Exclusive first ride impressions of Cervelo's new full send & full-sus ZFS-5 World Cup XCO MTB

Milan Vader riding Cervelo ZFS
(Image credit: Gruber / Cervelo)

I first rode one of the original prototypes of the Cervelo ZFS-5 World Cup XCO over a year ago, before the ZFS name was even confirmed. At that point it was due to debut under Team Jumbo Visma’s newly signed XC rider Milan Vader a month later. Unfortunately for Milan he crashed out of his season on the road shortly afterwards, but that’s given Cervelo another year to refine the details of their first move into full-suspension MTBs and they’re now over 30 revisions into the project.

Cervelo ZFS Team bike

Milan Vader and Fem Van Empel will be racing the 100mm version of the Cervelo ZFS-5 complete with SRAM's new XX SL power group and RockShox SID SL suspension (Image credit: Gruber / Cervelo)

Blurred lines

There’s been a lot of noise on the internet about how the new bike looks exactly like the Blur MTB from Pon Holdings' (who own Cervelo) partner company Santa Cruz. Cervelo make no secret about the fact that they used that bike as the template to fast forward development of a category they had zero experience of previously. Having said that, bikes with a linkage driven, top tube mounted shock controlling a single pivot rear swingarm with flex stays allowing 100-120mm have been around since the start of the century. It probably covers 90 percent of the bikes lining up on the start line at Nove Mesto this weekend – including Pinarello’s new Dogma XC bike, too.

Cervelo ZFS stays and linkage

Flex stays and linkage on the Cervelo ZFS are different to those on the Blur (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Clear differences

Up close there’s also a lot to separate the two bikes. Firstly, the composite layup uses Cervelo’s own extensive carbon experience including elements borrowed from the Aspero gravel race bike, their cyclo-cross bike and even the ultralight R5 road bike. The ZFS frame also uses through headset routed controls to avoid the extra weight of frame insertion point reinforcement and internal channeling.

While it shares lifetime warrantied collet bearing (easier to service) pivot hardware and basic kinematics with the Blur, the rear end is significantly different. There’s a distinctive curved head to the seatstays and the post mount rear brake use a floating mount to allow both stays to flex symmetrically.

The geometry of the ZFS-5 is also subtly altered and interestingly for a bike from a hardcore road bike brand, they’ve actually taken it to a slightly more progressive place than Santa Cruz, who are one of DH’s ‘winning-est’ companies. 

Cervelo ZFS headtube and control routing detail

Controls run through the headset for cleaner looks and reduced weight and if you're a team rider you don't have to worry about servicing stress (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

In 100mm format (40mm shock stroke), the ZFS-5 has a 67.8 degree head tube and 76 to 76.5-degree seat angle (depending on size) with reaches from 421mm to 496mm on S-XL sizes.

In 120mm format (45mm shock stroke), the ZFS-5 has a 66.6-degree head tube and 75.3 to 74.9 degree seat angle (depending on sizes) with reaches from 409mm to 484mm on S-XL sizes. 

That compares to a 68.3-degree head tube and 76.5 to 75.7 degree seat angle (depending on size) with reaches from 425mm to 495mm on the Santa Cruz Blur CC and 67.1-degree head tube and 75.1 to 74.8 degree seat angle (depending on size) with reaches from 412mm to 482mm on the Blur Trail. Headtubes are also slightly longer on the Cervelo and having ridden both bikes (though not directly back to back), the ZFS also feels stiffer under power.

Cervelo ZFS rear brake detail

The rear brake sits on a separate mount between rear axle and chainstay (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

I’d love to say more but….

That’s probably right on the cusp of how far I can go with the information I know right now as full details, pricing and spec of the Cervelo ZFS-5 are being announced officially later this summer when the bikes (and a second run of the currently limited edition ZHT hardtail) will go on sale. From the promo pics, the ZHT spec and the fact Team Jumbo Visma switched to SRAM equipment this winter, it’s safe to say that Eagle Transmission and RockShox suspension will be core stop, go and spring componentry.

Obviously, we’ll have a full long term ride review of the bike in both XC and TR formats here as soon as I get the all clear from Cervelo too.

  • Price: TBC
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cervelo ZFS-5 100mm key geometry
Seat tube angle76.5 degrees76.3 degrees76.2 degrees76 degrees
Head tube angle67.8 degrees67.8 degrees67.8 degrees67.8 degrees
Fork offset44mm44mm44mm44mm
Head tube length96mm102mm114mm128mm
Bottom bracket drop42mm42mm42mm42mm
Front center692mm718mm746mm779mm
Chainstay length432mm435mm437mm440mm
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cervelo ZFS-5 120mm key geometry
Seat tube angle75.3 degrees75.1 degrees75 degrees74.9 degrees
Head tube angle66.6 degrees66.6 degrees66.6 degrees66.7 degrees
Fork offset44mm44mm44mm44mm
Head tube length96mm102mm114mm128mm
Bottom bracket drop42mm42mm42mm42mm
Front center700mm726mm755mm787mm
Chainstay length432mm435mm437mm440mm
Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since launch in 2019. He started writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg