Tour Tech 2011: Tyler Farrar's Cervélo S5

Get up close to the new Garmin-Cervélo bike

by Mat Brett   July 5, 2011  

Tyler Farrar is on a brand new Cervélo S5 for this year's Tour de France and we had a good look at it when we visited the Garmin-Cervélo hotel in Truffauges just before the race started.

The S5 is one of the new breed of aero road bikes – you get the geometry and handling of a road bike with low-drag features borrowed from the world of time trialling/triathlon thrown into the mix. We featured it when it was launched last week. 

The most obvious aero feature is the seat tube that comes with a cutout for the rear wheel to smooth the airflow through the centre/rear section of the bike. Virtually every TT bike these days comes with something similar, Cervélo themselves having popularized the concept with their P3.

The seatstays kink out sharply from the seat tube to provide shelter for the rear brake calliper and, moving forward, the down tube is dropped so that it sits really closely behind the front wheel. This is designed to smooth the airflow from the fork to the frame and to reduce turbulence behind the fork crown. Check out the area where the fork and the frame meet: the two are really neatly integrated.

The head tube is interesting too. We didn’t get the chance to check inside – we couldn’t see the mechanics letting us loose on Farrar’s bike with a set of Allen keys – but Cervélo tell us that it uses two walls: an internal one to provide the stiffness and an outside one to improve the aerodynamics and provide reinforcement.

All the tubes are designed to be as aerodynamically efficient as possible – they’re ultra-narrow, keeping the frontal area to an absolute minimum. The S5 almost disappears when you look at it head on.

The head tube, for example, with 1 1/8in headset bearings top and bottom, is a really cinched in hourglass affair with a painfully-skinny waist and the down tube is incredibly narrow – you could chop onions with it… If you found yourself needing to chop onions and couldn’t find a knife, like.

The only area that isn’t slender is the bottom bracket. It’s built to Cervélo’s own BBright standard and it’s a bulbous piece of work. Both the BB shell and the axle are oversized for added stiffness when you pedal. And yes, it’s supposed to be asymmetric – they’ve not just taken it out of the mould too soon. Those little holes on the left hand chainstay (right handside of the picture), by the way, are for mounting a Di2 battery.

The cables take the internal route towards the back of the bike, the two gear cables looping over the stem and ducking inside the top of the top tube and then down through the head tube.

Another little wind-cheating feature is the seat clamp or, rather, the lack of one. The aero seatpost is held in place by a wedge recessed into the top tube. Speaking of the seatpost, it comes with a two-position head that allows you to alter the seat angle; you can move it forward if you want to fit clip-on aerobars, for example.

You get two different positions for your water bottle cage on the down tube too. Cervélo reckon that using the lower one improves the slipperiness just a touch.

They say the S5 is 12% stiffer than the existing S3 and significantly more aerodynamic. They’re claiming that over 100km it is a minute and a half quicker than an S3 were both bikes to be ridden by identical riders putting in identical efforts – they also say that it offers a whopping 30 Watt advantage over a standard road bike.

Tyler Farrar is one of three Garmin-Cervélo team members riding the S5 for the Tour de France, chosen not because he was expected to do big things but simply because his ride position fitted the new bike best. If you’re interested in getting an S5 for yourself, it’ll be available soon, prices for the frameset starting at £2,499.99.

Farrar’s bike is built up with a mainly SRAM Red groupset but with a Rotor 3D+ chainset. That little red gizmo, by the way, is simply a chain catcher – a length of anodized aluminium that stops the chain overshifting inward.

The wheels are Mavic Cosmic with full-carbon deep-section rims and bladed alloy spokes. That isn’t a combo that’s in the current Mavic range.

It’s pretty hard to see but there’s a band between the carbon rim and the tyre: the narrow strip between the top of the brake shoe and the tread. It looks like the sidewall of the tyre, but it isn’t. That’s actually a little flap of rubber that’s attached to the rim. What’s it doing there? Well, it smoothes the line between the top of the tyre and the rim so we’re saying it’s an aero feature… although we’re prepared to be shot down in flames if anyone knows any different.

We've spoken to Mavic and their basic response goes along the lines of "we could tell you but then we'd have to kill you kind-of-a-thing" except more polite. Our Mavic source confirms our theory is correct though this is an aero enhancing feature that they are currently testing and developing in the race and the returned aero figures are "beyond our expectations"… I'm strapping my Kevlar vest on now. Only two teams at the Tour have 'em, Garmin Cervelo and Liquigas Cannondale. Currently they are the wheels with "no definitive name" and Mavic has no plans to give them one just yet, nor are they giving out any further technical information because "they are likely to be changed during the development process".

