Cervelo's 2009 P1 is the result of years of
evolution from previous designs refined into this bike.
Note: You’ll see a new look to our reviews for
2009. We’ve built a new studio specifically for
our product photo shoots. The new photos will show greater
detail where we can control color and lighting more
accurately. We can devote more time to photographing
details since we aren’t relying on weather for
good conditions. We hope you find the new
photo format useful. As always, we write and photograph
all our own reviews.
Economy and elegance are often in conflict with
one another. In the best of circumstances economy becomes
a function of elegance: A great deal without sacrificing
Cervelo’s P1 is the epitome of elegance,
the convergence of price and performance make it the
best value in a performance triathlon bike. Simply
put: It is the best bang for the buck- period. Re-stated,
the P1 is the most performance you can buy for the least money.
Additionally, it is the least expensive truly high performance
triathlon bike available. It isn’t a category killer-
it is its own category.
With an optimized
truly aerodynamic down tube, close fitting rear seat
tube cut out, narrow, round top tube and lowered seat
stay the P1 is not just aero looking, it is truly aerodynamic
for real world bicycle speeds.
The Cervelo P1 didn’t get to where
it is in one model year. The entire legacy of Cervelo
contributes to the P1’s current design, and it
is the bike closest to the original Cervelo aerodynamic
bike frame designs. Of all the Cervelo models available,
this is the fruit that falls closest to the tree. Cervelo
is slow to introduce new models, but vigilant about
evolving proven aspects of previous designs. The new
P1 is the convergence of this philosophy of constant
Legacy models prior to the P1 include the original
Cervelo Eyre, the bike that first employed the optimized
aerodynamic tube shapes Cervelo is founded on.
Cervelo P1]…is the least expensive truly high performance
triathlon bike available.”
The P1 looks like a relatively
simple welded, aluminum triathlon bike, but it is more
than that. The P1 is often overlooked in favor of Cervelo’s
molded carbon fiber models from the proven P2 to the
enigmatic P4. Carbon is king for a long list of valid
reasons, but it takes money to build a carbon fiber
bike well. Cervelo made a good decision in staying with
a highly evolved aluminum design rather than a heavy
and unsophisticated low end carbon design. In short:
The best aluminum construction is better than the cheapest
carbon fiber construction.
Is carbon fiber better than
aluminum? In a word: Yes. To get to that level of performance
you have to spend more though. The price to benefit
ratio changes. Few values provide the same price to
benefit relationship as the P1.
The complex shape of Cervelo's Smartwall 2 tubing compared
to a generic aero-styled down tube. The aerodynamic
and ride quality benefits are easy to imagine when seeing
this contrast in attention to internal detail. This
is the part few customers ever see, but it makes a significant
difference in ride quality and aerodynamics. The difference
is more than skin deep.
The simple outward appearance of the P1 is misleading. It
is a sophisticated and complex design with several elegant
engineering features inside the frame. P1 is not an entry
level bike. It is likely the most advanced aluminum triathlon
frame available; fully capable of winning the biggest races
overall under the right rider.
The predominant feature of the P1 is the frame
profile and shape. Congruent with Cervelo’s aerodynamic
principles the bike is narrow along its entire length. Frontal
area is minimal. In addition to being narrow the bike is shaped
correctly. While almost every aluminum triathlon bike has
a wing shaped down tube Cervelo is the only company with an
optimally shaped aerodynamic down tube. The trailing edge
of the down tube on the P1 is noticeably sharper than other
aluminum (and carbon fiber) tri frames. This narrower trailing
edge is only a part of the optimal cross section of the P1’s
downtube shape. The ratio of depth to width and the placement
of the widest section are also optimized through well over
a decade of wind tunnel testing. Given the roots of the P1
going back to Cervelo’s original design it isn’t
a stretch to say that the P1 and the original designs that
evolved to it are most wind tunnel tested and evolved bikes
The complex shape of the
Smartwall 2 down tube, including the frame stiffner inside
the tube at the bottom bracket (left). On the right is a production
down tube from another brand with a technically incorrect
aero profile and no structural features to enhance ride performance.
These technically valid features add value and performance
to the P1.
to the Cervelo P1:
Smartwall tubing enhances ride comfort,
stiffness and durability.
Optimized, wind tunnel designed
(not just tested) frame shapes.
Sophisticated internal bolsters to optimize
Proprietary chainstays to improve ride
comfort and lateral stiffness.
Proven geometry, dimensions and fit evolved
through race results and testing at the elite level.
Price efficient, technically valid component
Dependable, simple internal cable routing
using internal cable stops.
Adjustable proximity rear wheel cut-out
for better aerodynamics.
