With an explosion of interest in road bikes that can tackle more than perfect pavement, it was only a matter of time before a major brand jumped in with an ultralight bike to push the upper end of the gravel market a notch (or three) higher.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Cervelo is that brand. The all-new Cervelo C3 and C5 road bikes do just that, albeit disguised as more of a gran fondo racer than pure off-road bike. At just 850g with paint and hardware, it’s definitely on the light end of performance bikes for any type of road, but thanks to revised Squoval 2 tube shapes, it’s both stiff and compliant in all the right ways.
Skip past the break and head on down a new road…
The bike borrows a lot of development tech from their ultralight R5 Project California road bike, including the fork. But, the C-series gets a slacker head angle, longer rake and thru axles in a disc brake specific design. It also gets a full 1-1/8″ to 1-1/2″ tapered headtube.
That front end combines with a lower bottom bracket to increase overall effective stack height by up to 22mm (depending on frame size). That means a more stable bike with a lower center of gravity and slightly more upright riding position. Protecting that lower BB is a bolt-on rock guard.
Out back, the chainstay length is pushed back a bit to, along with the lower C.O.G., improve stability. Like the race-oriented R3 Disc, which will see peloton time under MTB Qubeka in 2016 thanks to relaxed UCI rules about testing disc brakes, the C-series also uses a one-piece rear triangle to optimize stiffness and light weight. Those stays are set wider than their non-disc road bikes which, when paired with the thru axles, increases BB stiffness by a claimed 25%. That’s a big part of how they’re able to make the bike so light without it becoming a noodle.
The dropped seatstay/seat tube junction, exaggerated arch design and super thin diameter all contribute to better vertical compliance, making it the most comfortable bike they’ve ever made…especially for the C3.
Compared to the R3 Disc introduced at Eurobike, there are some similarities and differences. Both bikes share the flat-mount disc brake standard and thru axles, including the floating derailleur mount design that ensures perfect alignment for the wheel/rotor. They also share the asymmetric seatstay design, which pushes the non-drive side back a bit further to provide clearance for the disc brake caliper.
Differences include the BB/downtube rock guard, a chain catcher and chain guard, and hidden fender mounts. The C-series will also handle substantially larger tires, up to 700×32. You’ll also get a choice of two frame levels and five complete bike builds, whereas the R3 Disc is only available with Ultegra 6800.
From a pure numbers perspective, here’s how they compare in a size 54:
|Max Tire Size
Two versions will be offered, the standard C3 and the top of the range C5. The C5 gets a premium layup with the impressive 850g frame weight and a U.S.-made 350g Project California fork. Because the fork is handmade in their Project California lab, it has cool additional features like smooth brake hose entry on the shoulder and has a different shape than the C3’s fork. It’ll come in two builds, one with Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 ($9,000) and Dura-Ace 9000 mechanical ($7,000). Both get hydraulic disc brakes, a Rotor 3D+ crankset (50/34), FSA carbon cockpit (bar, stem, post, headset), Fizik Antares saddle, HED Ardennes Plus LT Disc wheels and Continental Gran Prix 180tpi 700×28 tires.
The C3 gets a bit heavier layup, coming in at 975g (size 56) and fork (415g), but that allowed them to play with the tune more since they could use lower modulus fibers. The result is a frame that’s just as laterally stiff as the C5, but has a more finely tuned ride feel.
It also adds a 1x group to the build options. Pick from either Ultegra 6870 Di2 ($5,500), Ultegra 6800 mechanical ($4,300) or SRAM Force 1 ($4,500). All three get hydraulic disc brakes, HED Ardennes Plus GP Disc wheels with Continental Grand Sport 700×28 tires, and an FSA cockpit mix of carbon and alloy parts.
In stock dates for the C5 are the end of December, and the C3 follows in early 2016.