A new love: Cervelo

After months of deliberation and literal/metaphorical tyre-kicking, I’ve finally bought a new bicycle.  Unusually for me, I resisted all manner of used bike deals and temptations (both online and off) and actually bought a new one. From a proper, bricks & mortar shop. Unheard-of for me, but there you go. Time reveals all sides to a coin.  Ok, I did pick up a slighly used SRAM Force groupset on-line to switch out for the bike’s standard Rival one but essentially, I bought a complete new bike, fresh out of the box.

Why a Cervelo?  Well, mostly just because I like them.  I like their design, their engineering, their approach.  I like lots of the guys who ride for their pro team.  Hard to explain but I just like them. The model I chose is an S5 which is interesting fit between traditional road bike and a TimeTrial (TT) geometry.  This means that the rear wheel is stuffed up under the seat post, allowing the seat tube to be a few degrees more upright than usual. It rides like a standard road bike – the Garmin Barracuda pro team use S5’s as their standard bike – but it can also do a nice turn as a time-trial bike if you want to change things up.  The seat post has a reversing function which, when combined with some aerobars, can allow you to sit that bit further forward and cheat the wind a little bit more. Helpful, that. 

Cheating the wind is a bit of an obsession with road cyclists and triathletes.  Less of an issue for mountainbikers, of course (let’s discuss that another time…) but if you’re just pounding down the tarmac it inevitably occupies your thoughts. Never mind the countless online forums (hello, www.slowtwitch.comwww.bikeforums.net) where you can obsess about yaw rates and drag coeffcients all day long. Estimates are that once you’re riding above 30km/h, upwards of 80% of your effort is pushing the wind. Thus, cheat the wind and you’ll gain speed/distance for the same effort.  For a Saab fan, it brings a smile to my face every time I hear people discuss this magic combination: aero.  The S5 is aero. Along with Specialized’s Venge (co-development with Mclaren F1), the S5 is apparently the most aerodynamically efficient road bike around.  Aero.  Invisible, free and yet so hard to find.

Weight is of course, a whole other world that cyclists LOVE to to obsess about.  Must be one of the few products in the world where the more you pay, the less you get.  Carbon fibre, hmmmmm.  Perhaps I’m a cynic and I can see it as a wonderfully marketable aspect of the love of cycling – it’s so simple and tangible to weigh things – but it’s fascinating, nonetheless.  Mind you, the professionals don’t always seem to sing from the same hymn book and will often have bikes well above the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) minimum limit of 6.9kg.  Aero bikes, interestingly, are often not the lightest bikes and so it’s a weigh-up between the two components. 

For a hacker like me, who frankly could lose a lot of weight and become a lot more aero before I should reasonably expect the same of my bicycle, it’s mostly academic but nevertheless irresistible.  It’s a lot of fun to have a nice bike, after all.  

Anyway, after a long hiatus while I was without a road bike over the course of summer (I sold my LOOK unexpectedly in December)  I’m back on the road and enjoying it more than ever.  I’m no threat to Cadel Evans or Thor Hushovd but I’m having a blast. 

Post Script:

Strange name, Cervelo; took me years to work out its meaning. Cer: cerebral or brain. Intellect. Velo: from the original French velocipede, for bicycle. 

Thus: Cervelo – the intelligent bicycle.  Now, that’s a pretty lofty claim which could possibly be staked by many, many bicycle manufacturers but it’s as original and catchy as much as it is meaningful.  Whatever….seeing it on the roof of my 9-3 Sportcombi brought back some memories of watching pro bike races a few years ago in 2008 when Saab had a prominent role as the vehicles for the Mavic neutral service course guys. 

Ahh, those were the days.

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  1. Love it mate. I’m in line for a new bike late in the year. Cervelo have made the short list along with a pinerello, a Scott, an a cannonade as an outside chance. I’ll probably by which ever feels best and is best value for cash. All that to say I’m jealous of the new wheels.

  2. Cool stuff on Swadeology, nice post. Hope it rubbs off on Mr Swade himself; will he get to test-drive it? I am happiest on my 1986 Columbus SL frame but also have an alu-carbon 2004 Prince which doesn’t get out all that much since I stopped racing.

  3. Oh I didn’t ask what wheels do you have. According to all my research, (similar to your quest over the last few months) after the frame wheels are the next big investment.

