Review: Cervelo P5 Frameset
article & images by Nick Salazar
Feb 12, 2013  hits 163,522

Cervelo's new triathlon/TT flagship, the P5

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.

P5 Versions

We're reviewing the P5 with the UCI-legal 'Three' fork.

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

Lots of bottle/accessory bosses let you deck out the P5 however you like.

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.

Tags » cervelo,  frames,  p5bike
  • The P5 frameset - it's beautiful, deceptively simple in appearance, but fantastically complex in design.
  • The recessed ICS4 cable routing is brilliant in concept an execution, allowing tighter cable runs without any compromise.
  • It's hard to photograph, but the back of the ICS4 cavity has a hole for electronic cable routing.
  • The P5 seat tube cluster. It's interesting to see just how much extra material surrounds the seat post, compared to previous P5 models.
  • The trailing edge of the bike is a truncated airfoil, which Cervelo says works well in this application, but not necessarily everywhere on the bike.
  • Another spot with truncated airfoils is the bottle cage mount. There's a third M5 nutsert above the BB, used for third-party accessories.
  • The P5 retains the horizontal dropouts of its predecessors, which are slightly less convenient than the vertical variety, but allow for tighter integration with the rear wheel.
  • This is the hidden pocket where you can store a Di2 battery and access the rear brake nut.
  • The BBRight standard is definitely sound in principle, but one of a rather large number of competing new standards that threaten to cause overwhelming confusion for mechanics, dealers, and consumers alike.
  • The front derailleur hanger is replaceable, which is a nice feature.
  • Lots of bosses make it easy to mount accessories on the top tube, down tube, and even above the BB.
  • The frontal profile is simple and smooth, and slightly wider than previous P-series frames.
  • From any angle, the P5 looks great.
  • The pin beneath the lower headset bearing provides a steering lock, preventing fork over-rotation from damaging the dropped down tube ...
  • ... A corresponding recess on the fork itself dictates the range of rotation.
  • The incredibly complex BB area is an important part of the braking system, the cable routing, Di2 integration, and of course, crankset compatibility.
  • Another shot of the P5 frameset.
  • The P5 maximizes the totality of current UCI rules regarding frame member sizes, especially here at the seat tube cluster.
  • We will be building up this P5 in the next couple weeks, and post another gallery when it's done. For now, read our complete review on this frame where we dissect everything the P5 is about. Thanks for reading!

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