Cervélo’s S3 launched at the same time as the radically aerodynamic and divisive-looking S5. The S5 hogged the headlines, leaving the S3 pretty much ignored by all but the Cervélo faithful. That’s a shame because, not only does it look stunning, it’s relatively good value too.
This latest iteration of the S3 saves a claimed 102g of drag over the previous edition, equating to a 13-watt saving. That’s impressive and would take some training to match.
Frame weight is 68g lighter than its predecessor, too. But it’s the lack of extraneous matter that’s the standout.
The frame is neat and kept clear of clutter. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Bike of the Year 2020
The Cervélo S3 Disc Ultegra is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
The groupset’s not wireless but forensic investigation is required to find a cable. Upfront, all cables and hose routings run internally, including neat integration through the Cervélo-designed stem.
That this has been achieved without having to introduce steering bump stops or an elaborate – and expensive – one-piece bar and stem is impressive.
The cables and hoses continue through the frame with only a hint of brake hose reaching out to the caliper on the inside edge of the fork and rearstay. It’s clean and fast.
The tube shapes are all about aerodynamic gains. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Tube shapes have evolved from previous generations. The massive aero-shaped down tube has a cut-out that shadows the radius of the front wheel, mirrored by the deep seat tube and rear wheel.
This form-fitting profile not only shields ‘turbulent’ wheels, but also maintains a short wheelbase of 999.4mm on my large 58cm test bike.
That razer-sharp handling profile matches the marketing that says the S3 excels in sprints, solo breakaways or criteriums.
The alloy DT Swiss P1800 Spline are a little disappointing to see. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Cervélo S3 Disc Ultegra kit
The S3 rolls upon DT’s P1800 alloy disc wheels. The 32mm-deep rim is reasonably aero, albeit the 21mm outer width and 18mm inner is narrow compared to DT’s latest, more aerodynamic and wider designs.
The wheelset tips the scales at 1,752g a pair. It’s pretty light for an alloy but the S3 was designed for higher-grade hoops than this.
The Ultegra Disc group, along with the rim-brake version, dresses the ‘entry’ S3 models. As ever, Ultegra performs impeccably, though that’s some feat on the S3 when you consider the integration of those cables.
I know from experience that complex cable runs can lead to shifting issues. Not here. Cervélo has weighted the gearing towards the racier end of things with the 52/36 chainset, but the S3 is still a capable all-rounder thanks to the 11-30 cassette.
The extensive cabling has no negative effect on the Shimano Ultegra’s shifting. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Cervélo S3 Disc Ultegra ride impressions
On the road, the S3 accelerates effortlessly and silently. The short wheelbase (999.4mm in a 58cm), short 405mm rearstays and steep frame angles (73.5 head and 73 seat) forge a nimble ride, and one that you can push to the limits through corners and on descents. The latter’s helped by the excellent twin 160mm Ultegra Ice Tech rotors.
On climbs, the chassis’ stiffness maximises your effort and leaches little power, but it’s constrained by those DT wheels. For comparison purposes, I swapped them for a set of Zipp 303 NSWs running tubeless tyres and the difference was marked.
Continental’s Grand Prix 25mm tyres are excellent, but I wish Cervélo would spec the bike with 28s. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Cervélo has sensibly chosen Continental’s excellent Grand Prix tyres, which bring assured grip and fast rolling; that said, the ride would be enhanced with wider tyres – the P1800’s rim doesn’t broaden the tyre from its 25mm width.
Being non-tubeless, I ended up running higher pressures to avoid winter-born puncture problems. The result? The S3’s firmer ride somewhat chatters over badly maintained road surfaces.
Cervélo’s carbon bar and stem cockpit helps to alleviate vibrations. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Cervélo’s choice of carbon bar and thick padded tape, along with the excellent Prologo Dimension saddle, alleviates the vibrations somewhat, but damping could be much better for little outlay.
I’ve often argued for regional bike specifications and the S3 is a case in point. On the smooth roads found throughout much of Europe’s finest road-bike destinations, this setup would be everything you’d ever need. Here in the UK, however, utopian cycling conditions don’t exist, so can we have 28s as standard on these shores, please?
The Prologo Dimension saddle is a comfortable perch. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Cervélo S3 Disc Ultegra geometry
Sizes (* tested): 48, 51, 54, 56, 58*, 61cm
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Head angle: 73.5 degrees
Seat tube: 58cm
Top tube: 58.1cm
Head tube: 19.93cm
Fork offset: 4.3cm
Bottom bracket drop: 6.75cm
With thanks to…
BikeRadar would like to thank 100%, Q36.5, Lazer, Garmin and Facom for their support during our Bike of the Year test.