Pro bike choice by Robby Ketchell

Why are some of the team Garmin-Sharp riders on S5 while many are on R5 for racing? Which one should I choose?

Pro bike choice by Robby Ketchell

“Why are some of the team Garmin-Sharp riders on S5 while many are on R5 for racing?  Which one should I choose?”

We often hear those exact questions.  It is important to point out that Cervélo is unique in that we don’t tell our pro riders which bike they have to ride.  We let them choose.  Whether it is a David Millar choosing the S5, a Dan Martin on the R5, or a Jack Bauer opting for different bikes on different days, there are only great options in the Garmin-Sharp truck.  

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Jack Bauer opted for the S5 on some of the Tour stages this year. 

So how do the riders decide which one is right for them?  We asked Team Garmin-Sharp’s Director of Sport Science Robby Ketchell to offer some insight.  Here is what Robby had to say: 

Bike Choice

Insights from Robby Ketchell, Director of Sport Science, Team Garmin-Sharp:

“Equipment and technology have a large influence on cycling performance and are in part what makes cycling different from other endurance sports.  Over the years – 100 years of the Tour de France - we have seen an evolution of aerodynamic time trial bikes, lightweight frames and wheels, and electronic and hydraulic components.  Most recently, the professional peloton has introduced several aero and lightweight climbing bicycle frames and today, riders choose between these for particular races.  The decision each rider makes when deciding what equipment to use is both strategic and calculated.

“During a particular race, the terrain, weather, and tactics all play a role in choosing equipment.  Regardless of energy expenditure during the entire race, a rider is most concerned with performance during a particular moment.  This moment could be a technical descent where they know they will be on the edge, negotiating fast steep pitches on rough roads in amongst other competitors.  Or, the critical moment in the race could be a cross-wind section where aerodynamics is absolutely crucial while the peloton is strung out into a single-file line.  Another key moment could be on a steep ascent after the world’s best climbers have eliminated most of the peloton and attacks begin to occur less than 3km from the finish.  Choosing equipment that optimizes performance during these key moments can be the difference between winning and losing.

“At Team Garmin-Sharp, we are lucky to be able to choose between both R-series and S-series Cervélo bikes.  The R-series bikes give us the ability to choose from a lightweight and stiff frame, while the S-series bikes give us optimal aerodynamic performance without compromising too much weight.  When choosing a bike for critical moments that could win a race, all variables are considered in order to give us the best opportunity to win.

  • Robby Ketchell, Slipstream Sports

What does this mean for you?

Very few people actually get to ride in the Tour de France.  In fact, not many of us will be facing the same situation the Garmin-Sharp riders face all year: racing shoulder to shoulder with 180 other riders on narrow mountainous roads.  Many Cervélo riders ride in much smaller groups or on their own.  

The goals for riders like us are often different from riders in the world tour.  They might range from racing, to just keeping up with a group ride; from setting a new personal best, to just enjoying a nice spin with friends.  And since few of us have the luxury of picking which bike to ride from the team truck every morning, ask yourself ‘what are my goals?’

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Millar on the S5 leads Bauer on the R5.  Bauer opted for the R5 on a climb filled stage 9 - Dan Martin rode the RCA to a stage victory.

Relative strengths and weaknesses - help when you need it.

It’s often said a climber should choose the light bike, and a rouleur should choose the aero bike. Strengthening your strengths, as it were. But that’s not the only way to look at the choice.

It’s true that a climber like Dan Martin wins uphill finishes on his R5. In contrast, workhorses like David Millar choose the S5 for nearly every stage.  So, if you are a climber, does that mean you want the R5?  Consider what your ‘critical moment’ is on a ride.  If you climb well but are worried about getting dropped in the hard crosswind section on the way to the climb, you will benefit from the aero S5.  That is unless you are good friends with 7 or 8 other Garmin-Sharp riders who are willing to shelter you all the way to the bottom of the climb.

So you can do the obvious, and choose a bike to strengthen your strengths, but also consider the reverse: choosing a bike to strengthen your weaknesses.

However, regardless of what type of rider you are, sometimes a bike just ‘grabs you’ and you are not quite sure why.  Everyone reacts a little differently when they ride a Cervélo, but we can all agree, there is no shortage of great options.  In the end, don’t be afraid to go with your gut feeling.

  • David Byer

Comments (2)
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  • Igor

    My question is, which bike is better for technical descents, R5 or S5... because I remember Thor Hushovd with his S5 winning stages in Tour de France, green jersey... the epic win vs Jeremy Roy and David Moncoutie (stage 13, with speeds greater than 110 km/h)... Maybe it was not "so" technical which would explain the benefit of the S5 in aerodynamic terms (but in my opinion Col d'Aubisque, etc are not easy to handle...) BUT, all my friends prefer the R3... or R5 for technical descents.. they feel safer I know that it finally comes down to the rider, but I wanted the opinion of the engineers to know which bike has been designed with more focus in technical descents...

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  • Ron

    As much as I love the ride of the S2 and S5 I have to wonder if the team is generally riding the R5 there must be a reason, in some races all riders on the R platform or even at the TdF other than David Millar most opted for the R series most of the time. Weight is not the likely reason, since the UCI weight limit is achievable with any Cervelo bike now, I would have to consider it might relate to the other topic in ask the engineers, just noticeable difference? Is it that the Pros perceive the R5 to be more comfortable on the long haul? and will not consider the 1 meter or aero advantage worth the ride difference? or is it the the new Squoval 3 is aero enough that you get the best of all combo?

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