Over three years; 180 hours in the wind tunnel; 14,500 photos; countless interviews, comparisons and deliberations… it took all this and much more for bike giants Cervélo to launch the P5X, which they have proclaimed ‘the ultimate triathlon bike’.
With the top-specced Sram Red eTap version coming in at a whopping £13.5K, we were eager to see how the bike performed at the European launch event in Andalusia, Spain, where we were talked through the initial concepts, research, the build and testimony from athletes in great detail.
Cervélo were keen to stress that this bike was very much what they believed to be the ultimate ‘triathlon’ bike as opposed to time trial (for TT Cervélo have released a new P5 model), and there are numerous differences.
Consequently the presentation was heavily balanced towards nutrition and storage on the P5X, where we learnt that the brand analysed thousands and thousands of athlete photos to determine the most popular combination of fluid and nutrition storage on-bike – it was mostly this that determined the shape of the bike, rather than the engineers simply deciding to create a ‘beam bike’ – the geometry was built around what Cervélo believed would be the best for the greatest number of riders with regards to bottle, nutrition and tool storage.
An early design concept of the P5X shows that Cervélo didn’t set out just to create a ‘beam bike’; the bike took shape based on research and what they believed was the fastest and best
The bike is also incredibly adjustable, and you can add or remove storage options according to your preference. Cervélo claim none of the storage boxes alter the aerodynamics.
Cervélo claim disc brakes are better in every condition, and say they are soon releasing a white paper to show why they are no less, and perhaps even faster than rim brakes. “Disc brakes free up the frame design, you’re not having to build the front end around a brake caliper. From a net result it ends up been more aerodynamic, so building with a disc you end up with a more aerodynamic system. Disc brakes themselves might not be more aero, but you get a bike that’s overall more aero.”
The shifting on our test bike had full Sram eTap, with shifting options at the end of the aerobars, on the base bars and a ‘blip box’ with a cap that can hide it away if you don’t wish to use it. The base bars can be flipped either way, and the front end is unique as the bar adjustment actually works like a seat post – all you need is an allen key to mover it up or down, and there’s 112mm of stack adjustment.
After a fitting by Matt Steinmetz, who Cervélo employed specifically to advise on fit and position for the P5X project, we headed out for an initial 50km test ride of the P5X around the rolling tarmac of Andalusia. On first impressions it’s remarkable how ‘normal’ the bike feels, and down on the base bars you could be forgiven for thinking you were riding an aero road bike; until the crosswinds hit, where we inevitably felt some instability. This was no better or worse than any tri bike with deep-rimmed wheels, however, despite the absence of a seat tube and seat stays and the huge slab of monocoque carbon at the front end.
The top tube feels completely robust and strong, and we could feel no movement whatsoever. During testing Cervélo claim they only managed to get 3mm of flex out of it when loading the saddle with 300kg, so despite it being the off-season we were ensured there’s no way we’d get it to budge…