Cervelo C5 Dura Ace Di2 Review

Cervelo C5 Dura Ace Di2 Review

Cervelo C5 = High Performance All Road Bike

Cervelo C5For some time Cervelo has teased us with pictures and information about their new disc brake endurance/adventure bikes labeled as its “C” line of bikes, comprised of the Cervelo C5 and the Cervelo C3. We first saw the Cervelo C5 last summer at Brainbike (Cervelo’s dealer training weekend) and we recently built one for a client and it is deserving of an overview.

Endurance bike?  That is the name given by Cervelo to the “C” bikes.  However, these are not typical of “endurance” bikes as that name has been used over the past couple of years, denoting a road bike with a bit shorter top tube and taller head tube, for a more relaxed riding position, but still designed to take tires 700×28 or narrower. The Cervelo “C” bikes are more in the vein of what is often referred to as an “adventure bike”. But neither are the Cervelo C3 and C5 really the typical “adventure bike”. “Performance Multistrada” might be a mouthful, but likely addresses what the C bikes truly are; they are performance road bikes designed for pavement or dirt and that can handle up to a 700x32mm tire.


As with all Cervelo’s, the Cervelo C5 is constructed entirely of carbon fiber. A casual glance may lead you to think that the Cervelo C5 is just an R5 with disc brakes. However, lookiCervelo C5 Tapered Headtubeng a little closer reveals that this is not the case at all – the Cervelo C5 is a whole new beast.  The Cervelo C5 and R5 and share a lot of technology, but the application is specific to the mixed use capability of the C5. This includes the following:

  • The Cervelo C5 uses Cervelo’s Squoval tubing, where the tubes being square in shape with rounded corners to improve aerodynamics.
  • The bottom bracket design is BBRight, meaning that the bottom bracket area of the frame is 11mm wider to the left side than a standard BB30 or PF30 frame, for increased stiffness. The bottom bracket area of the C5 appears to be reinforced beyond the R5 and looks to be wider further up the downtube.  Strengthening this area makes sense as the C5 is designed to handle rougher roads and conditions that the R5.
  • Lithe pencil seatstays appear on both bikes and, at first glance appear to be the same. However, looking closer you will note a subtle, graceful arcing form on the C5 to further increase absorption on rougher roads.
  • The rear dropouts on the C5, and the frame tubing and construction, are designed for a 12mm thru axle and flat mount disc brakes.
  • Where the R5 has a straight headtube with 1.125″ bearings top and bottom for a straight fork steerer, the Cervelo C5 has a tapered headtube and steerer, with 1.125″ top bearing and 1.5″ bottom. The front end is therefore stiffer, for better control on rough surfaces.  The fork on the C5 uses a 15mm thru axle instead of a quick release.


The frame has the hallmarks of the adventure bike genre, i.e. a taller headtube, longer chain stays, and a lower bottom bracket than a narrow tire specific road bike. The geometry is versatile and will fit a wide variety of people well and all sizes stick to Cervelo’s single seat tube angle per model – 73 degrees in the case of the Cervelo C5. The only way to know if the Cervelo C5 will be well suited to you is to have a bike fit that is rider, not bike, specific (Rider First) before you buy it, so contact us and make an appointment. All of these geometry modifications help increase stability at all speeds over rough surfaces, such as gravel and dirt roads.  These changes also make the bike more comfortable to ride, a necessity on rougher surfaces, albeit at the cost of a bit of quickness in handling. This being said, unless you are a criterium racer, we doubt you will find that the Cervelo C5 does not handle quick enough for your use.


