Read this first about our reviews
I bought a Cervelo R2.5 bike long before
they were available because of a conversation I had with Cervelo’s
Vroomen is part of the duo of Vroomen/White
whose name appears on the chain stays of Cervelo bicycles.
They are the tandem that provides the novel and credible designs
that rocketed Cervelo to the top of the brand recognition
charts and the podium at the Tour de France.
Five years ago Cervelo was a small niche, high
end bike company known for their time trial and triathlon
designs. When Vroomen told me they were doing a carbon fiber
road bike that struck me as a banal and predictable move from
a company that had previously only ventured into less charted
areas of the bike market.
“A carbon road bike?” I asked Vroomen.
“Everybody has a carbon road bike…”
Vroomen took offense. He ranted that most carbon
bikes were cookie-cutter clones and relatively poor quality
ones at that. He pulled no punches in his criticism of the
other brands and models- naming names and quoting test results.
The R2.5's Tour de France pedigree makes for an still
life in my hotel in Nice, France.
|He went on to outline the standards he
expected his bike to exceed. These were standards many
of the bikes we discussed- bikes consumers may regard
as “competing” bikes- didn’t even come
close to meeting. An alarming number of them, according
to Vroomen, couldn’t even pass half of the test
protocol’s duration before they failed.
Vroomen proposed a new design that was lighter
weight and more durable than any of them. I figured it was
a safe bet ordering one. No one could ever fill that order.
And if they could, I wanted to be first in line.
Whether I kept my money or got the fantastic
bike (literally) that Vroomen was proposing I would make out.
“Sign me up for a 51cm Gerard” I told him.
It took quite a while before the version I wanted
was available but now it is readily available. We have them
in stock, in our store, ready to sell. The same bike I waited
more time than I care to mention for. It was worth the wait.
You don’t have to wait. Based on my experience with
the bike Vroomen’s superlatives about durability, bantam
weight, superior alignment and ride quality and precision
geometry and design were not exaggerated. Apparently his vision
became reality. In our opinion the R2.5 met every one of Vroomen’s
lofty claims. What I didn’t count on was that when a
bike actually did what Vroomen claimed, how truly different
it would be.
I am no stranger to carbon fiber road and triathlon
bikes. I have personally owned no less than eight different
brands and models of carbon fiber road bikes and ridden literally
over 30-50 different carbon bikes. I have probably sold over
a thousand. I’m familiar with the material.
Superior carbon fiber, design, construction and testing
estalish the R2.5 as the best of the carbon frames.
|One of the things I know for a fact about
carbon fiber is that you cannot make generalizations about
it. Carbon fiber is a more “engineerable”
material than any other popularly used bike frame material.
It is a synthetic- a composite. It is born in a test tube.
As a result, the quality of both
carbon fiber and carbon fiber bikes is wildly different.
Metals such as cro-moly, aluminum
and titanium can be heat treated, alloyed, surface treated,
and all manner of other manipulations but they remain very similar
to their original state even after significant manipulation
by the metallurgist. When it comes to metal frame materials,
the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. What comes out
of the mines in the ground is pretty close to what you put between
your legs. In the grand scheme of things the difference between
the most expensive cro-moly, aluminum or titanium bike and least
expensive ones boil down to design, assembly and that’s
about it. It makes you wonder why one cro-moly frame can sell
for under $400 retail and others are over $3000 retail. Can
there really be that much difference? In terms of just the material,
Carbon is different. When you consider that carbon fiber
is used in applications that run the gamut from flexible fishing
poles and bullet resistant armor and fighter plane wings you
understand this is not a material with a predictable pedigree.
That is both carbon’s boon and its bust. As Vroomen
so passionately described when he outlined the R2.5 to me
years ago, there is good carbon fiber, and there is bad carbon
fiber, and the difference between them (unlike metals) is
|I’m not a materials engineer and
have only a rudimentary understanding of the chemistry
behind the R2.5 and why it is “better”. Ultimately,
much of the impressive and industry leading test results
generated by the current R2.5 are lost on me. I can quote
the test results in sales pitches, but when I am on my
own bike they don’t mean much. It is just the bike
that is significant then.
