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Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 2021

For our Fast Bike Friday feature today we’re casting our eyes over a real gravel speed-machine – the Cervelo Aspero Apex 1. It’s clear from the get-go that this is not a bike that’s been built to fit the utilitarian, bike-packing mould; this gravel bike is unapologetically built for speed and performance over mixed terrain and riding surfaces. As Cervelo themselves put it very succinctly in their own marketing spiel, the Aspero is meant to ‘HAUL ASS, NOT CARGO’.

As time goes on and the gravel bike cycling discipline begins to mature we’re seeing it go off of in a number of different directions. It’s a trend that mirrors how mountain biking has developed; way back, over 30 years ago all mountain bikes were pretty much the same and everyone rode them in a similar way. Fast forward to the present day and the term ‘mountain bike’ covers everything from lightweight carbon cross-country hardtails, versatile full-suspension trail bikes, longer-travel Enduro bikes and full-on 200mm-travel downhill full-suspension bikes; there’s a multitude of rider types all orbiting in their own individual tribes under the umbrella term ‘mountain biking’.

What this got to do with the Aspero? Well, we’re seeing a very similar scenario with gravel bikes now. As we’ve highlighted before in our regular Fast Bike Friday feature, there is now a veritable sea of gravel bikes out there, with an ever-growing range of options when it comes to exactly what type of gravel riding you want to do. When you start looking in more depth at the type of gravel bikes currently on offer you soon discover that there are ‘sub-types’ within the gravel bike genre – super-lightweight aero race machines, tough utilitarian bike-packing machines, affordable alloy bikes with geometries that are closer to more traditional road bikes, playful burly options with 650b wheels & dropper posts and carbon gravel bikes with cleverly engineered technology designed to isolate you from rough terrain.

The Cervelo Aspero is for the rider who enjoys the versatility of a gravel bike and the freedom to explore remote, unpredictable terrain but who wants to really push the limits of what’s possible in terms of speed, performance and efficiency off-road; it’s for gravel riders who obsess over their average speed on every ride and feel short-changed if they don’t finish their ride with at least one new Strava K.O.M. The Aspero is versatile too; road sections don’t feel much slower than if you were riding your aero road bike and alternatively when you point it off-road it feels stable, predictable and confidence-inspiring, encouraging you to carry-over all that speed directly from the road onto the trails.

The Cervelo Aspero 1 is unapologetically built for speed and performance over mixed terrain…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 2021

The Aspero chassis consists of a superlight, stiff, responsive carbon fibre frame and fork. It’s worth pointing out that stiff and responsive doesn’t mean uncomfortable though; the engineers at Cervelo have cleverly constructed a frame and fork that features a good amount of compliance (flex to you and me) in the right places so that you don’t feel completely beaten up at the end of a particularly long ride on gravel tracks and challenging trails. That compliance comes from some very sophisticated carbon layup during construction as well as from the tube-profiling and geometry of the frame. All that speed and performance comes from the large, exceptionally stiff bottom bracket area which helps transfer all your pedaling input through to the rear wheel. Likewise a fat head tube and large junction into the boxy downtube helps to keep the Aspero’s steering and general handling sharp and precise.

The Cervelo Aspero’s large head tube helps to keep steering sharp and precise… 

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

Another feather in the Aspero’s cap is its versatility when it comes to general set-up, wheel size and geometry. The carbon fork features a flip-chip at the axle allowing you to change from 700c wheel size to 650B; Cervelo’s ‘Trail Mixer’ flip-chip helps to keep the bike’s trail measurement consistent regardless of which wheel size you run which in turn keeps the bike’s handling characteristics the same. The Aspero has been engineered to fit 700c wheels with tyres up to 42mm wide and 650B wheels with 49mm wide tyres comfortably, so depending on the type of terrain you ride and expect to race on you’ll be able to set up your Aspero exactly as you like it.

A boxy downtube means the Aspero frame is super-stiff and responsive…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

The Aspero Apex 1 is full of nice little design details including this very-welcome downtube protector…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

As the product name suggests the Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 features SRAM’s Apex 1 groupset consisting of a simple, efficient single-ring drivetrain and powerful hydraulic brakes. We’re big fans of a 1X drivetrain on a bike such as this because of their simplicity and lighter weight; with the front derailleur eliminated there’s less moving parts and less to go wrong in the demanding conditions encountered when riding off-road. A single-chainring drivetrain needs to be spec’d with a user-friendly range of gears which is broad enough to provide low enough gears to cope with steep, loose gravel climbs and high enough to help you ride efficiently on the fast, smooth tarmac road sections of your ride. Thankfully the Aspero Apex 1 features a 40T chainring matched with a wide-ratio 11-42T cassette giving you all the gears you’ll need to excel on any terrain and on any gradient.

