There’s one particular downside to working in a bike shop that sees a constant coming and going of the latest and greatest bikes, wheels and kit…and that is a certain sense of boredom. Obviously this is a very fortunate position to be in - who doesn’t want to see the latest F12 in the flesh before a lot of people see it out on the roads? - but what I mean is that quite simply, it takes a lot to turn my head at this point. When you see it all everyday, it takes something quite special, unique, or downright good looking to catch my attention. It is at this point that we need to talk about Cervélo’s Aspero gravel bike.
One particular joy of living in West London is the broad range of commuters that also frequent this neck of the woods, many with envy inducing ‘commute’ bikes. The other day I had the pleasure of getting stuck behind a bus in slow moving traffic with someone on a Cervélo Aspero. I’ve written before on the perks of commuting with a gravel bike and currently commute myself on a Cannondale Topstone - but was shocked to see someone commuting on such a high spec gravel bike. His one was kitted out with full carbon finishing kit, some Enve wheels and a Force AXS groupset. At some traffic lights he told me that this was his do-it-all bike, with a couple of wheelset it could accomplish anything. Of course, I told him that it was one of the nicer looking bikes I’d seen in a long time. Its road geometry, aero tubes all complimented perfectly by a set of wider tyres and the stunning red paint job they come with. I was in love.
Fast forward a week and we received a couple of Aspero’s in store that had been on order for 12 weeks and had been delayed by Covid. They didn’t disappoint in the flesh.
Given the sheer abundance of gravel bikes available on the market it becomes increasingly difficult (and important) to differentiate what exactly all these models are offering that their competitors aren’t. So what does Cervélo and the Aspero bring to the table?
For starters the Aspero’s base point when they designed it was to avoid getting into the ‘gimmicky stuff’ and ‘focus on being fast’. This translates to a somewhat utilitarian bike. In terms of mounting points you get three bottle cage mounts and an extra set on the top tube for a bag. Compared to other gravel models this is a pretty lean offering. But Cervélo’s speed oriented design means you avoid the fad of having hundreds of mounts for hypothetical bags you’ll probably never actually fit to the bike and instead focus on getting to the next feed station quicker.
Other features include clearance for 700x42 and 650x49 tyres, with their ‘flip chip’ system allowing for you to adjust the trail of the bike between a longer and a shorter one dependent on your preferences and the amount of width your tyres offer.
Another feature I’m particularly happy to see is the inclusion of a pretty regular (but increasingly rare) non-proprietary 27.2mm seat post and external clamping system. Giving you the ultimate flexibility in terms of personal preference and fitting.
Whilst we’re on the topic of fitting - we need to mention the geometry of this bike. The speed oriented design means the the bike is going to feel like home to most road riders. It’s geo is actually shockingly similar to a Specialized Tarmac meaning that you get an agile and responsive ride as opposed to some of the 18 wheeler, laid back, reclining position of some other gravel bikes. Making it the perfect addition to N+1 and those roadies that are looking to get a gravel bike without having to sacrifice the joy of a snappy and fun road bike.
But where I think the Aspero’s real strength lies is in its possibility to eliminate N+1 and simply replace it with N=1 - the Cervélo Aspero. Given its road-like geometry, adequate yet not silly mounting options, clearance for super wide tyres and ability to change up the wheelbase, personally I see the Aspero as a perfect contender for the do-it-all bike. A set fo 700c deep section wheels with 30mm tyres would allow this bike to keep up with any club ride, and even let you push for a new KOM. Fit it with some 700x38 for shorter gravel rides and commuting, and complete the hat trick with a set of 650x49 tyres for long days out on the trails.
As I said at the beginning of this blog, it takes a lot to catch my attention these days. Brands resort to all sorts of tactics in order to chase new trends both successfully and unsuccessfully, this tendency creates a constant stream of ‘new’ bike to gorp over and obsess about. But with the Aspero I truly believe that Cervélo have hit the nail on the head and provided a functional bike with very few sacrifices.