GRAVEL TEST: CERVELO ASPERO GRX WITH EASTON CARBON WHEELS

By 28 October 20212021 News, Dirty Bowral

Gravel bikes are becoming far faster, slicker and more versatile, with the Aspero from Cervelo no exception as weĀ see here.

It could be described as ā€˜the speed pyramidā€™, with race-level roadies proudly sitting at the top, and all the various incarnations of the humble bike trickling down to that wide base at the bottom.Traditionally gravel bikes have sat well below top-end road bikes so far as performance, efficiency and speed go. But a select few brands have made it their business to change this in recent timesā€”the clear trend being faster, slicker andĀ more refined platforms equally capable on both road and the rough stuff.

ā€˜Haul Ass, Not Cargoā€™ is a catchphrase Canadian manufacturer Cervelo are using to market their specialist gravel model, the Aspero. Yes itā€™s catchy, and yes it seems to ring trueā€”this sky blue Aspero weā€™ve recently been riding has been a blast to ride on a wide range of surfaces, situations and scenarios.

This Bikeā€™s Backstory

The bike we are reviewing today is somewhat of a custom build. You wonā€™t find this build for sale at the local build shop or online, but it is possible to have one built to the same spec. Our test rig started out as an Aspero frameset.

The colour is ā€˜Seabreezeā€™, butĀ weā€™ve been calling it sky blue, and it certainly received aĀ lot of attention during theĀ test period.

The build was assembled by the team at Sola Sport, Aussie distributors of Easton Cycling products and accessories. Basically every component of the test rig was either an Easton or Cervelo product, the exception being the tyres which were 38mm Panaracer GravelKings.

Fitting out the frameset with EC 70-level Easton equipment made a lot of sense in two regards. The first is the fact that Cervelo use a lot of Easton gear as original equipment; the second being the quality, workmanship and strong reputation Easton have earned over the years.

Starting from the cockpit: the test rig was fitted with the EC70 flared gravel bar. At 440mm wide, this bar flares prominently from 4 to 16 degrees and provided comfort and good control on the mixed surfaces we rode. The bars were expertly wrapped in Eastonā€™s MicroFiber tape that gripped as good as it looked and set the bike off very slickly.

Moving rearward, and the build featured an EC90 ally stem. Behind that is Cerveloā€™s custom Aspero A-Series utility (or Bento) bag. This is attached to the top tube via two internally concealed hex screws. Itā€™s a handy storage area for keys, bars, gelsā€¦small go-to items you may need during the day.

2x Drivetrain

With speed, stiffness and efficiency front and centre here, the bike has a lot in common with Cerveloā€™s R series. The Aspero features dropped seatstays that are smoothly shaped and moulded into the sculpted seat tube, the stays flow down to the neatly integrated rear dropouts. Fitted with Shimano Di2 GRX, the flat mount discs integrate perfectly with the frame, while the derailleur wiring is neatly ported into a rubber lug on the drive side.

Wheel-wise, the bike was fitted with Eastonā€™s second-tier EC70AX gravel-specific wheelset. A full review of these featured in the April/May edition of Bicycling Australia and can now be read online at www.bicyclingaustralia.com.au.

Unlike a lot of gravel builds these days, the test bike was assembled with a 2x drivetrain. The crankset is Eastonā€™s top-level carbon EC90SL, while the chainrings were the companies 47/32 combo. In conjunction with the electronic GRX front derailleur, shifting was surprisingly smooth and effortless.

While initially disappointed to be embarking on a gravel sortie with 2x drive, I soon realised the many attributes of the system. Range-wise, with the 34/11T cassette on the back, gearing covered the full gamut required for a 50/50 mix of fast road and gravel, including decent climbs, undulating bitumen and loose, gritty descents.

Bringing it all together, and with a build weight of just over 8kg, this machine truly lives up to its go-fast status. Even with the 38mm Panaracer tyres fitted, the bike felt raring to go and unrestrained on the bitumen. It felt fast and particularly comfortableā€”the geometry coming into play and obviously the expansive tyres and wide rims coming into play.

ā€¦It felt refined, well thought out, and surprisingly capableĀ 
as an all-rounder, and it was a genuine shame to have to hand it backā€¦

Bunnyhop the bitumen and get on the gravel and thatā€™s where this bikeā€™s speed, agility and handling really shine through. While the 2x groupo feels more at home on the road, the tyres, geometry and flared bars significantly enhance the rigā€™s off-road attributes. Combine these factors and the Aspero begins to stand out as a legitimate all-rounder.

We tested the bike with several tyre widths on 700c wheels, the frame and fork designed to accommodate tyres to more than 40mm. Obviously 650b wheels can also be fitted with these taking tyres to at least 47mm andā€”by our measurementsā€”considerably more.

Cervelo have added another unique touch to the Aspero, a ā€˜flip-chipā€™ in the base of the fork. Known as a ā€˜Trail Mixerā€™, this simple addition keeps the trail measurement consistent regardless of 700c or 650b wheels and tyres being used.

The test rig was fitted with a Prologo power-style saddleā€”the centre cut-out and overall dimensions of the saddle made for fast, efficient and comfortable adventure riding.

Overall the bike felt smooth and comfortable on the road and light, fast, sure-footed and controllable on the gravel. It felt refined, well thought out, and surprisingly capable as an all-rounder, and it was a genuine shame to have to hand it back. The Easton components complimented the build perfectly, their subtle matt black finish helping accentuate the blue/white colouring and bring out the best in the bike.

A True All-Rounder

If youā€™re in the market for not only a gravel bike but an all-rounderā€”a commuter, gravel road fun machine or even a lightweight weekend bike-packing platformā€”I wouldnā€™t hesitate in recommending the Aspero.

But thereā€™s just one problemā€¦as this review was being completed Cervelo announced an addition to the Aspero rangeā€”the Aspero 5. So now you may have some thinking, budgeting or explaining to do.

OverallA truly capable all-rounder. Fast on the road and gravel, a versatile bike be it commuting, gravel racing, weekends away or N+1 option.FinishIn a word, stunning. The test rig received numerous positive comments during the test period. Finish is outstanding; the bike looks as good as it performs.

Value For Money

Surprisingly good, with the Aspero starting at around $4000. Various groupset and frame colour options are availableā€”it pays to shop around!

Specifications

Frame and fork:Ā Cervelo AsperoHeadset:Ā FSAWheelset:Ā Easton EC70AXTyres:Ā Panaracer 38mm GravelKing

Crankset:Ā Easton EC90SL with alloy chainrings

Chain:Ā Shimano GRX

Front derailleur:Ā Shimano GRX Di2

Rear Derailleur:Ā Shimano GRX Di2

Cassette:Ā Shimano 34-11

Shifters:Ā Shimano GRX

Handlebar:Ā Easton EC70 AX (alloy)

Stem:Ā Easton EC90AX

Saddle:Ā Prologo NDR with cutout

Seatpost:Ā Easton EC90 alloy