  4. Thanks guys, glad you like it.

    Tim – my S5 came with Fulcrum Racing T wheels – apparently a special model which Fulcrum built for Cervelo and is on pretty much all their bikes this year. Its a combination of a few different Fulcrum models – mostly Racing 7’s but with aero spokes. Quality but not high end. I think Cervelo know that most of their customers will go for an aftermarket upgrade on the wheels anyway – which I probably will too in due course……hopelessly addicted. What will I upgrade to? Racing Zero’s I think but I need to get a few miles under my belt first.

    As for Swade – he’ll tell you Hobarts’ too hilly – and it probably is – but I still reckon he could find his inner cyclist.

      1. True, true Swade.

        That said, a wheel upgrade is pretty well acknowledged as the most effective performance update for a bicycle – and one that can be moved between bikes. The automotive equivalent in performance terms is probably not the wheels but an ECU remap for most modern cars.

  5. My first thought was that swade already followed my advice to start blogging about bicycles 😉

    Since I am also presently contemplating to get a new bike, I know it really is a complex decision, so congrats!

  6. One very universal critical remark:
    Aerodynamics is important. There are, as it seems, however only two approaches to solve this: Stick with the rules that somebody made up for competition, and spend an enourmous amount to somehow trick out the rules, in order to get an increase of maybe 5%, or switch to a recumbant bicycle with aerodynamic encasing, and risk your life down-town (being overlooked by car drivers).

    There is no attempt to use a normal upright seating position bike, and improve its aerodynmics by some kind of fairing. Weird

    1. Blame the UCI for this. Part of the reason for the rules is to try to keep a level playing field. But this is to some degree anachronistic. Just ask Chris Boardman, Graeme Obree or any of the other hour record holders of yesteryear who’s efforts were effectively consigned to the bin by rule changes applied retrospectively.

      Taking a few years out of competitive cycling does bring a fresh perspective: I spectated at a local club race last weekend and in the last say 2 or 3 years more than 75% of the guys I used to race against have updated their gear, many more than once. It’s very easy to get caught up in the ‘arms race’ thinking that the latest version of your fav. component/ride will make a quantum difference to your performance.
      I would certainly subscribe to the philosophy that wheels make a big difference. A stiff set of wheels and especially high quality tyres and tubes, such as those made by Veloflex, can transform the feeling of your bike. Set-up is also critical, as previously stated – the least aerodynamic component is the rider so it is worthwhile devoting plenty of time to developing an efficient position which remains comfortable but allows you to maintain your power output.
      It used to be the case that manufacturers made group sets which had a production life of about 3 years (some even longer) Now there’s a new version out every 6 – 12 months. Same with frames. Marketing, marketing, marketing. This is compounded by the fact that with every few grams shaved off, a bit more longevity is sacrificed.
      And then there’s the not inconsiderable factor that many purchasers of these high-end machines, are probably 20-30kg heavier than the bicycle could reasonably be expected to perform under. Voila. New bike in 2 years or less, please… “Certainly, Sir!”

      Running has been such a breath of fresh air by comparison… until my joints decided to start telling me enough was enough! So I find myself back at the crossroads of the 2 sports once more. If I can bring myself to stump up the cost of a competitor’s licence ever again, I will definitely not be rushing out to buy a new bike…. but good tyres, well that’s a different story.

      1. Although you sound much more experienced than me Ian, I agree with your sentiment about bikes in general. I’ve had the same thoughts between triathlon and ocean swims. Although tri’s seem simple, once you get into it there is no end of gear and setting up to be thought of. If you thought cyclists can be gear-obsessed – spend some time with triathletes…….

        Ocean swims however…..well, you just need speedo’s,goggles and an body of water and you’re away. I still love triathlon and will race a few this year but the simplicity of ocean swim races is very seductive.

        WRT your running – at the risk of starting another whole thread – I’m working my way back into running (which I love) following a series of chronic injuries and am convinced that if done properly and thoughtfully, you can pretty well run forever. Perhaps we need a post on this too?

        1. I have friends in the triathlon club as well so I know where you’re coming from. Before I left England all those years ago I used to ride time trials and even back then bikes were jewellery items. The joy was in selecting each component from manufacturer of your choice – everything was compatible in those days.
          At least in Triathlon the bike-related rules are less stringent. In cycling, the UCI are very strict about the aerodynamic components. They released a 3:1 rule a few years ago, whereby any aerodynamic tubing or structure (frame tubes, seat-post or handlebar) must have a width less than 3 times the height. From memory there were various components in the Cervelo and Zipp range which didn’t comply, causing a lot of angst for owners. Some of the locals where I live resorted to strapping on balsa wood to their aero bars to make up the required thickness. Another friend had to go to Bob Jane T-marts to buty some stick-on lead weights, such as are used for car wheel balancing, in order to bring his Willier up to 6.9kg limit. Crazy stuff.

