Thirty Little Things.
By Tom Demerly.
The latest version of Cervelo's P3C.
There are icons in every type of racing: Vehicles
proven by results. They generate lust from the lore that surrounds
them. They are enduring designs, classics. They raised the
bar in their category. They are valid. They can’t be
ignored. More than any single bike in history, the Cervelo
P3C is that icon to triathlon.
Based on results alone it is simply the most
successful aerodynamic triathlon bike ever built.
The triathlon bike was born in 1987 with early
designs by Dan Empfield that looked like a traditional round
tube bike. Our sport was searching for an icon; our own Porsche,
our Concorde, our 12 meter yacht. Triathlon needed its “ultimate”.
The P3C maintains that distinction.
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Cervelo set the standard for how an
aerodynamic bike should look and strongly influenced the cosmetic
of these bikes introduced after the P3. Few of these copies
share any of the real technical benefits of the P3.
|There are other “superbikes”
in triathlon. The debates over aerodynamics and its relevance
will never be settled among the armchair experts. You
can’t ignore that the P3C is the bike against which
all others are argued. The reason is no other manufacturer
has achieved what Cervelo has with the P3C. For them to
try they would have to start over a decade ago. This is
the reason for the huge number of P3C look-alikes. The
P3C is how an aero bike should look. When the
wind hits the carbon, nothing is faster.
P3C is how an aero bike should look.”
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With the most successful competitive
record in history the P3C has won time trials and triathlons
around the world at all levels or competition.
While the P3C’s competitive record establish
it as state-of-the-art it isn’t perfect- no bike is.
While there are areas of the P3C’s that warrant criticism
(we’ll get to that…), its performance record is
indisputable- it is a matter of historical record, having
won more timed cycling and multisport events than any other
single production or custom bike: Ever. Here are the highlights:
20+ Ironman Wins- more than any
other single bike in history.
World Championship, individual Time Trial,
World Time Trial Championship, 2007.
Winner, Tour de France Prologue, 2005.
Winner, Tour de France Prologue, 2007.
Over 50% of Pro Tour time trials
in 2006 won on P3C. The other wins divided among
more than 16 manufacturers, some not production bikes.
Kona bike count winner by a single
model against every model of other brands for two years
If you didn’t count other Cervelo models the P3C would
win the Kona bike count all by itself.
Kona bike count winner brand by a factor
of 3 over the next leading brand. Over 90% of the Cervelos
at Kona were P3Cs.
It is noteworthy that Cervelo only sponsors
one cycling team and 23 professional triathletes- not all
of them with free bikes. Almost every victory won on the P3C
was won on a bike that was paid for by the rider, most at
retail, a few through “pro deals” among local
hot shot age groupers who work at a Cervelo dealer and entry
level pros. Some unaccounted for victories are on P3C’s
re-badged as other brands. Many top professionals got their
start on a P3 they paid for, like the early aluminum version,
and generated the results that won them a promotional contract
from another company. If it hadn’t been for the results
they generated while riding their P3 they may not be sponsored
by another bike company. Even six-time Ironman World Champion
Mark Allen recognized the performance edge Cervelo may offer
a rider. Allen said, “…What bike would I ride
if I were still trying to win the Ironman? With total confidence
my answer has been the same for years… Cervélo.
And this was even before Cervélo claimed top honors
in the bike count at the Ironman World Championships. I feel
Cervélo is the most dynamic innovator in the world
of cycling and especially in providing time trial bikes that
outperform all others."
Some other brands buy P3C's
from Cervelo and put their decals on them for sponsored
athletes. Here is a "Bianchi" P3C.
Two athletes who established
their pro careers riding P3's and moved on to larger
sponsorship deals but not better results.
The three things that typify the triathlon bike
are geometry, aerodynamics and construction. The P3C features
new benefits in all three areas. It’s important to realize
this bike was designed three years ago and these standards
are still the industry reference. It is the bike against which
almost every other manufacturer tests its own bikes. They
claim the P3C is always “second” behind theirs.
It’s an odd and recurring coincidence.
Introduced in 2005 the Cervelo P3C was the culmination
of the work of two fellows who lived aerodynamic human powered
machine design since they were children. Phil White and Gerard
Vroomen founded Cervelo in 1996. It was a rogue start up,
funded out of their hip pockets after engineering school.
