Cervélo Aspero 5 Gravel Racer
The cycling world has seen many segmentations and niche classes arise over the years and the gravel world is no exception. Being able to get out on a drop-bar bike with no traffic, endless rideable terrain and the option to essentially choose your own adventure has an allure that’s hard to resist. It’s also no surprise that at some point someone said “we should race this…” Enter the Gravel Race classification and the crop of hot bikes that includes the Cervélo Aspero 5!
Cervélo designed the Aspero 5 gravel bike to build on the already successful Aspero, using a lighter carbon layup and adding an integrated cockpit and front end that further smooth out the aerodynamics of the bike. While convention might dictate that aerodynamics are of less importance on a gravel bike, a few hours by yourself in relentless wind will make you thankful for even the most marginal advantages.
My intent with the Cervélo Aspero 5 build was to have a bike that could confidently handle the roughest gravel roads and still be fast and comfortable on the road. It’s a bit of a tall order, but the Aspero 5 does a magnificent job of it. The Aspero 5 has been around for a bit now, but still has a solid spot in the “one bike to do it all” realm. I was excited to see how it would do for me, built up for the True Grit Gravel Epic in St George, Utah.
Coming from a more road-focused background, I was looking forward to a gravel setup that keeps a reach and trail similar to my road bike. I’m personally not as concerned with stability over handling quickness, yet the Aspero 5 manages to deliver both. This can partially be credited to the “Trail Mixer” 5mm adjustment chip in the front fork. Designed primarily to keep the trail consistent when switching between 700c and 650b wheels, the adjustment also influences how the bike handles. I left mine in the forward position which provides a bit quicker handling characteristics.
The several fast, sketchy, technical descents during the True Grit course were where I realized how good the Aspero 5 is as a race bike. I was able to attack these sections with confidence and felt that I could rely primarily on the bike and the 42mm tires to handle the business end of the descents. And this was after having only spent a brief amount of time testing the bike before the event. I was amazed at how quick you can get through these types of sections, remain as relaxed as possible and be ready for whatever comes up next. Descending is no problem for this bike!
The Aspero 5 climbs as confidently as it descends, which is far more than can be said for me. The comfortable position afforded by the bike really helped, as climbing is not my forte. I was worried that the quick handling nature of the bike that I’d felt on the downhills would make it feel a bit “loose” on hard, loose climbs but that was not the case. It tracks well and stays planted.
Where the bike possibly shines the most (and this is no surprise) is when you’re on your own, in the wind, on flats and rollers. I experienced plenty of this during the 80 mile True Grit Epic and was super happy with how the bike felt overall. The flared carbon Cervélo AB09f handlebar that comes with the Aspero 5 provides a great position to stave off arm strain while keeping as small as possible in the wind. And just knowing the amount of aero R&D that Cervélo put into the Aspero 5 puts one's mind at ease to some degree after a few hours of wind coming at you from multiple directions.
My Aspero 5 is set up with a 2x12 SRAM Force AXS drivetrain with a Ceramic Speed rear derailleur cage and bottom bracket. The claimed drag assistance of the Ceramic Speed bits as well as the nice range of gears with the 2x12 setup were comforting as well on the drawn out, flatter, windy sections of the course. 1x setups are still all the rage off-road, but I was very glad to have the short-stepped gear selections the 2x system provides. Big jumps in gearing are no fun when you’re towards the end of your rope in a long event.
I set the bike up with Enve SES 3.4 wheels and while an aero-optimized wheelset when running a smaller width tire, the portly 42mm tires I used probably negated any aero advantage they might have. That being said, the 25mm inner rim width and overall Enve build quality was reassuring when I was smashing down the rocky descents. The wheels performed flawlessly, and I not only had no flats, but no perceptible loss of air pressure over the course of the day.
All in all, I could not be happier or more impressed with how the Aspero 5 handled the event. Having spent literally the least amount of time imaginable before the event getting the bike built and set up, it’s a testament to the bike and the build how well it performed throughout the day. The Aspero 5 definitely gets a two-thumbs-up review from me and I can’t wait for the next event!
Cervélo Aspero 5
|Groupset||SRAM Force AXS 2x12, SRAM Red Crank|
|Gearing||170mm Crank, 46/33t Rings, 10-36t Cassette|
|BB||Ceramic Speed D.U.B.|
|Wheelset||Enve SES 3.4, Enve Premium Road Disc hubs|
|Rotors||Shimano MT 800, 160mm front/rear|
Cervélo Carbon AB09, 16 degree flair
|Stem||Cervélo ST32 Alloy stem|
|Bar Tape||Supacaz Super Sticky Kush, Oil Slick|
|Seatpost||Cervélo SP19 27.2 Carbon|
|Accessories||Ceramic Speed Oversized Pulley Wheel System|