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Smart Money.
By Tom Demerly.
Read this first about our reviews

2006 Cervelo Dual
Best buy of the tirathlon bike category: Cervelo's new 2006 Dual.

Bike companies face a tough challenge each year with the requirement to introduce new product and keep things fresh. The best companies still compete for new triathlon bike buyer’s discretionary income. This competition is fueled with technological improvements and emotional design. For 2006 Cervelo may be the overall winner in the most important category: The smartest buy. It is easy to make a case that the new 2006 Cervelo Dual is the best bang for the buck triathlon bike from any manufacturer in any price category, and that is a big accomplishment.


Updated graphics and a silver paint scheme for 2006.

It takes the right balance and a lot of experience in the “niche of a niche” category that is triathlon bikes to really get it right. Many companies, including the largest in the industry, have tried to nail the “Best Value” triathlon bike category and only one or two have even come close to succeeding.

We’ve looked at the Cervelo Dual before and it has always been a nice bike with a long list of editors’ awards and accolades. Cervelo could have gone many directions with the Dual for 2006 including upward in price. When the company took the wraps off the new 2006 Dual equipped with a Shimano Dura-Ace drivetrain at a price most companies sell their Ultegra equipped bike it became obvious where Cervelo was going with the Dual. Cervelo intended to dominate the category. When you compare the Cervelo Dual to other triathlon bikes in the critical sub-$2000 price category you will see for yourself why it is the best buy. Here are the bullet points on Cervelo’s 2006 Dual:

  • At an MSRP of $1899 the 2006 Dual is the lowest priced Dura-Ace derailleur and shifter equipped triathlon bike commonly available.
  • With genuine Easton/Velomax wheels, a Selle Italia triathlon specific saddle, Visiontech aerodynamic base bars and aerobars, aftermarket quality Vittoria tires, a genuine Shimano brand chain (Ultegra no less) and 6600 series Shimano Ultegra cogset, $300 Wolf carbon aerodynamic fork and even genuine Shimano brand cables and housings the parts spec on the Dual has no compromises. Even the OEM Cervelo brakes are actually exactly the same weight as Shimano’s new Dura-Ace calipers at 154 grams but are better suited for use with the brake levers on the Dual. The parts spec on this bike is without flaw or shortcoming.
  • The frame represents the sum total of all of Cervelo’s aluminum frame research, development and testing to date. Tour de France time trials and multiple Ironman triathlons have been won on frames using the down tube and the top tube from the Dual.
  • The Cervelo Dual frame is the only truly aerodynamic frame in the under $2000 price category from any manufacturer.
  • Tube sets used in the Dual are proprietary to Cervelo and not used by any other bicycle manufacturer.
  • As a company, Cervelo got their start designing and building aerodynamic bicycles and it continues to be their only business. This concentration of resources has given them a technological and marketing advantage.
  • As a brand, Cervelo was the #1 bike according to the Slowtwitch.com Kona Bike count at the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

First off, the Dual is not an entry level triathlon bike, just an entry level price. This is not a compromise bike you buy to get started. It is the bike you buy once and for all to be in the sport. At about $1899.99 this is the bike you will buy for your first triathlon and continue racing and training on as your level of interest and experience in the sport continues. In fact, the 2004 Triathlon World Championships were actually won on a Cervelo Dual frame. No “entry level” bike can make that claim. The only thing entry level about the Dual is the price. Therein lays the wisdom in buying a Dual: You don’t have to upgrade it. Buy it, fit it and ride it. You won’t have to update it any time in the foreseeable future. You can hot rod it with race wheels, and the Dual is worthy of that. As for the basic bike it uses a parts kit that has more in common with Cervelo’s flagship P3 Carbon than with any sub $2000 triathlon bike.

Let’s go front to back on the 2006 Cervelo Dual:


Aftermarket upgrade quality wheel and tire spec on the new Dual.

Tire and wheel spec on the Dual are the same Easton/Velomax wheels speced on the $4499 Cervelo P3C. These are the most reliable original equipment wheels we have seen from any manufacturer. The hub shell is one piece; there is no seam in the middle. Look under the sticker on the hub body of some famous maker wheel sets. That little line is a seam. That seam causes problems like creaking under hard accelerations or with riders above 180 pounds. There is no seam in the center of the Easton Velomax hub. The bearings are durable and free-running out of the box. The rim has a machined brake track and is exceptionally durable even on Michigan roads. This is your everyday wheel. These Easton Velomax Vista wheels are still hand built to precise tolerances with individual serial numbers. There is no short cut here. They are top notch- that is why you see this very wheelset on $4500 bikes from several manufacturers.

Tire selection is the Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick on the 700c size bikes. It is a 23c tire, the best tire width for all but the largest 230 pound plus rider. A rider over 230 pounds may want to use a 700 X 25c tire for better ride quality and durability.


A one piece hub body is durable and trouble free.


