With a reputation for high-performance, world-beating road and time trial bikes, the C3 is something of a departure for Cervélo. The C3 isn’t just a tarmac tool, it aims to satisfy riders looking to extend their road riding by leaving it completely.
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Cervélo’s trademark Squoval down-tube combines the rigidity of square tubes with the torsional resistance of round ones, the seat tube changes from round to a wide rectangle, and both almost fill the BBright bottom bracket shell from side to side. BBright bottom bracket shells are 11mm wider on the non-driveside where there’s no drivetrain, adding rigidity to the frame by creating a larger anchor point, especially for that side’s giant asymmetric chainstay.
The head tube looks long but is only 7mm longer than an R3, while the most significant figures are the 7mm lower bottom bracket, 15mm longer chainstays and longer front centre — and therefore wheelbase.
What this means from the saddle is a higher bar position than a race bike, but with no spacers beneath the stem, I was only 15mm above my lowest position, and didn’t feel like I was going shopping, as there’s plenty of room to stretch.
The C3’s frame combines typical Cervélo grunt and guile, the efficiently business like head tube, down tube and chainstays offset by the refinement of the frame’s upper section.
Increasing the comfort quota, Continental’s Grand Sport Race 28mm tyres inflate to a plump 31mm on the HED Ardennes Plus GP rims, which are 26mm wide and 25mm tall, and despite the balloon-like tyres, there’s still heaps of frame clearance.
The fork has room for more too, and both ends have built-in mudguard mounts, although ’guards will limit the size of rubber you’re able to fit.
The C3 might sound like it’s gone soft, but it only takes the merest of pedalling inputs to feel the frame’s directness and positive drive. Thru-axles at both ends increase lateral stiffness, maintaining disc alignment and energy efficiency, and the flat-mount hydraulic calipers with 140mm rotors ensure clean lines and effortless, powerful braking.
With its longer chainstays, wheelbase and fork offset, the C3 is solid when the road surface is anything but. That lowered bottom bracket lowers your centre of gravity to improve handling stability, working with the nicely-rounded large volume tyres and rubber contact patch to grip tenaciously, especially with lowered tyre pressures. The aluminium rims may carry a small weight penalty, but their ride quality, versatility and durability make up for it.
The FSA cockpit and seatpost, plus Fizik Antares saddle, provide excellent contact points, and Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 gives its usual faultless, slick-shifting performance with a sensible range of gears.
Cervélo has long partnered with Rotor, and the 3D chainset worked well with the groupset, apart from the large ring’s inboard shift ramps catching the chain slightly when in the small ring and smaller sprockets.
Cervélo has separated the C3 from its fast road range, but still incorporated all of the crucial performance aspects. It’s a fast endurance bike with potential to head far beyond tarmac, and with mudguards fitted, would be an awesome all-season all-rounder.