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Bike review: Cervélo S5

Fast, and then some - the new Cervélo S5, the company’s flagship aero road bike

When four-time national cycling champion (Ashleigh Moolman Pasio) waved me to the front, I should have known better. The long straight section just outside Banyoles, Spain, seemed like the perfect road to stretch my legs and the capabilities of the new Cervélo S5. What I didn’t know was this bit of road always has a headwind. Of course, I tried to play it cool like I wasn’t working hard but even with all the aero gains on the new frame, I was going into power zones I don’t usually like to touch on press trips.

You can see changes made to the latest generation of the S5 easily. Up front, the Y-shape stem funnels air through its two arms and along the top tube, instead of creating turbulent air that travels over the stem. This feature with the redesigned tube shapes at the down tube and seat stays help give 42 g of drag savings over the previous version of the S5.

Related: The new Cervélo S5 first ride and review

A very clean front end on the S5.

The new bar-and-stem combo also helps address some of the problems of keeping shift and brake cables completely hidden. The Y-shape is particularly useful for routing mechanical shift cables internally: the gentler bends minimize friction on those cables. Traditionally, the shifter cables run into the frame at the down tube. On the Cervélo S5, everything stays internal from the hoods all the way to the derailleurs and brake calipers.

The S5 with the Catalan hills in the background.

While aero gains are great, they need to match with a bike that’s comfortable to ride. Without that comfort, you won’t be able to push those watts and take full advantage of the wind-cheating features. At the bike’s launch, members of Cervélo’s team spoke about matching the stiffness with changes to the geometry that make the bike more balanced. Even though the carbon layup is 13 per cent stiffer at the head tube and 25 per cent stiffer at the bottom bracket compared with the previous model, the lower bottom bracket drop and an increased trail value of 57.1 mm ensure that the bike handles confidently but without feeling twitchy at the front end.

On the road, the bike was noticeably more comfortable to ride than previous generations of S5; road buzz and bumps were more muted. The bike felt fast, too. Beyond what you see on your head unit, it’s hard to describe what fast feels like. But this bike never seemed to want to slow down. Maintaining your speed on this bike feels effortless. The top-notch build helps with Enve SeS 5.6 wheels and a full Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, but all those aerodynamic refinements undoubtedly do their part as well. I certainly didn’t gain a few watts on the FTP coming off a plane. But I noticed it was easier to keep an average speed of 3 or 4 km/h higher than normal.

The hardest part of giving back a superbike is knowing you have to go back home to riding your normal bike. But it’s easy to love that next new and exciting thing, especially when you’re riding on some of Europe’s best roads. The true test will be when I get it back on my home roads for further reviewing, in my regular group ride, dodging my regular Canada-size potholes.