2019 Cervelo S5. Beyond “Simply Faster”.

2019 Cervelo S5. Beyond “Simply Faster”.

Cervelo used the by-line “Simply Faster” for years.  However, as time has passed, the top aero bikes have become so fast that the ante has been upped. Today, you need to be more than simply faster to compete at the top level.  While gaining some mechanical complexity over its predecessor, the 2019 Cervelo S5 encapsulates the concept of “Beyond Fast” quite well. Read on to learn more about what makes the 2019 Cervelo S5 “new”.

Cervelo S5 Integrated Front-End

Innovative change happens quickly on pro peloton capable aero road bike models. Seconds count and aerodynamics and stiffness tend to trump all. With this in mind, Cervelo fully integrated the front-end of the new S5. The bike boasts a new Cervelo AB08 carbon aero drop bar mated to a Cervelo CS28 V-Stem. This set-up has similarities to what is found on the 2018 P5 TT bike, but with much needed serviceability improvements.  A new “bayonet style” front fork holds everything together and connects to the front wheel via a low profile thru axle.  Yes. The 2019 S5 is only available with disc brakes.

Cervelo attributes the majority of the aerodynamic improvement from the previous S5 to the 2019 model to this integrated front-end, with cable concealment being a major player.

Lateral Stiffness

The addition of disc brakes (and associated thru axles) in combination with the new fork and carbon layup has further increased lateral stiffness of the 2019 S5 chassis by double digit percentages over the 2018 model.  Thankfully, most of Cervelo’s increase in lateral stiffness happened at the axles and the headtube. While some companies have pursued bottom bracket stiffness at all costs, we don’t think that is always a great approach. Riding a bike is a rhythmic activity and you want a good dance partner. Doing the salsa with a “rigid as a steel I-beam” partner isn’t much fun…  Cervelo has created a good balance in this regard by maximizing stiffness in the right places and not going too far elsewhere.

Ride Quality

When it comes to vibration damping, Cervelo has made changes in frame layup of the carbon to enhance ride quality. They have increased tire capacity to easily accept a full 28mm width tire (a 30mm tire on many rims will fit without issue); wider tires allow smoother (and often lower rolling resistance) tires to be run and give the 2019 Cervelo S5 greater versatility.

Tire width makes a big difference when it comes to how smooth a bike feels and this combination enhances the ride of the 2019 S5.

Mechanical Ease

Pro level aero road bikes are not known for their mechanical simplicity.

While many of the latest crop of aero superbikes  are better than past generations, fully concealed cabling is inherently more complicated. The new integrated front-end of the S5 uses an improved version of the system developed on the 2018 and earlier P5. While the spacers are improved and easier to change, there is limited room for height adjustment without cutting or extending the cable housing accordingly. If you are a “set it and forget it” rider with a pretty static position, this isn’t an issue. However, if you need to adjust your fit by 2cm or more, get ready for stem and handlebar position changes to take some time (and cost some money). This is another reason why  your bike should be built to match your riding position at purchase.

It should be noted that while the S5’s front-end has P5 similarities, from everything we have seen, travel accommodations with the new S5 are a marked improvement.

Cervelo S5 Aerodynamics

It is hard to find a cable showing on the 2019 Cervelo S5. When it comes to aerodynamics, it is hard to deny that covering everything with a deep and narrow tube helps. Cervelo has embraced this concept completely on the S5 Disc.

The 2019 Cervelo S5 will be at (or very close) to the top of every road bike on earth when it comes to minimizing CdA. While there are some road bikes claiming to have lower drag numbers than Cervelo, if you really dig into the data, you will find that they are not comparing apples to apples. The 2019 S5, thanks to the new integrated front-end, tests 43 grams lower drag (all else being equal) than the out-going model. That is a lot of drag to eliminate on a bike that is already near the head of its class aerodynamically.

