Introducing Cervelo’s Aspero gravel bike – their first foray into the world of bikes designed specifically for off-road use. Built for speed, the Aspero has proved itself to be an incredible bike both on and off the tarmac with geometry and handling characteristics that make it incredibly versatile, fast and fun. Light and stiff, the Aspero puts down power like nothing else and combining road-inspired geometry with generous tire clearance it’s a true go-anywhere machine.
Launched for model year 2020 the Aspero quickly proved itself to be a staff favourite being ridden and enjoyed by several Steed employees, thanks to its versatility and geometry that makes it fast and nimble on all types of terrain. Joined for model year 2021 by the Aspero-5, the two bikes share the same geometry but the 5 brings to the table an even lighter more aerodynamic frame with totally hidden cables so you can ride even harder and faster.
Cervelo knows how to make a beautiful bike that’s for sure, and the Aspero is no exception. With the frame and fork only available in carbon and coming in at 1100g painted, it’s shared across all spec levels, so you can be sure there’s no compromising on frame material. Being available in carbon only means Cervelo have been able to create plenty of room for large gravel tires as well as provide space for a front derailleur enabling plenty of range for off-road adventures. With dropped seatstays and internal cable routing from the top of the down-tube the Aspero is a clean and tidy looking frame with great lines similar to the recently launched Caledonia.
Creating the clearance for the tires and chainrings is a slightly dropped symmetrical chainstay, which to our eye looks better than asymmetrical – possible thanks to Cervelo’s BBRight bottom bracket standard. The seat tube cut-out further provides room for those big tires while preserving the intended seat angle geometry.The headtube has a lovely hourglass type shape to it with a nod towards its aerodynamic properties and Cervelo’s layup means the frame is light and super stiff for great power transfer.
Included is a bolt-on top tube bag for the top tube – perfect for carrying snacks for a those big rides, but also easily removed and replaced with a stealth cover. The frame has mounts for three water bottles meaning you can stay hydrated on those longer rides, but there is little other integrated storage on the bike, Cervelo opting to keep the bike clean, light and fast with just enough for single day rides. The Aspero is all about speed, and don’t get us wrong it’s plenty comfortable too, but it’s no bikepacking mule.
Compatible with mechanical, Di2 and wireless drivetrains, with flat-mount disc brake mounts, 12mm thru axles front and rear and a round 27.2mm dropper-compatible seatpost diameter the Aspero is a thoroughly modern gravel bike with little in the way of proprietary standards. The Aspero-5 is a little different but we’ll talk more about that later on in the article.
The geometry is the Aspero’s ace in the hole – Cervelo have taken a slightly different approach to other bikes in the geometry department. The geometry is road-inspired with a middle of the road head tube angle of 72 degrees and super short 420mm chainstays keeping the handling really tight and snappy. A low-ish BB drop of 76mm paired with a long front end however keeps the bike stable at speed with reach coming in at 397mm in a 56cm, meaning you’ll want to go shorter in the stem, further keeping the handling snappy at lower speeds and making it really nimble on technical sections.
Because Cervelo know that in the gravel world tires are both a massively personal choice and wildly variable in terms of size, the fork has a flippable dropout called “Trail Saver” which allows the rider to adjust the offset on the fork between 46mm and 51mm to suit the tires so that the bike has the same amazing handling qualities no matter the tire size. Seat tube angle also gets slacker as the bike gets bigger to help keep the rear wheel weighted for traction during technical climbs. A stack height of 580mm keeps the front end low for an aggressive aero position.
RIDING THE ASPERO
“Haul Ass, not Cargo” is the Cervelo Aspero’s tagline, and it sure lives up to it. The Cervelo Aspero is one of those bikes that you can hop on and just go. With relatively aggressive geometry for a gravel bike, the Aspero will feel familiar to those coming from a road background. Plenty stiff due to the huge BB and down tube, the Aspero puts down power like nothing else. The steep and tight front end keeps the handling nimble and fast on slow speed trail sections, great for navigating tight corners, while the long front center and low bb keeps it stable at high speeds while being able to carve turns quickly and smoothly without it feeling twitchy.
