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My Cervelo Soloist a.k.a. How I'll "Win" My Weekly Lunch Ride

I was tired of getting smoked by friends and co-workers on our weekly lunch ride, so I decided to do something about it. No, not training. I got an aero road bike — the Cervelo Soloist. Look out world! This is my secret weapon in the war against getting dropped.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

I love building my own bikes from the frame up. You get to pick and choose every component and you get the satisfaction of knowing your bike inside and out. Today, I finished putting together my latest build — a 2024 Cervelo Soloist.

This isn’t a review (I’ve only done one ride so far). It’s more of a breakdown of why I chose the Soloist, and how I built it up to suit my personal preferences and needs. 

Some of my choices might be weird or silly, so go ahead and roast me in the comments if you like. The important thing is that I’m IN LOVE with my new build. Only time will tell if that love fades or grows stronger. 

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It’s All About the Bike

Cervelo Soloist

We host a weekly lunch ride here at TPC and it is one of the fastest group rides on the Front Range. This isn’t a chill “no drop” ride. It’s a “hang on for dear life and if you get spit out the back you’re on your own” ride. A lot of hitters show up and I’m regularly getting my legs torn off. 

I’ve been riding a Specialized Aethos for the past two years, and really, it’s been one of the best bikes that I’ve ever owned — simple, lightweight, and supremely comfortable. But I’m a bike geek with a stupidly fragile athletic ego, so I often believe performance comes as much from my equipment as my legs. I've been jealously eyeing the bikes all the fast people on my weekly lunch ride are using to destroy me — they're all on aero bikes. 

Cervelo Soloist frame

CLEARLY, I’m getting smoked because I’m not aero enough. That HAS to be it. There couldn’t possibly be any other explanation… 

So I went shopping and I bought a new Soloist frameset. 

Will I actually “win” my weekly lunch ride with this bike? Er, no. Probably not. Do I expect this bike to make me faster? Uh, well… maybe. I’ll probably be able to cherry-pick a few Strava PRs to justify my choices. If anything, I’ll BELIEVE that I’m faster, and placebo is a very powerful performance-enhancing drug. 

Why I Chose the Cervelo Soloist

Cervelo Soloist top tube

So why did I choose the Soloist out of the plethora of aero road bikes on the market? I had five key criteria when I went shopping: 

  • Low stack height
  • A “normal” bar and stem
  • A threaded bottom bracket
  • Clearance for 32mm tires
  • Something I can afford

Let’s address these one by one…

Stack height: Everyone's body is weird and different. I have a long torso and very short legs and my bike fitter helped me discover that I was more powerful, more comfortable, and more durable in a long and low riding position. It actually places less pressure on my hands and I can engage my glutes more. Many bikes had to get crossed off the list because I couldn’t get the bars low enough to feel comfortable. Among all the bikes I was comparing, the Soloist had the lowest stack height. Exactly what I wanted. 

“Normal” bar and stem: A lot of modern aero bikes have gone to one-piece integrated bar and stems or they rely on proprietary stems to handle their frame’s specific cable routing design. This is a problem for me because it’s hard to find one-piece or proprietary cockpits in the dimensions I want. I generally ride 120-130mm stems, and since I’m guzzling the aero Kool-Aid, I also want the narrowest bars possible, ideally around 36cm. This sort of extreme setup is much easier (and cheaper) to achieve with a traditional bar and stem setup. 

Threaded BB: I don’t have a bearing press in my garage (though I should). I have a bunch of BB wrenches though. Threaded BBs just make my life a lot easier since I do all my own work. The Soloist uses a weird T47A (A for asymmetric) threaded BB, but that’s not so bad. It was super easy to install.  

Tire clearance: I like wide tubeless tires and low pressures. It’s more comfortable, and on rough roads (which I ride a lot) they’re faster. 32mm tires are what I want to ride most of the time, so I need a frame that can fit them. The Soloist can officially clear 34mm tires. Heck. Yes. 

Cost: My personal limit for any frameset purchase is $2,999. Any more, and my spouse leaves me. That puts a lot of popular race bike framesets like the Specialized Tarmac SL8 and Trek Madone out of reach. The Soloist frameset retails for $2,700. Yes, that’s still A LOT of money, but it’s just right for me. Selling off a few carbon wheelsets that I had in the garage covered most of the cost! 

Tour Magazine wind tunnel

Tour Magazine's wind tunnel testing. Photo: Tour Magazine

There was one more factor I considered too — independent wind tunnel testing. Aerodynamics is something that is really difficult for average folk to measure. Most of us just have to trust marketing copy. But there are amazing nerds out there trying to do their own testing. Tour Magazine is a German publication that has tested several bikes in the wind tunnel. (Check out this public spreadsheet of their wind tunnel results which was put together by a good samaritan.) 

