CERVELO ASPERO 5 GRAVEL BIKE TEST

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If you remember, the RBA March 2020 issue, we reviewed the then-new Cervelo Aspero that carried a tagline of “Cervelo’s Aspero aims to be fast everywhere.” Well, as it turns out, it seems like the new Aspero 5 takes this to another level with more integration. When we first got the Aspero in late 2019, the build options had us scratching our heads. Sure, it was intended for the race side of gravel pursuits, but we still complained about the build options and lack of gear range. 

 

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Well, a lot has changed in that short time, and the new Aspero 5 not only looks better (with an incredible paint job that borders on custom quality), but the full line has been updated with more range, which is a key benefit.

Between the frame geometry and stiffness, the Cervelo definitely has a performance-focused ride.

THE FRAME

The new Aspero 5 has the same geometry as the original, and there is a slight change to the carbon layup that drops a claimed 100 grams over the original. The biggest change comes in the form of the cockpit and cable/hose/wire routing. It has for the most part been completely concealed and run internally. This change has led to a slight visual change to the head tube. Even the front brake hose is internal all the way down to the caliper. 

Call us old-fashioned, but we still like external seat binders.

Like the original on our size 54, the geometry is fairly aggressive for gravel riding with a stack of 55.5cm and a reach of 38.8cm. The head tube is only 13.3cm at a 72-degree angle. The fork retains the flip chip that they call “Trail Mixer,” but essentially it’s a trail adjustment. In the forward position the fork offset is 51mm, resulting in a trail of 61mm on the stock tires that measured 39mm. If you flip it to the rear position, there is an offset of 46mm for a trail of 67mm. This position is really intended for using 650b wheels, and when a 42mm tire is run, it offers the same results as the forward position on the stock 700c wheels.

The bike has room for up to a 700c 45mm tire with 4mm of clearance claimed. Cervelo also claims that with a 650b tire there is room for a 51mm tire with the same 4mm of clearance. The frame does have a 79mm bottom bracket shell width called BBright, with the left side (non-drive side) bearing moved out by 11mm from a normal BB30. 

In addition to the adjustable trail, the bottom bracket sits pretty low with a drop of 76mm. This leads to a low center of gravity and short 42cm chainstays.

THE PARTS

While we like that the cockpit is completely integrated, we are especially appreciative that it was accomplished in a more user-friendly fashion than an increasing number of bikes that rely on one-piece designs. With the Cervelo, the alloy stem and carbon handlebar are separate parts, so the 16-degree flair bars can be swapped out as long as there is a channel for routing for wires and hoses to enter the stem. Owing to the increased likelihood of off-road incurred damage, we think easily replaceable parts shine brighter than current market-driven fashion.  

Thanks to the 2x Shimano GRX drivetrain, the Aspero had an added level of good gears to handle a variety of terrain.

Our test bike came equipped with a Shimano GRX Di2 drivetrain in the 2x option. The front crank has a 48/31t combo matched with an 11-34t cassette. All of the Shimano-spec’d Aspero 5 models will include a 4iii Precision dual-sided model power meter. This type of value-added feature has become increasingly popular as standard equipment on a growing list of high-end bikes (our test bike was delivered before these samples were finalized). 

For wheels, Cervelo rolls on a pair of their 32mm-deep, tubeless-ready, in-house-brand Reserve carbon rims that have a hooked bead with a 24mm internal width. The rims are laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs with 160mm Center-Lock rotors and two front brake adapters to accommodate the different axle positions. Finishing off the build is a carbon Cervelo 27.2mm seatpost with Prologo Dimension NACK short saddle.

THE RIDE

The Aspero walks a fine line between an endurance road bike and gravel bike. The stack and reach are more in line with race/performance road bikes but with a longer wheelbase and more trail than a road bike would have. This means the position on the bike is race-oriented, but when pushing the higher speeds, the stability is turned up. Entering tight corners at speed you really need to lean into the turn. The upside is it holds the line steady and doesn’t over-respond to bumps or imperfections on the road. 

Beyond the striking paint, the Cervelo’s aesthetics are enhanced by the integrated cables. The top tube has a mount for an optional bag.

As you move onto the dirt, this means that while you have the speed turned up, the bike remains confident. Rocks, bumps or whatever else you come across don’t knock you off the fast line. The rear of the bike is short and compact, and combined with the low bottom bracket, it lets you keep your weight back and low on descents easier than we expected for a bike with this geometry. 

While Cervelo hints that the flip chip in the rear position is for 650b, we found that on the stock 700×39 setup the increased trail and shorter wheelbase amplified the off-road capabilities. This change isn’t hard to do, but you do need to swap the brake caliper adapter out to the special one that Cervelo delivers in the small parts kit. 

The flip chip in the rear position requires the use of the supplied and proprietary caliper adapter.

The new integrated cockpit hasn’t changed how the bike rides other than cleaning up the few exposed cables. The stock handlebars do run the hoses and wires externally, but the channel and bar tape make them only visible from the bottom. Cervelo claims the new cockpit delivers better aero numbers, and we believe it, but for gravel it’s really only a priority for a few.

Gearing was our biggest drawback to the previous test bike, and let’s just say there is no issue this time around. The 2x Shimano Di2 GRX drivetrain is spot-on and worked well enough on the road, but still offered enough range for the steep gravel ascents. We will say the GRX Di2 brakes offer much better modulation and feel than any other Shimano drop-bar offering. The brake-pad contact hits earlier, but the pads seem to sit further from the rotor so there is less incidental contact (rub from heat expansion of the rotor and frame/fork deflection). THE VERDICT

Cervelo has delivered a bike that maintains their racing heritage. The clean lines and stellar paint job made this bike the talk of any ride. 

Despite the continued evolution in range of 1x gearing, most of our test riders prefer 2x drivetrains for their personal dual-purpose bikes. With the 48/31 crank, we get a top gear that delivers a 4.36 gear ratio or around 32 mph at 90 cadence. On the easy side, the 31/34 combo dropped below the 1:1 ratio with a 0.91 ratio that made pedaling up the steeps a more knee-friendly experience.

There are seven base models in the Aspero line ranging in price from $2800 to $6000. Is the Aspero 5 a better buy than the lower-line models? Only you can make that decision, but the power meter and high-end finish options do make for an enticing nudge. Combine that with integration that can still be customized with different handlebars while maintaining the hidden aesthetic, as well as a power meter as standard equipment—sold. On the flip side, since the whole Aspero line has gotten drivetrain updates, even the lower-line models with exposed cables are a marked improvement over the 2020 model. So, yes, gearing makes a difference.

PUNCH LINES

• Race- and adventure-ready gearing
• Flip chip adds confusion but works
• Talk about beautiful color options

STATS

Price: $7100
Weight: 18.62 pounds
Sizes: 48cm, 51cm, 54cm (tested), 56cm, 58cm, 61cm

www.cervelo.com

THE GEAR

Helmet: Abus Gamechanger
Jersey: Santini Gravel
Bib: Santini Gravel              
Shoes: DMT KM1
Socks: Swiftwick
Glasses: 100% S3  

The post CERVELO ASPERO 5 GRAVEL BIKE TEST appeared first on Road Bike Action.


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