The Aspero is most at home when being pushed hard on faster trails and roads thanks to its racy geometry. Designed for races like Unbound it’s comfortable on long days in the saddle and likes to go fast for long periods of time. It can fit wide tires to help soak up some of the rough stuff, but the frame certainly leans more towards stiffness than compliance and so is not quite as comfortable as something like a Specialized Diverge.
The Aspero is still a versatile bike though, and when I say that I don’t mean as a tool for bikepacking and commuting, but more as a machine that’s fun on multiple surfaces. The quick handling, stiff frame and light weight make it the best of both worlds between road and gravel, despite the chunky tires and features that make it an ideal gravel bike. Being able to fit up to a 42c tire means incredible grip and the ability to put all your power down on loose surfaces, while the stiff frame and road-inspired geometry means it’s only a wheel/tire swap away from being a capable and fast road bike.
Launched for model year 2021, the Aspero-5 is Cervelo’s top end cream of the crop version of the Aspero. Sharing identical geometry but with numerous improvements in the frame, the Aspero-5 is Cervelo’s premium offering for those wanting something a little more special. Using what they learnt from the original Aspero, Cervelo have gone over the frame with a fine-toothed comb to make small improvements without completely changing the recipe because, let’s face it, the original Aspero is a great bike. Keeping the racy geometry and stiff frame, Cervelo have improved upon two key points – frame layup and cable routing, to create a truly high end frame, available only in complementary high end (electronic) build options.
Since the Aspero is Cervelo’s first entry into the off-road world, they say they took a conservative approach in terms of weight reduction with the first bike, and with the Aspero-5 they went a lot further in reducing weight. By changing the layup and eliminating overlap in layers of carbon as well as using thinner and lighter paint, Cervelo have managed to shave off a claimed 120g of weight for a painted frame, and a further 50-60g for the matt black option.
While keeping essentially the same stunning, and relatively clean and simple styling of the original Aspero frame, Cervelo have also used completely hidden cable routing for the Aspero-5, creating a super sleek look befitting that of a premium bike. The lack of cables likely means a little less drag, but also leaves more room for a bar bag for those bigger missions. While you might be locked into a Cervelo stem thanks to the cable routing, it’s a nice clean affair and includes a tidy out-front accessory mount for garmins, lights etc. that works incredibly well.
As well as improvements to the frame, Cervelo have made some spec improvements on the Aspero-5 that aid in vibration damping to help make it a little more comfortable and counteract the stiff nature of the frame, namely in the seatpost and handlebar. Using Cervelo’s AB09 carbon handlebar and SP19 Carbon seatpost, both items are nicely compliant and make a big difference in comfort over the alloy parts used on the lower end Aspero builds. Worth noting is that the stem is compatible with any other handlebar that has the cables enter the center of the stem, and the frame still uses a round 27.2mm seatpost so riders aren’t locked into just one option, and could even opt to use a dropper post.
The Aspero-5 then is a true quiver-killer of a bike. Incredibly capable off road, compatible with a host of different drivetrain options, dropper posts and wide tires, but easily able to disguise itself as a fast, snappy handling road bike, what more could you wish for?
SPEC AND PRICING
As mentioned earlier, the Aspero is available only with a carbon frame, however models start at a modest $4,000 for the Sram Apex spec level with a 1x drivetrain and Apex hydraulic disc brakes. Moving up there’s a Shimano GRX 2x 600 level build, GRX 810 mechanical and GRX Di2 build complete with carbon Reserve wheels. Topping out the range is a Sram Rival AXS XPLR 1x model with the same Reserve 32mm wheels. Alternatively the Aspero is available as a frame only for $3200.
For those that want something with a high end frame and spec, the Aspero-5 starts at $5,525 including seatpost, handlebar and stem for the fully integrated cockpit experience. Builds start at $8,850 for a Sram Force AXS model with Reserve wheels and go up from there with models including GRX Di2, Force AXS XPLR, Red AXS and topping out with the Red AXS XPLR model heralding Sram’s top of the line gravel groupset.