For those of a certain vintage, the Soloist’s return is likely to trigger a trip down memory lane. In the early 2000s, it was the bike that many people credit with starting the modern aerodynamic revolution, with its extruded aero tubes developed by none other than the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the first of their kind.
cervelo fAmously began as an underfunded university project. (opens in a new tab) but thanks to the CSC team, the Canadian brand received plenty of exposure in racing, with the Schleck brothers, Tyler Hamilton, Jens Voigt and Ivan Basso all riding the Soloist to WorldTour victory.
But the bike industry waits for no one, and in 2008 the Soloist was phased out and replaced by Cervélo’s S range. Still, his influence was profound and each modern aero bike (opens in a new tab) he still has a bit of the soloist’s DNA in his songwriting.
So, given the popularity and proliferation of wind-cheating, watt-saving racing machines today, it’s no surprise that Cervélo decided to bring it back. However, his aerodynamic credentials are only half the story of the return of the Soloist.
With the current Cervélo road alignment featuring the Tour de France winning S5 (opens in a new tab)Y R5 (opens in a new tab)as well as the resistance-focused Caledonia 5 (opens in a new tab)What niche would the Soloist now serve, especially given the improved aerodynamics of the latest S5?
Interestingly, Cervélo has chosen to position the new Soloist as an affordable and practical bike for what it calls “week after week for hobby racers.” It claims it’s slightly lighter than the S5 and significantly more aerodynamic than the R5, though it doesn’t provide numbers to substantiate this.
However, it is clear that it borrows from the three road bikes currently in its lineup. The geometry is similar to that of the R5, known as much for its precise and responsive handling as it is for its low weight. A size 54 Soloist has a 540mm stack height, 73 degree head tube angle, 410mm chainstays and a 977mm wheelbase, matching those of the R5 (the R5 stack is 0.7mm taller) and suggests a bike that should be equally well balanced in its handling.
Naturally, being a solo artist, a lot of attention is paid to aerodynamics. The bike acknowledges his past as a trailblazer in drag reduction by keeping it pretty cutting edge. While the head tube area isn’t as extreme as the S5’s, it’s still pretty deep. The tapered head tube also adopts the hourglass profile seen on both the S5 and Caledonia 5.
In fact, there seem to be some similarities to the latest Caledonia, including the dropped rear seatstays (allowing up to 34mm tires), the fork profile and the aero down tube. For additional aerodynamic improvements, it uses a triangle at the junction of the top tube and seat tube, just like the Caledonia and S5.
The Soloist uses a two-piece bar and stem, with internal cable routing to keep the aero theme intact. But there’s more to the clean cab than simply hiding cables and hoses from the wind. By routing them under the stem but through the bearing cap, it allows a stem shift to be made without having to bleed the brakes. Easier maintenance is the reason for the threaded BBright-47 bottom bracket as well; Cervélo’s desire to make this a functional race bike for everyone means that it’s designed so that it can be cared for relatively easily, and by riders who also make their own keys.
While it is now a disk-only model, it is compatible with both mechanical and electronic devices. groups (opens in a new tab). This again ties into the concept of a practical race bike for the hobbyist, where they can more easily swap parts and use components that don’t cost an arm and a leg to replace.
The Soloist line includes models with both shimano 105 (opens in a new tab) Y Ultegra (opens in a new tab)mechanical groups, something that is no longer offered in either the S5 or the R5. You can buy the Caledonia with cable-operated gearing, but the Soloist knocks it down by a few hundred pounds: the Soloist 105 retails for £3,000, while the Ultegra-spec model is £3,500. While I would never try to convince anyone that this isn’t a huge sum of money to spend on a bike, it does make the Soloist much more affordable than Cervélo’s other race-focused offerings.
As far as electronic groupset models go, there’s something for most here, from Shimano 105 Di2 and SRAM Rival eTap AXS at the ‘low’ end (£4500 and £5000 respectively) to Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and SRAM Force Rival eTap AXS as the two most expensive models (£6,800 and £7,100 respectively).
For more information visit cervelo.com