First Look: Cervélo's New ZFS-5 XC Bike

May 11, 2023
by Dario DiGiulio  
photo

Cervélo's lineup has historically been about drop bars, skinny tires, and stiff frames, but with athletes expanding their race interests the Canadian brand has started to push into the mountain bike world. Things are still decidedly lycra-clad, as their second entry into the flat bar world (they launched a hardail last season) comes in the form of an XCO race bike: the ZFS-5.

It's no surprise that the ZFS-5 closely resembles another bike in the Pon holdings catalog, the similarly sporty Santa Cruz Blur. There are a few differences between the two, so let's see what makes Cervélo's race bike unique.

photo
The 100mm variant.
photo
And the 120mm.

The ZFS-5 comes in a 100 or 120mm setup, with geometry differences accompanying the two. The head angle goes from 66.7° to 67.8°, giving the bike a trail or race track focused handling depending on your fork choice. Reach numbers grow by about 20-25mm per size, and stack heights are reasonably high for a bike with racy intentions. Each size gets its own chainstay length, ranging from 432mm on the S to 440mm on the XL.

photo
Looks quick.

Cervélo implemented a flex-stay single pivot design for the frame, which is in keeping with a lot of competitive race bikes these days. Again the design is rather close to that of the Blur, which impressed our team with the climbing traction and overall comfort it was able to deliver in such a light package.

photo
Goes down.
photo
And back up.

Keep an eye out for the ZFS-5 at the first World Cup XCO race in Nove Mesto this weekend, under two Jumbo Visma riders. Piloted by Cyclocross World Champion Fem van Empel and veteran XC champ Milan Vader, the new Cervélo is sure to be moving fast between the tape.



ZFS-5 will be available Summer 2023. Build, pricing, and final spec will be published at that time.




Author Info:
dariodigiulio avatar

Member since Dec 25, 2016
192 articles

112 Comments
  • 79 10
 Is it me or are most XC bikes basically the same now, especially from the road orientated brands, very little creativity it seems.
  • 69 1
 Not much you can do once you pair the weight (strength) out of every tube to the maximum possible. You dont need fancy linkages or axle paths when the efficiency gain is more from being locked out or not moving much.

You used to get differences when companies used pivots near the dropout, but flex stays (something laughed at when cannondale used them in the 00's) are easy to engineer in carbon so there really isnt much you can do without just adding weight back there too.
  • 22 0
 There’s ones like this; there are linkage/vertical shock bikes; there’s the hidden shock Scott thing; and the trek and specialised both have similar but different soft tail type bikes with proprietary shocks. That’s 4 or 5 different designs (depending on how you call the trek/spesh) with no idlers, high pivots, gearboxes or anything like that ever going to appear.
  • 5 6
 @AyJayDoubleyou: Not sure i'd class different shock orientations as different designs, all single pivot, flex stays and a small linkage, sliding shock on the trek a might concede and i know this is just what happens when you optomise for pure xc racing and weight but it just feels like noone is pushing the boat out, not just in suspension design but all the bikes are much of a muchness, probably becuase racers tend to be conservative in fear of being less competitive.
  • 7 33
flag WRCDH (May 11, 2023 at 1:36) (Below Threshold)
 Hmmm, considering that, maybe they should have a spec aggressive XC racing series, kind of like Dallara supplies spec cars to Indy. The technical side of modern XCO bikes (and their ugly skinwall semi-slick tires) doesn’t really attract viewers and fans. I’d rather watch a rider on a spec 29-pound aluminum aggressive XC bike (with custom racing paint for differentiation) with 125/125 travel, Minion Maxx Terra tires, dropper posts, etc.

