Redesigned from the ground up, Cervélo's new R5 and R3 bikes promise to be pro performers – here's all the key details from the launch

“An open secret” is how Cervélo describes the new R Series, and it’d be very difficult to argue otherwise. The R5 was first ridden in the 2017 Tour of Dubai, then Paris-Roubaix and multiple Spring Classics before tasting victory on stage 11 at the Giro d’Italia.

But it’s not just a new R5 that has been unveiled: Cervélo has been busy redesigning the R3 alongside it, with some pretty key differences now determining distinct ride experiences between the two models.

>>> Cervelo Bikes: S-Series, R-Series, P-Series, T-Series and C-Series explained 

The new R Series: the psychology of comfort

Cervélo R5

Cervélo R5

The arrival of the new R Series has been eagerly anticipated, and with the redesigned R5 and R3 Cervélo has revealed a new way of thinking about fit, handling and comfort: in the eyes of the Canadian brand, fit is now determined by stack and reach, two elements that are slightly different between the R5 and R3.

The R5’s head tube has been lowered, addressing the issues raised by the professionals that they can’t get low enough on the bike. In the size 56 the R5’s head tube is 8mm shorter than the R3’s.

According to Cervélo the fact that riders are increasingly riding in a more time trial-inspired position – forward and low – has been taken into account.

The new Cervélo R3

The new Cervélo R3 | Photo: Rupert Radley

The handling of the bikes has also been improved, with some sizeable changes made across both the R5 and the R3.

The chainstays have increased to 410mm, the wheelbase has lengthened and the bottom bracket has dropped to 72mm. Combined with an increased trail of 57mm, it’s a wholescale lengthening and lowering for both bikes that makes for a really planted and very stable ride.

Extra ride quality benefits include wider tyres – the R5 and the R3 can now accommodate 28mm tyres – and both come in disc and rim brake versions. Cervélo has wholeheartedly embraced discs, believing that: “The design freedom enabled by disc brakes paves the way for innovation through improvements in aerodynamics, strength, stiffness and usability”.

SRAm disc brakes on the new Cervélo R5

Cervélo wholeheartedly embraces disc brakes | Photo: Rupert Radley

Differences between the R5 and the R3

Cervélo recognises that an ecosystem of riders exists, and not all riders suit all bikes. That’s why it claims to have worked hard on creating a series of bikes with logical differences in fit and comfort, making it far easier for retailers to put riders on the correct bike.

There’s no doubt the R5 and R3 are two different beasts: Cervélo explained the differences in stiffness and weight between them.

Dimension Data's Omar Fraile riding the new Cervélo R5

The R5 has become Omar Fraile’s bike of choice | GruberImages

As the pinnacle of the series, the R5 is the stiffest and the lightest, but Cervelo refrained from reducing the weight of the frame any further. Its engineers didn’t feel they could make the walls any thinner than before without making the ride too uncomfortable or without compromising the frame.

Instead, they focussed on making a bike stiff enough for the likes of Mark Cavendish, and that means a 21 per cent increase in torsional stiffness and a 13 per cent increase in bottom bracket stiffness.

Meanwhile, with the R3 Cervélo felt it could still ditch some weight while being sufficiently happy with the bike’s stiffness. So the new R3 is as stiff as the old R5, making it a thoroughbred race bike in its own right.

The Cervélo R3

The R3 is a different ride compared to the R5 | GruberImages

The result is a frame that’s 10 per cent lighter (rim brakes) or 16 per cent lighter (disc brakes). That’s right, Cervélo has managed to create a lighter disc brake bike.

There are specification differences between the two, and the R5 comes with an integrated cockpit set-up and aero seat clamp. In fact, Cervélo has spent plenty of time redesigning the bars, arriving at the AB06, an updated version of the AB04.

The bar has the same drop but has been redesigned to make it both more comfortable and aerodynamic. The same is true for the CS26 carbon stem, which allows for internal Di2 routing through the bars and into the stem.

Cervélo's new CS26 stem and AB06 bars, with Barfly attachment

Cervélo’s new CS26 stem and AB06 bars, with Barfly attachment | Photo: RupertRadley

At both dropouts there’s now Rapid Axle Technology, or RAT, which is a spring-loaded thru-axle. It’s not an area traditionally considered for a redesign, but the new styling (arrows tell you which way to turn it) and the adjusting nut and eccentric washer are pretty nice touches.

First ride: Cervélo R5 and R3

Lowering that front end, increasing the wheelbase and lowering the bottom bracket all mean something out on the road, and in the R5’s case that’s speed, poise and balance.

Raced to success on stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia by Omar Fraile (Dimension-Data) the bike had already proved itself in the hills, and riding it on the same Italian roads highlighted a happiness to skip along, with the ride feeling direct and nippy.

Image of the R5 climbing

The new R5 climbs well, and descends even better | GruberImages

But where all those changes come into their own is on the descents, and the R5 absolutely sticks to the corners on long downhills. Flipping the bike into corners proves easier than ever, demonstrating that Cervélo’s theory works.

Throw in the superb Dura-Ace 9100 brakes and the bike handles sublimely and feels in total control, regardless of what you’re heading down.

The R3’s ride feel is entirely different: the frame feels more damped and more comfortable than the R5’s, which translates far more of the road to the rider.

Cervélo insists its a personality thing and the R3, which is more comfortable, will suit those riders who aren’t burning through the miles every week without sacrificing performance.

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Cervélo R5 with SRAM Red E-Tap and disc brakes

Disc-brake and SRAM eTap-equipped R5 | Photo: Rupert Radley

Our take

The R5 feels like a fast bike, and victories at the Giro d’Italia prove this to be true. I’d like to throw some deep-section wheels on and really get on the gas.

Having proved its descending prowess, we’d also like to step up the braking power and give the disc brake version a shot. We think the additional power and control of the discs would be the perfect pairing for the superfast downhill performance of the R Series.

R5 Models

R5 Dura-Ace Di2, ENVE 3.4 wheels £7,199. Available: June

R5 SRAM RED E-Tap, Zipp 302 wheels, £7,199. Available: June

R5 Dura-Ace, Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels, £5,499. Available: June

R5 Disc Dura-Ace Di2, ENVE 3.4 wheels, £7,199. Available: September

R5 Disc SRAM RED E-Tap HRD, Zipp 302 Disc wheels, £7,199. Available: July

R3 Models

R3 Dura-Ace, Mavic Aksium Elite wheels, £3,999. Available: June

R3 Ultegra Di2, Mavic Ksyrium Black wheels, £3,899. Available: October

R3 Ultegra, Mavic Aksium Black wheels, £2,999. Available: October

R3 Disc Ultegra Di2, Mavic Ksyrium Black wheels, £4,299. Available: October