Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus, Lamborghini,
McClaren: They don't make minivans, they don't make pick-up
trucks. They make racecars. Cars built for performance and born
on the race track. These are no-compromise vehicles. It's what
you buy when you want to go fast. There are no child seats,
no roof racks.
Cervelo: They don't make mountain bikes, BMX bikes
or tandems. They make road and triathlon bikes. They are built
for uncompromising performance. Among the best in the world,
in some cases the very best. Four Ironman victories last year.
Whether you're a beginner or Ironman contender, it's the bike
you buy when you want to go fast. The analogy is appropriate.
Cervelo was born in 1994 when two engineers were
collaborating on designing faster time trail bikes; even incorporating
lessons learned from advanced HPV (Human Powered Vehicle) design.
The result, along with eight years of experience in the real
world bicycle market, is that Cervelo produces truly outstanding
bikes- the best of their type.
Cervelo designs are highly refined, the result
of real world testing (and results). The designs are brilliant
across the board. Gerard Vrooman and Phil White have produced
some of the "purist", most refined triathlon and time
trial designs ever seen- and certainly the most advanced designs
available to the consumer. Try to find anything else like the
Cervelo P3. Most professional cycling teams don't even have
time trial bikes that advanced. Cervelo bikes are about high
performance; there are no compromises.
In the past eight years Cervelo has won loyal
customers the hard way: One at a time. The company is small
by industry standards, but a powerhouse in the niche of triathlon
and time trial bikes. Top professionals want to ride Cervelos,
even when they may be paid to ride something else. Some of the
best pros in the past few years had their break-through victories
on Cervelos- some of those Cervelos they had to pay for. That
is the ultimate testimony, especially when huge bike companies
fat with cash from selling hybrids, mountain bikes and kid's
bikes can offer these "niche" athletes big cash incentives,
but the athletes still ride Cervelo. Steve Larsen won his first
big triathlon (Ironman Lake Placid) on a Cervelo, briefly switched
to another bike for Hawaii, and promptly went back to Cervelo.
Three other Ironman victories went to Cervelo athletes in 2001.
People who own Cervelos know how good the bikes are, and they
have become disciples of the company. Talk to anyone who owns
one, the bikes almost always exceed their expectations.
What makes the bikes so good? There are a lot
of factors, but the bottom line is, Cervelo does what they do
better than any other company in the industry. Period. Part
of the reason for that is Cervelo only does triathlon, time
trial and road bikes. Here are a few other reasons: Cervelo
bladed downtubes are the best in the industry. Realistically,
Cervelo is the only company in the industry with truly aerodynamic
tubing. While the value of aero tubes can be debated, there
is no dispute that if you want aero tubes, Cervelo's are the
most aero. They also ride the best due to their unique tubing.
Cervelo is the only triathlon bike builder using the more aerodynamic,
lighter 1" integrated headset on their P3 model (the rest
of the industry has caved in to the 1&1/8" born in
the mountain bike world). Cervelo internal cable routing is
really the only internal cable routing that actually works and
can be easily serviced and maintained. It is the best in the
industry by a wide margin. Cervelo has demonstrated a higher
degree of understanding to the critical issue of bike fit than
any other triathlon bike builder. Their P2K model is effectively
available in 16 sizes, with the eight frame sizes "morphing"
between two separate seat angles. Compare that to Kestrel, whose
flagship KM40 airfoil triathlon bike is available in only two
sizes in one seat tube angle. Cervelo bike parts kits are the
best in the triathlon industry, requiring no substitutions at
all and even reducing the need for race wheels, potentially
saving a customer over $1000. These are the only triathlon bikes
I consider truly "race ready" right out of the box
(once they are correctly fitted to the rider). You won't have
to substitute different aero bars, a better seat post (unless
fit dictates it, rare on Cervelos), change to better cranks
or put on a cogset. Cervelo already thought of all that. And
since the only thing they build are triathlon, time trial and
road bikes- the only components the company buys are components
for triathlon, time trial and road bikes. You won't get a tri
bike with a headset designed to work on the company's other
25 models of mountain bikes, tandems, hybrids and recumbents
and BMX bikes.
All that is a strong business case. But what about
the bikes? The proof is in the pudding.
This review is of the Cervelo One. The One is
their least expensive triathlon bike, but it isn't an entry-level
bike. It is the bike you buy when you know you are going to
be doing triathlons (whether you're a beginner or Ironman winner)
and don't want to replace your bike in a couple years - or ever.
You can do your first triathlon on a Cervelo One, a couple seasons
later win your first age category on your Cervelo One, and then
(with a lot of training) win an Ironman. The bike wouldn't hold
Any bike is only as good as it fits you, but if
the Cervelo One fits you, you're in luck.