We’re not going to split hairs analyzing aerodynamics between manufacturers. Whether a rider wins on a Specialized Venge, Trek Madone, Felt AR, Cervelo S or some other aero road bike is unlikely to come down to a few grams of drag between bikes. The rider is a huge factor in aerodynamics. You need all the top contenders under you in a controlled aero test environment (preferably field tested) to know whether one bike offers you lower drag than another.

Most of us don’t have the time or money to buy, set-up equally and field test the top five aero road bikes on the market in a controlled manner.  So, do not buy the 2019 S5 because you think it offers a couple grams less drag than one of its competitors. This being said, if a 2019 Cervelo S5 fits you well and you buy one, rest assured that if you lose the field sprint it won’t be the bike’s fault; you would have lost by even more had you been on most other options.

Fit & Geometry

From a fit and geometry perspective, the 2019 Cervelo S5 remains Cervelo’s lowest and longest fitting bicycle. It takes a rider with a lower saddle height and longer reach morphology and/or possessing the strength, technique and posture that allows them to ride a “Pro Geometry” comfortably and efficiently to fit well on a 2019 Cervelo S5. The only way to not guess on this crucial aspect of buying a new bike is to get a Rider First Bike Fit and have a geometry search done to guarantee that the bike fits you before you buy.

2019 Cervelo S5 Handling

We really like how Cervelo is approaching handling on the 2019 S5.  The bottom bracket is a few mm lower than past Cervelo S bikes (lower center of gravity), which is a good move. More importantly, Cervelo has taken great expense to keep the trail numbers virtually equal across the range of sizes by producing specific fork rakes for each frame size and associated head tube angle. There is no way that this approach, when combined with the lateral stiffness numbers we’ve seen, won’t result in one of the most confidence inspiring handling and stability packages found in a race bike today. As an added bonus, this statement won’t be size dependent as it is likely is with some other brands/models.

S5 Disc Brakes

We almost forgot to talk more about one of the notable visual changes from the 2018 S5 – the brakes. The 2019 S5 is only available with disc brakes. Every year we see more bike models head to disc and aero testing is indicating that disc brakes often test even better than caliper. A good disc brake is certainly stronger and more progressive than a caliper brake. This is appreciated when descending on a bike this aerodynamic and confidence inspiring.

Regardless of your opinion on disc brake versus caliper brakes, the industry has made it clear that most bikes will have disc brakes in the future. Cervelo put the right type of brake on the 2019 S5.

2019 Cervelo S5 Disc Conclusions

Our in house testing staff has raced on previous generation S5 bikes for years. They always tested at or near the top of their class in all the crucial performance departments and the associated results proved that the bike was fast. Read Cervelo’s white paper on the S5 to learn more about the details.

However, the S5 has historically been (fairly) criticized at times as rewarding pure performance over ride experience. The 2019 S5 squarely takes on this criticism. Especially with the wider tire capacity, the 2019 S5’s ride quality is arguably within striking distance of the venerable R series bikes from Cervelo.

The 2019 S5 should prove to be one of the very best handling dedicated race bikes on the market. The aero improvements alone will surely keep it a “benchmark bike” that others are compared. There are other fast aero road bikes available on the market.  However, Cervelo pretty much invented the aero road bike category and they haven’t stopped innovating since. In other words, if it fits you well and you want to go as fast as possible, the Cervelo S5 is one of the top few bikes in the world. The biggest difference will come in the fit and set-up done by the shop, so select your bike fitter and technician carefully to make sure they understand biomechanics and aerodynamic details.

Contact us with questions or to scheduled a fitting to see if a Cervelo S bike is a good match for you.

About Ian

From first time riders to Olympians, Ian has helped thousands of athletes achieve their cycling and triathlon goals. Ian develops much of the Fit Werx fitting and analysis protocols and is responsible for technology training and development. He is regarded as one of the industry leaders in bicycle fitting, cycling biomechanics and bicycle geometry and design. He is dedicated to making sure the Fit Werx differences are delivered daily and provides Fit Werx with corporate direction and is responsible for uniting our staff and initiatives.

