By Mike Hawkins
Holding firm to the principle of trickling down cutting-edge tech from its top-of-the-range bike to the rest of the range, Cervélo has updated three bikes for 2014 with technology from its 2013 hyper-bike, the £7,499 RCA frameset.
Central to the new R5 and R3 is the Squoval tube set, now in its third generation.
If you've been following Cervélo and what the Canadian engineering duo of Gerard Vroomen and Phil White have been up to, you'll already know that Squoval is the name they've given to the tube shape that matches square with oval to make a tube that is stiff but also reasonably aerodynamic.
With its radiused corners and more material on the outer edges, the Squoval shape is said to offer the best of both worlds. They have done the science, so who are we to argue?
So the third-generation tube shapes have been moved down from the RCA, and you might expect the technology drip-down to have stopped there, given the prices of the R5 and R3, but shifting manufacturing from the US to Asia must have reduced costs substantially, as not only have the shapes been passed down but also many of the exotic, expensive materials.
In the RCA, Cervélo uses an ultra-expensive, 0.2mm thread from carbon manufacturer Toray - the thread is said to be able to support its own weight, without bending, when held horizontally over a distance of more than five metres. Trouble is, to be that stiff, it's also very brittle, meaning you can't use large quantities of it.
All the same, it brings worthwhile weight savings, and it's been used in the R5 on the outer edges of the tubes around the top/head/down tube junctions. This gives added stiffness in this crucial region.
Cervélo is an engineering-based company, so it's no surprise that it uses stats to illustrate just how much better the R5 is.
Squoval frame: best of both shapes
We're told that the old R5 weighed 826g and the new one has dropped 18g to make it 808g, but that's not where the numbers stop; it's 10 per cent stiffer at the bottom bracket while the vertical compliance has been increased by 14 per cent to make the frame more comfortable.
And there on one last number 25c, you'll now be able to fit 25c tyres, and all in a package that costs £3,699 for the frameset.
The R5 is made from super-stiff carbon
Dura-Ace 9000 £5,199
Dura-Ace Di2 £6,799
It would be easy to overlook the technology that's gone into it R3, compared to the R5; it's certainly a lower-spec bike but then it's also a massive chunk cheaper, costing £1,699 for the frameset.
The R3 is the 'more affordable' option
Also gaining the Squoval 3 tube shapes, the primary way that Cervélo has reduced the cost is by taking a step back in a terms of the carbon fibre used - this reduces stiffness and increases the weight.
The R3 has internal cable routing
It'd be easy to regard that as a very bad thing but let's not forget that the frame with paint and fittings is still tagged as weighing less than a kilo - so it's still capable being built into a very light machine.
R3: inproved stiffness at the BB
Though it's less stiff than its bigger brothers, the 2014 version is said to be 24 per cent stiffer in torsion at the head tube and eight per cent laterally at the BB - and we couldn't find much to complain about with the old R3 when we tested it.
The R3 uses a lower-spec fork, one with a deeper chord to regain stiffness lost through the use of lower cost carbon, and thanks to the new Shimano internal battery, there is no need for an external mount on the chainstay.
Ultegra 11 £3,099
Ultegra 11 Di2 £4,199
Sitting in the middle of the S series range between the S2 and the top-end S5 comes the updated S3. Whereas in the past the S bikes have followed a relatively strict drip-down policy with regard to technology and design, the S3 is a deviation from this, as it carries a few design cues from the S5 but is basically a completely new design.
In-betweener model: the S3
Primary to these changes is the realisation that while the narrow profile tubes make for a fast bike aerodynamically speaking, by adding a little to the width, the frame can be made less prone to twisting forces. So Cervélo has added an oversized lower race, 1 3/8, and beefed up the down tube accordingly.
Cervélo wouldn't be Cervélo if it hadn't managed to make the tubes even more aerodynamic too, though, so the 2014 version of the S3 is only fractionally slower than the S5.
Aficionados will notice the seatstays that look as though they've been lifted from the R series bikes and are massively slimmed down compared to the old bike.
The new machine can now accept 25mm tyres, just, and has a new seat mast that not only looks a lot neater but makes more sense for the majority of fits. The RCA Smart wall carbon lay-up knowledge has been implemented, in part, too, which helps to keep down weight.
Cables have been repostioned
The cables have been repositioned, so rather than entering behind the head tube, they've gone back to the standard position of entering either side of the down tube. In all, it makes for a somewhat more conventional-looking aero bike that should also be less compromised in terms of ride and pretty much as fast.
With a new UK distributor also comes the option to buy not just frames but Cervélos as complete bikes:
- S3 frameset £2,199
- S3 Ultegra 11 £3,299
- S3 Ultegra 11 Di2 £4,199
This article was first published in the October 10 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!
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