Durable, simple to use and with all the gear ratios you’ll need – the SRAM Apex 1 groupset meets the brief…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

SRAM’s 11-speed Apex 1 rear derailleur features a clutch and specially profiled jockey wheels to help keep the chain secure…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

A simple 40T single chainring with narrow/wide profiled tooth profiles works efficiently with no risk of unshipping the chain…  

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

SRAM Apex 1 mechanical gear shifters with hydraulic brakes are easy and intuitive to use… 

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

A lightweight, super-fast gravel bike like the Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 is bound to gain speed quickly and carry you into more technically-demanding terrain at full-chat. To help scrub speed off quickly and effectively Cervelo have spec’d powerful SRAM Apex HRD hydraulic brake calipers matched up with 160mm SRAM CentreLine disc rotors. These flat-mount brakes sit neatly in the rear of the frame and on the back of the front fork providing consistent, easy to modulate braking in all riding conditions and on all terrains. The Apex hydraulic brake levers are popular within cyclocross and gravel circles thanks to their tall profile; the hoods of these levers are taller than on a conventional lever to accommodate a hydraulic master cylinder but give the added advantage of providing a more secure hand position when riding off-road on the hoods.

SRAM Apex HRD hydraulic brake calipers provide powerful, consistent braking in all conditions…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

The Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 comes with 700c diameter wheels as standard rather than 650B; the Alexrims Boondocks-7D wheelset features 28 spokes in the front and rear with tubeless-ready rims. To strike that magic balance between being fast-rolling and efficient, providing ample amounts of grip on loose, technical terrain Cervelo have fitted a pair of Panaracer Gravel King SK Sport folding gravel tyres; at 38mm wide they’re well-suited to the demands of riding rough terrain, allowing you to run lower tyre pressures (particularly if you set them up tubeless). The tread pattern down the centre of the tyre is minimal to help you hold your speed without working against it on smooth tarmac stretches; alternatively, when you’re riding on looser off-road terrain and taking tight turns the more aggressive side knobs will dig in and keep you in control.

The Alexrims Boondocks-7D is a fast, lightweight but durable wheelset…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

The Panaracer Gravel King tyres feature a fast-rolling tread pattern down the centre and a more aggressive tread pattern on the outer edges for enhanced grip off-road…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

There’s bags of clearance between tyres and frame & fork so there’s no concern about taking on muddy rides…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

The finishing kit on the Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 includes a pair of lightweight alloy gravel-specific handlebars with a small amount of flare on the drops portion of the bar to help increase control and comfort when you’re riding through technical off-road terrain. The Easton EA50 AX handlebar features a 16° flare, nothing too excessive like you might see on gravel bikes that are more focused on rowdy, aggressive trail riding; this handlebar with its subtle 16° flare reflects Cervelo’s focus on performance and speed rather than playful agility.

Easton EA50 AX handlebars feature a subtle 16° flare for enhanced control without being over the top…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

If you’re looking for a high-performing gravel bike that’s capable of putting out fast times in training and competition then the Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 is a great option. This lightweight, super-stiff, responsive carbon gravel bike is built for speed; on rides that include stretches of smooth tarmac as well as loose gravel and unpredictable trails you’ll find that the Aspero will get you from A to B with a faster overall time than perhaps a gravel bike that is built to be a little more utilitarian in nature. As the gravel scene continues to grow and more an more cyclists are drawn to the discipline we see riders coming over from the road and cyclists coming over from mountain biking; it’s fair to say the Cervelo Aspero will probably appeal more to road cyclists who are driven by hitting performance targets and the addictive need for speed.

If you’ve got a need for speed when you’re riding off-road then the Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 is definitely up for the job…

Cervelo Aspero Apex 1

The Cervelo Aspero Apex 1 is available in-store and online now.

Full Specification:

  • Frame: Cervelo All-Carbon Modular Monocoque
  • Fork: Cervelo All-Carbon, Tapered Aspero Fork with TrailMixer Adjustable Trail
  • Shifters: SRAM Apex 1 HRD, 11 spd
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM Apex 1
  • Cassette : SRAM PG-1130, 11 spd, 11-42
  • Chainset: SRAM Apex 1 40T
  • Brakes: SRAM Apex HRD, SRAM CenterLine 160mm
  • Wheelset: Alexrims Boondocks-7D, 28h (F), 28h (R), 24mm IW, Center-Lock, Tubeless Ready
  • Front Tyre: Panaracer Gravel King SK Sport Folding 700×38 60tpi
  • Rear Tyre: Panaracer Gravel King SK Sport Folding 700×38 60tpi
  • Stem: Easton EA50 Alloy
  • Handlebar: Easton EA50 AX Alloy
  • Seat Post: Easton EA50 Alloy
  • Saddle: Cervelo Road Saddle


Written by Johnny Dodgin

Photos by James Vincent


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