Cervélo’s New ZFS-5 Is Their Worst Kept Secret

Cervélo’s New ZFS-5 Is Their Worst Kept Secret

Cervélo's least secret new bike, the ZFS-5 has launched, and it's probably their most left-field bike to date. Big, knobby tires, flat bars and suspension front and rear - yes it's a full-suspension mountain bike, a first for the typically road-based company. Building on their race-winning pedigree, the ZFS is of course a cross-country race bike, designed for pushing hard and going fast, and complements the ZHT-5, launched last year.

Led by the Jumbo Visma race team, Cervélo have been expanding their lineup to cover the XC discipline for top racers Milan Vader and Fem van Empel to compete on the world stage, starting with the Nove Mesto UCI World Cup. In short it's a proper race bike, ready for competition right out the box. Designed with modern XCO race tracks in mind, the ZFS-5 is a a fully modern bike with progressive geometry and suspension numbers, for the most aggressive courses.

Cervelo ZFS-5Photo: Geoff Livingston

Head tube angle isn't everything though, Cervélo tuned the suspension for high levels of anti-squat, meaning less pedal bob and more traction. This combined with a low overall weight and  and a wildly fast and efficient ride on the way up and a confident descender on the way back down. Two travel models in the ZFS-5 100 and ZFS-5 120 leave options open for either a no-compromises short travel race bike, or something a little more capable and comfortable for gnarlier courses, stage racing or general trail riding with a focus on climbing efficiency.

Frame Details

For suspension design, Cervélo chose to go with a single pivot flex-stay, keeping weight low, efficiency high and service easy. This layout reduces weight through the removal of pivot hardware and bearings and lower profile tube diameters. The flex-stay design also complements the suspension spring rate, resisting bottom out and acting as a spring while giving extra progression to the suspension without having to compensate with damping. 


Cervelo ZFS-5Photo: Geoff Livingston

The 100mm version pairs 100mm front and rear travel, and the bigger version uses a 120mm fork on 115mm rear travel, with a slightly longer stroke shock and slightly changed geometry numbers.

Smart design leads to smart choices, and the ZFS-5 features some details that make a lot of sense, including Sram UDH compatibility, mechanical compatibility, threaded bottom bracket, 2.4" tire clearance, 180mm rotor clearance and a 30.9mm seatpost diameter. Keeping things tidy is their hybrid cable routing which includes cables through headset and open routing through the frame, making hose and cables changes as easy as they possibly could.

Cervelo ZFS-5Photo: Geoff Livingston


Progressive geometry is the name of the game with the ZFS-5. Running a 66.6º head tube angle on the 120 travel bike, and 67.8º on the 100mm bike, keeping things stable when the descents get steep without being unmanageable on the climbs. Reach is 469/457mm in a size large with a 76.2º/75º seat tube angle. The chainstays grow according to frame size, starting at 432mm in a small and growing to 440mm in XL, keeping things snappy but stable.

Cervelo ZFS-5 Geometry



Each travel option has three different spec options - GX Eagle, GX AXS and XO AXS as the top spec 120mm build and XX SL AXS for the top spec 100mm build for a full-on no holds barred race machine. All 100mm builds come with Maxxis Rekon Race tires, a solid seatpost rather than a dropper, SID SL forks, 760mm wide handlebars and all bikes use Sram Level 4-piston brakes and SIDLuxe shocks with the exception of the XO AXS build. The 120mm bikes come with the 35mm stanchion SID forks, Rekon tires and a 780mm wide bar.

The GX Eagle 100mm and 120mm builds comes with a SID Select fork, SIDLuxe Select+ shock, GX Eagle drivetrain and aluminum Race Face Arc 27/DT Swiss 370 wheels on Level Bronze brakes. The GX AXS 100mm and 120mm builds bump up to the new wireless GX Transmission drivetrain and a Select+ fork on both travel levels and the 120mm bike upgrades to a OneUp V2 dropper post.

Cervelo ZFS-5Photo: Geoff Livingston

The 100mm XX SL AXS build moves up to Ultimate level fork and shock, Reserve 28 XC wheels on DT Swiss 240 hubs, Level Ultimate Stealth brakes and a full XX SL Transmission build kit and Carbon Race Face Next seatpost and handlebar for the ultimate XC race bike.

The XO AXS 120mm build rocks a Fox 34 Stepcast Performance Elite fork and Performance Elite Float shock, a full XO AXS Transmission groupset, Reverb AXS wireless dropper and Level Silver Stealth brakes mounted to a Next R carbon bar and Reserve 28 XC wheels on DT Swiss 350 hubs.

The ZFS-5 100 and ZFS-5 120 are also available as framesets.

Ride Impressions

We were able to test ride a 120mm XO AXS spec bike early so we could put together some ride impressions before launch. Right away it's obvious that the ZFS is race-bred, even in the longer travel version. Laying down the power is easy, with the back end feeling firm and responsive with very little pedal bob or energy wasted. For those that really want to put the power down, the shock can be locked out for a stiff ride, though with a little built-in forgiveness from the flex-stay.

Cervelo ZFS-5Photo: Geoff Livingston

Despite a slacker head angle than most, the ZFS is easy to climb and powers through even the most technical climbs with ease, with enough grip to keep that rear wheel glued to the ground without breaking loose. The ZFS-5 really shines however on flatter, more flowing terrain where a few pedal

The ZFS-5 120mm feels like an ideal BC XC bike - that is, climbs like a cross country bike should, but feels capable enough on the descents to tackle blue and light black descents. Thanks to the relatively slack head angle it feels stable enough when things get fast, but still feels razor-sharp when things get technical. It's not a category-defying bike and still sits very firmly in the cross country camp, which is no bad thing if what you're looking for is a light duty trail bike that can lead the pack in an XC race, but it certainly feels comfortable on more technical trails, with weight and handling characteristics that make it easy to move around and more playful than a bigger bike.

For those wanting to go on big rides and not worry about what trails you might encounter on the way, it's a great bike for our local area, and a change of tires to something a little more aggressive would open this bike up to getting down even more technical trails. It's the perfect bike for big days out, before-work XC rips or for stage races such as SingleTrack 6 or BC Bike Race. 

Other XC Bikes

There are plenty of great options in the XC world. If you want the lightest, most efficient bike then a hardtail could be the way, in which case take a look at the Cervélo ZHT-5, or the Santa Cruz Highball. For full suspension options, take a look at the Santa Cruz Blur, or Specialized Epic, Epic World Cup, or Epic Evo.

Cervelo ZFS-5Photo: Geoff Livingston

To enquire about making a ZFS-5 yours or to special order a bike, just contact us!

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