The pair lived in the basement of a bike shop on an allowance
of $50 a month each while they honed their designs that started
a bit dull. It took over a decade before they sharpened their
design edge into the P3C.
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The current version of the P3C is
the product of nearly six total years of evolution in the
The P3C is an all carbon fiber, molded aerodynamic
bicycle designed for triathlons and time trials. It is the
first commercially successful production bicycle designed
from an aerodynamic perspective- not just the bike, but the
rider position too, and this distinction separates it from
previous attempts. Most high performance aerodynamic bikes
have aero features, but no other production bike has been
influenced by aerodynamics- both bike frame and rider position-
to the degree of the P3C. Aerodynamics is about details, and
the 30 aerodynamic details on the P3C are so subtle that people
are confused by aero styled knock-off bikes that mimic the
shape, but not the function of the P3C.The bike’s capability
to support a comfortable aerodynamic position is an even greater
benefit than its truly aerodynamic frame design.
Previous attempts at aerodynamic design include
the Miyata Aero, the Trimble, the Lotus, the Cheetah Cat,
the Corima Fox, the Zipp 2001 the Kestrel 4000 and the GT
Project 96 Superbike, the Hooker Elite and others. None of
these designs approached the commercial or competitive success
of the Cervelo P3C. Reasons for this include lack of demand
at the time of introduction- multisport wasn’t that
popular when most of these bikes were introduced, difficulty
with production, poor marketing, mechanically impractical
design features, cost and unverifiable aerodynamic benefits
along with overall poor competitive record. These early bikes
hadn’t won enough big races in enough sports to capture
the consumer’s imagination and didn’t have the
testing to back them up or, more importantly hone their design.
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Early attempts at aerodynamic design produced
bikes with mechanical, supply and other issues.
The substance behind the P3C’s success
is meticulous attention to detail in the design and manufacturing
process and the ability to position the rider efficiently
for a comfortable, aerodynamic riding position. There are
30 unique aerodynamic refinements on the P3C frame design
alone- not mentioning rider positioning. The best aerodynamic
design is a conspiracy of little things, and the 30 little
things that differentiate a P3C from all other bike designs
make a significant difference compared to other frames when
taken together. If you like fine print, here is the list of
30 design elements that differentiate the P3C from all other
Rounded, scalloped head tube
Low head tube height per frame size. 3.
Aerodynamically optimized, smooth, simple transition from
head tube to top tube. 4. Smooth,
simple transition from head tube to down tube- no edges, lines
or “stall points”.
5. Smooth, aerodynamic top tube shape even
across wide yaw angles; most effective in cross winds.
6. Truly horizontal
top tube for minimal frontal area. 7.
Narrow top tube that matches width of other frame members,
no abrupt or sudden width transitions to create turbulence.
8. Bicycle specific
speed designed down tube width to depth (aspect) ratio.
Optimal airfoil shape for bicycle speeds on down tube
including sharpest trailing edge. 10.
Matching top tube aspect ratio to rest of frame for smoothest
transitions around entire frame. 11.
Down tube horizontal section optimized for the correct angle
of attack that the wind crosses over it. 12.
Concealed, internal cable routing does not use a bulging external
cable stop; routing is flush with frame surface. 13.
Overall round, smooth shape of bottom bracket shell as viewed
from all yaw angles including crosswind; no sharp edges or
protruding components. 14.
Smooth transition from down tube to bottom bracket
without sharp or abrupt curves or lines. 15.
Smooth, consistent radius transition from seat tube to bottom
bracket; width increases gradually and simply. 16.
Streamlined linear shape of chainstay for
minimal frontal area; chainstays do bulge or protrude suddenly
increasing surface area as encountered by wind from the front.
chainstays draft behind bottom bracket shell. 18.
Seat tube cut out follows maximum circumference of wheel over
entire frame seat tube length; no interruptions. 19.
Shape of seat tube (cross section as viewed from above) optimized
for best aspect ratio at bicycle speed with wheel in place;
frame makes rear wheel more aerodynamic/wheel makes frame
more aerodynamic. 20.
