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REVIEW: Cervelo Aspero gravel bike

Gravel bikes are more popular than ever. A look at the new Cervelo Aspero, a gravel bike for triathletes.

Gravel riding, and road riding in general, has exploded in recent years, and triathletes are certainly jumping on the bandwagon. However, as triathletes, we aren’t quite ready to give up our need for speed, which is why Cervelo’s brand new Aspero caught our eye. True to its racing heritage, the new Aspero is made to go fast.

Cervelo Aspero. Photo: Cervelo. 

The Aspero is a thoroughly modern gravel bike with many of the features racers look for, with generous tire clearance for both 700c (44mm) and 650b (49mm) wheels, dropped chainstays to provide that clearance while maintaining a tight wheelbase, and both 1x or 2x drivetrain compatibility. The Aspero eschews any suspension or any mounting options for bags and cargo, though there is a mount for a top-tube bento box. 

“We really want to focus in on racing or fast riding application, like the Dirty Kanza, those kind of events,” says Graham Shrive, Cervelo’s Director of Engineering, of the Aspero.

To ensure the Aspero retains that race-handling feel, Cervelo developed the Trail Mixer, a flippable insert at the fork dropouts which positions the wheel for two different rakes, depending on whether you are running standard 700c or 650b wheels. According to Cervelo, you get less trail for faster steering in the forward setting, while the rear position mellows out the quicker handling small tire.

Photo: Cervelo.com

I’ve ridden a few gravel bikes lately, from various brands at various price points. What they all had in common was plenty of tire clearance, decidedly slack angles, along with tallish head tubes and stack. This made for comfortable straight-line cruising, perfect for long days in the saddle. But, I didn’t love them. 

I am happy to report that the Aspero did not give me this feeling in my first few outings on it. The quicker steering, combined with a shorter headtube, made this triathlete feel right at home. The short chainstays and stiff carbon frame also feels a lot like Cervelo’s road offerings, despite the big tires. It’s a lot of fun to launch up a sharp, steep climb, with the big tires taking care of most of the traction duties. When it came time to point it back down, I appreciate the short stem letting me tuck low and back on the bike, and let the tires ride out the ruts. 

There is a lot of talk these days about a “one-bike quiver,” where the same bike can take on fast group rides, or big gravel epics with a simple swap of wheels and tires. But almost all of them are either too lazy in their handling to truly mix it up in a fast bunch, or, if they have the requisite quick feel, are not capable enough when the going gets rough. The Aspero is the first all-road bike that truly feels like it can handle all road riding situations, whether fast, rough, or both. This makes it the perfect second bike for triathletes looking to go where their Tri bike can’t. 

The Aspero is available in six sizes (48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61), and three frame colours (burgundy, dune and teal).