The Wolf carbon fiber fork is used on Cervelo's flagship P3C.


We sell this tire aftermarket as an upgrade to other bikes; it is standard on the Cervelo Dual. The tire has excellent ride and is about as flat resistant as anything else available without sacrificing ride quality. Cervelo also installed the right valve stem length inner tubes in the Dual for easy tire inflation.

The Wolf carbon fork is sold as an aftermarket fork for about $300. The fork isn’t the lightest of the high performance forks, but is in the same weight category as other $300 forks. It does have a wind-tunnel tested and proven aerodynamic shape and is durable and comfortable. The front wheel dropouts will take season after season of use including use on car racks.

The cockpit on the Dual is my favorite, and the one I keep going back to after trying aerobar set-ups that are four times as expensive but not as comfortable. The 2006 Cervelo Dual uses the Visiontech/FSA aluminum aerobar and wing shaped, aerodynamic base bar. The bars are 26.0 outside diameter, which I like, and are compatible with a very wide range of handlebar stems so your bike fitter can size your bike precisely. One criticism I do have of the Cervelo Dual in the smaller frame sizes is that it is usually shipped to us with 230 millimeter aerobars. Those are too short for many customers in the 51 cm frame size range. We frequently swap these out for size for a better fit. I wish Cervelo hat speced the smaller frame sizes with one size longer aerobar so we didn’t have to correct it here in the store.

Brake levers are the classic Dia-Compe 188’s we’ve seen on about every triathlon bike since triathlon bikes started. If there is a mundane spot in Cervelo’s spec this is it. After years of using this lever they are, well, just fine but a trifle boring. I would have liked to see something with a return spring (more on that in a minute) or something that just looked a little racier. This is the same brake lever Lance Armstrong has used in tour de France time trials. The lever works very well and is among the lightest brake levers available, it is just old news. That said, there is no reason to upgrade except if you can find a lever that has a return spring such as some of the newer Tektro aero brake levers that are roughly double the price and either heavier or the same weight.


Our favorite Visiontech cockpit with Dura-Ace shifters is easily sized and aerodynamic.

Shifters are Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed and begin the entire Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed transmission and drive train ensemble on the bike. You can’t say anything about this: It is Shimano’s top of the line and the best there is. This is what won the last 7 Tours de France and literally too many triathlons to count. There is no where to upgrade from here. Simply put, the Dual is a Dura-Ace triathlon bike for well under $2000. while that is far fro its only achievement, that is its most noteworthy.


Cervelo's Mach 2 brake weighs the same as Shimano Dura-Ace at 154 grams.

I’ve seen Cervelo get some criticism for not using Shimano brand brakes on their bikes. This criticism is unfounded and not well informed. Here’s why: The Cervelo labeled “Mach 2” brakes used on the Cervelo Dual weigh 154 grams, the exact same weight for a Shimano Dura-Ace brake caliper. The brakes on the Dual weigh the same as Dura-Ace- to the gram. As for function, the brakes on the Cervelo Dual are actually a better choice than Shimano Dura-Ace on this bike. The Dura-Ace caliper is designed to work with the Shimano Dual Control SLR STI brake lever. That brake lever/shifter has a powerful return spring since it is a full size road brake lever and not an aerodynamic, lightweight brake lever. The Cervelo Mach 2 brake has a friction reducing spring bushing plate and a powerful return spring that works perfectly with the lightweight, spring-less Dia-Compe 188 brake levers. If you really take the time to actually look at the Cervelo Mach 2 brake you will learn it is actually a better choice than the Shimano calipers on this bike.

The frame is the result of a lot of work on Cervelo’s part over the previous years. No other manufacturer can match this combination of faster aerodynamic design and excellent ride quality, durability and nice frame fit- at any price. The real edge here is likely ride quality and frame aerodynamics. While the virtues of frame aerodynamics are debated over and over anyone can see that Cervelo’s design is at least different than all the others. The profile of the tubes is more streamlined with a very sharp trailing edge. Cervelo does claim that wind tunnel testing has substantiated that their aerodynamic frames are faster in testing than competing brands. I am cynical about wind tunnel test data. I’m not cynical about race results though, and Cervelo has top professional athletes and teams buying their frames to race on when other companies are trying to give the same athletes bikes. To me, that speaks louder than reams of wind tunnel test data
.


Frame quality has made Cervelo famous, such as the Cervelo Dual's Smartwall 2 Aero down tube.

Cable routing on the Cervelo Dual remains the most straightforward internal cable system available. The use of genuine Shimano brand cables on the Cervelo Dual is a big bonus for us that most customers will appreciate without knowing it. All the cable housings are the right diameter. This isn’t true on every bike out of the box. Most competing brands do use a downgrade cable set that is not as stiff or durable as the genuine Shimano brand cables and housings on the Cervelo Dual.


