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Cervélo Caledonia-5 review

7 Oct 2020

The bike most of us should ride, if we’re being honest with ourselves

Cyclist Rating: 
Stable ride feel • Massive tyre clearance (even with mudguards) • Ample comfort
A touch heavy at this money

When Cervélo created a bike for racing the cobbled Spring Classics in 2011, little did it know it was designing the bike of the future.

Garmin-Cervélo’s Johan Vansummeren rode to victory at Paris-Roubaix that year on board what Cervélo called the R3 ‘Mud’.

It was essentially a version of the company’s thoroughbred racer, customised to provide extra clearance for wide tyres and with geometry tweaked to have more stability and comfort at speed on the cobbles.

If you’ve never heard of it, that’s because the bike was never successful commercially. Back then there simply wasn’t a market for it – why would we need wide clearance when we were all zipping around on 23mm tyres pumped up to 120psi? And slack geometry was for shopping bikes, right?

How times change. Nigh on a decade later, Cervélo has launched the Caledonia-5, an all-new addition to its 2021 range and a bike that shares much of its DNA with 2011’s R3 Mud.

Buy the Cervelo Caledonia now from Sigma Sports here.

Modern thinking

Cervélo calls this a bike for the modern rider. ‘As we have continually tried to stuff bigger tyres into our road race bikes and at the same time streamline our gravel bikes, the need for a new kind of bike was born,’ the company says.

The Caledonia is aimed at those riders for whom racing is not a priority, but who may still want to race, and will likely go on long rides that may include poor road surfaces and maybe even some mixed terrain. In other words, most of us.

The truth is, we could probably all benefit from a slightly more stable, more comfortable road bike, with the grip and versatility offered by up to 34mm tyres. Yet all too often we end up buying a bike built for pros.

Buy the Cervelo Caledonia now from Sigma Sports here.

The Caledonia is trying to change that mindset, and I’m in full agreement with Cervélo’s way of thinking.

That doesn’t mean the Caledonia is a slouch. It is still at heart a race-level bike (and will be raced in next year’s Classics) and it had ample lateral stiffness in the bottom bracket and head tube when I launched attacks on the flat and up steep climbs on my local loops. But it also proved to be remarkably comfortable.

Cervélo says it didn’t want to start adding elastomers or pivots to improve comfort, and that any additional compliance comes from the carbon layup of the frame.

Maybe, but I’d also suggest the ride feel is largely down to the Zipp 303S wheels with their wide 23mm internal rim width.

This pushes the profile of the 28mm Vittoria Corsa Control tyres to nearer 30mm, and when set up tubeless I could run as low as 60psi with no adverse effect on my speed.

The extended front centre (thanks to a 72° head angle and 50mm fork offset) and the resulting longer wheelbase (1,012mm on this size 56cm) do result in slightly tardier handling.

The bike is noticeably less snappy than, say, the latest Specialized Tarmac SL7 or Trek Émonda SLR that I’ve been testing, but that is exactly what Cervélo intended.

A more stable bike merely inspires confidence to go faster. And unless you’re racing, I can’t see much downside to having less reactive handling. It’s not like you’ll struggle to make it round corners.

Sleek and simple

Aerodynamics are hard to gauge in the real world, but it’s clear the Caledonia has benefitted from Cervélo’s expertise in this area. Few would bet against Cervélo’s tried and tested library of tube shapes.

Up front the cockpit of the Caledonia-5 looks really clean thanks to what Cervélo calls Aero Cable Management, where all cables and hoses run completely hidden inside the bar and stem and straight into the head tube.

The cockpit is also conveniently a two-piece design, with split spacers, so I was able to alter the setup for my preferred fit with no hassle.

The headset top cap comes in two heights (both supplied) for easy stack adjustments, and Cervélo claims there is sufficient range in front end height to be as slammed as the most aggressive R3 yet taller if necessary than its current endurance model, the C3.

I have very few complaints, then. The bike could perhaps do with being a touch lighter – the frame is a claimed 936g and this top-specced bike weighs a relatively portly 7.61kg – but that hasn’t detracted much from my enjoyment.

The Caledonia is proof that we could all benefit from buying a bike that will deliver a fast, stable, fun ride, rather than simply plumping for the one we see at the Tour de France.

Pick of the kit

Donda Jersey #3, £60,

Launched in the UK in 2019, Donda is a fledgling cycle clothing company offering technical garments that don’t cost the Earth. Its Jersey #3 has a catchy, colourful design and is made from fabrics that are anti-bacterial and which protect from UV while being breathable and quick drying.

Neat details include sleeves that stay firmly in place thanks to a sticky liner in the cuff, and pockets that remain well supported when loaded up. The fit is on the generous side, but Donda does offer comprehensive sizing guidelines on its website to help you make the right choice.


Use the Force

By dropping down to the Caledonia-5 specced with Sram Force eTap AXS (£6,399), you still get the cleanness of 12-speed wireless shifting but will save a whopping £3k on the price.

Cheaper still

Below the top-end Caledonia-5 range are the standard Caledonia models. You sacrifice the integrated cockpit and some spec, but you can get a Shimano 105-equipped model for £2,799.


Frame Cervélo Caledonia-5
Groupset Sram Red eTap AXS
Brakes Sram Red eTap AXS
Chainset Sram Red eTap AXS
Cassette Sram Red eTap AXS
Bars Cervélo AB09 Carbon 
Stem ST31 Carbon 
Seatpost SP18 Carbon D
Saddle Prologo Dimension Nack
Wheels Zipp 303S, Vittoria Corsa Control TLR 28mm tyres
Weight 7.61kg (56cm)

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews