The originator of the Aerodynamic Road Bike? A chronicle of the Cervelo S series

As you may know, the word Cervélo comes from the Italian word “cervello” (meaning brain) and the French word “vélo” (meaning bicycle) and was founded in 1995 by two mechanical engineers, Gerard Vroomen and Phil White. Founded in 1995 by two mechanical engineers, Gerard Vroomen and Phil White, it is a brand that has aerodynamics imprinted in its DNA. That’s why Vroomen White Design was stamped on the rear lower fork of early Cervélo frames.

They may not have been the first brand to make an aero bike, there was plenty of hunting track and time trial bikes before that, but Cervélo was indeed the first to add aero to a big group bike and bring it to the World Tour circuit. So in the minds of many riders, Cervélo is the “grandfather of aero”.

So this year’s chronicle introduces you to Cervélo’s flagship product: the S series of aero bikes.
 

In 2002, Cervélo released its first aero big group bike, The Soloist.

 
Which means “soloist” on a bike, and the aerodynamic frame does offer some extra advantages when the rider is flying solo.

cervelo soloist

▲The earliest Soloist that can be traced

cervelo soloist 02

The earliest Soloist was an aluminium frame with an internal cable routing design and the rear brake entry hole was located above the top tube. Don’t call the cable entry hole a curiosity, but at the time, even the internal cable entry was a curiosity.

cervelo soloist 03

However, most of the pictures that were found were of the version with True Temper Wolf SL forks. It is worth mentioning that True Temper is actually the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of golf club bodies. It may be incomprehensible to riders nowadays, but back in the days when aluminium frames and forks were the norm, riders were very keen to swap forks on their frames, such as the famous EASTON EC90 and 3T FUNDA and THM.
 
But why did Cervélo use a golf club company to make their forks? I think it was because True Temper or EASTON had the core technology of carbon fibre in those days when carbon fibre technology was not mature?

cervelo soloist red

▲Seat tube clamp can be rotated 180°, turning it into a time trial bike in seconds

2003 CSC team version of Soloist

▲ 2003 CSC team version of Soloist
 

In 2003, Cervélo sponsored the Danish CSC team.

 

At the beginning, CSC was a small team in the bottom of the rankings, but the team was full of names that you will be familiar with: Fabian Cancellara, Carlos Sastre, Ivan Basso, Andy Shrek, Stuart O’Grady, David Zabriskie, etc. ……

Cervélo sponsored the Danish CSC team

The fork and the alignment seem to be different from the standard version.

Cervélo sponsored the Danish CSC team red

 

In 2004, Cervélo introduced a carbon version of the Soloist

– after all, with this wide, flat aero tube, the carbon fibre frame was significantly lighter and more rigid. The CSC team paint job was changed to this very classic style.

cervelo soloist carbon

 

In 2007, Cervélo launched the SLC-SL version of the Soloist in order to fill the gap between the lightweight model R and the aero model Soloist.

 
Simply put, this is a lightweight version of the Soloist …… with a frame weight of less than 1KG, and the weight of the whole bike can even be controlled at less than 7KG.
 

In 2008, Cervélo replaced the Soloist with a new generation of bikes, collectively known as the S series, with the number on the back distinguishing the frame class.

 
The first model to be launched was the S3, which was the top model at the time.

cervelo S3 2008

cervelo S3 2008 headtube
▲Anyone older than me to tell you what the hole in the downtube is?
 
Based on the Soloist, the rear fork has a reduced tube diameter and the shifting cable enters the frame from the top of the top tube, which is claimed to be more aerodynamic. The S3, S2 and S1 of the same period all use the 3T FUNDA fork.
cervelo S3 2008 frame

In 2009, the CSC team was renamed Saxo Bank Racin

 
And the frame sponsorship changed to Specialized, at which point Cervélo stood up and formed the Cervélo Test Team, with some of the riders from the CSC days transferring to the team. This included Tour de France winner Sastre and others. A new team paint scheme was also introduced.
cervelo S3 2009 frame
The S3 is also considered a battle-hardened frame and is pictured above in Sastre’s commemorative Tour de France winner’s edition.
cervelo S3 Tour de France winner's edition
“Thor” Hushwood takes the green jersey of the 2009 Tour de France on his S3 and is happy with the little green bike
Hushwood takes the green jersey of the 2009 Tour de France on his S3
That same year, Heinrich Haussler soloed 200km in heavy rain on stage 13 of the Tour de France to win the single stage. In this legendary breakaway, Hausler was also riding an S3。
cervelo S3 Heinrich Haussler
In 2010, Hushwood won the World Championships and so rode this rainbow-painted S3 all through the 2011 season.
Hushwood S3 green
In the 2010 Tour de France, Hushwood wore the green jersey after stage four and rode the little green S3 bike, but unfortunately, he didn’t “go green”.
Hushwood S3 green frame
But Cervélo still sold 222 of the limited edition Huschwood Green S3. As you can see in the middle picture, the S3 got a mid-life facelift, replacing the BSA five-way with its own BBRIGHT press-in five-way. As the BRIGHT was a 30mm axle based system, the Cervélo at the time was basically using a Rotor 3D+ crankset, which at the time was the only option you could go for unless converting to a 24mm axle.
 