Find out more about Ian Here

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6 Responses to 2019 Cervelo S5. Beyond “Simply Faster”.
  • ILAN VARDI

    Narrow bars are already the norm on the track, and by “narrow”, I mean 33cm. This was started in the era of Chris Hoy, 6ft 1in, rather muscular build. This trend doesn’t seem to have affected sprinting negatively. The biomechanics seem to be ok, Jan-Willem van Schip, 6ft 4in, 185lbs, has 38cm bars that run 32cm at the brake hoods http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/the-narrowest-bars-in-the-pro-peloton/

    I was in a bike shop where some sales person was explaining that 44cm bars were good because they allow you to breathe more easily by opening up your rib cage. I would like to point out that cycling’s most intense aerobic efforts are done with aero bars, so < 10cm (0 cm?) arm separation, so that principle doesn't seem to hold. Same with the principle that bar width should correspond to shoulder width.

    -ilan

    • Ian

      Comfort is another fit based factor and not all riders are capable of maintaining a position that a pro is capable comfortably. Stability is also a concern for some riders. Either way, Cervelo allows an adapter to be used on the new S bikes and therefore you can use whatever bar you have a preference. This allows you to run whatever bar width that works best for you if Cervelo’s sizing options are wider than you want. I think they have done a very good job making sure the needs of a wide array of riders are taken into account when it comes to handlebar width and shape.

  • ILAN VARDI

    Hello! I was waiting for a disc version of the S5, but I am disappointed with what Cervelo came up with. The problem is the stem and handlebars which aren’t practical and that it appears that you cannot put on a normal stem and handlebars.

    Proprietary seatposts are bad enough, but Cervelo has had enough experience with them to make reasonable seatposts. However, this stem and bar combination is terrible: There is a problem with adjustment and you apparently can’t use existing handlebars. That means you’re stuck with what Cervelo has provided, which isn’t so good. In particular, the bars are probably “standard” which means “wide,” so not good if you like narrow bars. I have 38cm bars that are 36cm at the brake hoods, and I would get narrower if I could find them (check out Jan-Willem van Schip), I have 33cm on the track which is just fine. Since narrower is more aero (that’s why they’re called “aero bars”), Cervelo should have optimized by providing very narrow bars. Also, you can’t put aero extensions on these bars, so I don’t see how this bike can be used for draft legal triathlons. Similarly if you do time trials on your road bike. Or maybe you don’t find the bars that comfortable…

    I hope I’m wrong that you can’t put standard bars and stems on this bike.

    Thanks for the review.

    -ilan

    • Ian

      Good points and questions Ilan.

      The reality is that leading the field in aerodynamics requires that pro level aero bikes use integrated front-end designs with handlebars like what the S5 comes with. Thankfully, Cervelo developed a system that allows for decent amount of adjustability of the handlebar vertically and horizontally. The stem is available in six different lengths and there is 30mm of height adjustment in the system. Cervelo also realized that they could not build a system that does it all and thus there is an adapter that can be used on the 2019 S5 that does allow for a traditional bar and stem of your choice to be used.

      On a related note, the 2019 Cervelo S3 has a well thought out front-end as well that can use a simpler Cervelo integrated system than the one found on the S5 or the bar and stem of your choice as well. The S3 will also be available in disc or caliper brake versions. We plan on profiling the 2019 S3 soon.

      • ILAN VARDI

        Thanks for the complete reply, Ian.

        My feeling is that 10 years from now, all the bike companies are suddenly going to realize that narrow bars are better with 38cm the norm, so that current bikes will seem totally out of date!

        Best regards,

        -ilan

        • Ian

          Hi Ilan,

          There is aerodynamics and then there is biomechanics. The goal is to find the right balance for the individual rider. Regardless, thankfully handlebars are something that is relatively affordable and easy to change if research encourages something like a 38cm norm. Did we try that in the ’70’s already though?;-)

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