Cervélo S3 frame and fork £3499.99

Canadian designed superbike

BikeRadar score 4.5/5
  • Frame: Supermodel skinny (and sexy) and beautifully made yet strong, agile and comfortable (10/10)
  • Handling: The sharpest handling bike on test and once you’re dialled into this it’s a treat to chuck around (9/10)
  • Equipment: It’s a pricey build but the full Dura-Ace and Pro vibe components are top gear (9/10)
  • Wheels: The deep-rimmed DT Swiss RRCs are out-and-out racers, so they’re stiff and firm but incredibly fast – and can catch strong crosswinds (8/10)

Riding behind a Cervélo S3 in a pack is an odd experience – even if the rider on board is a size zero model, their backside looks like a hippo’s and you’ll feel sure that they’re packing a Thermos in the bottle cage.

It’s barely-there skinny. That’s the raison d’être of this Canadian designed stealth bomber of course – Cervélo’s founders Gerard Vroomen and Phil White pride themselves on creating some of the most aerodynamic race bikes on the planet.

A development of the firm’s excellent SLC-SL which was designed for the pros. While super-fast, its rear end felt a little harsh for longer, slightly more leisurely riding. To boost comfort in the S3, Cervélo has taken the thin seatstays from its more forgiving R3 but flipped them 90 degrees to increase their aerodynamics.

Another aero trick is the routing of the brake and gear cables. These don’t skirt around the head-tube and into the frame like they do on both the Koga and Trek, but instead enter directly behind the head-tube. Nice thinking.

The S3 is used by Thor Hushovd on the Cervélo TestTeam. He’s a big old sprinter so despite its pencil-thin tubing and waif-like weight – just 6.5kg in our build – it’s a bike that can take a hammering. Of the four bikes in this test it’s the one that feels most focused, the most racy.

The Pro Vibe carbon cockpit in combination with the razor thin 3T Funda Team fork and 66mm deep DT Swiss RRC carbon wheels – which deliver that saucy carbon hum under acceleration – feels harsher than the Koga Kimera which uses the same handlebar and stem. (Add in the full Dura-Ace groupset and this build comes in at £7351.84.)

We did find that the deep rims could catch the wind and move the bike around a touch, and we did get lots of attention-seeking noise from the brakes, but these are race day tubs – they pick up speed and hold it beautifully. Pop on something like the Shimano RS80s you get on the Raleigh and this isn’t an issue.

Shallower rims would also increase the comfort. In this build the S3 is the least fun of the four test bikes to spend hours on; the frame, despite its stiffness and wind cheating tricks, does provide cushioning – it’s been raced on the Belgian cobbles after all – but it doesn’t have the magic carpet comfort of the Madone.

As we’ve said, though, if you’re built for speed not comfort then you’ll love the S3. The short head-tube and deep bar give you a perfect position for fast riding, and the steering is super-fast. This keeps you on your toes more than the other bikes, but once you’re dialled in it still delivers confident cornering at speed.

The sheer acceleration and climbing ability of the S3 really kicks in when you get out of the saddle on a climb and the bike darts forward. It made a veritable Frank Schleck of one tester who reckoned it shaved a minute off a climb on his regular bike.

Of the bikes on test the S3, certainly in this build, feels like the sharpest tool in the box. In truth it’s the only machine here that left some testers thinking their talent simply couldn’t do it justice. It didn’t stop them from enjoying it, mind.

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