No flat, vertical forward facing edge on seat tube. 21.
Closest seat tube proximity to rear wheel
for best wheel/frame interface, lowest drag. 22.
Correct seat tube width to match other frame members and provide
smooth transition across entire frame; no abrupt or complex
width changes. 23.
Smooth, nearly seamless interface between seat tube and seat
post; no protruding bolts or clamps. 24.
Seatpost is aerodynamic over its entire length up to the saddle
clamp. 25. Seatpost
maintains aspect ratio of the rest of the frame, no abrupt
transition in width or shape.
26. Saddle clamp shape is optimized for best
aerodynamics with no forward facing fasteners and minimal
sharp edges. 27.
Seatpost binder assembly is entirely rear facing and “drafts”
in top tube shape; no exposed/forward facing clamp or hardware.
narrow, aerodynamic transition from seat tube to seat stay
maintains overall frame width. 29.
Bladed aerodynamic seat stays make smooth, aerodynamic transition
to dropouts; narrow shape has minimal frontal area. 30.
Seat tube and head tube forward facing profiles
both rounded at similar radius to avoid flat shapes facing
front of bike.
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Some of the 30 small design features
that result in measurable aerodynamic benefit.
P3C’s success is meticulous attention to
detail in the design and manufacturing process
and the ability to position the rider efficiently
for a comfortable, aerodynamic riding position.”
|Of these 30 design elements
some bikes share some features but no single bike has
all 30 features except the P3C. If each feature only saved
one to three grams of drag it could total between 30 and
90 grams of drag savings. If it requires about 1.3 watts
of power output from the cyclist to overcome 10 grams
of drag this is a power savings of 3.9 to 11.7 watts.
Depending on speed this can translate (very easily) to
a five minute time savings over 112 miles. Remember-
this is for the bare frame only. We haven’t
even begun a discussion about the rider position on the
P3C where the opportunity for larger time savings exists.
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Bikes are often styled to look aerodynamic
but ignore many of the basic principles of aerodynamic design.
Bikes that are styled to look like aerodynamic
designs are common. This "aerodynamic styling" looks
fast but is functionally ineffective at optimizing aerodynamics.
There's nothing wrong with making attractively sculpted bikes,
but much of the confusion surrounding the validity of aero
testing is the result of marketing from companies that don't
develop and make changes based on wind tunnel testing. Cervelo
does more wind tunnel testing than any other bicycle manufacturer,
then they test on the road. The testing happens during the
design process, not after, and it shapes the bike from the
earliest stage. This is an utterly different approach from
manufacturers who use the wind tunnel mostly as a marketing
photo opportunity. This reality is lost between the wind tunnel
and the winner's circle in marketing hype, but Cervelo's testing
and design are as real as their race results. No company can
"market" away the race results of the P3C. It may
be a coincidence every company says the P3C tests "second"
to their "aero" bike, but it's no coincidence the
P3C has been so successful competitively. Even the internet
forum experts can't argue the race results away no matter
how cynical they remain about the test results.
What is the relevance of race results? Consider
this: In 2006 Chris McCormack lost the Ford Ironman World
Championships to Normann Stadler by 71 seconds. If the use
of a Cervelo P3C frame instead of the bike McCormack did ride
in '06 saved him only a second per mile he may have won by
41 seconds. McCormack needs the help too, as his bike split
at Kona in 2007, the year he won, was his slowest in three
years and only 9th overall. He was faster on the bike in 2005
at Kona when he posted a 4:37:06 bike split and faster still
in 2006 with a 4:29:24 bike split. It's a good thing McCormack
is such an excellent athlete and runner: In 2007 his bike
split was a rather pedestrian (for the pros) 4:38:11. Tactical
considerations and weather play a primary role in these outcomes,
but one has to wonder: What if McCormack had a more aerodynamic
bike? If McCormack had a faster bike perhaps he wouldn't have
to run so fast. Perhaps...
The P3C has evolved during its lifespan with
changes such as the addition of the New 3T Funda Pro carbon
steer tube fork, redesigned seatpost for better rider positioning
and an overall reduction in frame weight by over 150 grams
since its introduction in 2005. The current version of the
P3C is the most advanced one and in use with the CSC Pro Team.
