Review: Cervelo P5 Frameset
article & images by Nick Salazar
Feb 12, 2013
There's no denying that of all the gear triathletes like to buy, frames capture our imaginations perhaps more than anything else. It's easy to see why: they're the most visible part of the rig, and perhaps the first thing you'll notice beneath a pro triathlete cruising down the road on race day. But beyond the glitz, frames are a critical piece of the aerodynamic equation. There are real gains to be made with better frame design, and there has been a fairly intense war among frame manufacturers to eke out every last watt of speed.
Enter the Cervelo P5. In positioning this new frame, Cervelo has attempted to communicate two major themes about the bike. First, that the P5 it's categorically better than other modern offerings often designated as “superbikes.” And second, that it makes its aero gains without resorting to novel, proprietary mechanisms. Those are the concepts they distilled into the “Simply Faster” slogan used to market the bike.
This frame will be dressed up in some very snazzy parts from Dash Cycles and will accompany the Dash guys during their show season this year. But before it gets bedazzled in carbon jewelry, I wanted to take a look at the bare, stripped down frame and see what we're dealing with. We will do a follow-up article once it's all decked out.
This frame is a P5-Three, the UCI-legal version of the bike. Cervelo also sells the frame with a deeper, UCI-illegal fork, and calls it the P5-Six. The Six fork is shaped to fit best with the Magura RT8TT brakes, and includes a snap-on fairing that allows that brake to complete the shape of the Six fork. That setup also requires that you use the Aduro aerobar, which is where the upper portion of the brake fairing attaches. So in short, the Three looks and feels like a traditional fork, and gives you flexibility to choose any aerobar you want. If you use the Six, you are basically locked into the Magura brake and Aduro bar. Anything else would look rather weird. And although I love the look of the Aduro bar, I don't like that its adjustability is limited once affixed to your bike. I like being able to make incremental adjustments after mounting the bars, which is something the Aduro can't really do.
Granted, the Six will be a very fast setup, but if you believe Cervelo's own data, the Three gives up just two Watts, provides flexibility in brake and aerobar choice. I also like that the Three allows you to use different brakes, which in turn means different brake levers. Ultimately, I am a HUGE fan of having base bar shifting via Di2, and the Maguras force you to forego that option. Of course, I'm biased because I wanted to put Omegas on the bike.
But even ignoring brake choice, I still like the Three better for the other reasons mentioned. So in the end, I wanted to review a P5-Three rather than its tri-leaning brother.
Back to (complex) Basics
Like virtually every modern frame, the P5 comes with a fairly thorough background story. Cervelo has done a great job educating its fans about the engineering brainpower, novel thinking, advanced modeling techniques, CFD analysis, and wind tunnel testing that went into creating this pinnacle of bicycle technology. And Cervelo has no problem claiming that their bike is faster than anything else on the market. Their white paper is regrettably vague on testing protocol, or even the specific bikes they tested against, but Cervelo categorically claims that the P5 is 6-11 Watts faster on average than "the so-called 'superbikes.'"
BUT, despite the very detailed language and bold marketing claims, the P5 is perhaps the most traditionally-built flagship frame on the market today. It uses a standard fork with a 1-1/8" steerer. It accepts traditional stems and aerobars. It has a traditional cable guide beneath the bottom bracket. And in its biggest departure in modern frame design trends, it features standard brake bosses front AND rear. No funky TRP mounts, no annoying V-brake cable routing. Cervelo even found a way to build the rear brake boss right into the frame - no more fiddling with adapter plates as seen on the earlier P-series bikes and the new S5.
They really have simplified the bike as much as possible. But despite the veneer of simplicity, the design is incredibly complex. We'll start at the front and work backwards, showing exactly how Cervelo accomplished its design goals. In fact, there is so much detail to cover here that we're going to devote an entire page to the front end, and another just to the BB cluster, before wrapping up and reaching some conclusions about this new mean machine. Hit the jump and let's get started.