Cervelo C5 Flat Mount Disc            The Cervelo C5 is designed around flat mount disc brake calipers, the latest development in road disc brakes. Flat mount calipers mount directly to the frame or fork, rather than being supported on posts or some other mounts. The rear caliper bolts directly to a flat surface formed into the top of the left chainstay, and the front caliper bolts into a similar flat surface molded into the left fork leg.  This type of design presents real challenges to the frame manufacturer, but when done right, as with the Cervelo, it makes for a stiffer, stronger mount, which leads to better brake feel and performance and less brake chatter.  The caliper is also smaller, and therefore lighter.  The Cervelo C5 complete bikes come with Shimano’s new BR-RS805 flat mount hydraulic brake discs.


The stock C5 comes equipped two ways: with Shimano Dura Ace 9000 mechanical shifting and hydraulic brakes, or with Shimano 9070 Di2 electronic shifting front and rear derailleurs, coupled with Shimano Di2 ST-R785 Di2 hydraulic brake shifters.  Our client opted for electronic shifting.

The C5 from the factory comes very well equipped, with carbon bars, stem and seatpost, and good wheels.  However, the owner of this C5 wanted wider range gearing than the factory bike, different wheels and a few other specialty items and thus we built him out a custom. Interestingly, we were actually able to spec the bike out for him better than the factory specifications and for less money. It is great when this happens…


One change from the stock build on this Cervelo C5 was that the rider wanted to use a Stages power meter.  The stock bottom bracket in the Cervelo C5 is the Rotor PF-30, designed for use with a 30 mm crank axle. The Shimano crankset uses a 24 mm crank axle, so the stock bottom bracket could only be used with adaptors, such as those from Wheels Manufacturing.  These types of adapters don’t work as well as a bottom bracket designed specifically to accept the crank being used and we opted to install a Wheels Manufacturing bottom bracket for Cervelo BBRight frames.  The two halves of this alloy bottom bracket shell do not simply press into the frame, the predominant design on production bikes, but rather thread together. Threading the halves together pulls the bearing shell halves into the frame, and actually squeezes the frame between them for a very tight fit.  This type of design also ensures proper right/left alignment of the bottom bracket bearings. The result is a bottom bracket with high quality angular contact bearings in a design that all but eliminates the possibility of creaks, a problem ubiquitous in the world of BB30, PF30, etc. bottom brackets


The Cervelo C5 comes equipped with alloy-rimmed HED Ardennes LT+ disc from the factory – a good wheel that is better than what most bikes come with.  However, our client wanted to use the carbon fiber Enve SES 3.4 disc clincher wheelset, built with DT 240 hubs.   The front wheel rim depth is 35 mm, while the rear is 45 mm, making the wheels easier to manage in cross winds.  The DDT Swiss 240 hub is a high quality, tried-and-true design.  The wheelset weighs 1440 grams a pair, quite light for disc brake clincher wheels.  The tires our client wanted were labeled as 28’s, but in actuality measured 30mm wide on the wider Enve rims.  Remember, tire width is highly dependent on the rim used, so do not rely simply on the numbers printed on the tire. The Enve 3.4 disc wheels really suit the Cervelo C5 well and will offer great performance and ride on the pavement or dirt.


9070 Derailleur with K-Edge      The Cervelo C5 normally comes with a Shimano Dura Ace 11-28 cassette, the largest cassette that will work reliably with a 9070 rear derailleur.  Our client wanted lower gearing than this, so we installed a K-Edge long cage conversion that has the capacity to handle up to an 11-36 cassette.  We have done this conversion many, many times, and it works very well.  For a cassette our client chose the exceptionally lightweight SRAM Red 22 11-32 cassette.  For those of you with mechanical derailleurs, sorry, that K-Edge conversion only works on Di2 rear derailleurs.


While the OEM build of the Cervelo C5 features FSA carbon parts, the cockpit of our client’s bike features a Zipp SL Sprint carbon fiber stem, with Zipp Contour SL carbon fiber handlebars. The seatpost is a Zipp Speed zero set-back carbon fiber seatpost.  With all those Zipp parts, naturally Zipp bottle cages finish off the bike nicely and cohesively.


