Cervelo S5 vs SL7 Sworks Tarmac

I’ve got the opportunity to either replace my current body style S5 with a new frame (old one was damaged) or move the whole Ultegra Di2 build to an SL7 frameset. It seems the S5 is still more aero than Tarmac, and maybe even more so because mine would have my DT Swiss 48s and not the Rapides, which contribute to the Tarmac’s aeroness.

I love the look of the S5, but I’m not crazy about the color of frame I could get my hands on. Tarmac looks pretty run of the mill to me, although the paint options are nice. I’m also really tempted by the 800g frameset and what I’ve heard is a great riding/racing bike. Tour Magazine says that the S5 is 4 watts less to go 45kph, so the SL7 is pretty damn aero. Adding in the threaded BB, probably higher resale, and maybe 2 pounds at the high end less wait, what do you think?

I’d choose based on geometry


Yeah, geometry is virtually the same.

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If geometry is the same, go with the one that looks better. In my opinion you ride faster on a bike you enjoy like being on if the only difference between 2 bikes is cosmetic.

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All about the looks at this stage. I’d change bike simply for a new experience.

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Is resale value a consideration for you? If it is, I think the Tarmac SL7 would be much easier to resell in the future.

secondly, that threaded bb is huge plus as its pretty easy to service.

as for aero watts, if you are buying an aero frame that was launched either this year or the last, chances are that 4 - 5 watts is something you won’t be able to feel. they are so closely matched so they will probably feel just as fast whichever way you go.

I’ve met many people who come up with lots of facts and data on a bike but when they actually view the bike in the shop, they kinda know if they want it or not there and then. so pick the bike that just by looking at it makes you want to ride the shit out of it.

hope it helps


Those last two comments are really helpful. Probably 4w in aero is not going to resonate much, if you accept that the SL7 really is aero fast. Only concern there is how much is to do with the ridiculous Rapide wheels, which I won’t have. Resale is another one that I’ve thought about too. Seems like opinion is really divided on the S5, so could suffer there.

The point about switching just to try something new is really strong too. No matter what, the SL7 is not going to suck, and i defo won’t lose races because of the change. It could be seen as an opportunity to try something new where I wouldn’t have normally done otherwise.

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Unfortunately, I’ll be lucky to get my paws on the frameset (I think I’ve found one) and certainly won’t be able to ride it. I looked at a 54 Aethos and a 56 Tarmac; 54 was right and 56 was wrong.

I won’t be able to experience the vaunted Tarmac ride until I’m sat on my own potential new bike.


For what it’s worth, I have the Rapide CLXs, only got them last month as an upgrade for the S Works SL6, which I usually ride on Mavic Cosmic SL 40 (something like that forget the exact name).

Funnily enough I went from last gen S5, to the S Works SL6. Same journey you’re considering but older gen.

From my limited experience - the Rapides genuinely do punch above their weight. They’re bizarrely stable. I don’t get this part, it still pains me to understand how a large surface like a deep front wheel can be stable in a crosswind. Before I bought them I had riders telling me the same thing, but I figured it was mostly hot air.

I bought them due to their depth v weight, think they’re best on market (apart from tubulars), but the stability really is legit. I ride in coastal windy conditions and country lanes with heavy gusts breaking through gates on downhills etc, it can be properly nasty out there, but these things take the drama out of it.

In terms of out and out speed in a straight line, they’re like a Zipp 404 I’d say, which is one of my fav all time straight line speed wheel sets (ran them in tubular though). But the 404s are horrible in winds compared to the Rapide CLXs. Totally different league. 404s might still be a sec or two faster in a straight line TT (maybe not, I don’t know), but over a windy rolling course with fast sections the Rapides will be much faster. I can bomb down stretches on these things that I definitely couldn’t on 404s. Weight wise the Rapide CLX’s are much lighter than current 404 clinchers, maybe 200 to 300g off the top of my head. Big deal now when you’re running disc brakes - so much harder getting a lighter bike on deep sections.

Absolute murder trying to get clinchers off the Rapides though, be warned! Only tried Corsa G2+ clinchers so far, but they are not puncture friendly. Praying they stretch before next puncture and they get easier. Even getting the bead into the channel needed brute strength. Can’t see it happening in a bad day with frozen fingers.

Wouldn’t be fair for me to compare old S5 to SL6. I went from rim brakes to disc brakes, and tubulars for fast wheels to clinchers again. Weight wise even the Tarmac is supposed to be a climbers bike or all rounder, I haven’t got the weight down to the S5.

SL6 is so much nicer to climb on out of the saddle and it corners like nothing I’ve been on before. Sometimes I wonder if it could u-turn at 50mph. It is a touch twitchy. I’m well used to it by now, but it’s always there. Only regret is not sizing down on the Tarmac like I did with the S5. 178cm on a 56cm SL6. Feels a bit normish, but at least my feet don’t hit the front wheel now.