Of course, Tour Magazine’s testing protocols aren’t perfect, but for normal riders like you and me, it’s probably one of the best resources we have to compare bikes in a somewhat objective way. The Soloist is not even close to the fastest bike they’ve tested, but with a good rim and tire combo, it has less drag than Tadej Pogacar’s Colnago V4Rs and it is on par with the much more expensive ENVE Melee. I don't have the fastest frame, but it might be faster than a Tour de France champion's frame, and that makes me feel very good. 


The Build: 1x Drivetrain, Aero Cockpit, Race-Proven Wheels

I built up my Soloist over two lunch periods. Overall, it was pretty easy. I know people hate headset cable routing, but I have a lot of experience with internal routing and bleeding brakes, so I didn’t find it hard to assemble with the right tools. If I ever need to replace the headset bearings, it will be super annoying, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. 

Cervelo soloist SRAM Force AXS XPLR 1x drivetrain

I built my Soloist up with a SRAM Force AXS XPLR 1x groupset. This is the third frame this groupset has been installed on, and it still has a lot of life left. I’m a 1x drivetrain evangelist and I’ve been using a 1x on the road for a couple of seasons now. I don't have any issues with my gear range or jumps between cogs. It just works, and it's simple. At this point, I may never go back to a 2x. 

Cervelo Soloist ENVE aero SES handlebar and stem

My cockpit is from ENVE, and I went for maximum aero gains with super narrow 35cm SES Aero Road Handlebars paired with ENVE’s Aero Road Stem. Since I narrowed my bars so much (I used to ride 40cm bars) I decided to push my stem length out to the max with ENVE's longest 140mm option. Of course, it's fully slammed, just the way I like it.

Go ahead, tell me I'm riding the wrong size frame (I'm 5'8 on a 51cm). I hear it all the time. But most 54cm frames just feel too high. The lower stack and standover height of the 51cm just felt so much better for me! With the 140mm stem, the reach is just right, though I'd probably be fine on a 130mm stem too. 

Obviously, I have no good way to verify if the narrow bars reduce my CdA (coefficient of aerodynamic drag), but visually, my elbows and arms are tucked in and more in line with my legs. It seems very likely that my frontal area is a bit smaller than before. I left the tops of the bars unwrapped because, you know, aero. 

Vision Metron 45 SL wheels

Finally, I slapped on a set of Vision Metron 45 SL carbon wheels. These came off my old Aethos and I’ve been super happy with them. The hubs spin forever, and the freehub has great engagement and a nice-sounding buzz.

The rims have a 33mm external width that lets me run wider tires while still satisfying the rule of 105 for maximum aero gains. A bunch of World tour teams race on these wheels including EF Education-EasyPost and Bahrain Victorious. Lachlan Morton even used them to win Unbound Gravel this year. Also, the rims are hooked. If that's important to you, these wheels are a great option. 

Specialized Power Pro Mirror Continental GP 5000 S TR

To cap off the build, I used my favorite 3D-printed saddle, the Specialized Power Pro Mirror, and the internet’s favorite race tires, the Continental GP 5000 S TR. Of course, I waxed the chain as well.

All together with pedals, bottle cages, and a computer mount, My Soloist weighed in at 17 lbs 12 oz. Not exceptionally light, but not a pig either. I’m happy. 

What’s next?

Cervelo Soloist

I still have to tweak a few things, but on the first ride, I was very impressed with the stiffness of the frame. It definitely feels like a race bike. 

The 35cm ENVE bars are the narrowest bars I’ve ever ridden, and to my surprise, they didn’t feel sketchy or weird. I got used to them within a few minutes. I like them so much, I might copy Dylan Johnson and run this exact setup on my gravel bike next year. We'll see.

One reason I chose to use the ENVE Aero Road stem is because it uses a shim that gives you a few angle options (-7, -12, and -17). I started high, and based on my first ride, I think I’m going to go with a more aggressive angle. 

Alas, if I had known I was building up an aero bike like this 6 months ago, I likely would have picked the much deeper Vision Metron 60 SL wheels over the Metron 45 SL wheels that I have now. Upgrading to an even deeper and more aerodynamic set of wheels may come later, but I’ll have to save up for them. I'm eyeing the Reserve 52/63 wheels that Wout van Aert and the rest of Team Visma are often seen using. 

For even more Team Visma vibes, I’m flirting with the idea of trying the 48t SRAM Aero Chainring. I think it looks badass and it would definitely give the bike some more attitude. 

Fujiwara Tofu Shop

Name stickers are pro, right? Bonus points to anyone who recognizes these symbols. 

Ultimately, despite the title of this post, I will probably never win anything on this bike. But that’s not the point. I’m not a watt monster. I don’t race at a high level. I don’t get paid to ride. Really, this is all a form of cosplay. I’m a bike geek, and playing with equipment is almost as enjoyable as actually riding. It’s fun, and really, that’s all I want my bike to be — FUN. So far, it fits the bill perfectly.  

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