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Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS review

Is this Grand Tour classic still the race bike of your dreams?

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £8,599.00 RRP | USD $8,400.00 | EUR €8,799.00
Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS road bike

Our review

A classic road-racing bike in every sense, but it ain’t cheap
Pros: Lively ride quality; confident handling; classic good looks; comfortable on rough roads
Cons: Expensive compared to the competition; integrating the cables makes fit customisation trickier
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The Cervélo R5 is a classic road-racing bike in every sense of the word. Like the Giant TCR, it’s a bike that doesn’t ebb and flow much with the times.

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Rather, Cervélo has stuck steadfastly to the original tenets of the R-Series – a stiff, lightweight carbon frameset with racy geometry, traditional lines and pencil-thin seatstays.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a high-end road bike contending for our Bike of the Year 2022 crown without features such as hydraulic disc brakes, aerodynamic optimisations, tubeless tyres, electronic gearing and fully hidden cable routing.

But those mod cons aside, the Cervélo R5 Disc remains very much the same bike many road cyclists have long admired.

Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS generations

A decade or so ago, bikes such as the R5 were lusted over by practically every road cyclist around.

Before the boffins took over, everyone knew a stiff and light bike was a fast bike, and bikes didn’t come much stiffer or lighter than Cervélo R5s.

With a renewed focus on weight for this latest generation, Cervélo says it has cut 130g from the frame (compared to the previous version), bringing it down to a super-light claimed weight of 703g for a painted size 56cm.

All in, my test bike with low-profile Reserve carbon wheels and a SRAM Force eTap AXS drivetrain weighs 7.4kg (without pedals).

SRAM Force hydraulic disc brakes perform admirably whatever the weather.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

In the age of aero-is-everything, though, the strength of that belief has waned. These days, there’s no shortage of watt counters extolling the virtues of spreadsheets over feelings.

That’s not to say the R5 ignores aerodynamics completely. Cervélo’s trademark Squoval (square-oval) tube shapes are more aerodynamically efficient than completely round tubes, and the fork crown flows elegantly into the down tube to help smooth the airflow on the critical leading edge of the bike.

Hiding the cables has apparently shaved off 25g of aero drag too, which equates to around 3 watts at 48kph, according to Flo Cycling. This feature is likely worth more in terms of aesthetics than pure performance on a bike such as this, though.

After all, Cervélo wouldn’t claim the R5 is its fastest road bike (that would be the S5 Disc), and outright speed isn’t everything to everyone.

Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS geometry and ride feel

Cervélo’s Squoval tubes are more aerodynamically efficient than round tubes, and the seatpost is a slim D shape.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

In response to feedback from professional riders, Cervélo has taken the unusual step of reducing the front-end stiffness on this latest iteration.

It’s a change for the better too, because this latest R5 glides more smoothly over rough roads than previous versions.

You’ll still feel big knocks, but the more compliant front end does an excellent job of dissipating road buzz and chatter from broken tarmac.

Comfort at the rear is also impressive, thanks to a slim D-shaped seatpost with plenty of length exposed, and those dainty seatstays.

The geometry is tried and true, with the parallel 73-degree seat tube and head tube angles, and 994mm wheelbase offering agile but predictable handling.

The R5’s low overall mass means it feels sprightly on the climbs, and when stamping on the pedals the stout bottom-bracket area, down tube and chainstays ensure there’s no detectable flex.

The handling, compliance and a lack of deep section tubes or rims to catch any errant gusts of wind also make it a very confident descender in all weather conditions.

485154565861
Seat angle (degrees)737373737373
Head angle (degrees)717273737373
Chainstay (mm)410410410410410410
Top tube (mm)515531548564581598
Head tube (mm)93114137163192218
Fork offset (mm)57.551.545.545.545.545.5
Trail (mm)57.357.357.357.357.357.3
Bottom bracket drop (mm)74.574.5727269.569.5
Wheelbase (mm)9729749779941,0111,028
Stack (mm)497522547572597622
Reach (mm)363371380389398407

Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS finishing kit

The ST31 carbon stem and HB13 carbon handlebar are available in numerous sizes, while hydraulic hoses are fully integrated.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

Up front, the decision to fully integrate the hydraulic hoses does mean swapping parts is slightly trickier than before.

Helpfully, Cervélo’s own ST31 carbon stem and HB13 carbon handlebar come in a range of sizes to suit most riders (80mm to 130mm and 38cm to 44cm, respectively). If you want to swap anything, though, you’ll have to pay the money for the extra parts, as such customisations aren’t included in the bike’s RRP.

Changing the handlebar or making minor adjustments to stack height can be done with little trouble, but, as with many road bikes with fully integrated cable routing, changing the stem means disconnecting all the cables and taking everything apart (and then putting it all back together again).

It’s also worth noting that while any road handlebar with a round 31.8mm clamping area can be swapped in, the ST31 carbon stem is proprietary to the 2022 R5’s fork, due to its C-shaped steerer.

The Prologo Scratch M5 is a well made saddle, but at this price point you might expect carbon rails.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

The Prologo Scratch M5 saddle isn’t a personal favourite in terms of shape (I prefer the Prologo Dimension), but it’s well made and inoffensive. My only quibble would be that, at this price point, it might be fair to expect something with carbon rails.

I’d also prefer a seatpost with a little less setback than the 25mm option specced on my test bike. Giving the bike 25mm of extra saddle setback slackens the effective seat tube angle quite substantially, which left my hips feeling unpleasantly cramped while climbing.

