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From the pages of Velo: VeloLab’s Aero Revisited

Cervélo S5 VWD

by Caley Fretz

With a lineage tracing back a decade to the original Cervélo Soloist, the S5 is the undisputed aristocrat of aero road frames. The question, now, is whether it can stave off the influx of new, well-rounded competitors. The S5 is Cervélo’s fastest aero road frame ever, better across the board in our labs than its predecessor, the S3. It remains unmatched in the wind tunnel, holding on to its crown across all wind angles, and is unquestionably the fastest option for a solo attack up the road. But road racing isn’t all about the breakaway, and the S5 isn’t the best multi-tasker. The narrow tube shapes that send it to the fore in the tunnel hurt it elsewhere, and ultimately kept Cervélo from coming out on top again.

Scientific Testing: 23 of 30 points
The S5 was the fastest in the wind tunnel, quicker than second place by about 5 watts at 30 mph and faster than our control bike by 82 seconds over 40km.

In the lab, the S5 fell behind in our torsional stiffness test, proving to be a full 14% less stiff than the Scott Foil. The S5 is, however, 16% stiffer than the S3 we tested last year.

Subjective Ride Quality: 23 of 30 points
Gone are the spindly stays and traditional tube junctions of the S3, and with them goes the old model’s comfort. A lounge chair the S5 is not, with every bump distinctly felt through the hands and backside. But the level of comfort is perfectly average for a race bike, and we were not unduly beat up as we have been with aero road frames in the past.

The S5 is still stiffer than its predecessor and, like the S3, springs back nicely when power is thrown into it.

The S5’s handling is the shining star of the bike’s ride quality. Quick to turn and stable once in a lean, it swoops through descents unlike any other bike in this test. Cervélo seems to have found the geometry sweet spot, as the S5 has the same mind-meld handling
as its predecessor.

My only gripe, and it is a rather large one, is the obscenely tall 179mm head tube on our 56cm frame, which made it impossible for me to obtain my regular position, even with a -17˚ stem. I could size down and use an equally obscene 150mm stem and tons of seatpost, but I shouldn’t have to: this is a race bike, used by people who want low positions. Cervélo should design it as such.

User Friendliness: 12 of 15 points
The S5 can be easily retrofitted for electronic or mechanical groups, a feature that is becoming critical as Di2 and EPS continue to gain market share.

The two-position seatpost allows the rider to move the clamp between zero and 40mm offset positions. This is a great feature for anyone planning on using the S5 for triathlons, too.

Cable routing is internal and installation is only mildly frustrating when first building the bike, before the bottom bracket is installed. Feeding the Di2 wiring harness through the frame becomes a bit more difficult with the BB pressed in, though. The rear brake mount is a bit funky, and we took another point off for the monster head tube, which makes sizing difficult.

Value: 15 of 20 points
The S5 VWD (Vroomen White Design) we tested takes a big hit on value, largely due to its Dura-Ace Di2 group and the fact that much cheaper versions of the same frame are available. The VWD frameset alone goes for $5,900, which is $2,900 more than the regular S5 and $2,100 more than the Team version used by Garmin-Barracuda. Paying the premium for the VWD version will lighten the frame by about 270 grams over the regular S5 — whether that’s worth lightening your wallet by $2,900 is a question we can’t answer for you. But it certainly doesn’t pay in the performance-per-dollar ratio we use to calculate the Value score.

Weight: 2 of 5 points
The S5 was the heaviest in this test by a smidge.

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