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The current P3C is an evolution of development and refinement
with improvements in every version.
The New 3T Funda Pro fork is an improvement
over the previous Wolf CL fork. The Wolf CL is a good fork
that uses a reliable and easy to cut cro-moly alloy steer
tube while the Funda Pro uses a lighter all carbon fiber steer
tube. The primary benefit of the New 3T Funda Pro fork is
improved aerodynamics. Viewed from the front the Funda Pro’s
blades stay very close to the wheel for about 70 millimeters-
the depth of a deep section aero rim. This minimizes drag
between the wheel and fork blades when using race wheels from
60 mm to 80 mm deep. This fork shape was designed by Cervelo
for manufacture by The New 3T.
The current seatpost on the P3C was introduced
in 2006 and gives the rider a wider “fit band”
or effective seat tube angles. This was an improvement on
the P3C since a rider can sit steeper with the new seat post
keeping a nice, relaxed, open angle between torso and legs
while pedaling even with a lot of handlebar drop.
Early version seatpost with
flush leading edge and reduced effective seat angle
Current Seatpost configuration with advanced seat angle
capability for better aero positioning.
Through refinements in the manufacturing process
the P3C has reduced weight by over 150 grams since 2005 while
maintaining frame strength and stiffness.
Even with a robust 1&1/8"
steer tube the P3C's head tube is only 35 mm wide. By
contrast the Felt DA has an effective 1" steer
tube but a portly 44 mm wide head tube.
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The narrow, smoothly sculpted
head tube that melds into the rest of the frame without
abrupt changes is a key feature.
The head tube on the P3C contributes significantly
to the industry leading aerodynamics of the bike.
It is an elegant shape that melds smoothly with the
rest of the frame at the same width. There are no
abrupt changes in width or shape, no forward facing
flat surfaces. The width of the head tube is only
35 mm on a P3C with a sturdy 1&1/8” steer
tube for added strength. For comparison the width
of the head tube on a Felt B2 Pro is 44 mm with only
a 1” diameter steer/headset assembly. This is
an area where most other manufacturers have made errors
in design that increase drag measurably.
The top tube is parallel
to the ground to reduce frontal area. Top tube shapes
that slope present a larger frontal area than a horizontal
top tube. The down tube is an optimized airfoil shape
designed for speeds from 18-30 M.P.H. The bottom bracket
shell is a remarkably smooth and uncomplicated shape
despite the intersection of five frame members. Nothing
bulges suddenly and there are no sharp transitions to
create turbulence. This area of the bike is more important
than many people realize when considering aerodynamics.
Seat stays and chainstays are also thin and stay close
to the rear wheel.
Thin shape throughout, horizontal
top tube, consistently smooth transitions of shape.
|Perhaps the most conspicuous aerodynamic
feature of the frame is the rear wheel cut out. This is
also the most copied but almost no one else has got it
right. The bulk of the difference in cost between the
P2C and the P3C, a whopping $1500, is for the wheel cutout.
The P2C is made out of a mold that uses about 6 separate
components. The mold for the P3C uses over 10 components.
As a result it is much harder to make P3C’s than
it is to make P2C’s. The wheel cut out optimizes
aerodynamics by almost completely eliminating the gap
between wheel and seat tube- it is actually concave. There
are no forward facing flat surfaces. This effectively
manages air flow around the seat tube and wheel transition.
The P3C rear end is at its best with race wheels that
have either a deep rim or a complete disk.
the jury may be out on the relevance of frame
aerodynamics there is no disputing that if you
ignore them you will go slower.”
to Enlarge The
wheel cutout is the predominant aerodynamic frame feature.
The close proximity of the rear
wheel and complex shape makes manufacturing difficult.
The invisible advantage of the P3C is the rider
position. For most riders a position that is rotated forward
to a steeper orientation results in a more aerodynamic posture.
