Project Liberty: Cervelo S5 VWD
article & images by Nick Salazar
Oct 16, 2013  hits 341,536

Liberty may look fairly simple, but there's significant custom work on the majority of its components.

Hopefully the preceding page gave you some idea of the concept I was after while building this bike. It's meant to be very aero, very light, and very fun to ride. Aside from the unusual choice of an aero base bar in place of drops, I also opted to forego the front derailleur and make this a 1x11 drivetrain. A custom 44-tooth Fibre-Lyte chainring and an 11-28t eleven-speed cassette produce a range of gears pretty similar to those of a 53-39 crankset with a 12-25t cassette. The legendary Sheldon Brown published a very useful gear calculator that helped me figure out the gearing for Liberty. The aforementioned gearing of a 53-39 crank with a 12-25 cassette has a range of gain ratios that goes from 3.2 up to 8.9. Liberty's gearing goes from 3.2 to 8.1, meaning that its hardest gear isn't quite as hard as a 53-12. But its easy gear is exactly the same as a 39-25. I'm very happy with that setup, and that's all that matters for this particular project.

With that out of the way, let's get right down to it. Every part was chosen for its aerodynamic prowess, while trying to keep weight to an absolute minimum. Below is the full build list for Liberty, with some links to relevant pictures in the gallery.

Project Liberty, Build List and Customizations

Frame/Fork Cervelo S5 VWD, 54cm - Stripped paint down to nude carbon, added black logos and clear coat only.
Rims Enve 3.4 Tubular
Hubs Dash Cycles Elle + Michelle
Tires Zipp Tangente Tubular (21mm front, 23mm rear)
Skewers Tune Skyline
Handlebar TriRig Alpha - Base bar only/extension hardware plugged with Clamp Nut and alloy bolts
Stem TriRig Sigma +35mm - Replaced all steel fasteners w/ titanium. Replaced aluminum cable cover with custom 3D-printed plastic version w/ carbon fiber fixing bolt
Brake Levers Profile Design ABS Carbon
Shifter Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070 (Custom) - Disassembled SW-R600, cut wire and re-soldered for extra length. Added custom 3D-printed plastic pips on buttons for better purchase against fingers.
Brakes TriRig Omega - Replaced Front Plate bolts with alloy; replaced steel thru-bolt with titanium.
Saddle Dash Cycles Tri.7 w/ integrated seatpost
Crankset Lightning SL w/ carbon spyder, 165mm
Chainring Fibre-Lyte Custom - One-off 44-tooth chainring with TR logos between each pair of chainring bolts.
Chain Dura-Ace 9000 - Added KMC 11-speed MissingLink for easier installation/disassembly
Rear Derailleur Shimano Di2 9070 - Replaced all steel fasteners with aluminum or titanium
Cassette Recon one-piece alloy, 11-28t
Brake Housing Alligator iLinks, 5mm
Fork Spacer Chris King alloy, 6mm, Orange

Of course, the build list isn't the entire story of the components. A lot of them have additional custom work done to keep the weight to a minimum, and the aerodynamic drag down as well. Even my own Omega brakes and Sigma stem got some special treatment, receiving some high-end fasteners and even a 3D-printed cable cover to shed those last few grams. Complete descriptions can be found in the image captions, so be sure to check out the gallery for the full scoop on this bike.

And, because the images and captions really provide all the info you'll need on the build itself, I think we'll leave it at that. When you're ready to hear about the Cervelo S5 itself, hit the jump for my review of that venerable frame.