And if I could race XCO on a mostly-standardized $3500 spec bike with affordable wear parts (maybe Shimano Deore or SLX) and replacement parts (like $50 Maxx Terra tires), I’d totally do it. Maybe some brands could team up...Shimano and Trek might be a good tie-up. As long as they don’t call it a Shitrek =P
  • 17 11
 Well, most enduro bikes look the same now, so.....
  • 23 1
 @matyk: not sure if you're being sarcastic since enduro has a good mix of 4 bar, VPP, single pivot, single pivot with linkage, 6 bar, high pivot, gearboxes, Lal drivetrain, normal derailiers, linkage forks and probably more i've missed.
  • 2 0
 At least we have started to see an increase in suspension travel and some slacker geo in some instances (although also a travel reduction in the case of trek and spez).
  • 8 7
 You could say the same about cookie cutter trail bikes from brands like Trek, Specialized, Giant, etc. I can't really fathom why people buy that stuff when there are so many incredible small brands with unique features such as Zerode, Forbidden, Reeb, Cotic, etc, etc
  • 12 0
 Do you need bedazzles on it or something?
  • 15 2
 @mkul7r4: Trek and Spec lead the industry in R&D, even if that means the products they release seem gimicky, are proprietary, etc. I wouldn't classify them as "cookie cutter". With that said, they definitely design their products to fit a wider range of riders, which likely limits the amount of "unique" features you find on their models.

Using myself as an example, after riding some bikes from smaller brands (I was more worried about looking cool vs. riding what I liked) I still find myself back on a Trek because they are easy to hop on and feel intuitive to ride, and they are easy to set up. In the end, that's what I want for my after work rides - easy to ride and easy to set up. They also have dealers everywhere meaning you have support wherever you travel.

I'm glad the smaller brands exist though because, to your point, they include the unique features that the big brands can't because they know they cater to a smaller, and likely more educated/experienced customer.
  • 17 1
 Manufacturers have XC bikes figured out at this point. Maybe everything gravitates to this type of design because it represents the best compromise between the factors that are important for XC racing.
  • 5 0
 @ZSchnei: I feel the same. I went away from Spesh for 20 years because, well, Spesh - but freaking love my 2021 Enduro.

I still feel like a clone on such a popular bike brand. But it rides.
  • 4 0
 @mkul7r4: i love the small brands, ride one myself (Deviate), but i know why most buy the big brands, its simply the majority choose a strong performance to value ratio, small brand's can't compete with the low-mid range off the shelf bikes, i dare say at the top end price range the more butique brands have a healthy market share compared to the big boys but below that where the majority buy, it's big boy dominance.
  • 1 0
 Yes, definitely a lot of road brands jumping into the XC market. So many MTB brands ignored the whole category for the last few years that there was plenty of opportunity there.
  • 10 0
 The whole point of multilink designs, esp. the short links like VPP and DW, is to get exotic compression ratio curves, and an axle path that starts out with lots of antisquat for good pedaling efficiency, then reigns it in a bit after the sag point to prevent too much chain growth.

