CERVELO P5 – INITIAL IMPRESSIONS
by Jim Weaver, Service Manager
Fit Werx, VT
Earlier this summer, we built one of the very first Cervelo P5’s in New England. I had intended to immediately post a short article summarizing my impressions, but one thing led to another and I was delayed. Bruce and I both rode the completed bike, a little further than our normal test ride of new bikes, to enable us to form at least some initial impression of the ride of this bike. You may have seen Ian’s post of this bike as it was being built, but here are my belated initial impressions.
First of all, boy does this bike look FAST! Feels fast too. The frame is quite stiff, with no perceptible flex under power, such as when climbing. That stiffness made for quick acceleration, albeit not quite as fast as the under 12 pound Guru Photon road bike I wrote about previously. Nothing I’ve ridden felt that fast accelerating though… As I am a recreational rider, I will rely on our resident racer Bruce’s impression of the P5 stiffness, as he is a much stronger rider than I (must be that age difference!). Bruce’s first comment when he came back from his ride was how efficiently the frame transferred power. No power is lost to frame flex, that’s for sure.
From our initial rides, other than the stiffness of the frameset and how fast the bike immediately feels, Bruce and I agreed that the brakes were an exceptional move forward in performance on a TT bike. As you may have read in other publications, the brakes are hydraulic and manufactured by Magura. These brake calipers are heavier than standard cable-actuated brakes and they are time consuming and challenging to set-up. However, what is important is how they work. They work AMAZING! The lever modulation was very good, and if you give the levers a strong squeeze, the bike stops immediately! They are very strong. It seems that hydraulic brakes may be a coming trend for road bikes, whether in the form of disk brakes, or rim caliper brakes such as the Magura RT brakes on the P5. The hydraulic rim brakes on the Cervelo P5 show the potential; they are a distinct improvement in braking power. I may not look forward to building bikes with hydraulic brakes, but from a brake performance standpoint, you should.
From a fit perspective, the P5 is Cervelo’s best TT/Tri bike fit to date. Compared to the venerable P4 or P3, the top tube is a little shorter and the head tube longer in a given size and this has really opened up the window as to what riders fit well on the P5. We can now safely say that if you do not fit on a Cervelo P5, you are unlikely to fit on a stock tri bike from most any brand – that has never been the case with a Cervelo before. We also like the lower 7.5cm bottom bracket drop of the Cervelo P5 as that should further enhance stability at moderate speeds. Very well thought out frame geometry and a real step forward for Cervelo as a company.
One other thing I like about the P5 is that, unlike many other “Uber TT bikes”, it doesn’t depend on a proprietary aerobar and/or stem arrangement. While the P5 Six comes with a very integrated looking 3T Aduro aerobar that was designed by Cervelo, any aerobar and stem may be used. This means you can find parts most anywhere and you can choose the aerobar and stem that works best for you with the P5. The P5 Three frameset does not include an aerobar, while the P5 Three Red uses a 3T Aura Pro.
For 2013, the P5 will be available in two models, the P5 Six, and the P5 Three. The P5 Six is designed for the triathlete or time trialist who is not concerned with the UCI design limitations on time trial bikes. Compared to the P5 Three, the frame is the same, but the fork of the P5 Six bike is deeper and has a faring for greater aerodynamics and the frameset includes a Cervelo designed 3T Arduro aerobar and the Magura RT6 brakes are upgraded to the carbon RT8 model. The depth of the fork and faring on the P5 Six is a design that is not acceptable to the wizened old UCI regulators who seem to long for the days before derailleurs were legalized for racing at times… The P5 Three, on the other hand, is designed for full compliance with UCI regulations. So, if you are planning to race UCI sanctioned time trials, you need the P5 Three. For the other 98% of riders looking for a time trial/triathlon bike, the P5 Six is the fastest choice.
The only general criticism of the Cervelo P5 I can think of is that the stock wheelset is on the heavy side. This being said, does it really matter? Most anyone looking at a P5 will already have race wheels, or will be getting some, and the stock wheels should hold up fine as training wheels. You’ll be even faster when you take off over a pound of weight by installing your race wheels. Fully built P5 Threes are available with SRAM Red components. The P5 Six is available with either SRAM Red or Shimano Di2 components. The P5 Three and P5 Six are also available as framesets, so they can be built with whatever components you want.
For a time trial or triathlon bike, what is most important for the majority of riders is fit and aerodynamics. This bike certainly has Cervelo’s widest range of fit options ever and plenty of speed. Nice job Cervelo. Supply of the bike will likely continue to be limited into spring ‘13. So, find out if it fits you well in advance and then put in an order early to guarantee that you get one.