Considering an impressive list of unique frame
features not found on any other bike the P1 adds a sturdy,
proven list of components to complete the overall package.
is the only company with an optimally shaped aerodynamic
The trailing edge of the P1 is sharper
than any other production triathlon bike. It also tapers
down more gradually from its widest point, a direct
result of Cervelo's research in real-world, low speed
aerodynamics. This is what a truly aero tube needs to
be shaped like. It isn't just aero styling, it is truly
From the onset the component group appears workman-like,
with no conspicuous frills. Everything on the bike from
the wheels to the saddle is proven and time-tested.
There isn’t anything flashy about the component
kit on the P1, but there also isn’t (almost) anything
wrong with it- that is remarkable.
The P1 has been built in previous versions with
everything from Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace component
kit to a very basic component group aimed at the first time
buyer. The P1 has landed at an appropriate middle ground as
a primarily Shimano Ultegra SL component bike with upgraded
brake levers, our favorite bend Visiontech aerobars, utilitarian
Shimano R-500 wheels (Easton wheels on the 48cm bike) and
Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 bar-end shifters.
The Shimano Ultegra SL
drivetrain is a face lift and minor technical up spec
from the conventional Shimano Ultegra. For the details
on the differences in their new version of Shimano Ultegra
There are a few items trickled
down from the Dura-Ace component group including the
rear derailleur pivot. The overall finish of the new
Ultegra is ice gray, a pleasant color that offsets the
metallic silver on the frame nicely.
Starting with the front of the bike
the P1 uses a tried and true cockpit built around the
Visiontech alloy wing shaped base bar and Visiontech
alloy ski bend aerobars. We’ve always liked ski
bends better as they offer a more anatomically restful
and less stressful forearm posture. You can read about
the use of ski bend aerobars versus “S”
Controls are the Shimano Dura-Ace ten speed bar end
shifters. There are more of these bar end shifters on
the road than any other model: They are simple, light,
robust and proven.
The newest version of FSA Visiontech's aero brake levers with
a wider, more comfortable profile and the Tektro made high return
spring brake calipers. This is an excellent braking system on
an aero cockpit and requires no upgrade to either calipers or
Brake levers on the P1 are the new, wider and
more comfortable version of the slim FSA crab-claw style lever.
Again, we like this lever- it is sleek and aerodynamic with
the newest version being more comfortable on the fingers than
previous, narrower versions. Shifters are Shimano Dura-Ace
7800 10-speed bar end shifters- the same ones they use in
the Tour de France.
Brake calipers on the P1 are Cervelo’s
house brand they call Mach 2 and are made by Tektro for Cervelo.
An important note: These calipers are designed specifically
to work with a variety of brake levers, that is to say they
are not Shimano specific. When people change the brake calipers
to a Shimano brand caliper but don’t use a Shimano brake
lever the response will be relatively poor. Shimano brake
calipers are designed to work best with the SLR brake levers
also made Shimano. When used with other brands of brake levers
there isn’t enough spring tension in the Shimano brake
caliper to return the brake lever after releasing the brakes
unless you adjust the spring tension to its maximum in the
Shimano caliper, thus taking more force to actuate the brake.
Bottom line: These brake calipers are specifically intended
to be used with aero brake levers, Shimano doesn’t make
an aero brake lever (yet), so these calipers are better in
this application than a Shimano caliper.
Cervelo finally got the color very right on
the P1. Previous iterations of the P1, known as the P2SL and
other names as the component spec changed, ran a gamut of
colors from a nice, stealthy flat black to an interesting
pewter/gun metal color to a rather bilious yellow few people
adored. The new livery is metallic silver, opaque red and
white. The bike is not gray as we have heard it referred to,
it is silver. We’ve heard many people mention they didn’t
want a gray bike, then see the bike in person and tell us
they like the metallic silver color very much. Cervelo’s
photography on their own website doesn’t do the bike
justice. It is lively, metallic silver that matches most helmets
and race apparel and has a bright, summery feel. It is also
a racing color that invokes images of Formula 1 and Indy racing
cars. There are subtle sparkles in the paint that are brilliant
in the sun. Overall, this is the paint scheme the bike has
Integral frame cable stops
provide excellent brake and drivetrain performance and
prevent internal rattling of cables.
The P1 uses one correctly placed bottle
mount on the seat tube for optimal aerodynamics. Mounting
a bottle on the seat tube is more aerodynamic than mounting
it on the down tube. Cervelo intends for the rider to
use another hydration system such as a handlebar mounted
rig or a behind the saddle mount for longer distances
when more bottles are needed. From sprint to Olympic
distance one bottle mount will suffice.
Cable routing on the P1 is the legacy state-of-the-art
created by Cervelo. It’s the best in the industry.
