Sep 24, 2013

Summer Bike Gear: Cervélo P3

The weather is still hot, you've been watching the Tour de France, and now you want to learn from the pros and get fit without traumatising your joints. Join the tribe!


The Outdoor Journal

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Tested and reviewed by Matthieu Amielh, Triathlète Magazine.

Price: Frameset available for €3,000. Complete bike for sale: €5,150. Equipped with Shimano Dura Ace 11 speed groupset, Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels, Magura RT6 brakes, Rotor 3DF crankset.


If you ever speak to a triathlete about time trial bikes, it is very likely that he will mention the brand Cervélo. The Canadian brand has had triathlon DNA in its blood since its creation by two aero engineers in 1995. Cervélo has been ranked No. 1 in the Hawaii Ironman World Championships bike count for many years, and the P3 is one of the bestselling triathlon bikes of all time. It’s also one of the most used bikes on the grueling 180 km bike course of the Kona race, every October. If the P3 was counted as a brand itself, it would still be the most used bike in Kona. Impressive. In October 2012, out of 1,984 total athletes (pros included), more than 250 rode a P3.


On this newest P3, Cervélo’s engineers have created a new frame geometry that will accommodate a wider range of fits. That means that the new P3 can be ridden by more people. Based on the geometry of the top-of-the-range aero bike from Cervélo, the P5, the new P3 offers two new smaller frame sizes compared to the former P3: size 45 and size 48, perfect for women and smaller riders. Aerodynamics is Cervélo’s motto. Each frame is optimized to reach the lowest possible drag. In addition to being designed thanks to in-house state-ofthe-art CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics), this new P3 has also been tested in the famous Low Speed Wind Tunnel of San Diego where many professional cyclists and triathletes come to test and optimize their aero position. Scientific results showed that the new P3 is as aero as the best-top-of-the-range bikes on the market—like the Scott Plasma Premium or the Specialized Shiv Pro, for example—but with a lower selling price. What’s not to like? Compared to the old P3, this new one performs better: about 20 g less drag, which is equivalent to about 0.2 seconds faster per kilometer. On a 180-km bike course, that’s about 36 seconds.


What I also like about Cervélo is that you’ll always benefit from BBright™, a bottom bracket offering a good combination of stiffness and weight. While this bottom bracket stiffness is comparable to the old P3, the torsional stiffness has been increased by 18 percent. Consequently, the bike is stiff, but that’s what you’d want when riding for hours on aerobars. Moreover, all the power and torque you are able to inject on the pedals are converted into speed. On the long, flat sections of the Majorqua Island roads where I tested that bike, once on the aerobars, it’s really easy to go fast. Really fast!


One big disadvantage of those performance-oriented aero machines is their comfort and coziness. I feel the newest P3 is the most accessible of all Cervélo TT bikes, and it is also very comfortable for a TT bike. It’s quite versatile and secure, and it has excellent brakes. When getting it, you will be able to choose between Magura hydraulic brakes or standard brake calipers. I advise you to choose the Magura brakes because they have been specifically developed for this bike, and you won’t need much time to get used to their hydraulics. They deliver both power and modulation, and they don’t need any maintenance. Last but not least, this new P3 uses a standard 28.6 mm steerer tube that fits all standard stems. It means that you won’t need to go to your bike shop for minor adjustments as you would for intricate bike frames.


Consequently, I would say that you don’t need to be an elite triathlete with a perfect aero positioning to be able to ride this dream machine for hours without pain and directly benefit from its aerodynamic performance. If you’re looking for your first TT bike, I would definitely recommend it—especially if you can financially afford it.


Place: New Delhi, India