          1. One last thing: Be sure you have your seat clamp tightened to exact spec using a torque wrench at the bike shop. Cervelo did have a few issues with seat tubes sliding into the frame in ’09/10, causing irreparable damage to the seat tube. So to avoid any potential warranty denials it would be good insurance to follow this, or at least buy your own bike torque wrench – a handy device for a few different jobs on the machine.

      2. But there is really no reason why bike manufacturers should configure _all_ cycles like they were made for racing, even those that are used as daily (though high-speed) commuters. It is a bit like in the automotive industry, I believe, where image is also more important than substance, giving us oversized grills in front of small efficient engines, “sporty” suspensions only few people actually need, etc. And where there is mercyless categorisation, like between stylish people (sedan) and practical people (wagon), leaving those who want both style and practicability, out in the rain.

        1. That’s true Thyl… but there is a small sector of hybrid bikes and also the ‘flat-bar’ road bike which is a good compromise between handling and round-town practicality.

  7. All right! Way to go!! Cervelo is truly great brand and they make fantastic bikes. I´m happy to own one. It´s 2010 P2 (TT-bike) and I´ve bought it for triathlon use. It´s been really fantastic. Not really light but very Aero. I´ve got a set of Planet-X Aero wheels on it and it really flies when pushed really hard.
    Here´s a pic of it on the roof of SC:
    Last summer I was able to push it to avg 37km/h at 120km tri-race. For me, that is really fast! I never could have done it with my previous race bicycle.

    1. Nice bike Marko. I had a P3SL (the black alloy one which I believe was still made in Canada) a few years ago, great bike. Yours must be very nice to ride being a couple of years younger. I’ll get another one day, when I can justify it!

  8. The ‘Saab, move your mind’ bit and ‘cerebral Cervelo’ do seem to make good bed-fellows don’t they?

  9. Had the pleasure to assist to a conference where one of the founders of Cervélo, Phil White, spoke about the story behind Cervélo and their engineering approach to bikes. And if I remember well, a Saab is part of that story. 😎

    1. I’d love to hear more about this Cervelo/Saab connection! Several of my friends ride Cervelo, including a couple where he has 2 Cervelos, and she drives a Saab.

  10. I was to say something like “welcome to the club of guys in their forties with the first bike they ever owned not payed by their parents” but if your bike looks anything like this http://www.cervelo.com/en_us/bikes/2012/s5/ its very intimidating and it makes the TREK (very low weight on a budget) more upright position “fitness” bike i bought last year seem like a poor effort. But even if i could afford a bike like that i’m not sure i would have bought it since it comes with to much ambition that i could not live up to. I probably can not even live up to the bike i have but at least it was not to expensive. Writing stuff under influence as usual i thought my answer to your post was more important than your post. But i have to say what triggered me to write this is that i’m also close to 200 cm tall and 100 kg ++ and i await a reason to ride the bike to at least relative slimness. If a famous Saab-blogger does this i wold have no excuse not to. I’m not trying to be ironical or funny.

    I stumbled over this, seriously. http://www.trekbikes.com/se/sv/
    Designing bikes must be the easiest job one could have i always thought but may be it isn’t. Just look at the frame of that bicycle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BFFBv8529U

    1. Not my bike, Monty. This piece was written by Pete.

      That said, there is still no excuse not to, if you feel you need to. That’s why the electric ciggies are on the way to my place.

      1. And pete is 187cm/110kg……more a football player than a cyclist. You may be out of reasons there. Go ride your bike.

  11. I’m sorry to be somewhat off-point, but I just have to suggest this – if you like cycling, you have to check out the site (if you haven’t already) http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com. I swear I’m not a spammer! More like a proselytizer. It’s just such a terrifically written, hysterical commentary on everything cycling. He tends to update it every day, though lately he’s been occupied with book tours, but his earlier stuff in the archives is gold. Extremely funny. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in bicycles.

  12. Thanks Blix. I read bikesnob a bit and I have his book too – which is quite clever as you say. His insights are pretty good, especially with the stereotypes and minutiae of cycling.