Farrar opts for an alloy cockpit rather than carbon – lots of pros do for extra rigidity. The bar is a 3T Ergonova Pro and that looks like an ARX Pro stem in a whopping 140mm length – the Garmin Transitions branding is sooo last year. Farrar is old-school in his pedal choice too. Those are Shimano Dura Ace 7810s. The current 7900 model comes with a carbon composite pedal body.

Naturally, Garmin Cervélo use Garmin computers. This is the Edge 500 which is GPS based so there’s no need for a speed sensor to be fitted to the bike – all the info comes from the sky.

17 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Before anyone points it out, Farrar wasn't on his S5 for yesterday's stage win.

posted by Mat Brett [1915 posts]
5th July 2011 - 12:26

2 Likes

I've reconsidered my initial opinion, and now think... this is possibly the worst bike ever made.

Quote:
The most obvious aero feature is the seat tube that comes with a cutout for the rear wheel to smooth the airflow through the centre/rear section of the bike.

A cut-out is one thing, this bike is wrapping about a fifth of the circumference of the rear wheel with an aerodynamic fairing that gives less clearance than a mudguard, yet is made out of expensive carbon fibre rather than cheap, replaceable chromoplastic. Does it come with a warning sticker on the stem, saying something like, "Warning: This bicycle must not be ridden over any of the following: freshly resurfaced roads with loose chippings, roads melted by the summer heat, left over grit from the winter that collects at the bottom of hills, road kill, grass, or gravel driveways. Failure to stop and carry your 6000 pound superbike over such obstacles will void your warranty."

Quote:
Virtually every TT bike these days comes with something similar, Cervélo themselves having popularized the concept with their P3.

Virtually every TT bike can get away with such an extreme a cut-out, because virtually all TTs are held on A-roads, former A-roads, bypasses, or back roads carefully selected by the organisers. Likewise, the Tour de France doesn't take the riders over anything but the freshest tarmac each département can provide. If it is going over any pavé sections, the team will know months in advance, and would switch to another model. And Cervélo will doubtless provide the Garmin riders with a fresh bike whenever the seat tube does inevitably get scratched to shit. Private buyers, however, won't be as lucky. But then anyone who buys this deserves everything they get.

Oh, and it's still hideously fugly.

posted by handlebarcam [529 posts]
5th July 2011 - 14:10

1 Like

handlebarcam wrote:
Does it come with a warning sticker on the stem, saying something like, "Warning: This bicycle must not be ridden over any of the following: freshly resurfaced roads with loose chippings, roads melted by the summer heat, left over grit from the winter that collects at the bottom of hills, road kill, grass, or gravel driveways. Failure to stop and carry your 6000 pound superbike over such obstacles will void your warranty."

No. No, it doesn't. There are no references to road kill at all.

Love your work. Keep it up.

posted by Mat Brett [1915 posts]
5th July 2011 - 14:54

1 Like

Mat Brett wrote:
No. No, it doesn't. There are no references to road kill at all.

That's because road kill in Canada means moose, and you'd be hard pressed to get an entire moose wedged up between the wheel and the seat tube. Not even if you are riding a Surly Pugsley.

posted by handlebarcam [529 posts]
5th July 2011 - 15:12

2 Likes

well they don't train on super smooth A-road I can tell you, some of the minor road we saw at the Tour, with teams on 'em on their race bikes were shocking.

There are loads of race bikes with super-tight clearances at the fork and at the back too the latest Felt AR series has been around for a few years now and it has a similar rear wheel cut out I haven't heard of many/any problems with stuff getting stuck between the rear wheel and the cut out seat tube - I have heard of people coming to grief though with things like acorns getting stuck between their wraparound aluminium mudguards and the front wheel.

As for TT bikes being able to get away with it because "virtually all TT bikes are held on A-roads" have you seen the state of most of our A-roads lately? They're hardly silky smooth rivers of tarmac.

Out of interest though handlebarcam if this is your idea of the worst bike in the world what gets your vote as the best?

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4152 posts]
5th July 2011 - 16:36

3 Likes

Certainly a nice bit of kit! I wonder if there are strides to make the front even more aero, specifically around the brake system? See the back is nice but are there further savings to be had if the brake were inside the fork or if there were some kind of cowling to cut into that thick atmosphere (like a nose cone!)?

posted by spaceyjase [49 posts]
5th July 2011 - 18:45

3 Likes

its a lovely piece of machinery but these shots showing: 'Look how narrow and aero our bike is!' annoy me a bit. a normal bike is hardly the widest thing in the world to start wit is it.

posted by eddie11 [78 posts]
5th July 2011 - 19:00

2 Likes

tony_farrelly wrote:
[T]he latest Felt AR series has been around for a few years now and it has a similar rear wheel cut out

The Felt AR has considerably more clearance. Don't get me wrong, I don't that bike either, but at least you can see daylight or, in this case, grass through the gap between tyre and frame.

tony_farrelly wrote:
Out of interest though handlebarcam if this is your idea of the worst bike in the world what gets your vote as the best?