Since the rider accounts for the lion’s share of drag
on the bike this is where the P3C really saves you time. The
front is long; there is room to put your torso between a steep
relative saddle orientation and a low cockpit with plenty
of comfort. It’s stable in this position. It’s
not just an aero bike, it is the opportunity for a more aero
position, and that is what makes all the difference. Debate
the value of an aero frame all you want, you can’t dispute
the value of a more aerodynamic position, and the P3C does
that better than almost any current bike with its low head
tube, long reach and steep seat angle capability. Because
of its long front end, low head tube, steep seat angle and
long front/center the P3C is one of very few bikes available
that actually does facilitate a truly comfortable, stable,
efficient aerodynamic position for most riders. Position is
the punch in the P3C. If you do a careful and detailed survey
of the geometry charts you’ll see no other company has
the same dimensions.
The main aerodynamic feature of the P3C is the ability
to accommodate a comfortable aerodynamic posture.
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Frame aerodynamics aside the
rider position is the most important factor in performance.
The long reach, low head tube and steep effective seat
angle capability of the P3C provide tangible benefit.
the value of an aero frame all you want, you can’t
dispute the value of a more aerodynamic position,
and the P3C does that better than almost any current
|The component kit on the P3C
is well conceived but few customers ride the bike without
changes. It is a nice Dura-Ace kit with an FSA SLK Light
carbon fiber crank, Cervelo label brakes (that are quite
nice) and VisionTech aero brake levers. The bike comes
with a VisionTech cockpit using ski bend aerobars which
most people voice a preference for in fitting. The wheel
set is suitable for training rides, the solid Shimano
R-550. The component spec is solid but not spectacular.
You don’t buy a P3C for the components; you buy
it for the frame. A lot of P3C’s are sold as framesets
and built up with Campagnolo Record, Chorus, SRAM Red
or Force or other component mixes. The stock kit is a
good starting point.
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The component kit of the P3C is well conceived
Tri bikes have somehow gotten a bad rep for
climbing and the P3C breaks that mold. It climbs oddly well
for a triathlon bike. This is likely due to the low-ish top
tube configuration, a better design for stand-over height
than tri bikes that use a rearward sloping top tube. Another
feature that helps it on the climbs is the chainstays and
internal lay-up of the carbon. The bottom bracket is very
stiff and the rear triangle quite small- more stiffness. The
curved seat tube adds comfort but gives away very little lateral
rigidity. I used a P3C at the Ford Ironman Wisconsin in 2007,
a hilly course, and had a very comfortable ride on the climbs,
more so than any other tri bike I’ve ridden and better
than most road bikes.
Age group athletes ride the
same frame as Ironman and Tour de France athletes. This
is my P3C at the Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon in
Top pros on the CSC Team ride the stock P3C frame. This
P3C is equipped with the New 3T Funda Pro fork designed
by Cervelo for 3T.
Time trial phenomenon Gustav Larsson of Team CSC uses
a new P3C fitted with a Funda Pro fork and the new 3T
Handling on the P3C can be described with one
word for better and for worse: Stability. When you get in
the aero position at cruise speed the bike is unerringly stable.
There is no issue releasing one hand from the aerobars to
grab a gel from your jersey pocket or grab a rear-mounted
water bottle. The bike minds its manners and stays nice and
straight. Now, if you are descending a bunch of switchbacks,
well, did I mention how stable it is? This is a great bike
for someone who doesn’t like to do a lot of high speed
cornering. It will go through turns fast, but you need room
to do it. This is a “carving” bike, not a criterium
bike. That is what the bike is intended for- high sustained
speeds for solo riding over distance. As such, it is such
an advantage at Ironman distance, rolling or flat, it isn’t
fair- and that’s the idea. Three words: Comfortable,
stable, aerodynamic with an addendum that it climbs better
than almost any other aero bike. I had my fastest bike split
at Ironman on the hilliest course I’ve ever done in
the worst shape I’ve ever been on a P3C. If you do the
math even conservatively Ironman Champion Chris McCormack
would be a two time winner instead of one and likely
wouldn’t have had his slowest bike split of the last
three years at Kona in 2007. For a guy like me a P3C makes
Ironman easier and more enjoyable. For a guy like McCormack
it could make the difference between first and second.
is such an advantage at Ironman distance, rolling
or flat, it isn’t fair- and that’s
|Mechanically the P3C is good,
not perfect. The rear dropout screws are small and can
be delicate. Exercise reasonable care with them. A very
small amount of blue Loctite firms up the fit of the little
screws that adjust the proximity of the rear wheel to
the seat tube cut out and keep your rear wheel evenly
spaced in the frame. Keep an eye on these as a regular
part of preventive maintenance, checks and services.