When you're dealing with 100mm of travel none of those things matter nearly as much. Just place the single pivot such that theres a good amount of antisquat (chaingrowth) and who cares after that since with only 100mm of travel you're not likely to get "too much" chaingrowth ever. The same for compression curves- 99.99% of the time a small volume air can is going on that thing, so you can basically have a straight, slightly rising curve and you're fine. Exotic curves don't really help with such short travel anyways.
  • 5 0
 @mkul7r4: those are pretty bad examples as the trail bikes of Trek, Specialized and Giant all look completely different
  • 1 0
 @zephxiii: I don't need any bedazzles, but once again, a new frame from an Italian designer ought to look better than that dog's dinner of yellow and black. Good Jeebuz!
  • 2 0
 @RayDolor: I've got a bright yellow Foil like that and quite love it. Probably wouldn't on a mtb though. Still better than white which is my most hated bike color (owning 3 of em).
  • 1 0
 @RayDolor: it’s just following the jumbo-visma livery. Brand brand brand.
  • 1 0
 @AyJayDoubleyou: moving the shock position doesn't change the design. Still a link is driven single pivot
  • 1 0
 @dickyelsdon: This is definitely not true. These bikes change over time, and XC bikes from 5 and 10 years ago don't look the same as now. If there was "not much you can do" then bikes from back then would still look relatively similar, yet they don't because there is absolutely things that can be done.
  • 1 0
 @mkul7r4: One word: Quality
  • 2 0
 @maglor: This isn't necessarily true. I got my Cotic FlareMax frameset for around $2k with shock, headset, frame bag, and other extras too. DTC brands like YT, Fezzari, Canyon, Intense, etc. are competing handily for value against big brands. I will tip my hat to the recent Specialized sales though, those were great.
  • 1 0
 @mkul7r4: i get your point and there are definitely small brands doing great value (Airdrop and Bird in the UK spring to mind) but for your 2k Cotic frame you can get a full bike like a stumpjumper from the big brands, not a great spec at that price but its better than frame only with no spec, i would also argue the DTC like YT, Canyon, Commencal etc are almost one of the big boys at this stage, they are certainly high volume enough to offer value compared to what i would call a small brand that isn't a "cookie cutter" bike as you said.
  • 28 1
 Nice SantaVelo or nice CerCruz
  • 10 0
 The question is if it's basically just a blur why not just buy a blur? I can't see a Cervelo being much cheaper than the Santa Cruz
  • 2 0
 @briain: maybe that's the point?
  • 3 0
 @hardtailpunter: Why release it then? Just put the riders on a Santa Cruz and be done with it. At least in the 90s and 00s the rebranded intense bikes. The companies like Haro and muddy fox were selling different bikes
  • 5 0
 @briain: Maybe this will be the 2024 Blur, or the maybe Blur will be dropped and XC stuff moved over to Cervelo.
  • 6 0
 @briain: like Pon, it's larger, more epic, and dubiously internally differentiated. How do you like your head tube junction and seatstay shaping?

@maglor: wait until you discover road bikes
  • 1 0
 @dickyelsdon: seems more likely. We're definitely moving to a cost cutting economy
  • 7 1
 @briain: brand loyalty in the roadie crowd is crazy.
  • 8 0
 @briain: The closer you look the more differences you can spot. In detail, the frame is quite different. It's not just a rebranded Blur.

But I get what you're saying. Why even go through the effort of creating a new frame if it ends up being almost the exact same thing. Especially since that product manager from Santa Cruz who was on the podcast recently said that the engineers of all the PON brands consult each other anyways.
  • 6 0
 Scratch the surface of supply chains and you’ll realize how little difference there is between “choices” you have as a consumer for almost every product you buy.
  • 2 0
 @Muscovir: it’s a good way to test ideas for the next frame design for a sister brand
  • 1 0
 I didn't realize how close this is to the Blur until viewing them side by side. Wow, ya I'm guessing at a minimum CAD files were shared for this. That doesn't leave much room for development to significantly differentiate the two bikes, other than the logo pained on it.
  • 1 1
 So true. The more I look at it the more identical the two bikes seem. Same look same geometry.
  • 1 0
 Clearly a JuliSantaVelo WildBlurryZee
  • 4 0
 @briain: These riders are in the Jumbo-Visma team. Cervelo is the brand that sponsors Jumbo-Visma. And roadies who had gravel bikes as a gateway drug and want to start mountain biking are more likely to buy Cervelo (a brand they know) than Santa Cruz.

Pon's general stategy when buying brands seems to be to keep them doing what they do best and not interfere too much. Otherwise Santa Cruz would have been renamed to Gazelle years ago :-)
  • 2 0
 @ak-77: Not sure what Cervelo's reputation is but for me I would buy a santa cruz because of their customer service and dealer network. It seems to be what they've built themselves around. Surely if you're buying something at this level you go with the company with the renowned service
  • 20 3
 I initially saw 2 water bottle mounts, and considered putting the 120 version on my list for a potential next bike. Then I saw the the headset cable routing. Hard pass. No reason to even read other reviews on it now.
  • 8 1
 It's literally just a SC Blur (or Juliana Wilder) frame with cable tourism. If you like the look of this otherwise, get yourself a Blur/Wilder and enjoy everything good about this with proper cable routing.

