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Cervelo wades into the gravel bike market with a unashamedly performance-focused bike

Cervelo has launched its first true gravel bike, the brand new Aspero, which is aimed at people who are serious about gravel racing and covering distance over mixed terrain at speed. 

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The Canadian brand is very clear that the new Apsero isn’t a super versatile adventure bike for fun times, so you won’t find many extra mounts on the frame. Instead, the focus has been on performance and gravel racing events and it has utilised its considerable carbon fibre expertise to produce a very lightweight gravel bike.

Claimed frame weight is just 1,100 for a painted 56cm frame. That weight and the performance focus puts it in the same bracket as the Open UP (1,040g), 3T Exploro (990g) and Vielo V+1 (890g) to name a few rivals.

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The new bike is generous on tyre clearance. It’ll take up to 700x44 and 650x49 tyres which have fast become a requirement of the latest gravel and adventure bikes. Smaller wheels provide bigger tyres for more comfort while bigger wheels with skinnier tyres are, for the most part, faster.

Those max tyre dimensions are measured with 4mm clearance between rubber and carbon. Depending on your rim and tyre combination, there might be space to squeeze in wider tyres if you’re not precious about safety clearance.

One of the key features of the new bike and one that sets it apart from most is a new fork with an adjustable dropout. To ensure the handling is consistent with both 650b and 700c wheels, a 2-position chip called TrailMixer in the fork dropout adjusts the rake to alter the trail.

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The chip changes the rake by 5mm. In the forward position, the trail is shortened for faster handling, intended for 650b wheels and large tyres, and the rearward position is an increased trail aimed at 700c wheels. Flipping the chip for the different wheel sizes has the effect of keeping the trail at 62mm with each wheel size.

To ensure this works across the size range it has even developed three forks for the size frame sizes with different rakes. They are 52/57mm, 49/54mm, and 46/51mm and that should deliver the handling that Cervelo intends for the new Aspero regardless of what size frame you're riding.

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Confused? What Cervelo has done is try to minimise the impact on handling and steering that changing between different wheel sizes and tyre widths have. Cervelo has a target handling trait and the adjustable flip-chip lets you ensure that no matter what wheels and tyres you’re riding, you’re getting the handling that Cervelo intended for the bike.

“Now athletes can choose the fastest wheel/tire combination for the day’s conditions and never sacrifice essential high-speed control, allowing them to push for their personal best,” explains Cervelo.

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It’s not alone, a few other brands have started tinkering with adjustable fork dropouts. Rondo has been doing it for a few years, and the new GT Grade also has a flip-chip to allow the rider to tune the handling.

Other important features to note include the full internal cable routing compatible with all current groupsets, dropper seat post compatibility, flat mount disc brakes and 12mm thru-axles, a third bottle cage on the down tube where there’s also protective material, and a bento mount on the top tube.

“A new breed of rider is emerging—one who loves the freedom and exploration that gravel culture was founded upon but who has a hunger to ride wild, to go full bore, and to explore not just geography but personal limits. This frontier requires a new kind of gravel machine, one engineered not to roam the trails, but to slay them,” says Cervelo.

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Like what you see? There’ll be a choice of three builds to choose from here in the UK, two SRAM 1x flavours and one 2x Shimano option. The Apex 1 bike will cost £2,699, the Ultegra GRX bike comes in at £3,599.00, and the range-topping SRAM Force eTap AXS bike will set you back £5,399. There’ll also be a frameset for £2,229.

We'll be getting our hands on this new bike soon so watch out for more on that in a couple of weeks times.

In the meantime, have a watch of this short video, it's actually not that bad. More info over at www.cervelo.com

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.