If you look closely at the pictures, you will see a few other non-stock items on this rider’s new Cervelo C5. At the cockpit, we installed one of our most popular accessories for Di2 bikes, theFourier's Alloy Di2 Junction Mount Fourier’s cockpit junction box mount. Why? Shimano’s rubber band mount for their junction box does not fit onto the Zipp stem well at all and the rubber band looks a bit crude.  The Fourier’s mount is CNC machined aluminum alloy, not 3D printed plastic as some others I have seen, and replaces a spacer under the stem.

You may also notice the Garmin Varia radar system on the seatpost.  We have written previously about this rear radar/light and have a number of clients using the Varia, and it has garnered unanimous high praise from every user.

Finally, another detail is that the Cervelo C5 frame incorporates a chain catcher on the front derailleur hanger.  This is a very worthwhile device that helps protect the carbon fiber bottom bracket area of the bike from the inevitable thrown chain. In my opinion a chain catcher should be installed on any carbon fiber bicycle. Anyway, the inclusion of this in the design of the bike shows Cervelo’s attention to detail and understanding of how the C5 was likely to be used.


Cervelo C5 Front Thru Axle            My view of the ride of this Cervelo is somewhat skewed by the components used to build our client’s bike.  As we preach ad nauseum, wheels can make a huge difference in the ride quality of a bike.  I like the HED Ardennes + LT wheels, and was impressed with them when I first road them on a Parlee Altum.  But the Enve 3.4 wheels are another couple of steps up the performance ladder, and they show it.  However, having ridden the Enve’s on a number of occasions, I felt I could still discern the basic nature of the C5 frameset.

How does it ride?  Like a Cervelo, that’s how.  All of Cervelo’s bikes, from the R2 to the S5, are high performance machines, and the C5 is no exception, proudly showing off its Cervelo DNA. If I had to sum up the ride in a sentence it would be something like this, “The Cervelo C5 is a high performance machine with increased comfort and rough road capability thrown in, thanks to that more relaxed geometry and built-in rear end flex.”  While you probably would not take the Cervelo C5 to a crit race, this is definitely not a slow, sluggish, or too cushy bike as some others of this genre I have ridden.

The Cervelo C5 is quite light for an endurance/adventure bike, even in its stock configuration, and feels agile, belying its geometry.  The bike rides very smoothly over rough surfaces, yet still responds like a performance road bike on paved surfaces, giving up only a smidgen to the R5.  The feel of the Cervelo C5 reminded me of one or two other very high quality adventure bikes we have built. However, the Cervelo C5 is lighter than most and this makes the Cervelo C5 feel “tossable”; the bike feels a bit more responsive, with quicker handling and acceleration than others in its category.  Of course, those Enve 3.4 disc wheels play their part in this performance.


All, in all, I liked the Cervelo C5 a lot. It is a very nice machine that performs the way I like a bike to perform: quick, responsive handling; exceptional power transfer; and no penalty in comfort. The fact that the Cervelo C5 is not quite as quick handling or responsive as the R5 does not bother me a bit, and all but the most expert riders on the tightest of courses will hardly notice.

Some reviewers have criticized the color scheme of the Cervelo C5. Color and aesthetics is personal, but I disagree.  The gloss black and gold, with some silver thrown in, looks good in my book – sophisticated.

Our client’s bike weighed less than 16 lbs before installing the Speedplay Zero Ti pedals and a stock spec Cervelo C5 weighs a little less than 17 lbs depending on the size of the frame.

When it comes to pricing, the factory build Cervelo C5 with Dura Ace 9070 Di2 electronic shifting is $9,000. The Dura Ace 9000 mechanical shifting C5 is $7,000. For those looking for a similar bike at a lower price, be sure to check out the Cervelo C3 which offers a frame of similar design, but with a grade down on the carbon fiber and more mid-level components configurations form the factory. A Cervelo C3 with Ultegra 6870 Di2 electronic shifting is $5,500, Ultegra 6800 mechanical shifting for $4,300, and SRAM Force mechanical shifting for $4,500. Cervelo just started shipping the C3 and we expect it to do well as the price is right for many riders and it offers a lot of the technology found in the C5.