Edit: on second read, I guess the geo is a bit longer and steeper? I'm trying to think of ways that could have been done in the same moulds, because this bike looks EXACTLY like the Blur/Wilder down to the finest details. I can't imagine that they'd make new moulds just to make a bike that looks precisely like the bike it's based on under a different label.
  • 3 1
 Scratch my edit above. Looking at the geo numbers more carefully, the differences are way smaller than I thought they'd be. They clearly just modified the linkage a bit or used a shock with a different eye-to-eye.
  • 4 1
 @big-red: I work at a Santa Cruz/Cervelo dealer, and the bikes are super similar for sure, but they aren’t out of the same mold. Cervelo is using a different mold for the frame of its FS than from Santa Cruz. But this bike and the Blur do share a ton of parts and design features.
  • 1 0
 @big-red: The linkage looks the same to me, but it must be a different frame mould since the blur has routing ports and this doesn't.
  • 8 0
 @big-red: My take is new mold. Molds are expensive (though it's all relative), but not compared to a team of engineers for 1-2 years.They probably skipped 60+% of the engineering hours by using a current or previous Blur CAD model, tweaked it a bit, then went straight to cutting the molds. When you don't have to design from scratch, a model like this can be done pretty cheap.

I also think that this isn't targeted at us mountain bike crowd, it's recognized most of us will just buy the Blur (unless you're a masochist who hates your mechanic, and yes you definitely aren't doing the wrenching yourself, and wants headset cable routing). The target is Gary who's been riding a Cervelo since the 90's and has heard how much fun his riding buddies are having on this legendary "singletrack" all without the risk of getting hit by a bro texting on his phone with his car. He walks into his road loving bike shop and says tell me about these here mountain bikes I keep hearing about, and boom $10k Cervelo out the door. He's probably never heard of Santa Cruz the bike brand.
  • 1 0
 Did you really expect anything other than headset routing from a road bike company?
  • 1 0
 @isaacb92: I'm honestly surprised. The geo is so very similar across the board that it really does seem like it could have been the result of a slightly different linkage or shock. And I figured that the cable porting could have been edited out of the construction process in the same mould, but I'm no expert on CF fabrication. Plus looking more carefully, it would appear that the Cervelo has lost the asymmetric chainstays of the Blur. Thanks for the info.
  • 1 0
 @big-red: you and your (neg)proppers are literally blind--between the oval-square downtube, the curve in the seatstays just aft of the rocker, and the oversize forward shock mount and headtube upper, it's painfully obvious that there are two new moulds per size here, assuming the subframe comes from a single mould. Two criticisms of Blur are hopefully addressed: too deflectable and not a great descender

@tgent: I'm a Cruz rider, but pending a look inside the OS headtube upper, would prefer this
  • 1 0
 @tgent: Well if you were pretty set on a blur but your LBS is a cervelo dealer, or in my case I work at a Cervelo dealer but I would like a Blur, but this will suffice just fine. I think BMC, Pinarello, and Cervelo all having mountain bikes that are XC focused has to do with some UCI road cyclists shifting to XC. Who knows who its made for but the Yeti owning dentists need a race bike I guess.
  • 15 2
 Nay, I'm waiting for Pinarello..
  • 13 0
 @Cabin: You've got me on the ropes here
  • 10 1
 If it doesn't have 3 proprietary integrated water bottles, headset cable tourism and brake hoses run through the bars I'm not interested.
  • 8 0
 I'm also going to need batteries for shifting, my dropper, suspension lockout and cleat release.
  • 3 0
 @PhillipJ: It'll be fun the cleat release AND boa release using the same battery.
  • 8 0
 I like the way you can't read the geo charts and if you click the picture they are private.
  • 4 0
 this is the rick roll of geo charts
  • 1 0
 Almost like they don’t want us to compare the geo with the santa cruz blur.
  • 8 0
 Bcj is going to love this Sir Velo
  • 5 0
 At least it’s not a Tr*k
  • 7 0
 Inside Cervelo headquarters: “Ok picture this, it’s a Blur, but with headset cable routing”
  • 3 0
 ew i didn't even notice the headset routing. stahp.
  • 3 0
 Could someone explain why downtubes are shaped like field hockey sticks at the BB? Is it just for water bottle clearance? Seems a straight line would be lighter, stronger, stiffer, cheaper, (better looking).

