Cervélo R5 Force eTap AXS
R5 has one job—get to the top, fast. But for all the glory and fanfare that comes with a summit finish, they’re rarely the only climb of the day. And while a race isn’t usually won on a descent, they can certainly be lost. A climbing bike that can’t carve a hairpin is a bit like a cup of decaf coffee. This is the fourth iteration of the R5, and while weight and stiffness have varied over the years, the handling, poise, and unmatched prowess on a descent have been consistent since day one.
The new R5 frame is 130g lighter than the previous model—a 16% reduction from an already-light frame. The new frame is 703g, and the new fork is 329g, bringing the frames to just a hair over the kilogram mark. Cervélo also pulled some weight out of the parts that are included with the bike—the handlebar and stem are each 12g lighter, and the seat post’s 20g lighter. You won’t have any trouble building a bike that meets the 6.8kg UCI minimum. And while aerodynamics weren’t a focus with this frame the way they would be on an S5 or P5, bringing the cables inside reduced drag by 25g, too. It’s faster in every direction.
If the previous-generation R5 had one knock, it was the stiffness—its goat-like climbing abilities came at the expense of a bit of bone jarring. While this wasn’t much of a problem for most riders, Cervélo's World Tour teams felt the bikes got more uncomfortable as the weeks of a Grand Tour wore on. So—reduce stiffness? In a climbing bike? It seemed crazy, but Cervélo dove in. Cervélo's engineers had found previously that a specific ratio between head tube and bottom bracket stiffness is the magic formula for ride quality, but Cervélo never applied it to the R5, being in pursuit of stiffness like we were.
Cervélo worked on a couple different layups, tested them themselves, and also sent them over to Team Jumbo-Visma for testing. Tom Dumoulin, having previously ridden and loved an R5 at Sunweb, was the prime candidate for early testing. The verdict? Unreservedly positive. Dumoulin felt he could climb just as efficiently on the bike, and that the added compliance would result in less fatigue and more effective recovery. Jumbo-Visma verified this, and Cervélo were off to the races.
With the primary objectives achieved, Cervélo set to work on refinements—bring the cables inside, increase tire clearance, and get to work on the bar, stem, and post to make the package even lighter and faster. And you can put a 34mm tire in it. Just don’t call it a ‘cross bike.