail, and ranges from buffeting to pushing you off-line if you don’t keep your wits about you.

In optimal conditions, though, rims this deep are unbeatable. For more sub-optimal conditions, a shallower front wheel would have been preferable, even if it’s at the expense of a mile or two off my top speed.

Cervélo S5 Dura-Ace Di2 handling

Where the S5 shines is in its handling. On paper, the ride position is more aggressive than the R series, but on board they feel similar, blending superbly sharp handling responses with smooth stability at speed. It’s very similar to Cannondale’s SystemSix in the way they both feel more like nimble race bikes rather than aerodynamic points scorers.

The 8kg weight may scare off some, but, to be honest, it never felt like a factor even on prolonged climbs. The stiff responsive frame feels just as alive as a flyweight climber’s special, but if you were desperate to bring the weight down, then switching to a more modest depth wheelset would shave off some of the mass.

The potential complexity of that unique front end didn’t really faze me once I had the chance to inspect it and run through the fitting. In fact, once you’ve bought the bike and had your dealer set it up, expect it to be trouble free. Even splitting it down back into a bike box for travel was more simple than many heavily integrated designs.

My two days riding the S5 at the launch left me very impressed. Cervélo was the instigator of the whole aero road-bike genre, with its original aluminium Soloist arguably being one of the first aero road machines.

The S5 has thrown away the book when it comes to bike design, yet still conforms to the UCI’s parameters. To make a bike that looks like a glimpse of the future within such prescriptive rules is impressive in itself — and that it does it with a ride that feels this smooth and handles this well makes the new S5 Disc a truly formidable bike.

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