Lug work creates durability that has tested repeatedly
higher than all other manufacturers.
The test results are a matter of record. Suffice it to say
the Cervelo has smoked every other carbon fiber bike in testing.
The anally exacting European bike mags have subjected it to
absurd scrutiny. Weird engineering test protocols with bizarre
acronyms have been leveled against the R2.5. If you want all
the details do a Google search or visit Cervelo’s website.
If you want to know our experiences with the Cervelo R2.5
then read about it here.
I rode the Cervelo R2.5 throughout the summer after coming
off a Look KX light carbon fiber road bike. The KX light was
a good, sturdy bike. Built like a Russian tank in every sense
of the word it was durable, somewhat imprecisely made, heavy
but had great ride characteristics. I liked the big brute
of a bike. It was stiff as an “I” beam and never
backed down from pedal force. Riding it was work, but it was
honest work seemingly matched by the bike’s acceleration.
I relinquished it after 1,700+ miles to the minions of E-Bay
and bought a new component group for my R2.5 that had just
“If it is as good as my Look KX Light carbon, I will
be happy.” I told the guys in the shop. How naive I
was. I took Vroomen superlatives about the R2.5 as salesmanship.
What I failed to realize at the time I bought my R2.5 was
that Vroomen is not a salesmen. He’s an engineer.
The clues came quickly. The Cervelo R2.5 Team edition frameset
I got was lighter than my Look Carbon. The bike was lighter
by well over four pounds. Four pounds. And that was with shorty
aerobars on it which the Look KX light lacked.
The oversized, blended and molded bottom bracket shell
makes for drivetrain stiffness while maintaining excellent
|The Cervelo R2.5 went together without
mechanical protest. The bottom bracket threaded in with
my hand. The fork headset plug seated easily. There were
no hitches. The rear wheel snugged into the triangle without
the slightest force. It just went together gently in a
quiet evening with a feeling of planned precision.
Sizing it was easy. The dimensions Gerard Vroomen told me
would be on the bike were on the tape measure in my store.
It was what he said. He had quoted the geometry chart from
memory. He knew it by heart. I guess so, he wrote it. I set
up my position with ease and the stem I predicted would give
me my appropriate reach measurement did it to the millimeter.
There were zero surprises in setting the bike up. Once I dialed
my positional dimensions into it I didn’t touch it with
a wrench once.
The first ride was one of those experiences where I immediately
rewound my memory back through the best bikes I had ever ridden
to fight for a comparison- and I found one: The Colnago C40.
If you want me to compare the Cervelo R2.5 to some existing
frame I would suggest that you picture a Colnago C40 carbon
fiber in compact geometry with a slightly more comfortable
ride, about 25% greater stiffness and the sensation that it
is also 25% lighter. Then factor in the durability of most
titanium frames, roughly double that and you have it.
Riding the R2.5 feels like taking off your shoes after a
long day. It is just light and airy. The same roads you have
ridden so many times are now repaved. The bumps are gone.
At least they feel gone. And the bottom 30 pedal strokes of
your local climbs have been removed. That is what I felt on
It’s a good thing too. I was about
to face the biggest mountain I had ever climbed on a
In the Tour de France mountain climbs
are rated by categories. The categories are numbered
4, 3, 2, and 1 and an ominous rating known as “Hors
Categorie” or “Above Category”. The
lower the number, the worse the climb- until it gets
so bad it is referred to as “Above Categorie”.
Near the summit of the Categorie 2 Col de Vence climb
in the Nice Triathlon on my R2.5.
In September I was to compete in the almost Ironman distance
23rd Triathlon de Nice in Nice, France. The race is renowned
for its difficult bike course. In particular, its crossing
of a mountain pass called the Col de Vence.
The Col de Vence is a “Categorie 2” climb by
Tour de France standards. It is such a demanding climb that
riders like Greg LeMond, Eddy Merckx, Lance Armstrong and
Frankie Andreu have used it for Tour preparation.
