"Do you have 25 or 27mm tyres on your bike?" Haimar emailed me. "Why?" I nervously replied back...
A day later the third memember of our trio, Antton, explained that on our 4 hour ride he wanted to take me on roads that 90% of local riders did not even know about. This was going to be fun, and with a Cervélo S5 currently in the stable it seemed rude not to give it a through workout.
This was my fourth time riding around San Sebastián. I love the area; would move here in a heartbeat. Every time, I come the weather seems to be misty though - I joked that I was in the only part of Europe not currently in the heatwave!
The region has everything; short punchy climbs, long HC ones and some mega-riding on coastal roads. It's also like Mallorca in that you will see loads of other cyclists on the road; the difference here being they are all locals.
Antton is a pro photographer and also a cycle guide; he takes real delight in finding new roads. Haimar is a Basque native; and has been climbing and descending on these roads for 25 years.
The last time I saw them we did the epic Luchon-Bayonne 1 day ride which is 315km and 6000m in a day; it took us 13 hours and it remains one of the hardest and most rewarding rides I've ever done.
Riding with these two is fun; they like to smash each other whenever they can, you can be climbing for 20 minutes, then descend onto a valley floor and expect a recovery. But with Antton in particular he will immediately crank it back up and suddenly you are doing 'through and off' at 50kph.
I wanted to go back to San Sebastián for a multitude of reasons; I love the place, to meet the guys again, and lastly to see if my current test bike (the Cervélo S5) can hang as a climbing bike. It's been amazing so far on flat and rolling roads; but this trip to the Basque Country was something else altogether!
The ride ended up being around 4 hours long and at a pitiful average speed of 24kph; I have never climbed standing so much in one ride. But the bike was great; it may have felt slightly sluggish initially (those deep wheels were as much to blame as the frame) but on consistent grades the bike was great; you could take it to the Alps with no concerns.
And descending on it was simply brilliant; those disc brakes just stop on a dime every time. Both Antton and Haimar are much better descenders than me, but it was noticeable just how much effort it was talking them to scrub off speed on the really steep descents (think 15%+).
And whenever I got onto the flat the bike was so quick it was unfair - after I did a long pull Antton said the Cervelo was very quick and my position on it did not give him much of an aero shield following him. He said he tried to come around me and take a pull, but the speeds were such that it was easier to follow. Aero bikes and deep aero wheels work!
Riding this Cervélo over the last month has been a bit of a
revelation; I was unsure of its looks on-screen, but in the flesh I
think it's amazing. It looks super modern and clean; a round tube
bike with exposed cables looks somewhat 'old' to me now. Those aero
bars and that funny V-shaped stem now seem normal to me, and I have
found some really comfortable climbing positions on those
When I got my Tarmac Disc I could not believe how good it was nor how quick and aero it was. I genuinely couldn't see the need for a Venge given how versatile the Tarmac was.
But now after having ridden this current generation of superbikes (thinking most specifically of Venge, Madone and S5) I can't believe how versatile they are, nor how well they climb and thus think why wouldn't you get the most aero bike you can; it's literally free speed.
At the risk of repeating myself; we truly are in a golden era of bike design and technology; the combination of disc brakes, wide rims and tyres and aero optimisation is making bikes go quicker, and stop faster than ever before.
This ride also featured clothing from Pas Normal Studios - read more about their lightweight summer collection here and buy online here.
We offer the full Cervélo range, including this latest S5 Disc, both as framesets and as complete bikes (off the peg or custom build). Whichever you choose you can be sure of the perfect fit.
For more information, or to book a bike fit, visit us in-store or get in touch by phone or email.
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