On its launch in 2008, the original S3 was perhaps the most advanced aero road bike ever, proving its speed potential by being ridden to a world championship victory by Norwegian Thor Hushovd. This latest incarnation brings it right up to date again.
Highs: Fast, swift handling, light, smooth
Lows: Wheels, narrow tyres
Its new FK42 fork has a tapered steerer and larger clearance for 25mm tyres, and the aerofoil shaped down tube has been increased in size and now incorporates interchangeable internal cable stops so the bike can be run with standard cable or electronic drivetrains. It feels rock solid – while early aero bikes tended to feel less reactive than their standard road stablemates, this much more substantial front end means it doesn’t twist or flex under hard sprints and its command of the line through fast corners is simply brilliant.
The frame can handle mechanical, electronic or hydraulic cabling: Robert Smith
The frame can handle mechanical, electronic or hydraulic cabling
Perhaps the biggest change, though, is at the back. The original was undoubtedly a quick machine, but comfort wasn’t top of its agenda. The new S3 takes its rear end from the state-of-the-art RCA frame with its super-slender stays. This heavy slimming adds plenty of comfort, with buzz reduced to a murmur, helped by the classy Fizik Antares saddle – though the ride quality would be further improved by 25mm tyres (come on Cervélo, you’ve designed the bike to take them, so let’s have them!). Mavic’s Yksions are decent rubber, but they are slender for 23s.
Gearing is spot-on for a fast road machine with a nod to the sportive or endurance rider, combining a 52/36 chainset with a close 11-25 cassette at the back. The latest Ultegra uses the same design as Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace, performing just as flawlessly, and aside from the finish and a titanium bolt or two you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.
The 52/36 and 11-25 combo provides a versatile gearing range: Robert Smith
The 52/36 and 11-25 combo provides a versatile gearing range
The alloy aero Mavic Cosmic Elite S wheels are well built and rock solid. As a package including tyres and tubes they weigh 2380g so aren’t the lightest, but although it has to be said the S3 would fly on higher quality aero wheels, it’s still respectable in this standard guise.
You’re getting an exceptional aero bike here, with a simply wonderful frame. Cervélo has taken a design that was showing its age and infused it with everything it has learned since. The S3 handles better, it’s more comfortable and the chassis is lighter. It also competes on every level with the likes of Giant’s Propel, Felt’s AR and Specialized’s Venge, and would easily be a five star bike with better wheels. As it stands, though, this is one seriously rapid ride that we’ll certainly miss once it leaves our office.