I would climb it after swimming 2.4 miles as part of a 74
mile bike leg in a triathlon, then run over 18 miles. I needed
to be able to get over that climb with minimal effort and
maximum comfort. I took my Cervelo R2.5 with prototype Hed
shorty “S” bend aerobars originally intended for
use by U.S. Postal Team riders in the L’Alpe d’
Huez time trial stage of the ‘04 Tour de France.
Not only did the R2.5 distinguish itself on the climbs, but
more importantly for me, it was like a snug safety belt on
the descents that Greg LeMond told me were “sketchy”.
The R2.5 is perfectly suited for climbing and descending
as well as smooth rides on bad pavement.
|Additionally, I found the Cervelo
R2.5 exceptionally compatible with shortened, road bike
friendly “shorty” aerobars. This is due in
large part to the appropriate ratio of top tube length
to seat tube length (at least for my body dimensions)
of my frame size. Being a relatively average sized guy
I wager the same relationship extends throughout the other
frame sizes unless your body is freakishly out of proportion
torso to leg to overall height.
In France I used custom Hed,
ultra-lightweight carbon fiber shorty aerobars with the revolutionary
“S” bend. This bars are prototypes and weighed
almost nothing. They were absolutely superb even in this early
version. Since then I have installed set of FSA Visiontech
shorty aerobars available at retail for $69.99 in our store
now. This is the bar you see in the photo shoot for this review.
In the shots of me on the Col de Vence in France you see the
Hed shorty aerobar. Shorty aerobars are the correct fit and
position choice for a road bike that is being used in mountainous,
technical triathlons. I combined these with the versatility
of the 30cm long Fizik Arione saddle for even greater positional
FSA Visiontech shorty aerobars
suit the R2.5 road geometry perfectly. Regular aerobars
are inappropriate for road bikes.
|I built my R2.5 with an FSA
Compact Carbon crank using 50/34 chainrings. I am a compact
crank convert now. It is the answer. Compact cranks provide
all the advantages of a triple but with none of the drawbacks.
In fact, for the purest, the compact configuration is
actually lighter than a traditional 53/39 tooth chainring
double crank. Using a smaller 110 millimeter bolt circle
than the tradition 130 millimeter bolt circle found on
the crank of traditional doubles you can get away with
smaller gears. The sacrifice at the high end of the gear
chart is non-existent to me, and I consider myself a masher.
It’s is hard to describe
the ride quality and handling characteristics of the R2.5.
It is an ephemeral feeling. The bike is so light but so solid.
And you are just insulated from the rough pavement- but you
do feel the bike.
FSA's Carbon Compact cranks are a break through in road
bike versatility: Advantages of a triple but lighter than
a double and no drawbacks.
|I have heard carbon bikes described
as “dead”. These tend to be the high margin,
bargain basement “cookie cutter” bikes sold
in T-Shirt sizes small, medium and large and with geometry
charts that make no sense to me. I owned one of these
odd bikes from, well, shall we say- an “enormous”
The bike was sold in sizes called, among others, “small”
and “medium”. After measuring both the company’s
“small” and “medium” I discovered
I needed the seat tube length from the “medium”
but the top tube length from the “small” and the
seat tube angle from something that didn’t exist in
their line. I settled quite poorly onto the “small”
defaulting to its shorter top tube. It handled shitty. And
the ride quality was dead as a box of hair. While the bikes
are a bargain for the person buying them and a boon for the
retailer selling them they struck me as uninspiring. I don’t
even remember what I did with mine. It just went away. Thankfully.
How amazingly different this Cervelo is than any previous
carbon bike I’ve owned or ridden. All eight of them.
First off, the proportions of top tube length to seat tube
length and the attendant adjustments in frame angles seem
to make sense as they move from smallest to largest. There
are six separate frame sizes with distinctly different geometries.