I'm curious to see how Fem carries over her cyclocross fitness to MTB, considering the ~3 month break from racing.
  • 7 0
 It's for dual wielding bottles, which is a must in XC.
  • 5 0
 These shapes are just as common on most full suspension bikes where they've been trying hard to get a bottle in the front triangle, isn't it? It isn't only on XC bikes these days.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: Yea. I thought it was interesting that the 2023 Yeti's were shown to have a less kinked downtube, and promoted it as a 'feature'. The increased clearance could be something riders wanted.

Quite rare to see a straight downtube, only Mondraker and Antidote come to mind.
  • 3 0
 @chaoscacca: Mainly because of people calling for bottles inside the front triangle. The first Kona Process bikes did have straight downtubes, but people wanted bottles so they designed the hockeystick. Steel frames like Cotic and Starling have the straight downtube too and choose for mounting the bottle higher up. Longer frames (like Mondraker had them already) allow for that. The crowd designed Alutech ICB2.0 also didn't have room, simply because the room for a bottle was lower on the peoples wishlist than the suspension design and the low top tube.

I just visually like straight downtubes. I'm not sure whether these curves really get in the way. Often you already have one foot forwards so I suppose that one still takes the hit before the downtube does.
  • 3 0
 in the xc bike check video the Mondraker really stands out with its dead straight downtube. but then they hockey stick'd the top tube Big Grin
  • 1 0
 For smaller sized bikes a kink in the lower DT helps with water bottle clearance, but as you go up in sizes there quickly becomes enough space for one or two water bottles even with a straight DT. The suspension layout makes a big difference here: A vertical shock with a piggy back often needs a kinked DT for shock clearance and water bottle clearance, but with a TT mounted shock there is way more room in the front triangle for water bottles. One problem does sometimes start to become apparent with a straight DT- there is too much hollow volume (cross section is too large) at the BB which can lead to weird noises as the frame flexes and pumps air. This comes about because the junction of the ST and DT is moved forward and up from the BB due to the sharp angle the tubes join at.
  • 8 0
 Pretty BLURred lines
  • 7 0
 you know you want it
  • 3 0
 Someone please google "Trek Superfly 100" and tell me how this isn't the same bike, except for the flex-stay. The seat tube has the same curve. Same linkage and shock placement. Even the headtube junction is similar.
  • 3 0
 So interesting how geo changes. I have a 2015 trail bike 140mm travel. Geo that was new then pretty much what this geo is. So by today standard I just have a long travel heavy xc bike
  • 4 2
 I don't want to start an "us vs them" thing but in my area I've definitely noticed an increasing trend of more roadies getting into mountain biking. They stick out like a sore thumb - brand new carbon whippet dripping in kashima, full lycra, tiny helmet, never keep to the right when passing on two-way singletrack, dour face, never say hi.

