Cervelo dealers from around the United States converged on Tucson, Arizona the weekend of March 3-4 for the annual Cervelo BrainBike symposium. While Cervelo provided insights into their entire 2012 line the main attraction was the new Cervelo P5. Perhaps the only bike introduction with as much anticipation was Cervelo’s release of the previous P4.
As the de facto leader in aerodynamic bikes the industry follows Cervelo’s introductions closely. A media introduction in the remote Canary Islands off the coast of Africa lead to a leaked photo of the P5 that appeared on internet forums around the world, resulting in over 100,000 internet views of posts related to the now famous “Rosencrantz Photo”.
Based on what we saw and learned at BrainBike the media attention is justified. P5 potentially sets a new standard in aerodynamic bikes built for timed events, not just with aerodynamics but with practical features like better brake performance, fit adjustment and flight case packing ease.
While Specialized, Trek and Quintana Roo have introduced designs with accessory integration and improved aerodynamics Cervelo addressed a major drawback of the aero bike: brakes. Versions of the new Cervelo P5 feature a purpose-built Magura hydraulic brake designed in cooperation with Cervelo for the P5. The new brake provides a level of dependability, control and performance unmatched by even the best conventional road bike brakes. The days of finnicky aero brake set-ups are gone. The Cervelo/Magura brake is a reliable, maintenance free solution.
“The days of finnicky aero brake set-ups are gone. The Cervelo/Magura brake is the bombproof solution.”
A key philosphy at Cervelo is evolution of new models based on previous ones. The brakes and accessory mounting on P5 are rooted in lessons learned in the earlier P4 and models before that. The BBRight bottom bracket and greater fit/position capability originate from some of Cervelo’s road models.
Since Cervelo’s roots began in aero bike development the P5 is a natural convergence of all their engineering philosophies. This lineage of philosphies, stretching all the way back to their first aerodynamic bikes in 1996, still position Cervelo ahead of competitors. Other brands have gotten closer to Cervelo in recent years but Cervelo re-opens the technology gap from its competitors with P5.
Some versions of the P5 include a base bar/aero bar integrated cockpit called “Aduro”. The Aduro cockpit features three key design themes: Entirely internal cable routing, very wide range of fit adjustment and designed-in accessory mounting. While other companies have these features on cockpits, most notably Trek, Cervelo’s execution of internal cable routing with the Aduro allows less bends in cables making components and steering work better. Since the higher level models of the P5 use electro-mechanical Di2 shifting and full hydraulic brakes their component performance will always be good. The additional benefit is that even a cable actuated build of a P5 using Shimano’s Ultegra or SRAM Red will feature optimal cable routing using the Aduro cockpit. Cervelo also claims their cockpit is more aerodynamic in all configurations, not just in the lowest adjustments.
Cervelo’s Aduro cockpit has a very wide range of fit adjustment. Aerobar height, pad width, extension length and bend and overall reach (previously stem length) are all adjustable with Aduro. This effectively removes the stem from the fit equation. The advantages include stable bike handling in any fit configuration, easier fine tuning of the rider position and complete flexibility of aero extension choice. A seperate extension assembly called the “High-V” with an aerodynamic riser is included with the Aduro cockpit and enables higher positions without compromising cockpit aerodynamics.
The Magura RT6 and RT8 brake levers feature an abrasive grip area for secure control with cold, wet hands and an aerodynamic opening on the leading edge to reduce drag. According to Cervelo initial versions of the Aduro cockpit will ship with “S” bend extensions while later versons will use a shallow ski bend extension. The cockpit accepts all standard diameter aero extensions so the opportunity to customize with other brand extensions is substantial.
The base bars and entire cockpit adjust for height using a series of 5 millimeter and 10 millimeter aerodynamic spacers in addition to the substantial adjustment afforded by three different bolt-on aero extension designs. Two of the different height extensions are included with the bike, the High-V and a lower position design. A third ultra-low extension set will be sold separately. The interchangeable High-V component, included with the Aduro cockpit, raises pad, extension and accessory mounting height while maintaining component aerodynamics. There are mounting bolts on the top of the Aduro cockpit spaced for standard bottle cages.
Since there is a lot of open room on top of the stem you can carry a bottle horizontally and still have room to mount a large power meter computer or GPS unit on top of the stem. While most of the excitement is about the frame the Aduro cockpit is exciting on its own. The accessory mounting bolts on the Aduro cockpit enable aerodynamic bottle mounting. The large flat stem surface make carrying a GPS or power meter computer easy.
The P5 is sold four ways:
- P5 frameset with a Tektro mechanical rear brake, no front brake and P5 “Three” low aspect fork for $4500.
- A complete bike with Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 mechanical drivetrain turning a Rotor 3D crank with a 3T Aura Pro cockpit (not the new Aduro) with the narrower “Three” fork and Magura RT6 hydraulic brakes for $6000.
