Earlier this year, Jumbo-Visma riders who were competing in cross races weren’t on Cervelo bikes, despite the brand’s new sponsorship of the team. Instead, multiple world-champions Marianne Vos and Wout Van Aert rode Bianchi bikes, sprayed in black and yellow paint and stickered up with the names of sponsors. For Cervelo, it wasn’t the most seamless start to the partnership, and the brand had to work quickly to develop a cyclocross bike to be ready ahead of the 2021-2022 CX season.
The R5-CX was officially launched last week, in line with Wout van Aert beginning his cross season with a dominating win in the SuperPrestige Boom. Cervelo brands it a bike made to “world champ standard” with the input of its experienced riders being a crucial part of the development phase. However, despite the public reveal of the R5-CX only coming now, the bike has been seen in the field before.
It debuted on the North American World Cup scene under Marianne Vos when she took an impressive victory in Waterloo, she also stood on the top step a few days later in Iowa – not a bad first dance at all. It’s also important to note that this isn’t the first time Cervelo has dabbled in the world of CX. In 2007, the brand sponsored Jonathan Page, the first American to make a World Cup podium, creating a bike for him named the R3 Cross, though it was never made available to the wider public.
Like the R3 Cross, the new R5-CX takes inspiration from Cervelo’s road bike range, especially the recently launched lightweight R5 road bike. The design is visually similar to the R5, but the Canadian brand explains that the fit and handling of the R5-CX is unique to the model and the specific needs of cyclocross riders, based on extensive testing and input from Vos and Van Aert.
One of the key differences between the R5 and R5-CX is that while the R5 uses a BBRight press-fit bottom bracket, its cyclocross sibling features a threaded BB (news that will be jubilantly received by the world's many press-fit skeptics). For a bike that is likely to be jet-washed, put through its paces in challenging conditions, and stripped down often, Cervelo hopes that a threaded BB will be more durable. The brand has still aimed to maintain some features of the BBRight though, keeping it’s asymmetric cups but threading them into a T47-sized hole.
The R5-CX also differs from the R5 in its geometry. Coming in four different sizes, the bike maintains the same reach as the R5 but offers a lower stack height and longer chainstays, aiming to aid with off-road stability. In another attempt at improving the bike’s handling, the bottom bracket is also situated higher to avoid the obstacles and mud faced throughout ‘cross races. A slightly longer wheelbase also gives extra tyre clearance.Bringing the bike back closer to the R5, though, is the D-shaped seatpost that was carried over to the CX model at the request of both Vos and Van Aert. Cervelo explains that the seatpost adds compliance and will keep the saddle facing forward in the event of a crash. The double seat clamp also adds stability and will allow the Jumbo-Visma cyclocross stars to fully rely on the R5-CX. Though this seatpost is a practical innovation, it doesn’t look quite as neat as the R5’s wedge.
In an attempt at stopping water and grit affecting smooth gear changes, the R5-CX features fully-integrated cabling – a common theme in new bikes for 2021. With the savage mud, sand and snow that will plague riders throughout the CX season, this could be a smart move from Cervelo. However, the increased maintenance required for internal cable routing may well break the hearts of Jumbo-Visma’s fleet of mechanics. The R5-CX is compatible with electronic or wireless drivetrains only and the bike will not accept mechanical groupsets, meaning Cervelo doesn’t offer any entry-level CX machines at the moment.
For those of you fancying your chances in the next cross season, the R5-CX will be available to purchase in Summer 2022. It is currently pro racer only, and Cervelo couldn’t ask for a better endorsement than Vos and Van Aert’s exceptional debuts on the bike so far, with plenty more racing still to come this cyclocross season.