This is the bike for them.
  • 4 0
 Looks like a sess....BLUR
  • 1 0
 It's good to see now that serious XC bikes are full suspension. This promotes more technical courses which in turn promotes more full suspension bikes - until we get - Enduro bikes. Nah, just dreaming.
  • 1 1
 The closer you look, the more it actually starts to look like an evolution and not a copy of the Santa Cruz Blur. The frame is slightly different in shape and profile in almost all regards. The geometry is slightly different too. The reach appears to be similar, but the stack is slightly higher, the head tube angle appears to be slacker and the seat tube angle slightly steeper. And there obviously is the dreaded headset cable routing now.
  • 3 0
 Stem needs more drop, I would mount it under the head tube for a more aggressive position on the bike.
  • 4 0
 The dirt roadies are coming!
  • 3 0
 Am I the only one who is annoyed by the fact Cervelo is a Canadian brand and not Italian?
  • 3 1
 @93EXCivic: What's annoying about that? Velo is a French word. The brand was started by a team that was 50% Dutch, and has been owned by a Dutch company for over a decade. Why do you want it to be Italian? Because of the name? Do you feel similar about DeVinci? Or any of the pseudo-Italian names in this list: cyclingmagazine.ca/sections/gear-reviews/bikesframes/canadian-bicycle-brands
  • 1 1
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  • 1 2
 I race XC but no worldcup and I'd like to understand with I would need a 68 ha and a long slammed stem. I can go around any tight switchback fine and climb anything steep with a 50mm stem and a 64 or 66max ha. The same reason to go from 71 to 68 are still valid today so why stop half-way??
  • 4 3
 Why stop at 64 and 50mm? Someone can climb well at 61 with a 35mm stem. There are plenty of reasons to ride a longer stem and steeper head tube for an aggressive/comfortable xc position.
  • 1 0
 even w/ a possible linkage swap, bb drop can't be the same w/ the taller 120 fork as the 100mm offering
  • 1 0
 Why do the geometry photos come up as "Photo is private" when you click on them?
  • 2 1
 So I block XC content and this article is listed under XC bikes... yet here it is.
  • 8 0
 XC is too awesome to be blocked.
  • 2 0
 That cable is trying so hard to go through that headset, like unnaturally
  • 2 0
 Can't wait for Hambini to review this.
  • 1 0
 Fat bike for the win in X-C
  • 1 0
 would make nice jibly steed downsized, 27 wheels and a pike
  • 1 0
 Blur 4.C with the Cervelo surcharge.
  • 1 0
 I was today years old when I learned that Cervelo is Canadian, not Italian
  • 1 0
 Well they were bought by PON and moved to California, but Canadian roots. Old frames had vroomen-white design on the chain stay. Vroomen moved to do gravel etc with Open and 3T. White, I dunno.
  • 1 0
 Hmm. Looks Like Sessvelo.
  • 1 0
 Tyre logos don’t line up. Complete disaster.
  • 1 0
 Sweet Cervelo Cruz Blur you got there!
  • 2 5
 This looks nothing like a Blur. Maybe the swing link. Rear triangle and suspension design is totally different The front triangle is different. Before commenting on "This looks like a [whatever]", take a look at both bikes.
  • 5 0
 You might be looking at the old Blur. Other than the lack of proper cable routing, this IS the same bike as the 2021+ SC Blur. Like not similar, but actually the same moulds from the looks of it.

Edit: maybe not the same moulds as the geo is a bit different, but I'm wondering if they found a way to modify the geo using modified linkages/headsets since the frame itself looks the same as the Blur/Wilder down the the finest details.
  • 1 0
 Don’t see anyone mentioning the chain stays. As a tall rider who has been looking for an xc bike with longer stays, pretty interested in this bike. Not many (any?) other seriously light race bikes with stays that long in an XL frame that I’ve been able to find. Headset routing blows but probably not a deal breaker for me.
  • 1 0
 @Phat-Tony: I think the Blur would still suit your needs just as well. It's a bit hard to translate 1:1 since the Cervelo chart above lists chainstay length (measured in line from the BB to the rear axle) while the SC Blur chart lists Rear Centre (measured horizontally from the BB to the rear axle) instead. But when you compare them, they both get longer with each size increase, and without doing the math, I'd bet that the the 440mm chainstay on the Cervelo would give you very very close to (if not exactly) a 437.3/438.3mm rear centre, as the Blur provides.

Plus you get proper cable routing and a slightly slacker headset that's going to give more stability at speed but won't really give up any low-speed handling in real-world use.
  • 2 0
 @big-red: You might be right. I’ll have to measure the blur as my brother in law has one. I did get a chance to ride the blur and it does ride nice!
  • 2 0
 I WAS WRONG! EGG ON MY FACE! Bloody first Blur that came up was the old one. Holy shit this looks just like the Blur!
  • 1 0
 I sell both brands at my shop.
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: We can never forgive you for this sin against the bicycling gods. You are forever shunned. SHUNNED!
  • 2 0
 @big-red: It is what I deserve.
  • 1 0
 Looks great
  • 1 1
 457 reach in Large on the 120mm. Hmm
  • 1 0
 XC is so hot right now







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