Updated: Cervelo to offer two P5 models at January launch

By James Huang, tech editor, from Boulder, CO | Friday, December 16, 2011 9.15pm

Today, BikeRadar received confirmation that Cervélo are set to debut their new—and highly anticipated—P5 tri/time trial aero flagship, as two distinct models during January's European Brainbike event. The models will be split by purpose: one UCI legal and ready for World Tour competition, and a second version built to cater to the longer distances and less restrictive governing body of triathlon.

While the company have released a few teaser bits of information, here at BikeRadar we've uncovered some more unofficial details of what will likely be on tap for Cervélo’s launch.

What we know

Specialized upped the aero bike ante this year by splitting their Shiv aero bike into both UCI-legal and non-compliant versions in order to simultaneously satisfy the technical guidelines of WorldTour racing and the comparatively unrestricted arms race of triathlon. Cervélo generally aren't perceived as having those kinds of resources but according to BikeRadar's exclusive industry sources, the new P5 will counter that move with a tri-specific model that will cater more to their highly loyal multisport clientele and a second UCI-legal version for time trials.

Our sources have told us that while the P5's overall shape will be highly evolutionary, both will still be easily identified as a Cervélo. The tri-specific version will be more aerodynamic with a taller down tube, a more aggressive seat tube profile around the rear wheel cutout, and a conventional single-crown fork – albeit, one with an additional bolt-on nosecone to increase the effective aspect ratio. The UCI-legal version, on the other hand, sticks to more P4-like tube dimensions and a standard front end without the add-on nosecone.

The seatstays on both models will be set further apart than on the P4 to facilitate airflow through the area, and we’re told they're more upright and attached higher up than before, too – not unlike the blurred-out profile featured in Cervélo's own teaser document, in fact, which also depicts a rather elongated 'tail'.

The new P5 is said to boast a greater level of integration, including a BBright asymmetrical bottom bracket, fully hidden internal Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS-compatible routing, and a sleek new braking system developed with a different manufacturer, when compared to the P4.

Details on the new brakes are scant but our industry insiders have suggested it isn't a variant of the TT/tri-specific linear-pull system TRP developed last year, but rather something unique to Cervélo and distinctly different from what's already out there. It also sounds likely that Cervélo will not include a totally integrated front brake à la Trek and Specialized, but a profiled linear-pull setup is still a possible candidate.

Cervélo tout new Shimano Dura-Ace and Dura-Ace Di2 complete bikes. However, we don’t expect the P5 to use Shimano's new 'direct mount' brake standard or SRAM's rumored drop-in hydraulic aero setup, which we're now told is still about a year out from availability.

The former design isn't particularly aero from what we've been told by inside sources, and Shimano only released details on that setup to OEM customers at this year's Interbike show, which makes it likely too late to incorporate into a frame that was presumably already months into development.

Regardless, we expect the new brake to not only be at least as aero as the one on the current P4 but also easier to set up and maintain, and more compatible with today's crop of wider wheels. The P4's 80's-inspired, rocker-actuated cantilever setup was clever but never worked all that well, and was widely bemoaned by owners. We’d say it's a safe bet that brake won't make a second appearance

In addition, the two P5 versions will be further divergent in terms of fit with the UCI-legal version retaining a lower front end and slightly slacker seat tube angle like the current P4 but the tri-specific one boasting a much more multisport-friendly layout.BikeRadar's sources tell us that frame will get a 2.5cm-taller stack on average coupled with a 8mm reduction in reach that will be more conducive to triathletes' generally taller bar positions. In fact, we're told that the tri-specific P5 will not only wear a similar front end height to the current P2 but it's also pegged as a sort of more evolved spirit of Cervélo's bread-and-butter multisport machine.

Speaking of fit, much speculation has surrounded the hyper-integrated, submarine-like cockpit setup that Cervélo previewed on an engineering mule at the Ironman World Championship earlier this year but we've been told that it's "not real". While something like that probably tests well in the wind tunnel and looks great for marketing, the realities of trying to make something like that adjustable enough to suit Cervélo's real-world triathlete public are more conducive to a conventional setup.

As such, we're told that the P5 will forego a dramatically sleek proprietary cockpit for a standard setup that will be easier to fit and allow more choice in components – a move retailers and fitters will undoubtedly support. Even better, retail pricing is rumored to be lower than that of the P4 – we're guessing around US$4,000 for the frameset with brakes and seatpost.

Finally, Cervélo's teaser document touts two P5 frameset models – as we've now confirmed – but it still remains to be seen if there will also be 'good, better, and best' composite quality levels as was introduced with the S5 family.  BikeRadar's sources tell us that Cervélo's Asian manufacturing partner previously only worked with 24- and 30-ton carbon fiber at the high end, but the lessons learned from the R5ca project have borne fruit in the form of more advanced composite technology for the company's mass-produced frames so we do expect a top-end P5 VWD ("Vroomen White Design") and likely a second-tier P5 Team.

What we don't know

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Cervélo broke new ground on the P4 with their clever water bottle, which integrated seamlessly into the frame shape and supposedly actually improved aerodynamic performance. That fell afoul of the UCI commissaires, but since the P5 apparently brazenly shirks UCI guidelines, it's possible we might see something similar here. We don't have specific details aside from an "evolved" version for the P5 but regardless, some sort of integrated hydration is a safe bet – maybe even one involving that bolt-on nosecone.

Nor do we have precise information on aero claims or frameset weights, though Cervélo's teaser documentation makes it clear that the P5 is faster in the wind tunnel than anything else the company have made to date. As for the weight, the recent S5 intro suggests to us that the P5 may be slightly lighter than the P4, but probably not by much. Cervélo make sure their flagship aero models are aero above all else, while weight and stiffness are secondary metrics.

There's also the question of hydration. The existing P4's integrated water bottle system looked trick and apparently tested well in the wind tunnel but the UCI objected to the design and it was awkward to use. We expect the UCI-legal P5 to likely be designed for a more conventional third-party bottle setup but the tri-version can rightfully be much bolder in its approach. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if that bolt-on nosecone also served double-duty as a hydration reservoir. Many triathletes already place a third-party drink system near that area anyway so it makes sense to incorporate it into the frame design.

Time will tell how much of these unofficial details ring true but we're fairly confident in their veracity and at least for now, Cervélo aren't talking. We’ll simply have to wait till January to know for sure. "The information that's out there is the only information that Cervélo will be putting out there prior to the launch," said Mark Riedy, Cervélo's US PR agent.

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