The new Cervélo Áspero 5: Going off-road at speed

Executive class gravel from Cervélo

Like a mustang snuck in among a field of pack horses, Cervélo’s newly updated Áspero 5 promises prairie-tuned aerodynamics and an emphasis on speed, not haulage.

Released by Cervélo two years ago, the original Áspero aimed to race rather than roam across the gravel tracks and byways of its native Ontario. This updated and even more premium version continues in the same vein while being a deal lighter, slicker, and better looking.

Essentially it's gravel riding, but for people who still bother to shave their legs.

Twinned to an aggressive geometry, both versions of the Áspero borrow heavily from the library of tube shapes and frame design concepts created to serve Cervélo’s famously slippery racing bikes. Formerly Cervélo’s raison d'être, aerodynamics might seem of less interest to gravel riders. However, as anyone who has blazed a lonely trail across the high plains (or whatever their European equivalent might be) will know, the wind can be just as cruel at lower speeds, especially if it’s coming straight at you.

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With this in mind, the Áspero 5’s frame benefits from dropped seatstays and a cut-away seat tube that shields the rear wheel while reducing the bike’s chainstay length in the interests of nippier handling.

Hide it inside

Kicking off at £8,199 for a Sram Force eTap ASX equipped version, the new 5-series bikes’ lofty pricing means each complete build arrives with electronic gearing. Allowing the associated cables to either be done away with or, in the case of the brake lines, smuggled inside of the frame, the result is a silhouette that gives the eye little reason to disagree with the claims of Cervélo’s aerodynamicists.

Achieved partly thanks to a unique c-shaped steerer tube, this creates the space needed to stow the cables through the stem. Allowing for an otherwise traditional headset design, not only can the stem be flipped if needed, the split design of the spacers allows you to adjust the height of the bars without pulling the whole system apart.

Its proprietary carbon handlebar is also equally slick. Featuring a pronounced flair, this should allow the rider to exert leverage while riding on the drops while a narrower top aims to help them tuck themselves away from the wind. Their upper part is also formed into an aerofoil shape in a further effort to provide a comfy spot to rest your hands without causing the wind to linger.

Twin wheel options

Being very on-trend, the Áspero 5 is versatile in its ability to accommodate either 700c wheels with up to 45c tyres or smaller 650b wheels with up to 51c wide models. Keeping the handling consistent, its TrailMix fork insert can be flipped as you change, or used to fine tune the bike’s wheelbase.

Despite its clean lines, the Áspero also offers a few more useful bolt-ons, including recessed storage in the toptube, and integrated frame protection on the lower part of the downtube. For those wanting to run mechanical gearing, or indeed fit a dropper seatpost, there’s also modular cable routing on the downtube, along with a detachable front derailleur mount.

Executive class gravel

Cervélo claims these tweaks and refinements to its original design have left the 5-series 10% lighter while allowing it to save an extra 32g of drag, which is a unit of measurement I admit I had to google.

Built-up to match their not inconsiderable price-tags, riders will also find a power meter included on each 5-series bike, along with carbon-rimmed Reserve wheels laced to DT Swiss hubs.

Maintaining the bike’s executive gravel persona, the available paint jobs are also far from earthy. Shiny and shimmering, green, red, and purple liveries are complemented by a boring, but no doubt popular, matt black colour-way.

Does lots of things

So, who’s the Áspero 5 for? Although selling itself as a dedicated off-road racer, unlike chunkier gravel bikes, the Áspero will probably be happier than most if re-applied back to the road – something likely to be welcomed by riders with only the space or budget for a single drop-handlebar bike.

Again, although orientated very much towards the gravel segment, the older Áspero was nevertheless successfully converted to cyclocross use at World Cup-level by pro racer Joris Nieuwenhuis. However, as Cervélo has promised a new dedicated cyclo-cross platform is in the works, this isn’t a feat likely to be replicated at the highest tier of competition. Still, it’s useful to know it’s a possibility.

Basically, the Áspero 5 is a fast off-road bike that can do a pretty wide range of things, including reverting back to the tarmac if needed. It also follows the established Cervélo model by being both very nice looking and quite expensive.

Of course, what Team Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos think of Cervélo launching another gravel bike before creating them a machine on which to race the winter season is hard to ascertain. However, for every other fast rider that prefers their off-road escapades dusty rather than muddy, the Áspero 5 is likely to provoke lust and jealousy in equal measure.

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