Is the jury still out on the Cervelo C5?  Not as far as I am concerned.  Cervelo has hit a home run with the C5, and presumably the C3 as well, when it comes to creating a bike that will align really well with their goals of creating one road bike that will tackle almost any road well.  Coupling the high performance emblematic of Cervelo bicycles with the ability to tackle dirt and gravel back roads with wider tires and hydraulic disc brakes is a win/win combination for bike enthusiasts.  I can’t say this about all adventure bikes, but the C5 definitely qualifies as one of those endurance/adventure bikes that, with a separate set of wheels with road tires, could easily satisfy the needs and wants of the vast majority of riders, whether riding in that Grand Fondo you are thinking about or spending the day exploring back dirt roads. If you are looking for a multistrada bike or a “quiver killer” bike to replace a host of other bikes in your garage, if the Cervelo C5 fits you well, it will be a very good option as the ride and engineering are very well executed.

Why would you guess on how well a new bike will work for you? Never buy a new bike without a Rider First Bike Fitting first. Contact us to make a fit appointment or for more information about these new additions to Cervelo’s line. Also, remember that if you were fit by us before, we can use your information to let you know how the Cervelo C5 (or any other bike) fits you well before you buy.

About Jim

After almost thirty years as an attorney, Jim became the service manager at Fit Werx in Vermont. He held this post for almost ten years. Having retired in 2019, Jim still likes riding, working on and writing about bikes and bike equipment.


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4 Responses to Cervelo C5 Dura Ace Di2 Review
  • Etienne

    Great review and nice setup! i used this review as a guideline for my C5..
    I recently bought this C5 and it keep amazing me day by day. Also ridden the S5 and R3. I really hated cobbles and gravel but this bike make riding in this surface a real joy.
    i did make some changes to the bike… tubeless 30mm tyres and also replaced the rotor for the 9000 cranks with stages however i had to use some spacers on the drive side. First i thought this bike is made for compact because lack of space (inner chain ring).. btw also used the Wheels Manufacturing BB….
    Also replaced the junction box with the one in the handlebar… replacing the fsa parts for, yes.. the zipp (although the alu version of the cockpit and the carbon seatpost)..
    next step is replacing the shifters for the 91xx series di2 and other wheelset…
    The C stands not only for Comfort but also for Cool… the steve mcqueen amongst endurance bikes

    Again, great review

    • Ian

      Thanks for reading Etienne and it sounds like you have put together a nice bike.

  • Walter Flom

    Great and interesting article/review of the Cervelo C5 you built up! I have been riding a similarly equipped (same wheels and components) 2017 BMC Road Machine 01 Disc out here in Sonoma County, CA, for the past 12 months and absoutely love the combination of comfort and performance. The riding is great, but the roads can be very bumpy! I am waiting to test ride the Cervelo. Can you compare the ride of the Cervelo C5 to the BMC? Thanks! -Walt

    • Ian

      Hi Walt,

      The BMC Road Machine is a more direct competitor of Cervelo’s latest R Series bikes than the C series bikes. Cervelo’s C bikes take a wider range of tire width than the Road Machine. Cervelo has fewer integrated parts, which some riders like as most any aftermarket part will work on the bike and it can be less expensive to change fit related items. Others like the integrated parts designed into the Road Machine; just be aware that the integrated stem and other items may or may not fit you out of the box… This is a big reason we recommend taking a Fit First approach to bike selection so that you know what works and what may need to be changed in advance. Otherwise, BMC’s top of the line bikes and the 5 series Cervelo’s are designed for similar riders – those who are seeking a lightweight and responsive ride without diminishing from comfort. Enjoy!

Fit Werx

Fit Werx