Cervelo R5 v's Trek Emonda SLR v's Phil's Back

Posted by Philip Cavell

18th October 2016


This One Hurts
It is three years since I hit a pothole and spun over the bars. I have tried everything to recover.

I tell you this because I am almost entirely over not being able to ride a proper superbike up and down proper mountains. Almost over until I see a 2015 R5 pop up in the 2014 Tour being ridden 13k in the rain for a beautiful win by Ramunas Navardauskas on a bike that whose sole intention was to taunt me. Or that is how it feels.


Punch Drunk Fighter
Cervelo R5 brings all the hurt and longing flooding back in a way that the Trek Emonda SLR despite its incredible performance didn't. In truth currently I can only ride the Cervelo for a fifteen minutes because that is as long as I can flex my spine before everything locks. But testing bikes used to be my profession (Cycle Sport Magazine) so these little nuggets of precious time are hopefully enough to gather the data I need but never enough to sate my appetite for performance bikes. 
Increasingly I am a like an old punch-drunk boxer who still has a few old moves and tricks but none of the snap or power. It may just be time to walk away.

Cervelo R5

Under That Beautiful Skin
Under skin of the R5 lurks the virtual DNA of Cervelo Rca a bike that visited biblical harm on previously robust relationships through its mixture of beauty, capability and utter scarcity. I had clients systematically lobby me for one even though I wasn't even a Cervelo shop at the time. I even had many very pleasant and interesting conversations with Cervelo in California at the time who cautioned me to be realistic about ever getting hold of a frame in any size for anyone.

Anyone for Squoval?
Nobody can accuse Cervelo of not having enough engineers or not doing enough research; don't delve too deep into the basement of their website unless you can recall your 5th form differential calculus - for example look at this typical article "Just One Metre" by David Killing and Damon Rinard. We have met Damon enough times at various conferences to vouch for how genuine and passionate he is as a design engineer.

The heart of the R5 design philosophy and ride experience is "Squoval" tube construction. For simple folk like me it means every tube encompasses a "square" profile, which is better suited to resisting lateral (side to side) forces and also "roundness" which somewhat counter-intuitively is supreme at resisting torsion or twisting forces.

In the great pantheon of me-too bikes it is admirable that a Cervelo has such a defined design coda and the fact that it results in such a beautiful sculpture is a huge bonus. What is truly impressive is the balance that Cervelo manages to bring to the weight/ride/aero dialogue without looking ugly in the discourse. This was made clear by Tour Magazine from Germany's recent modelling for outright speed over twenty four bike models. The modelling was over a theoretical 100k course with 2000 metres of vertical climbing. The R5 came first out of the weight categorised bikes and 8th in the aero categorised bikes! An incredible achievement.

Emonda Slr8

Trek Emonda - Performance Gateway
Trek's Emonda maybe elegant next to its Kam-to-the-max Madone but is is still essentially buffed up numbers player. 690 grams on a size 56 frame with a Madone levels of stiffness through a 90mm BB all means that the Emonda comes to the party pre-credentialised. 

The Unassailable Twin Gods - Light & Stiff
And as I found when I tested our own demo Emonda SLR in the autumn you simply cannot escape the sensations those kind of metrics deliver if you assume that light and stiff are a good thing in the same sentence without cheap? And if you are in the market for performance light and stiff are intrinsically desirable qualities and less and more respectively must be held to be a good thing. It always feels good to be able to accelerate at a faster rate as the road gets steeper - what is not to like about that vignette?

Back to Back
When Cervelo and Trek sat down in their respective bunkers to have their weight-v's-stiffness-vs-aero-v's comfort meeting I think they finessed their products over different lines. The Trek certainly worships the Gemini gods of weight and stiffness in that order - The R5 gives away about 120 grams in weight (810 v's 690 grams) and 11mm in bottom-bracket width (Cervelo's propietrary79mm BBright asymmetric) to Trek's Emonda. 

R5 v's Emonda SLR = Oxytocin v's Adrenalin
Cervelo in my opinion opted to bend their design knee towards a bike that balances unimpeachable manners and devastating speed. Where the Emonda felt instantly and shockingly effective in a vaguely game-changing way, the R5 is at once just a quiet and wonderful place to be in the world being propelled under your own steam. One of the most effective race weapons ever devised elegantly wrapped in a hand-crafted velvet glove. True it doesn't have the shock value of the Emonda's acceleration but it more than compensates in the fine sensations it generates. And in many circumstances it is probably the faster bike because of the confidence and fine control it inspires and whilst we don't yet have a watts by watts aero comparison I would very surprised if the R5 doesn't edge the Emonda by a few watts at 42kmh?


Which One Gets The Nod?
Depends on who you are and how you ride. If you want the lightest, stiffest performance bike available anywhere in the world then Emonda SLR is an obvious choice right now. It will delight riding Marmotte or at Hog Hill elbow deep in a summer criterium. It thoughtfully comes in two geometry platforms and both spec and finish are customisable through Trek's sleek P1program. We have worked with Trek for over fourteen years now and can't remember a reponse like it, the Emonda has quite simply touched a public nerve in the same way as Lance's Tour winning 5500 (above). 
Hold on a moment - the Cervelo R5 may give a handful of grams and 1/2mm of BB deflection away to Trek's gossamer gladiator. But in many circumstances and for many people (me) it will be the faster bike. It is probably more aero, certainly more relaxed and nuanced in the way it rides and handles more of the time. It probably wouldn't be my ideal crit bike (8 years too late for that) but for the last 13k or a rainy Tour stage on uneven and sight-unseen roads there is only one choice for me and it begins with R and ends in 5.

About the Author

Philip Cavell

Co-founder, bike fitter and bike designer. Phil rides a Seven titanium disc bike. He likes dogs and fine wine. - Cyclefit Store

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