Cervélo P5 preview

Cervélo has unveiled their new top-end tri bike, the P5, which they claim is the world’s most aerodynamic

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Issue ID: April 271

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Cervélo has unveiled their new top-end tri bike, the P5, which they claim is the world’s most aerodynamically advanced. Mat Brett is our man at its Fuerteventura launch

It’s a big deal when Cervélo release a new tri bike. Their P3 has won more triathlons and time trials than any other bike in history and has influenced countless designs from other manufacturers. If the Canadian brand says the P5 is significantly better, the tri world takes notice.

“The P5 is a significant step forward in speed and simplicity,” Cervélo’s joint founder Phil White announces. “These two factors are what drove the design. The frameset is the most aero and versatile out there.” Compared to its predecessor and every other bike on the market, White maintains that the P5 is “faster, simpler and better all round”. Let’s see how it fares on the Lanzarote roads…

FRAMESET

Cervélo reckon the P5 is 30 seconds faster than the P4 over 40km (25 miles) and credit their new design methods as being responsible for this. For years they’ve boasted that their bikes are ‘designed in the wind tunnel’, but have now spent over a year developing their own computational fluid dynamics (CFD) programme that allows them to work in a virtual wind tunnel on the computer.

“The P5 is designed in CFD and validated in the wind tunnel,” White explains. “The unique thing about CFD is that you don’t just get a drag number. You don’t just find out that a bike is 20g faster. You can see what’s happening to the air so you know why it’s 20g faster and that’s a huge advantage.”

THE RIDE

The first thing noticeable when climbing aboard the P5 and heading out into Fuerteventura’s volcanic landscape is just how stiff the bike is. Jump on the pedals and there’s not a hint of frame flex. The huge bottom bracket area and the head tube stand firm whatever you throw at them. It’s the same story with the Aduro bars. Heave on them and everything stays where it should.

Get yourself down onto the saddle and the aero extensions, and the P5 really shows its worth. In terms of comfort, it’s fine. Most of the roads out here are pretty smooth – frost damage isn’t an issue in the Canaries – but there are rough patches and the P5 provides a reasonable amount of damping to keep you feeling fine thanks to Cervélo’s new carbon lay-up, while the gel arm pads are cushioned without being too squishy, leaving you relaxed in the upper body even over the rougher stuff. That’ll be even more valuable on UK roads.

The P5 really scores when you get your head down and start turning a big gear. The faster you go, the better it is. You fly on flat, straight sections of road – and there are plenty of those out here slicing across the arid terrain.

Fuerteventura does a fine line in wide, uncrowded roads where you can hunker down and concentrate on getting the power in. If the wind is coming at you – and this place is famous for its winds that blow in from the Atlantic – the bike seems to slip through the warm air relatively unnoticed. Hit 30mph, say, on a fast section and it pings along much easier than should really be possible. The P5 isn’t particularly bothered when the air is coming at an angle, either. It still soars along and I didn’t feel any more buffeted on this bike than on any other high-end tri machine.

Mounting a small (500ml) water bottle to the bars works well. The steering feels a little heavy to start with but you adjust. Be ready to hear a bottle sloshing about as you go around corners, though. Elsewhere, Magura’s hydraulic brakes live up to their billing. You don’t always need all the power but they give you confidence, and knowing you can stop at a moment’s notice allows you to lay off the levers longer.

You don’t often need to brake tentatively when approaching corners, either, because if it does turn out that you need to slow, the power will get you out of trouble. More to the point out here, the braking power allows you to avoid any stray goats that might wander into your path!

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The tri version of the P5 will retail at £4,499.99 for the frameset or £3,499.99 for UCI-legal. In terms of the full, Di2 bike, $10,000 is the US price, and Cervelo should confirm in the UK soon. Look out for a full test in a forthcoming issue.