  • Project Liberty, all finished and looking beautiful.
  • This is Project Liberty.
  • Front angle on Liberty.
  • Liberty is a very different-looking bike, but I absolutely love it.
  • The cervelo S5 VWD frame. You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a TT frame.
  • We stripped the paint from the S5, leaving the nude carbon construction visible.
  • I absolutely love the way the nude carbon looks.
  • Cervelo's BBRight standard is actually very, very good. It allows for very stiff frames, and very light overall systems.
  • Down tube and head tube of the Cervelo S5 VWD frame. I just LOVE the nude carbon construction, visible beneath the glossy clearcoat.
  • The 1 x 11 drivetrain: Dura-Ace 9000 rear derailleur and chain, Lightning SL crank with Fibre-Lyte custom chainring, and Recon alloy cassette.
  • One of the beautiful little details comes from Fibre-Lyte, who built us this custom 44-tooth carbon chainring for single-ring use, complete with TriRig 'TR' logos between each pair of chainring bolts.
  • Down tube of the Cervelo S5 VWD frame.
  • Seatpost cluster.
  • From the front, there is startlingly little frontal area, and virtually no cables visible. But this is a fully-cabled and working bicycle.
  • TriRig Sigma +35mm stem. I also used a tiny headset dust cap and a 6mm steerer tube spacer in bright orange, as a kind of signature to further identify this as a TriRig build. Also, from underneath you can see how the Alpha's aero nut inserts (which keep the top of the bar flush) are held in place: each one gets just a single M5 bolt, in aluminum to save weight.
  • The TriRig Alpha aerobar, clamped by a TriRig Sigma stem, make up the majority of this bike's front end. The Sigma keeps all the cables and wires neatly tucked away and out of the wind, while also providing ready access to the Di2 junction box.
  • We selected Profile Design ABS Carbon aero brake levers for their astonishingly low weight. At 68g for the pair, they're just about the lightest on the market. They're also very low profile, showing almost nothing to the wind. We could have used Shimano Dura-Ace 9071 levers, which have a bit more mechanical strength, but the Profile Design levers are still strong enough to lock up a wheel if needed, so we went ahead and took the weight savings. You can also see the custom shifter we made for Liberty, affixed to the lever.
  • Our custom Di2 shifter weighs in at just 5g. Yes, that's FIVE grams, which includes the custom pips that I designed and 3D printed to provide a bit more purchase underneath the thumb. This allowed full Di2 functionality, at a weight almost 60g lighter than the stock Di2 hardware.
  • Rear cluster of the bike, comlete with the TriRig Omega brake.
  • We used Alligator iLinks housing for this build, which helps preserve smooth cable movement even through tight paths and around small corners. The iLinks housing was easy to set up, and works really well. A dedicated mini-review of the system will probably be written in the near future.
  • Rear cluster. We used Alligator iLinks housing for this build, which helps preserve smooth cable movement even through tight paths and around small corners. The iLinks housing was easy to set up, and works really well. A dedicated mini-review of the system will probably be written in the near future.
  • Another look at the 1x11 drivetrain.
  • Does it get any better than this? I don't think so.
  • The Lightning SL crank, carbon spider, and Fibre-Lyte custom chainring are all finished in 3K carbon weave, for a beautiful and unified look. The crank is amazingly light, but this setup should be pretty aero as well. It was the clear choice for Liberty. And of course, we finished it with TriRig Mercury pedals.
  • Have you ever seen a bike - road OR tri - with this little frontal area? I haven't.
  • Liberty is as clean as it gets, no doubt.
  • Frontal angle on the Liberty.
  • Non-drive side of Liberty's front end, showing how the cables route.
  • Di2 front junction and cables hidden in the TriRig Sigma stem.
  • Beneath the TriRig Sigma +35mm stem, I added a single bright orange spacer, as a kind of a signature. This one is from Chris King, and adds just 6mm of stack height. The bike would have fit great without it, but I just loved the look, so it stayed on.
  • Just a generic bottle cage from eBay, which we attached to the frame with some aluminum M5 bolts.
  • Another look at the rear closter.
  • The Dash Cycles integrated seatpost, complete with Tri.7 saddle.
  • The Dash Cycles Tri.7 saddle, mounted atop the Dash integrated Cervelo-compatible seatpost.
  • Dash Cycles front hub, Elle, affixed to the bike with the Tune Skyline bolt-on skewers.
  • From this angle, you can see that virtually nothing of the Skyline skewes remains exposed to the wind.
  • Shimano Di2 9070 rear derailleur.
  • The 11-speed Recon alloy cassette actually shifts very well, and the one-piece aluminum construction means that it weighs next to nothing.
  • The rear Omega brake, mounted in the traditional location. It's simple to service, and it's beautiful.
  • Rear angle on the Liberty.
  • The TriRig Sigma +35mm stem. We printed a custom stem cover for Liberty, replacing the aluminum stem cover for a plastic one that helped save lots of weight.
  • The 3D-printed stem cover isn't the only customization on the stem; see that Torx-head bolt keeping the stem cover on? That's a Schmolke Carbon screw, which weighs in at less than one gram!
  • The TriRig Omega brake sitting up front, right on Cervelo's beautiful S5 fork, the FK26UL. Even the Omega got special treatment. See the blue bolts securing the front plate on the brake? Those are aluminum. And the main thru-bolt was replaced with a titanium versino as well. The whole build was all about reducing weight to the bare minimum, without making one step that would compromise aerodynamics.
  • Closeup on the Zipp Tangente tires, complete with the tiny oval Zipp logos. I put a 21mm tire up front, 23mm in the back.

Related Articles
This Shiv is my personal ride, dressed to the nines and built with the finest gear in the sport. Enjoy the detailed writeup and supersized gallery.
In a previous article, we went over every aspect of the bare P5 frame in detail. Now we take you through building it up.
We pulled out all the stops to build a sub-16lb Omni, complete with some pretty special customization.
Following his win at the inaugural Ironman Boulder, we caught up with Justin Daerr and gave his bike an aerodynamic overhaul.
The new Orbea Ordu OMP is a standard-design bike with superbike pedigree. Check out our full review of the new whip.