Cervelo P3 (frameset) review£2,299.99

Proven performer

BikeRadar score4/5

If any bike needs no introduction it’s Cervelo’s legendary P3. The carbon version of the original alloy P2 shaves weight while retaining the iconic aerodynamic shaping and performance that’s made it the most popular aero bike available. Only the fork and paint job changes for 2010, so is it still a cutting-edge clock beater?

Ride & handling: Aggressive, predatory ride character with outstanding power transfer

There’s just something about the silhouette and the brooding speed potential of this bike that means every time you get aboard it you’re not just going for a ride, you’re declaring war on the clock.

Just clicking into the pedals there’s a resounding ‘clack’ through the frame, and an immediate sense of the rock solid connection between crank and rear wheel. Lever it into action and the roar of the rear wheel rises rapidly with a rhythmic pulse until you’re at tuck speed.

Onto the flat arm pads, and the stable head angle and pushed-forward riding position sync with the super-aero straight-line design and brutal power delivery. No matter how many times we ride it, the result is startling in terms of the bike’s complete commitment to maximum speed.

You can’t help but match it, pushing your pulse rate to the limit and leaving yourself hanging out to dry. On every test ride we limped home with our lungs hanging out but glowing with a grin that proved we’d gone far too far, far too fast.

Despite the outstandingly direct power delivery and deep tube it’s not a kidney kicker either. You’d certainly be stretching the use of the word comfortable, but it’s never so hard and rattly that it’s obviously increasing fatigue and decreasing morale. You will need to pay attention to the road surface, however.

The super-stiff rear needs more subtle power delivery on steep climbs to stop it skipping about too. It’s light weight makes climbs a chance to cause pain rather than suffer it, though, and powerful riders will love the torque-proof performance.

The handling is equally sharp but well balanced at any speed and its precision helps keep it on the smoothest, fastest line possible. The flat tube shapes do need some watching in gusting sidewinds, completing a ride character that’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Cervelo p3: cervelo p3
Cervelo p3: cervelo p3

Chassis: Ultra-aero looks and low weight make a potent combination

The most recognisable silhouette in cycling starts off with a curved face head tube that blends into a deep fin front end. From here the deep fin down tube heads straight to the bottom bracket with no wheel hugging cutouts needed. It swells to a massive bulbous bottom bracket section behind the chainset which leads into super-deep chainstays.

The dead straight squared top tube minimises drag and maximises control stiffness while a neat twin-bolt clamp locks the teardrop seatpost into place. The top of the seatpost gets two saddle clamp positions to give either 75° or 77° seat angles. There’s also a decent amount of vertical height adjustment before you have to get the carbon saw out.

It’s the seat tube that really makes the Cervelo stand out though, with its curved lower quadrant forming a frighteningly close clearance fairing for the rear wheel. Steep-angled aero-fin seatstays complete the triangulation down to vertical slot dropouts with a replaceable gear hanger.

The gear cables themselves tuck into the top of the down tube fin before emerging under the bottom bracket. The frame also has bolts for a conventional down tube mounted bottle, and conventionally mounted brakes (the rear on a separate bolt-on tab) keep anchor adjustment simple.

The slim, straight-legged forks are borrowed from the latest P4 überbike and certainly help keep weight low. Six frame sizes (48cm-61cm) and the twin position seatpost guarantee a good fit for most riders. Despite the size of its tubes, weight is just 3.7lb/1,680g (frame and fork).

Equipment: Full Dura-Ace plus quality cockpit kit

Cervelo share their UK distributors with Shimano so it’s no surprise to see a full set of the latest 7900 Dura-Ace kit on the P3. The tip shift levers aren’t as clever or neat looking as the SRAM R2Cs, but the actual shifting is clinically precise and quiet right through the range. The Dura-Ace carbon levers give plenty of braking leverage and there’s no shortage of stiffness in the sleek looking two-tone cranks.

Shimano’s Dura-Ace group also provides the 50mm deep carbon-rimmed front wheel while the full disc rear comes from Shimano sister brand Pro. The roaring rear wheel certainly provides still-air and psychological advantages to the aggressive chassis, but for fair comparison we ran a lot of the test using a Zipp 808. Continental Competition tubs add top-quality monster pressure potential between you and the tarmac.

A Profile Cobra stem and Volna fully integrated carbon cockpit with curved horns and extensions give a secure feeling to the forward-emphasised ride position. The San Marco Zoncolan saddle is impressively comfortable when you’re on the rivet while saving weight over a soft nosed Tri saddle.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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