September 26, 2017
The Tri Store has been open for nearly 15 years now and I have to be honest and say that there are days, weeks and sometimes months where it actually feels like proper work. OK, we're not open on Sundays so that's a proper day off but the store has to and always is open from 9 to 6 from Monday to Saturday including Bank Holidays. Then, out of the blue, you get the email or phone call for a trip somewhere exciting to ride bikes or try out new running technology and the reason we're here comes sharply into focus.
We've been really lucky this year as Cervélo have launched the new R bike range and this has resulted in 3 trips, firstly a whistle-stop one day trip to Oberammergau in Austria where I got to ride the new R5 on a short but beautiful loop on a great bike, the R5 Dura-Ace with Ksyrium Elite wheels. Next up was Simon riding 3 days of the Hot Chillee London to Paris on the R5. Then a few weeks ago I got the call to ask if I was able to travel with Cervélo to Las Vegas ahead of Interbike for 3 days of riding and classroom sessions at their US Brain Bike (the translation of "Cer" and "velo" equals Brain Bike!).
So, on Monday last week I found myself at the Red Rock Casino a few miles from the Strip in Vegas to find my latest test bike waiting for me, an R5 Dura-Ace Di2 with Enve wheels.
We rode a really nice loop around the Red Rock Canyon, taking in stunning wild west scenery whilst getting acquainted with the bikes. Cervélo had handily placed flags out on the virtually traffic-free roads hinting at what qualities to look out for. The original R5 has always been my favourite bike ever since we happened to have a demo bike in my size (if you're a 58 then there's a good chance that we'll have a hot bike available funnily enough) and so the new version had a tough act to follow.
That's Graham Shrive (see below) in the foreground of this picture.
What did I make of it? The same stunning ride quality is there, it would be hard to improve on the handling of the previous version. But whereas the original R5 suited me perfectly due to the taller headtube, the shorter version on the new bike gives you the ability to ride in a more aggressive position but the lower BB and extended wheelbase give it the same reassuring feel at all times and especially when cornering and descending. It's comfortable and yet stiff, fast and yet predictable and so I'd have to say has all the qualities of the bike I originally fell in love with a few years ago. Add the option for disc brakes, lovely features such as the new seat clamp which means you don't have to measure your saddle height when travelling with the bike (just drop it in until the second clamp hits and then tighten with an Allen key and you're ready) it sits firmly at the top of any dream bike wishlist. I rode it again on the same loop the next day and was definitely falling in love with the bike.
Now, a few years ago I went on another trip with Cervélo for the launch of the P5 and was really looking forward to riding the new S5 VWD. I was disappointed when I arrived to find I was going to have to ride the old R3 with a pair of cheap wheels - what a tough life we lead. After 3 days of riding that bike, I absolutely would have bought it as I realised how the geometry was the same as the R5 and so in essence, apart from a weight drop, it was pretty much the same bike. So, when I heard Graham Shrive, one of the Cervélo engineers behind the new R bikes, describe the new R3 as the replacement for the old R5, I was intrigued to ride one. Luckily that's exactly what I found on our last day of riding as I was handed an R3 Dura-Ace mechanical with Aksium wheels.
After a ride on the same loop, in pretty much identical conditions, I would be hard-pressed to come up with anything negative about the R3 even in comparison to the wonderful R5. It doesn't have the same geometry, a taller headtube being the most obvious difference. But it still has the same wonderful ride characteristics, climbs and descends beautifully, giving confidence to riders such as me who are not blessed with the best bike handling skills.
We often say to customers choosing between an older model and the brand new version that just because a bike has been "improved" it doesn't mean the previous incarnation becomes a bad bike and we still have some stock left on reductions of the old R3 and R5. But if you want the latest bike then there are definitely reasons to help justify your decision. If pressed I must admit I'm struggling to choose between the two bikes I rode in Las Vegas. Both ride incredibly well and will no doubt be in the pro peloton for 2018. If your budget stretches to the R5 Di2 or Etap versions then you'll have electronic shifting and great wheels all in the same package. If it reaches the R3 Dura-Ace bike then I can assure you that the mechanical 9100 groupset shifts effortlessly and the Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels certainly do justice to the new frameset. It's a tough choice but, rather like the tough job of travelling through time zones to test amazing bikes in perfect conditions, someone has to do it!