In 2011 Cervélo ended the Cervélo Test Team, after all it was still a lot of pressure to raise a team on your own.

 
It later switched to co-sponsoring teams with Garmin, the familiar Garmin-Cervélo Team and Garmin-Sharp Team.
cervelo S3 2011 red frame
In 2012, Hushwood won the Norwegian national championship and was also awarded a Norwegian painted S3 frame, which I remember also having retailed.
cervelo S2 2012
cervelo S2 2012 white
In the same period, there was also the S2 frame, which was aimed at the mid-range market and used the same alignment as the S3, with a mostly identical frame shape, except that the rear upper fork was a little thicker and heavier.
cervelo S1 2012cervelo S1 2012 white
Cervélo didn’t forget the needs of entry-level riders at the time, offering the S1 aluminium frame with the same 3T Funda carbon fork. I remember that in those days, all you had to do was to have an S1 frame and you were already the talk of the town, after all, no one dared to sell an aluminium frame for more than $1,000.
S5 VWD
▲S5 VWD
 

In 2011, Cervélo released the S5, an aero big group bike that really turned a time trial bike into a big group bike.

 
The most obvious features are the riser shape that wraps around the rear wheel and the downward shifted downtube that reduces the distance between the downtube and the front wheel, with integrated fork shoulders that greatly reduce wind resistance at the front end. The integrated fork shoulder greatly reduces wind resistance at the front. The design of the down tube is also based on the use of a water bottle as part of the frame.
S5 TEAM
▲S5 TEAM
S5 white
▲S5
The S5 frame is naturally very heavy, and there are three levels of frame, the S5, the S5 TEAM (100g lighter) and, for the first time, the top of the range VWD (Vroomen White Design, 270g lighter), which adds the founder’s name. If the S3 and S5 are riding at the same power for 100km, the S5 can be 1 minute 30 seconds faster than the S3.
 
By then, Cervélo’s agent Tie Xing had already discovered the importance of video, so he translated a number of videos, which you can use to get an idea of the model that started the era of “the uglier the more aero”.
S5 black
In the 2011 Tour de France, Hushwood came through the second stage of the team time trial and wore the yellow jersey for six days, so has a yellow-painted S5.
 
I experienced this generation of S5 TEAM back then, and it was a typical time trial bike sit-and-pedal style. It really felt fast to sit and ride, but the slim head tube and fork were obviously stiff and average, and with the greater weight, the sluggishness and lack of front-end stiffness could be clearly felt in transient conditions such as shaking and breakaway. Comfort is also quite poor.
cervelo S3 2014 red frame

In 2014, Cervélo released a new, more versatile S3 frame, which is one of my personal favourites from the S series.

 
The big red painted S3 was so popular that even Team Garmin riders rode the S3 in the 2014 Tour de France.
 
The S3 is an optimised version of its predecessor, with a tapered headtube and thicker fork to provide better front end stiffness. The alignment has been changed to a more mechanical shifter friendly entry on both sides of the downtube. The riser shape has also been modified, with a semi-wrapped rear wheel. Most important is the use of a slim rear upper fork to optimise comfort at the rear. And the weight is also a little lighter than the heavier S5. These elements make it the most balanced frame in the history of the S series.
BIGLA women's team painted S3
▲BIGLA women’s team painted S3
 
Early S3 frames of this generation were equipped with rear-flutter seatposts in all sizes, but due to the ancestral 73° riser angle, few people with smaller frames were able to use rear-flutter seatposts. After a lot of cursing from customers, the mid to late model 48 and 51 size frames were shipped with the S5’s two-hole seatpost.
Black edition S3
I’ve also ridden the S3 and it’s really well balanced and not too expensive, so I can’t fault it. If you want to talk about the disadvantages, there are not many paint options for the S3, which is a common problem for Cervélo frames of that era, so all the S3s you can see are basically a little red ……
Blue edition S2
During the same period, Cervélo also offered the entry-level S2 model, which was mainly differentiated by neutering the tapered head tube and fork, clearly visible in the slimmer front end of the S2.
 