In an odd departure from the norm the top professional Cervelo
sponsored riders use stock Cervelo R2.5 frame sizes. There
are no customs. They test prototypes but they are the ones
we will buy in the next model year if they past muster. For
the most part the bikes winning stages in the Tour de France
are the ones you and I are also buying. Exactly the ones.
|And the success Cervelo has had in the
Tour de France is staggering for such a young, small company.
Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, Jakob Piils,
Michele Bartoli, Bobby Julich, Andrea Peron, Peter Luttenberger
and the rest of the CSC team have had illustrious rides
and numerous stage wins on their Cervelos, most of them
on Cervelo R2.5’s. Stock Cervelo R2.5’s
CSC Team Director Bjarne Riis inspects an R2.5 frame for
the CSC team.
The R2.5 is available in different versions. Vroomen related
an interesting tale about the R2.5 “Bayonne” version
on the Slowtwitch.com forum. It seems that the Cervelo R2.5
Bayonne bikes used by at least one member of CSC was under
the UCI mandated minimum weight rule. Not by a little, but
by a lot. These bikes were to be used by at least one rider
on CSC in the L’Alpe d’ Huez uphill time trail
stage of the this year’s Tour de France. After a significant
amount of scrambling to locate the “official”
UCI scale for weighing in the bikes to verify compliance it
was decided the only way to bring the bike up to legal weight
was to add a 300 gram pair of aerobars. One athlete, Ivan
Basso, did add the aerobars- which are largely useless on
an uphill time trial- to bring the bike up to “legal“
weight of about 15 pounds. It seems the bikes initially weighed
only 13.2 pounds. Another CSC rider, Carlos Sastre, took a
slightly less elegant approach to getting up to the minimum
weight: He had mechanics conceal a spare bicycle chain in
the seat tube of his frame.
The most common version of the R2.5 is the readily available
R2.5 Team bike. This is a complete bike with Dura-Ace at about
$3899.00 and a frameset with frame, fork, carbon fiber seat
post and aheadset for about $2199.00.
The Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed group is the current Asian
state-of-the-art Tour de France winning component group. It
is proven time and again, over and over. It is our best selling
high end component group. In addition to the Dura-Ace kit
on the R2.5 Team bike there is an outstanding set of Velomax
(now Easton) Circuit wheels.
The Velomax/Easton wheels surpass even the Mavic Ksyrium
in technology, workmanship, durability and weight. The Mavic
Ksyrium is a good wheel but uses an occasionally cantankerous
multi-piece hub body. The precision Velomax/Easton hub is
a one piece central body. It never “creeks” and
does not rely on the wheel quick release skewer for structural
integrity. The Circuit wheelset uses the “Twin Thread”
spoking configuration with no spoke shoulders or bends to
create stress raisers and potential failures. Quality of the
free hub body is also very good- a level above almost all
other OEM wheels.
A molded, lugged, reinforced wishbone and "S"
bend seat stay holds the lightweight, single pivot Campagnolo
Record rear brake.
|While the parts spec on the
complete Cervelo R2.5 Team is beyond adequate, I built
mine up from a frameset using my favorite Campagnolo Record
Carbon component kit and Campagnolo Eurus wheels.
No question, this is the lightest bike I have ever owned
at a shade over 15 pounds with shorty aerobars, computer
and bottle cages.
The Cervelo R2.5 exceeded my expectations significantly-
even compared to a lot of previous carbon bikes I’ve
owned and ridden. I have no problem giving it “Best
in Class” status among the enormous range of currently
available carbon bikes. It’s peers like the Colnago
C40, Time carbon bikes and the new Look 585 are also excellent
and in some ways perhaps the equal of the R2.5- but not
one of those has tested better than an R2.5- and the R2.5
has tested better than all of them numerous times in independent
tests and reviews.
It’s impossible to call any on bike “the best”.
However, the Cervelo R2.5 is certainly positioned among
the top 2 or 3 carbon fiber bicycles in the world at any
price, and costs less than those. That makes it a mandatory
addition to any “ultimate bike” short list.
© Tom Demerly, Bikesport
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