Huge Cervelo fan, took a month on the SL6 but it turned me to the dark side. Would be very hard for me to move off from the S Works brand now. The Specialized customer service in the UK is ridiculously good too. I have had issues, and Spesh were on it each time (cracked Aerofly II bars, seat spot slipping etc - new parts out and no nonsense either).

Wall of text but might be something in there that helps. I’d love a go on your S5D by the way. Most exotic race bike on the market and I know a rider who had my version and yours and he says yours is a huge step up in every way. He’s also moved onto the SL7 recently though.


Ah Shrike, thanks for all of that. It’s really helpful. I’m up in Edinburgh.

As I say, I love the look and the feel of the new S5, but I’m made to believe (and you’re seeming to back this up) that the SL7 would feel even better. I guess I’m hung up on the performance, because that’s what this bike is about for me; races and chaingangs.

I’m 179 and the 56 felt way big just sitting on it, to the point that I didn’t really feel I’d even need to roll it around. I’d of course rather have less spacers, but I’d take spacers -and the chance of pulling them later- over having to go to anything less than a 100mm stem.

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For me the deciding factor would be that with the SL7 and it’s clearance I could have a second set of wheels with some fast gravel tires on and switch to those for more adventure riding/commuting, much more versatile. The S5 is more customisable from a fit perspective though.

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Figured I should reply here. I did ultimately go with the S-Works SL7. It’ll be that frame with Aerofly IIs built up with the DT Swiss 1450s and Ultegra Di2 from my S5. Ultimately decided it would be close to as aero and also something fun and new to ride and race on. Especially for those big summer rides or trips abroad, I thought it might be a better bike too.

It’ll be a bit of niggle thinking that the S5 was more aero, and more still if I got rid of the RAT axles and even better wheels, but hey, new bike day!


Can safely say I love my SL7 and hope you do too :grinning: can’t beat new bike day. Welcome to the club!

For anyone facing the same “problem”, I’d advise to go for the SL7, too. I own a previous gen S5 and although all in all I love it, I have a lot of problems with creaks (probably from the BB) and other niggles. Can’t recommend Cervelo… :pensive:.

I’m 180cm and have a current gen S5 in 56cm. It replaced an SL4, which I loved. I was suckered by the looks of the S5 in the shop, I was only in there to get some socks. Luckily it rides like a dream and still looks the nuts - I have lost count of comments saying the same. It tracks a lot better than an S3 I had c.10 years ago and seems quick. The complexity of the headset/bars set up would put me off trying to do a diy build - it is very very cramped under there.

I’ve got a current generation Cervelo S5, and have been lucky enough to put a couple of hundred miles on the SL7 as well. Both with ultra di2 and the same wheels. As a TL:DR - both are fantastic bikes with little between them, but I marginally prefer the S5

Firstly, there is no comparison between the previous generation cervelo s5 and the current generation. The old one (for me) felt horrible, creaked massively, and certainly wasn’t a looker. My current one feels (to me) amazing to ride, has been completely creak free (done just over 8k miles on it so far), and looks great…

The SL7 is lovely. You won’t be disappointed if you go for it. It is fast, light, relatively comfortable, and basically does everything well. Personally, I don’t think it feels quite as nice to ride as the S5 for how I ride, but this is going to be very individual. The SL7 is lighter, but I don’t really feel much of a difference in the weight of the two bikes in riding. I did the same 100km long hilly (1500m elevation, generally short sharp climbs with nasty descents) loop 4 times on each bike, and there was very little difference between the two bikes once I took weather conditions into account. There’s really not much in it. I was, on average, very slightly faster on the S5, but I think that was probably down to the fit on it being perfect for me, whereas there was probably a little bit of room for dialling in the SL7 position (and the test SL7 had 170mm cranks rather than my preferred 165mm cranks).

I much prefer the look of the S5, but I understand that the V shaped stem aesthetic is a bit divisive. That said, the SL7 is still a very good looking bike.

The one thing I hate about the Cervelo S5 is that the front end is completely beyond me to work on myself. Looks great, is super aero, but is a total nightmare for the home mechanic. Happily I’ve not had any issues and the mechanic at my local bike shop is really happy with doing anything necessary on it.
The SL7 is a bit easier for the home mechanic.


Thanks Paul. I might have gotten another S5 if I there was one that wasn’t purple available in any reasonable timeframe. I do love the exotic look of the S5. A lot is made of the front end being difficult to work with, but on the flip side once you cut the steerer on a standard setup, you’re stuck. On the S5 you can always add/subtract as many spacers as you want.

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There it is with Ultegra trim and the DT Swiss wheels from my S5. I’ll probably look for some Hunt or Scribe wheels as I don’t actually have a 2nd set of road disc wheels now. Stack height aligns with my training bike, so I’ll probably go ahead and chop the steerer and put the aero cap on. Would seem wrong not to, even though it’s tough to commit.


Damn fine looking bike.
If you’re looking at Hunt and Scribe for a second set of wheels, I’d take a look at Parcour.cc as well - their Strade wheels are lovely

Love it, this thing will look mean if you slam it!

Congrats Jesse, hope you get on with it! Would love a comparison v the S5D once you get some miles in!

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