Cervélo S5 Disc Hands-On

This will be a brief review of the Cervelo S5D I have built up from our shop stock (one thing to note is these test bikes are all owned by us, they are not media 'loaner' bikes and as such I feel entitled to be critical where needed. It's my money, my opinion!).

The Ui2-equipped bike I have is £6999, which compares favourably to the frame only at £4299. For only £2700 more than the frameset only you get a full Ui2 groupset, DT Swiss carbon wheels and a Prologo saddle.

However for another £2700 (a total of £9699) you can get the flagship model which has Dura-Ace Di2 and ENVE 5.6 wheels.

Looking at specs for complete bikes I can often see analomies in the relationship between specifications and total price; i.e. a groupset may have an SRP of £1000 more than the range below but the corresponding bike's SRP is £1600 more... But the Cervelo range seems well thought out and fairly priced.


One of my favourite regular routes is a 125km loop with 1100m of climbing.

Unfortunately the Cervelo does not have a Power Meter as standard, so I couldn't measure Watts, but keeping my heartrate similar saved me around 15 minutes on a 4.5 hour course!

That's crazy and I don't think it's all the bike - that would be ridiculous. Clearly wind direction can play a factor, but on a circular loop like this the effect should average out. But the time is the time, and it's impressive.

For comparison, I have another 50km loop that I do on my TT bike; and I was 1 min faster on the Cervelo than on my regular TT machine (1hr 37m vs 1hr 38m).

So the bike is obviously very fast. I have been impressed with how well it climbs; it feels super stiff both seated and standing. It just feels like a normal road bike - you don't need to apologise for it like you had to do for early Generation Aero road bikes (the first generation Venge being a great example of a one trick pony).

My bike comes in at 8.2kgs with pedals which is pretty beefy by modern standards... but it honestly climbs better than that bare figure suggests.

Aero Bars

I thought I would hate the aero bars when climbing, I love climbing on the tops, but I actually really liked these. The bars are so much better than the last generation S5 I had; it was a nice bike but I hated the shape of the front end, and that was enough to ruin the experience for me. If you don't get on with a bar shape or a saddle you are in for a rough day... (hence we swap contact points like for like at no extra cost when you buy an off-the-peg bike from us).

The other huge improvement on the Generation 3 S5 is that the new bike is disc brake only, and as such has wider tyre clearance. It can take a proper 25mm on a wide rim whereas before you were limited to 23mm.

That front end

When we were first told about the upcoming S5D our Cervelo rep mentioned the stem and said people would either love or hate it - and thus before I saw the pictures I was expecting something incredibly marmite. I have to say I dont really see all the fuss - I actually like it. The fact it's a two-piece is a godsend, and you can angle the bars with 2.5 and 5 degree shims to ensure it fits just right.

Riding a smallER bike

One of the changes on this bike is its a 56cm and I normally ride a 58. I also have a 820mm saddle height and this bike was built slammed with no spacers, so it has a huge drop.

Initially I felt the position was way too low, but a week in and I am used to it - 2-3 hr rides are no bother, and even on a longer 4hr ride there's no discomfort.

Being lower on the bike makes descending more fun, as you have lowered your centre of gravity. It also makes you super-low on the bike for general riding, and it's partly this point which makes me think my speeds have gone up. You as the rider are responsible for 70% of all drag and getting more aero presents many more gains than deeper wheels, aero bikes etc.

I guarantee you if you bought a Tarmac and were optimised on it, you would be more aero than if you rode a Venge with 30mm too many spacers etc... it's the rider and not the bike that have the biggest effect.

So get your position dialled on an aero bike and you will fly.

But it's worth noting that all my rides have been done solo, where my low position will be of more benefit as I'm constantly exposed to the wind. On a group ride with a big chain-gang it'll obviously have a less pronounced effect.

How does it compare to the Venge and the Madone?

It's hard to say; I need to test them all at the same time, side by side!

I honestly think there is very little in it; they are all so good that unless they were all set up to the millimetre the one that fit best on the test ride would "win".

I do love fact the S-Works Venge comes with a built in Power Meter (in both AXS and Di2 versions) - making it ready to go out the box. If you want to maximise the return from your aero road bike a power meter is pretty much essential. Also, the Venge comes in at £9750 with a Power Meter, the Cervelo is £9700 without (but has those expensive Enve wheels - Specialized's Roval hoops are brilliant performers but for some the brand name will swing the deal).

The Madone looks expensive in comparison at £10,000 without a Power Meter - but it's the most technically advanced in the category with the shock-absorbing Isospeed rear end.

Basically buy the one that fits you best and you like the look of. It's that simple! There are no losers here...


The biggest takeaway is that "aero road" is a legitimate thing with real-world benefits, not just marketing waffle, and not just for the Pros.

These bikes are super fast, comfortable and climb well. With disc brakes you can take them anywhere in total confidence. We have moved away from chasing lightness above all else. Now aero is everything and on every UK race course and sportive that I can think of an aero road bike will be quicker than a traditional lightweight "normal" road bike.

I will continue riding this for a few more months and then it will go back to the shop floor and we will sell it end of season to a lucky chap at a screaming price (email us in advance if keen!)

And then onto the next one...

But I have to say I am so taken by the S5 I am already playing around with building a dream spec on our builder and really going to town; ZIPP 404 NSW, Di2, CeramicSpeed OSPW. I do love the monochrome stock look, but the frame only option is nice... as is the limited edition SunWeb Team colour scheme (below).