During an unseasonable early April snowfall in Boulder, Colorado, last week, select media outlets, including Triathlon Magazine Canada, got a sneak peak at the new Cervelo P3 being launched today. Originally launched in 2004 as the P3c, the bike’s sleek design and dramatic seat tube cut out set a new standard for TT design, and quickly influenced the design direction of other manufacturers’ TT/Triathlon design.

Since then the P3 have been ridden to numerous Ironman wins, Olympic and Time Trial World Championships gold and Dave Zabriskie’s fastest ever TT at the 2005 Tour de France. It also happens to be the most popular triathlon bike on the Ironman market, regularly dominating the bike count in Kona. With such a venerable pedigree, it was a big undertaking for Cervelo to update the P3.

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Our test ride for the launch.

Our test ride for the launch.

The details of the launch were kept tightly under wraps prior to our arrival, but Cervelo’s CEO Phil White lifted the curtain on a display model that looked every bit as fast, imposing and nuanced as the high-end superbike. The catch is that while it looks and performs like a superbike, the new P3 maximizes the most effective aerodynamic attributes of the P5 while omitting some of its more pricey drag-reducing features. The result is a bike epitomizing Cervelo’s stated goal of “ Speed Within Reach.”

Aerodynamic advancements

Cervelo has advanced the aerodynamics of the P3 by incorporating the Aerozone engineering developed on the P5. Aerozone technology deploys different airfoils in different areas throughout the bike to meet the different aerodynamic requirements. By meeting those varying needs, the all around aerodynamics of the entire bike is maximized. Shielding seat stays hide the rear brake, the dropped downtube fills in the area behind the fork crown, smoothing airflow from the front wheel onto the down tube. The extended seat tube cutout smoothes airflow from frame to wheel. Also, the purposefully positioned storage and hydration systems (designed with triathlete requirements at heart), round out and fill excessive airflow zones. The most aerodynamic option is the handlebar bottle holder, but the top tube bento boxes bosses and down tube bottle bosses, as well as a behind the saddle bottle alternatives give you options that can both store your fuel and make you faster.

The signature seat tube cut out has been updated, similar in shape and size to the P5.

The signature seat tube cut out has been updated, similar in shape and size to the P5.

The P3 now features a dropped down tube, designed to smooth airflow coming off the front wheel.

The P3 now features a dropped down tube, designed to smooth airflow coming off the front wheel.

The seat stays are shaped to divert airflow away from the rear brake.

The seat stays are shaped to divert airflow away from the rear brake.

New, Wider Fit range:

Along with updated aerodynamics, the New P3 also feature updated geomtry to optimize sizing and position for triathletes, with a wide fit range rather than the low, aggressive position of elite Time Trial riders. The added height of the new P3 allows riders to achieve their fit without having to resort to a tall stack of spacers under the stem as they did in the past.

The introduction of two new sizes including a 48 with 700c wheels and a 45 with 650c wheels, ensures the P3 accommodates the smaller rider and in particular the smaller female rider, an important feature given that there is no women’s specific design.


Hydraulic Brakes:

Specced with Hydraulic Magura RT6 brakes, the new P3 offers exceptional modulation and smooth, yet powerful stopping power. The standard brake placement works with all standard brake calipers. Although not as aerodynamic as hidden brakes, the Magura is far sleeker than the standard side pull caliper. Although Cervelo insists the hydraulic brakes are maintenance free, this can only be confirmed after extended use. They are certainly easily accessible, making adjustment straight forward.

User friendly mechanical design

In addition to the more adaptable fit, Cervelo equipped the new P3 with simpler mechanical designs wherever possible, continuing the theme of a bike better suited to age group triathletes. The updated P3 features internal cable routing that are mechanical or electronic ready with a simple swap of cable stops, uses standard 1 1/8″ steerer and stem, and brakes located in the traditional position. These, along with other design choices means the p3 is slightly slower in the tunnel when compare to the P5, on the order of 68g of drag, or approximately 6.8watts according to Cervelo. For that small aero penalty, the end user gains a dramatically simpler bike to wrench on and travel with, not to mention a big savings at the wallet.

Cervelo also took into consideration Triathlete’s needs to carry nutrition and hydration, and provided bottle bosses behind the stem to securely mount bento boxes, and worked with Xlab to provide behind the saddle storage options.  They also advocate placing a bottle between the aero bars, which actually improves aerodynamic performance of bike and rider.

Photo_Herbert Krabel

Photo_Herbert Krabel

Initial Ride Impression

Riding in the winter conditions on the New P3 gave a sense of its grit, effectiveness and undeniable speed. With frozen fingers and unfamiliar bike, I expected difficulty getting in a rhythm on my ride, but instead the bike felt comfortable, smooth and responsive. Part of that was down to the smooth shifting from Shimano’s excellent new Dura Ace groupset and superb braking from Magura’s hydraulic stoppers.

Pricing for the new P3, with Shimano Dura Ace drivetrain, Rotor cranks, Magura RT6 hydraulic brakes, ISM Prologue saddle is $5400. Far from entry level, and an increase from the previous version of the P3, but still significantly lower than top tier super bike pricing, and the new price includes an upgrade from Shimano Ultegra to top tier Dura Ace drive train. Top notch aero performance and wide fit range with more accessible pricing than the P5, establishes the new P3 as a standard for mid-range triathlon bikes. As Phil White says, “The P3 is designed for the dedicated age-grouper or pro ready to shatter their personal bests.” TMC is looking forward to getting a new P3 in for more extensive test, and watching those bikes splits drop.