- P5 Frameset with Magura RT8 front and rear hydraulic brakes and the new 3T Aduro cockpit with deeper P5 “Six” fork for $6500.
- A complete bike with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electro-mechanical drivetrain, Rotor 3D cranks, P5 “Six” fork and 3T Aduro cockpit for $10,000.
A key difference between the builds is the fork and brake configuration. There are two forks for P5; The P5 “Three” low aspect fork and the P5 “Six” fork. The P5 “Six” is the deeper bladed fork with integrated Magura RT8 brakes. The “Three” is a UCI legal, narrower blade fork compatible with any brake including Magura RT6, RT8 or any conventional mechanical brake such as SRAM Red, Dura-Ace, etc.
Moving back on the frameset the first conspicuous feature is the deep aero head tube. The P5 head tube is in compliance with UCI rules for time trials when used with the narrower “Three” fork. We’ll see Cervelo P5’s with this fork in the Tour de France time trials and have seen them in early season professional time trials already. There are two bolts behind the stem on the top tube for accessory mounting. TorHans has designed an aerodynamic nutrition box for the P5 to mount in this position that actually improves overall bike aerodynamics. The spacing on the two bolts is the same as a standard water bottle cage opening up many possibilites.
At the downtube/seattube union above the bottom bracket there are bottle mounting bolts and a mysterious third bolt in the flat section above the crank. This arrangement facilitates standard and aero shaped bottle cages along with a new TorHans storage and hydration device being released soon. The new TorHans unit will use all three bolts.
The shape of the seat tube continues the aerodynamic design themes learned from P3 and P4 with a slight curvature. The seat tube area above the seat stays is much deeper on P5 than previous models and features a truncated airfoil shape with a flat rear surface. This shape is claimed to test better at high yaw angles (crosswinds) and more common race speeds. The horizontal mounting of the seat stays to the seat tube are inspired by the P4. This intricate shaping continues on P5.
The seatpost continues Cervelo’s successful variable geometry design and has the capability to go to an 80-degree range effective seat tube angle. The new seat clamp design is easy to use with one wrench adjustment. We saw a prototype accessory bottle mount on a P5 that was elegant and lightweight, utilizing a round opening at the rear of the seatpost.
We’ve seen two different seatposts on P5, one with more setback capability and another with a steeper orientation for more open angle between femur and torso. The longer setback version is presumably for compliance with position requirements in professional bike races sanctioned by the UCI such as time trial stages in the Tour de France and isn’t relevant to triathletes.
An interesting change for Cervelo is the proximity of the rear wheel to the seat tube. With wider frame shapes and wheel designs more space can be allowed between the rear tire and the seat tube while still maintaining optimal aerodynamics. The P5 will accept all of the new generation wide aero wheels such as Zipp Firecrest, HED, Zipp Sub 9 disks, etc. Dropouts are rear-facing and easy to use once you practice the technique.
Brake mounting under the bottom bracket is clean with no exposed cables or hydraulic lines. A compartment built into the seat tube houses the Shimano Di2 battery or can be used as storage on bikes with cable actuated component groups. Some of the aerodynamic design themes developed on the P4 chainstays are apparent in the rear end of the P5. The dropouts feature adjustment screws. The rear derailleur hanger is overbuilt to maintain durability.
While the Cervelo P5 story centers on the bike itself the personalities that contributed to the bike are also a part of its development and story. A key player in P5 development is engineer Damon Rinard. Rinard is perhaps the only engineer in the cycling industry on par with Cervelo’s original design team of Gerard Vrooman and Phil White. Rinard helped vault Trek forward in the development of their Speed Concept bikes. Rinard spent seven years at Trek’s Advanced Concept Group before leaving to work for Cervelo in the Vroomen/White Design division. Rinard’s move to Cervelo was so significant that LAVA Magazine editor Jay Prasuhn wrote “…engineers are equal stars as riders…” on the Slowtwitch.com forum.
Phil White is an original founder of Cervelo from 1995 and oversees Cervelo brand presentations like BrainBike in addition to engineering roles. White is not only a talented engineer but also an affable presenter and brand ambassador. Gerard Vroomen is a less visible personality with a sharp analytical mind. Vroomen has recently taken on a secretive “special projects” role with Cervelo’s new parent company, Pon Holdings.
The new P5 continues Cervelo’s legacy of industry-leading product introductions. With each new introduction the question “How can they top this?” has to be answered. The P5 brings better braking, improved mechanical reliability and aerodynamic innovation to the market. While previous aero bike introductions have been a race to the bottom of the wind tunnel drag chart the P5’s new features are more meaningful to the rank n’ file athlete than another white paper or claimed “best” wind tunnel result. Since debating wind tunnel results has become its own endurance event it may be easier to appreciate reliable mechanical performance and great braking on an aerodynamic bike. Cervelo delivers all of this on the new P5.