Remember when racers worried about disc-brake-equipped bikes being too heavy? Those are quaint, faraway memories now. Cervelo’s R5 is one of the lightest disc-equipped bikes on the market today (831 grams for the disc-equipped frame; the rim-brake frame actually weighs more, at 850 grams). It’s a joy in the mountains and shockingly capable in just about every other situation, making it the VeloNews bike of the year for 2017.
During first ride testing, we noted the R5’s handling prowess. After more and more miles on the R5 disc, it’s fair to say our initial impressions were spot-on. It’s a quick steerer that avoids skittishness, and we felt most confident when standing and mashing up steep pitches. To put it bluntly, this is one of the best-handling bikes on the market right now. But why?
For starters, Cervelo has shifted the rider’s position forward and down. Our size 56cm test bike has a 594mm front-center, 572mm stack, and 389mm reach. Further, the 57mm trail combines with a short 151mm head tube; and finally, a short 993mm wheelbase, with 410mm chainstays, combine for an ultra-responsive geometry package. You won’t have to do much muscling in high-speed corners to stick to even the most aggressive lines. To keep some stability in the mix, the bottom bracket drop comes in at 72 millimeters, fairly low for a race bike.
That low bottom bracket perhaps contributes to the R5’s stability, which was noticeable in hard sprints. Cervelo claims its bottom bracket is 26 percent stiffer than the previous R5 (13 percent on the rim brake version) and its head tube is 18 percent stiffer (21 percent stiffer on the rim brake version). And it certainly felt explosive enough in testing to support (but not necessarily verify) those numbers. That’s the thing about the R5: It seems to excel even in categories that should expose its weaknesses.
In fact, the more miles we peeled away on the R5 disc, the harder it became to find any flaws. The ones that did crop up were minor: the internally-routed front brake hose has a tendency to rattle in the fork, for example. But as a complete package, the R5 disc excels in just about every facet a race bike is expected to tackle.
While the R5 Disc’s ride quality flirts with some harshness, particularly in the front end, it’s hardly uncomfortable. The slight flex in the seatpost takes care of enough chatter out back to keep things running smoothly without sacrificing rigidity for sprints and the steepest mountain pitches. And the AB06 handlebar is perhaps one of the most comfortable aero bars we’ve tested, largely due to the forward offset combined with a backsweep that better accommodates the natural position of your hands and wrists.
Other nice touches include the CRA thru-axle system that makes for quick and easy wheel changes; clearance for 28-millimeter tires; and a clean cable routing system via the CS26 stem.
Cervelo set out to “reinvent the classic road bike,” and while that claim smacks of marketing speak, it’s clear Cervelo was successful in creating one of the best-handling bikes on the market. Couple that with surprising stiffness and pedaling response and you’ve got the consummate race bike, now with disc-equipped stopping power.