No question, this.

On a slightly more serious note, I have read on another cycling news web site I shall not name here that the S5 rides like a 20 year old aluminium frame: jarring and uncomfortable.

posted by handlebarcam [529 posts]
5th July 2011 - 19:47

1 Like

Not knocking, I spent many happy hours in the saddle of one back in the day, but your fave wasn't particularly noted for rider comfort either, or handling come to that, or second gear Wink A classic nonetheless.

Other websites can of course make their minds up on it, and we'll make ours up when we get one to ride. Mind you, apparently that might be some time - all the initial order brought in to the UK by Madison have apparently been sold – including the press bike.

Going back to the Felt AR series - yes there probably is slightly more of a gap, not that much more and you could argue that is potentially more of a problem than a really small gap because there's more that can get in to it and get stuck.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4152 posts]
5th July 2011 - 20:31

2 Likes

Good point spaceyjase - I see Ridley have gone down the integrated brake route with the new Noah… Talking to one of the Trek technical guys about the Speed Concept last week he reckoned that integrating the brakes and getting them to work properly was the single most difficult part of the project.

Plus it does leave Cervelo something to shoot for when it comes to the SR6 I suppose. The nose cone would certainly make it more aero, but they're never going to get that past the UCI in the present climate.

eddie11 maybe the pics don't do it justice but believe me when compared to a normal bike this is very thin - which is going to make it a lot more aerodynamic.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4152 posts]
5th July 2011 - 20:38

1 Like

Quote:
virtually all TTs are held on A-roads, former A-roads, bypasses, or back roads carefully selected by the organisers

You obviously haven't done all the local tens round here Smile

It's a pro bike. It's supposed to be pushing the envelope. In the days before the UCI's ridiculous sticker beanfeast the pros would ride prototypes, different to the bikes you could buy in the shops. That's not an option now, so if Cervélo think the close-fit scuplted seat tube gives a definite advantage – and clearly they do – then that's what you'll get down your LBD too. A bit like the mad old days of rally group B homologation, but even more so because you really will be able to buy one.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7444 posts]
5th July 2011 - 21:24

3 Likes

How can it do 25 miles at 25mph faster than the s3 can do 25 miles at 25mph? Surely, by definition, that would take, errr, let me get my maths straight... an hour!

Thinking

posted by Matt_S [182 posts]
5th July 2011 - 22:29

1 Like

yes, that is perplexing Matt_S Thinking

Now I'm going to have to go trawling through Cervelo technical info when I should be sipping cocoa… but I'm not going to be able to let it lie

…right I've changed the bit about 25 miles at 25mph - I think what was meant was more likely 25 miles at the same given effort. Anyway while rooting around I found this.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4152 posts]
5th July 2011 - 22:35

2 Likes

Matt_S wrote:
How can it do 25 miles at 25mph faster than the s3 can do 25 miles at 25mph? Surely, by definition, that would take, errr, let me get my maths straight... an hour!

Thinking

Haha! Classic editing error there.

It should have said “They’re claiming that at 25mph there’s a 9W saving over an S3, or for the same energy it’ll cover 25 miles 37secs faster.”

A line got chopped out of the middle somewhere.

posted by Mat Brett [1915 posts]
5th July 2011 - 23:40

3 Likes

If you're interested in the tech – aerodynamics, stiffness, weight and so on – Cervélo have a really good white paper on their site: http://s5.cervelo.com/

posted by Mat Brett [1915 posts]
6th July 2011 - 0:08

2 Likes

I thought the problem with those seat tubes wasn't as much getting stuff rammed up there (though that would be unpleasant) but the constant abrasion of grit and dust carried through there on the wheel, in the wet perhaps, which can sand out a channel in your seat tube. I'm sure I heard about a TT bike brought into in a bike shop which was in two halves due to this.

Still, I know not the allure of carbon wrapped between my legs, so shoot me down and call me a Luddite.

Great infomercial for Cervelo though. Foam DZ. That'll catch on.

Patrick.

posted by Littlehuan [46 posts]
6th July 2011 - 8:02

3 Likes

Any chance that any of the boys on the Garmin Cervelo squad were using the new Garmin Vector? I've given Tyler's bike a look over and can't figure out where the power meter is .......could it be in the pedals?
What do you guys think?
FR

posted by Fuji_Racer [2 posts]
24th July 2011 - 0:59

2 Likes