No removable cable stops. The cable housing stops at
the frame inlet to save weight. Since the cable stop
is built into the frame your shifting and braking will
feel responsive, there is no mushy feel from a lose
Welds on the aluminum frame are nicely done and left
un-ground. Previous aluminum frame manufacturers ground
the aluminum weld beads smooth. Grinding the weld bead
smooth likely weakens the joint by heating the material
and removing strength and structural integrity from
the joint. With the Cervelo welds what you see is what
you get: A nicely done, workman like joint that will
last thousands and thousands of miles.
Like all Cervelo frames the P1 has a lifetime warranty
you will probably never have to use.
The seat post binder bolt is a simple
and robust affair that uses a standard bolt and goes
together easily with a 5mm Allen wrench. This is a durable
design well suited for flight case disassembly. The
binder bolt threads into a separate and robust anodized
collar. This entire assembly can be easily and inexpensively
replaced if abused by a ham-fisted mechanic.
Cervelo uses an aluminum aerodynamic seatpost
with it reversible geometry seatpost head to achieve
a wide range of effective seat tube angles.
A key feature to the P1’s nice ride
quality is the seatstay configuration. The seatstays
join the seat tube of the frame well below the top tube.
This design achieves two desirable affects: It helps
divert the flow of road shock energy coming from the
rear wheel and it reduces the surface area of the rear
triangle making it stiffer. This is an elegant engineering
cue that improves stiffness and ride comfort at the
same time. This design may also contribute to great
rear brake performance on the Cervelo P1.
Cervelo uses a San Marco
Ponza Trilon triathlon specific saddle for the original
parts spec and this is a respectable saddle. The nose
is wide and generously padded for riding in the aero
position. Few riders will need to look elsewhere to
achieve good saddle comfort in the aero position. We
like the Ponza even for long rides.
Rear brake mounting on the P1 is entirely conventional.
The rear dropouts are Cervelo’s rear-facing, horizontal
dropouts that provide good rear tire proximity to the aero
cut-out seat tube with a wide variety of tire sizes and with
the new generation of wider aerodynamic race wheels. This
is a versatile rear end design with no aerodynamic compromises.
Cervelo has started masking off the dropouts so there is a
nice, finished look to the rear wheel mounts. On previous
versions the dropouts were painted and the paint would flake
off when the quick release was tightened. The new version
looks much cleaner.
The remaining components on the P1 include
the FSA Gossamer crankset with a 110mm B.C.D. (Bolt
Circle Diameter) using a 50 tooth large ring and a 34
tooth small ring. This is a great gear range that gives
you a top end gear of 122.7 gear inches which moves
the bike 32.1 feet across the ground for every revolution
of the cranks in the biggest gear. By contrast, a traditional
road bike large gear of 53/12 would only provide 119.2
gear inches with a total development of 31.1 feet of
development (distance covered by one crank revolution).
In short, the 50/34 is plenty of gear for a high top
speed but a nice, low gear for easy climbing. The 34/23
low gear provides a 38.2 inch gear that travels 12.7
feet every time you turn the pedals. Contrast that with
a typical 39/23 that travels 18.0 feet for every pedal
revolution. Simply put, less travel is better at the
low end but more travel is better at the high end. The
compact cranks achieve both agendas while reducing weight
and improving shift quality. It is a 100% win-win component
Even flat landers will like this gearing selection
since it likely gets them out of the middle of their
cogset when cruising at race pace on flat terrain.
If the logic of compact cranks is still lost on you
swapping this out for the heavier, less versatile, older
130mm bolt pattern crank is easy- it splines onto the
same bottom bracket.
Wheels on the P1 are the
newest version of the Shimano WH-R500 with black, bladed
aerodynamic spokes, 20 radially laced aero spokes in
front, 24 aero spokes laced cross 2 for extra strength
in the back. We still don’t like the Vittoria
Rubino Pro Slick tires that come stock, so wear them
out and replace them with a nicer Vittoria tire or some
The wheels themselves have
a nicely machined brake track for good wet weather stopping.
For many people who buy the P1 this will be
their very first racing bike. There is no better place to
start- the ride quality is superb. Forget the stereotypes
about aluminum riding rough, this bike is comfortable enough
for long distance triathlons when equipped with 23 millimeter
tires, it is even more comfortable with race wheels. Handling
is well scripted and the bike follows instructions without
pushback- it will do what you tell it. You get the same excellent
fit and geometry in Cervelo’s higher end carbon fiber
P2 at 30% lower cost. Simply put, there isn’t a 30%
difference in performance between the bikes.
There are a number of offerings in the entry
price, sub- $2000 price category among triathlon bikes. While
most of them are solid bikes, none offer the lineage, evolution,
technology, sophistication and refined internal frame features
or aerodynamic benefits of the P1. Below $2000 the P1 is a
lethal category killer.