Fortunately, Cervélo does make a zero-offset version of the proprietary D-shaped post (though swapping to it would come at extra cost).

Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS groupset, wheels and tyres

Reserve 34/37mm tubeless-ready carbon wheels are well chosen and come with a lifetime warranty.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

Though it’s not as shiny as its pricier sibling, SRAM’s Force eTap AXS groupset continues to impress with its performance, providing unflappably accurate and reliable shifting, and excellent braking no matter the conditions.

It adds around 200g of weight compared to a Shimano Ultegra Di2 R870 groupset, which may trouble devout weight weenies, but in reality that’s a trivial difference, which doesn’t affect performance.

The inclusion of a SRAM Force AXS power meter is a real boon too. It uses the same internals as Quarq’s DFour DUB power meter, and should provide similarly accurate and reliable data.

The Reserve 34/37mm tubeless-ready carbon wheels also complement the build very well.

The wheels on my test bike were built with Zipp’s latest ZR1 hubs, but according to Cervélo, 2022 bikes will come with DT Swiss 370 hubs, as per the spec listed on its website. Reserve wheels will then be swapped for Zipp ZR1 and 76/176 hubs from 2023.

Hubs aside, the wheels are built using 24 J-bend aero-profiled steel spokes, with external nipples, front and rear.

Shifting is accurate and reliable thanks to SRAM’s dependable Force eTAP AXS groupset.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

The 34/37mm-deep rims are just tall enough to provide a small aerodynamic benefit over a basic alloy wheelset, but not so deep that you’re ever likely to have issues with crosswinds. This makes them ideal for days in the mountains, where conditions can change in a moment.

Some dedicated racers may wish for deeper rims, but a mid-depth wheelset such as this proves reliable and predictable in all conditions, and provides the feeling of low inertia and quick reactions many look for in lightweight wheels.

The Reserve wheels are also backed by a generous lifetime warranty for the original owner, including “low-cost crash replacements” in the event of mishaps.

The premium 700 x 25c Vittoria Corsa G2.0 TLR tyres plump up to 29.5mm at the front, and 29mm at the rear at 65psi/4.48bar on the wide Reserve rims (the rims have a 22.6/21.6mm internal width, front and rear). They offer a great balance of low rolling resistance, high grip and reasonable puncture protection.

Front and rear tyre clearance is officially capped at 34mm (inflated width), though given how a set of 700 x 25c tyres size up here, it’s unlikely 700 x 34c tyres will fit.

Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS bottom line

The Cervélo R5 is a classic road-racing bike in every sense of the word.
Dave Caudery / Our Media

It may not be the fastest race bike according to a spreadsheet, but the 2022 Cervélo R5 Disc stays true to the much-loved R5 formula and, for many people, that’s a great thing.

There have been lighter, stiffer R5s in the past, but does this iteration represent progress? For everyone except dedicated hill climb racers, undoubtedly.

Overall, the R5 Disc is an easy bike to like. It might not be the fastest or lightest bike ever, but it does practically everything well.

The only area in which it obviously lags behind the competition is in terms of value.

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There’s little about the R5 that needs upgrading, but an RRP of $8,400 / £8,599 puts it well above the price point of rivals with similar or even better specs, such as the Giant TCR Advanced SL 1 Disc, Merida Scultura Team and Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Ultegra Di2.

Performance Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested

Whether you’re riding up or down hills, in a straight line or through tight corners, jostling for positions in a bunch or simply going for that KOM you’ve always dreamt of, the best performance road bikes are wicked-fast and inspire confidence. They should make you feel a little bit like Tadej Pogačar, even if your legs can’t back it up.

With that in mind, we challenged the contenders primarily to an onslaught of technical, hilly routes and fast-paced rides around south Bristol.

Given most riders don’t have a fleet of bikes or a professional mechanic at their beck and call, we also considered how easy each bike is to live with and service.

Can you customise the fit or are you stuck with what comes as stock? Are the deep-section wheels usable in all conditions, or will windy days have you questioning how much you want to go out on a ride? Is it comfortable enough for a long day in the saddle when the roads are less than perfect?

All of the bikes featured in this year’s Performance Bike of the Year test are at the upper end of the pricing scale, with premium groupsets and parts showcasing the best contemporary equipment, but most are also available in cheaper specs if your budget doesn’t stretch as far.

Our Performance Bike of the Year contenders are:

  • Bianchi Specialissima Dura-Ace Di2
  • Cervélo R5 Disc Force eTap AXS
  • Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0
  • Merida Scultura Team
  • Scott Addict RC10

Thanks to…

Thanks to our sponsors HUUB, Lazer, 100% and Garmin for their support in making Bike of the Year happen.

Product Specifications

Product

Price EUR €8799.00GBP £8599.00USD $8400.00
Weight 7.4kg (56cm) – without pedals

Features

Available sizes 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Handlebar Cervélo HB13 carbon
Tyres Vittoria Corsa TLR G2.0, 700 x 25c
Stem Cervélo ST31 carbon
Shifter SRAM Force eTap AXS
Seatpost Cervélo SP20
Saddle Prologo Scratch M5 PAS TiRox
Rear derailleur SRAM Force eTap AXS
Front derailleur SRAM Force eTap AXS
Bottom bracket SRAM DUB, BBright
Frame Cervélo R5
Fork Cervélo R5
Cranks SRAM Force eTap AXS
Chain SRAM Force, 12-speed
Cassette SRAM Force, 12-speed
Brakes SRAM Force hydraulic disc
Wheels Reserve 34/37mm rims with Zipp ZR1 hubs