Head tube profile with no flat, forward facing edge.
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A smooth transition around
the bottom bracket with an uncluttered design reduces
drag. This is an important area of the frame from
an aerodynamic perspective and one where other manufacturers
make frequent design errors.
The seatpost binder bolt has a large label on
it that says “4 NM” for a reason: Use a torque
wrench set at 4 Newton meters. Tighten the left and right
screws alternately a little at a time so they engage the same
amount of threads on each side. This is racing equipment-
it pays to practice meticulous maintenance and mechanical
practices on it, just like a race car.
A smoothly rounded bottom
bracket contour with simple, streamlined cable routing.
Flush mounted, rear facing binder
bolts don't "grab" air.
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No exposed cable guides outside
the smooth frame surface for lowest drag.
Cable routing is good as long as you do a good
job preparing your cables and housings. I yearn for the mechanically
excellent cable routing Felt uses on their B2 that is completely
guided through the inside of the frame and would even give
back that 150 grams Cervelo was able to remove from the P3C
over the past two years in exchange for routing this mechanically
flawless. We see a lot of Nokon compressionless cable sets
used on P3C’s such as the CSC team bikes. This does
improve shifter responsiveness and ease of shifting. It’s
a worthwhile upgrade but not necessary. Nokons are a little
fumbly to assemble and about ten times the cost of a normal
cable and housing at around $80 for a set.
World Time Trial Champion
Fabian Cancellara on a new P3C.
The bane of the P3C is that its most
advanced features result in benefits a customer has
a tough time appreciating at first. There is simply
so much rhetoric and cynicism about wind tunnel testing
that people have a hard time really seeing the bike
for the incredibly elegant design accomplishment it
is. An aerodynamic frame won’t knock 15 minutes
off your next Ironman, but the combination of an aero
frame and a greatly improved bike position along with
snug fitting triathlon race apparel and an aero helmet
very well could.
Another sometimes unfair criticism of the P3C
is delivery. Cervelo is an engineering and design company
run by engineers. Insiders often boast that “there are
four engineers for every one sales person” and that
also points to Cervelo's Achilles heel. This is largely a
matter of consumer perception. If you decide you want to buy
that Cervelo P3C you've been researching for a year the Friday
before your Sunday "A" race it likely won't happen,
and probably shouldn't anyway. This is racing equipment. It
takes time to set it up correctly and configure the fit optimally.
Consumers accustomed to a grab-n-go retail experience will
find this odd, but then again, when was the last time you
bought a race car or custom wedding dress? Sometimes Cervelo’s
do take a long time to get, and sometimes they don’t.
This isn’t always Cervelo’s responsibility either-
it sometimes falls on the dealer for not ordering enough bikes
early enough. To their credit, Cervelo has addressed the issue
of lead times and delivery. This is from the Cervelo corporate
“The P3 Carbon
is a perfect example, in 2005 we shipped tons of them yet
some people were frustrated they couldn't get their hands
on one. They complained that there were many bikes from
Brand X and Brand Y on the shop floor, and no P3 Carbon.
They wondered why we can't make as many P3 Carbons as Brand
X and Brand Y make of their bikes. But when you look at
the detailed Kona count from 2005, you would see that there
were more P3 Carbons in the race than there were the carbon
offerings of the other Tri bike makers. Even though the
P3 Carbon had only been available for a very short time.
The issue is not that we make so few, we make more TT/tri
bikes than anybody else. The problem is that demand is so
high that as soon as they arrive at a shop, they are sold,
so there are rarely any on the floor, and it appears that
there are none around.”
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The current seatpost
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Smooth, narrow contours at the bottom bracket.
A very sharp trailing edge
on the down tube for optimal aerodynamics.
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An early spy photo of the
P3C prototype in development. Gerard Vroomen drives
the follow car during testing.
