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Tri Bike Review: Cervelo P5

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published June 13, 2012

Cervélo revolutionized triathlon bike design with the P3, but its successor, the P4, fell flat. The people’s champion of triathlon bikes has once again pushed the bar upward with its newest creation, the P5, designed for functionality as well as speed. These five characteristics are some of the biggest upgrades over earlier models. What hasn’t changed: It’s still really aero.

Most brakes on triathlon bikes have at least one of two serious flaws: Either they don’t work well or they stick out from the frame and create aerodynamic drag. Bike component maker Magura and Cervélo cooperated to create the first hydraulic rim brake designed for aero performance and functionality. It gives the rider unprecedented precise control over braking force, can stop stronger than cable brakes can, weighs less than almost all cable systems, works with all wheels, withstands the inevitable Gatorade bath and, according to Cervélo, is more aero than traditional calipers. The RT 8TT doesn’t match the flawless stopping performance of disc brakes, but it is an upgrade over traditional tri brakes in just about every way.

Until this bike Cervelo had always created its most aerodynamic bikes with geometry specifically tuned for extremely aggressive positions typically ridden by professionals. Although the P5’s geometry isn’t as conservative as some other high- end bikes released in the past year, it is more suited to realistic age-grouper positions than the P3 and P4 are.

Bar-first integration Instead of a proprietary aerobar attachment system, the P5 uses a standard stem capable of mounting any aerobar. Cervélo designed a new aerobar, the 3T Aduro, along with a series of aerodynamically optimised spacers, risers and stems to smoothly blend these separate front-end components and create a massive range of stack adjustment. This ability to lift the pads high above the frame opens the bike to riders with a wide range of riding styles, but the bike’s capability to adjust the reach fit doesn’t match its stack variability. The elbow pads can be set to three fore-aft positions spanning five centimetres, and that’s the only way to adjust reach.

Ride matters The P5 feels laterally stiffer than the P4. Broader tubeshapes and Cervélo’s own BBright bottom bracket standard bolsters the frame and the difference is noticeable. It still has the quick yet predictable handling feel of Cervélo’s other triathlon bikes.

Cervélo created a version of the P5 that conforms to the rules governing road time trials and one specifically for triathlon, but both configurations are well-suited to multisport. The fully integrated triathlon-specific version pictured here encapsulates the front brake in a series of fairings and the fork’s blades are exceptionally deep. Strip the fairings from the front of the bike and replace the tri fork with a more standard version and you have the P5 in its road- legal configuration. Cervélo senior advanced R & D engineer Damon Rinard says the aerodynamic difference between the two models averages to about 17 grammes of drag, which accounts for a little less than two watts. For these two watts, the triathlon frameset costs £1,500 more than the version with a standard fork.

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