The iteration of the Cervélo was very fast at the time, with the second generation S5 released in 2014, which may not seem much different, but Cervélo claims to have 31 improvements ……
S5 official version
The Cervélo claims to have improved front end stiffness by 35%, fork lateral stiffness by 17% and 5-pass stiffness by 6%. The frame classification has been removed and all S5 frames are 1065g, saving 21.3 watts at 40km/h, with no significant reduction in aerodynamic advantage.
 
There are also some minor improvements, such as support for 25mm tyres, a lowered head tube and more aggressive geometry, optimised brake alignment, a large size using the S3’s single-hole seatpost, and optimised seatpost clamps.

S5 official version details

S5 handlebar
In addition, Cervélo has released an AB04 aero handlebar that claims to be able to be mounted on any handlebar and deliver better aerodynamics, saving 7 watts of power compared to a round tube handlebar. With BarFly’s customised yardsticks, it is possible to disrupt the aero layout as little as possible.

BarFly's customised yardsticks

At that time Cervélo sponsored the Tour de France outfit MTN Kubecka, the predecessor of the Dai-Kai team, which had beautiful silver and yellow colour scheme and a limited number of units were sold.

Dai-Kai team S5

By the time of the Dai-Kai team, most of the riders were using the retail big black livery, but Norwegian national champion Edvard Boson Hagen had a very nice Norwegian championship livery S5.

Boson Hagen S5

 

At the end of 016, Cervélo launched the mid-life revision of the S series

 
The S5 is mainly a new SP17 Seatpost to optimise the much-criticised comfort. The new upper and lower clamps are also compatible with all saddle seat rails.

Daikai Team Edition S5 in black and green

▲Daikai Team Edition S5 in black and green

S5 metal green version

S5 metal green grey
This period saw Cavendish, who moved to Team Dyke, have two custom S5 frames with a black tech plated finish. The paintwork was created by Silverstone Spray Technology Ltd in the UK. Normally plated finishes are heavier, but Cavendish’s custom finish was completed with only a third of the entire finish utilising the regular paint treatment, reducing the weight by 75 grams compared to the original.

S5 Team Dyke

▲British National Champion Cummins’ British Champion painted S5

S3 new white
S3 new red
This mid-life revision also introduces the S3 disc brake version, which is lighter, more rigid and even more aero than the rim brake S3. The disc brake S3 also comes with an SP17 seatpost, increased tyre clearance and a 9% increase in five-way rigidity.

Mid-cycle facelift of the Rim Brakes S3

 
▲Mid-cycle facelift of the Rim Brakes S3 still in red paint ……

S5 2018 aero bike

 

At the end of 2018, Cervélo released the current S5.

 
well, the one that everyone has been buying with great joy and discounts lately. The biggest improvement is naturally in line with the current trend of disc brakes and integrated headers. But instead of the usual internal alignment design, Cervélo has designed an external fork shoulder fork and a V-shaped integrated handlebar with matching curved handlebars.

S5 2018 aero bike with curved bar

S3 2018

 
Along with the new S3, but somehow now renamed S-series, the difference is that the S-series is no longer available as a rim brake version.
 
The S3 disc brake version uses the same full internal alignment design, but the solution is different from the S5, as the S3 has a larger bearing on the bowl set to 1-1/4 inches, and the internal alignment is achieved by a large aluminium spindle, oh no, integrated handlebar, similar to the one that used to have a toothed tube handlebar, and a special suspension core. No cutting of the rudder tube is required and the height always has a 5cm adjustment range. Although it looks neat, this all-aluminium handlebar is very, very heavy.
 
The frame incorporates an integrated fork shoulder and downtube design to fill in the fork shoulder area and reduce turbulence. Compared to the old model, the new S3 saves 13w (6.9w for rim brakes). Tyre clearance has been increased to 30mm and the frame is 68g lighter than the old model, but including the handlebar set ……
 
The S3 retains the tradition of the friendlier geometry of its predecessor, the Reach and Stack are not as aggressive as the S5.

S3 2018 frameset

It’s worth noting that before the name change to S-series, the S3 was still offered in a rim brake version, but with the same front end design as the disc brake version, which resulted in a serious weight overload. Our reader + external writer Kingfar bought the rim-brake S3, so why not wait for him to tell you how much his frameset weighs!
 
Also, it seems that this generation of Cervélo models has more paint options than ever before, with the S5 frame alone being available in four paint options for customers.
 
That’s it for this edition of the Cervélo S series chronicles. If there’s anything else you’d like to see, please let me know in the comments section.
Frank-D
Frank-D
Crazy for cycling, bicycle mechanic for over 10 years.

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