Cervelo has done a credible job making
their bikes fast on the road creating the significant
demand for them. Buying a Cervelo is like buying a high
end automobile, it is a different buying experience
than buying a compact car off a lot. It isn’t
a generic consumer good. To their credit, Cervelo has
increased orders for framesets from their manufacturers
sometimes by a factor of three. It still hasn’t
been enough on the high demand, high technology frames
that are hand laid up and require custom molds and tooling
to produce. There is only so much tooling, only so many
molds, and production capacity is fixed based on those
constraints. They simply can’t make enough so
you have to buy them early and wait in some cases. This
is a buy-product of those incredible results at the
Kona bike count. The bike brands lower in the bike count
are, quite simply, easier to get because they aren’t
as nice and consumers don’t buy them in the same
numbers. The Cervelos are better so they sell better.
It takes longer to make a better bike which means there
are less of them. It’s bit of a vicious circle.
Bottom line: If you want a P3C , buy it early.
Another area where Cervelo is a victim of their
own success is a kind of “Moore’s Law” as
applied to bicycles. Cervelo raised consumer expectations
of technology so high that we consistently anticipate the
next big thing. There was a P2, now there is a P3, it makes
sense there will be a P4. Ambitious hucksters have run with
it, some even offering fictitious versions of the P4C for
sale on internet forums well before any official announcement
of model specifications, pricing, availability or even a photo
of a prototype are available. Customers accustomed to a long
wait for P3C’s may be susceptible to this type of hoax.
Cervelo acknowledges there are new bikes in development but
releases no specific details about what and when. Cervelo’s
Gerard Vroomen did quip in an on-line interview that there
would be a bike called a “P4” but that it could
be “years”. Patent application drawings surfaced
on a European internet forum that depicted features of a new
bike design attributed to Cervelo. No official acknowledgement
from Cervelo has been made. No racing teams have been photographed
testing prototypes. If there is a working P4 prototype it
has been a well concealed secret. It is worth noting that
when the P3C was first unveiled at Interbike 2005 it was a
complete surprise and won “Best of Show” awards
in several categories.
Cervelo has set an internal goal for any new
developments beyond the P3C that establish the minimum aerodynamic
improvement as a whopping 20% lower drag. That is a lofty
goal, one that will be difficult to achieve. Cervelo’s
Gerard Vroomen is fond of saying, “It’s easy to
build something new, but difficult to build something better”.
Cervelo only releases new product when they feel they can
raise the bar so high no one else can get over it.
There is no
such thing as a bike that will make a slow rider fast.
If you want to take advantage of the main advantage
offered by the P3C, rider position, you will need to
acclimate to riding in an efficient aerodynamic posture.
With the stack and reach of the P3C this will be easier
than on almost any other bike but it will still take
work on your part if you aren’t accustomed to
riding aero. If you’re going to ride a P3C with
five centimeters of spacers under your stem you probably
should be on a bike with a higher head tube.
easy to build something new, but difficult to
build something better” –Gerard
Click to Enlarge
The new livery of the P3C mimics Formula
1 themes and is steeped in racing heritage.
The new paint scheme on the Cervelo P3C is conspicuously
similar to the 2008 McLaren MP4-23 of the Vodafone McLaren
Mercedes Formula 1 Racing Team. Cervelo can’t talk about
this since any direct attribution could suggest a sticky copyright/trademark
inquiry. The relationship between the McLaren MP4-23 Formula
1 cars of racing superstars Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen
on Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is, ah, strictly coincidental…
That said, Cervelo did well to pay attention to how the top
Formula 1 racing team paints its multi-million dollar race
cars since they spent tons of money figuring out what color
scheme would show up best on TV screens, computer monitors
and in print media against a paved background. It’s
further coincidence that a few of the members of Cervelo’s
engineering team come from motor racing, including Formula
1. It’s a good paint scheme from a karma perspective
since the McLaren MP4-23 won the first race of the 2008 Formula
1 season in Melbourne, Australia with driver Lewis Hamilton
at the wheel. There are no wind tunnel tests that prove how
much time the new paint job saves you. It just looks fast.
It’s also nice to see some color after last year’s
rather unimaginative black and white livery.
While aerodynamics, drag coefficients and their
relevance is the staple of internet forum debates the performance
results of athletes who ride the P3C can’t be argued.
It is the most successful bike of its type in history. This
makes it a classic, a validated industry leader, and a bike
that can never be ignored when considering ultimates.