No seperate cable stops to fall out or rattle make this the best internal cable routing in the industry.

There is only one water bottle mount on the Cervelo Dual so you will be shopping for either handlebar or behind-the-saddle style hydration system if you intend to go anything longer than Olympic distance. Our favorites are the Jetstream handlebar system and the Minoura rear saddle rack that works very well with the Cervelo Dual bladed aerodynamic seatpost. The Profile Designs style that mounts on a round seatpost does not work on the Cervelo Dual because of the bladed aero seatpost.

The front derailleur hanger is a welded on design that is durable enough to never have been a problem on the many Cervelo Duals we have sold and serviced. Cervelo put a little extra material here and that was wise. The hanger is stiff and front shifting is excellent on the Cervelo Dual as a result.

The rear triangle on the bike is solid and unremarkable. Cervelo was smart to put technology where it benefits the rider and then go with tired and true designs where new technology only offers dubious benefit. As a result, you have straight, narrow seat stays on the Cervelo Dual and some more sophisticated, hefty 23 millimeter chainstays. The rear dropouts are refreshingly easy to use and straightforward. They are a conventional design so rear wheel removal is easier than with the currently in vogue rear-facing horizontal dropouts. Most customers quickly learn to remove and replace a rear wheel with the Cervelo Dual dropouts but struggle with the rear-facing horizontal designs. The derailleur hanger is replaceable and we’ve actually never had the occasion of one failing, a big achievement considering how many Cervelo Duals on the road.


Unique bottom bracket offset provides good weight distribution and beefy chainstays improve power transfer.

The crank on the Cervelo Dual is the FSA Gossamer alloy crank on an external bearing Mega-Exo bottom bracket. The most remarkable thing I can say about this set up is the front shifting is oddly crisp. The FSA chainrings have the largest pick-up rivets I’ve seen on a chainring so the chain doesn’t have much choice when you shift from the small chainring up to the big. I’m glad Cervelo didn’t put some carbon-bling froo-froo designer crankset on this bike. The sturdy and reasonably light (lighter than some carbon façade cranks) FSA Gossamer cranks provide perfect shifting in front and will outlast anything else in this price category. Cervelo also went to the trouble of putting commensurate crank lengths on the Dual with a full spread of 170 mm, 172.5 mm and 175 mm arms I the sizes that make sense. This also makes it easy for us to have a few extra sets of longer and short cranks on hand to swap them out for precise sizing to your body dimensions when we fit you.


We've had perfect front shifting performance with the FSA Gossamer crank and chain rings.

The fit on the Cervelo Dual is well conceived and realistic. The head tube of the Dual shares the same height in each frame size as Cervelo’s P2C and P2SL. It is higher than the P3 family of bikes by 15 mm starting at size 54 cm. Having a higher head tube on this bike is a good idea since a lot of Cervelo Dual customers will be using this bike at Ironman and need the option to build a little higher front end for greater comfort. With the slightly higher front on the Dual this can be achieved without using a huge stack of headset spacers.

The cornerstone of Cervelo’s success has been their proven variable geometry seatpost design. This is much more than just a seatpost that can be reversed and angled forward. If you put a seatpost with this much forward angle or offset on any other bike you would have too much weight on the front wheel and very poor handling bike; the steering would be too responsive. There is a subtle combination of actual frame seat tube angle, chainstay length, seat tube curve and rearward bottom bracket offset that enable this design to give the bike stable steering through a very wide range of effective seatpost angles. The head angle on the Cervelo Dual is also slackish at a maximum of 72.5 degrees and only 72 degrees on the 48 cm. If you aren’t familiar with these statistics basically they make the bike easier to ride in the aerobars and enable you to more easily reach your water bottle and perform other on-bike functions from the aero position.


Selle Italia based the Cervelo saddle on the successful SLR T1 design.

The saddle on the Cervelo Dual is the Selle Italia SLR T1 shape saddle made for Cervelo by Selle Italia. It is a triathlon specific design and feels like the identical firmness as the Selle Italia SLR T1 that retails for over $150 with Titanium rails (the Cervelo version has manganese rails). I’ve raced on this saddle over three seasons. If you can’t get comfortable riding the nose in the aero position on this saddle I don’t think it is the because of the saddle. This is one of the most tolerant aero-specific position saddles available.


A replaceable derailleur hanger and beautifully made conventional rear dropouts.

The Cervelo Dual has always been a solid bike. The 2006 version of the Cervelo Dual integrates three elements that make it the best buy of the entire triathlon bike category: 1, Best component spec below $2000, and arguably, very little to improve on at any price. 2, Excellent and proven frame design, fit and aerodynamics. 3, The lowest price for a bike of its type.

 

From any angle you review the Cervelo Dual; it is simply the best buy in a triathlon bike.


Best buy triathlon bike for 2006: Cervelo's Dura-Ace equipped Dual at $1899.99.

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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