It used to be difficult to find domestically produced
high performance triathlon bikes for less than $2000. Although
there are excellent bikes at that price, most have Import-built
frames or cut corners in components. Cervelo starts with a domestically
built frame produced by the same people who make the revolutionary,
flagship P3. The Cervelo One actually uses the same top tube,
down tube, chainstays and internal cable routing as the more
expensive, state-of-the-art Cervelo P3. The bike uses a full
Shimano 105 drivetrain. There are no cheap substitutions, the
chain and cassette are actually upgraded Shimano Ultegra since
only Ultegra cog sets (and more costly Dura-Ace) start with
an 11t cog. Syntace aerobars, Ritchey Aero DS wheels and a Selle
Italia Saddle completes this no-compromise package. The Cervelo
One is the least expensive USA-built triathlon bike with a full
105 drivetrain, not to mention the wheels (I will in a minute
So, you want one. But does it fit? That depends on your measurements.
Perhaps the only drawback of the Cervelo one is its short size
run. There are only five sizes of Cervelo Ones. The size run
is 48cm, 51cm, and 54cm in 650c wheels and 57cm. and 60cm. in
There seems to be a hole in the size run. The
650c wheel bikes come in 48cm, 51cm and 54cm. I would have preferred
the size run to be 48cm, 50cm (with a 50cm or 50.5cm top tube),
52cm (with a 52cm top tube) and 54 with either the current 53cm
top tube or a slightly longer 53.5cm top tube. Now, adding sizes
to the size run would drive the price of every size up and compromise
Cervelo's ability to maintain availability, but it would also
fit more people: A Catch-22. The 54cm Cervelo One is just a
bit large for me, and the head tube on the 54 is 140mm, 20mm
higher than my 52cm Felt DA650 but about the same as a Cannondale
MS700si in 52cm. This is good, since most people (myself included)
have to add 1 or 2 cm of spacers to the steer tube to position
their stem correctly.
A word about head tube spacers: Less is more.
I see bikes in transition areas with 5cm (or more) of head tube
spacers stacked up under the stem. That's not good. Often times
there are 10 X 2.5mm spacers. First, you should never have more
than 2.5 times the diameter of the fork steer tube in spacers
stacked above the top headset race. Second, if you do use more
than 3cm of spacers it is best to do it with as few spacers
as possible. 3 X 1cm spacers are much better than 6 X5mm spacers.
The best is one continuous spacer the precise length (height?)
you need. Also, even though they look cool, stay away from carbon
fiber head tube spacers. They compress under load and produce
grievous "creaking" noises, also contributing to fleeting
and ephemeral headset adjustment.
When you start shopping for bikes it is important
to understand the names of the sizes are not actually the bike's
measurements. For instance, did you know a 56cm. Kestrel KM40
measures 58.5 cm center to top? A 52cm Cannondale MS700si measures
60cm center to top and 46.5cm center to center. That only makes
getting an accurate fitting more important. It means in one
brand of bike you may take a 55cm. but in another brand you
may ride there 52cm. That's a spread of three sizes.
We carefully measure all bikes in our store and
found the 54cm Cervelo One measures 53.1cm. from top of seat
collar to center of bottom bracket. The top tube did measure
exactly 53cm. center of seat tube top center of head tube along
an imaginary horizontal line bisecting the top tube. This means
the bikes seem to run about perfect for the representation of
their size. In other words: If I ride a 52cm Kestrel KM40, a
52cm Felt DA650, a 55cm Quintana Roo Kilo, a 55cm Bianchi Mega
Pro Triathlon, a 53cm Litespeed Saber and a 52cm Cannondale
MS700si then my body measurements would dictate a 54cm Cervelo
One. Now, not all those bikes fit me (personally). As a matter
of fact, some fit my measurements, particularly torso to leg
length ratio, and some do not fit at all. Again, measurements
will help decide which brand and model of bike fit you perfectly.
One thing for sure, Cervelo makes at least one
bike that will fit you. Between the Cervelo One, the P2K and
the P3 there is a bike that has geometry and measurements to
match your body. The measurements will determine which one works
for you. If the Cervelo One doesn't fit you, the P2K probably
Let's look at the Cervelo One from front to back:
Starting with the Kenda Koncept tires. These tires
are very, very good. We've had customers ride them for a season
and ridden them ourselves. They hold air well, staying up to
pressure for extended periods, wear well, are flat resistant
and have excellent ride quality. They are the equals of the
most expensive clincher tires I've ridden.
The clamp-on derailleur mount is
free and entirely functional. The best.
The wheels on the Cervelo One make it a bargain.
The Ritchey DS/OCR wheelset is built with DT Swiss Stainless
steel, bladed aerodynamic spokes. There are only sixteen of
these knife-edged spokes in the front and twenty in the rear.
The front is laced radial and the rear wheel is cross-two drive
side and non-drive side. All I can tell you about the hubs is
they seem fine, we've sold quite a few and we haven't had any
problems. I haven't had occasion to disassemble a hub since
nothing has gone wrong with them yet, and it's been two years.
The wheelset is truly excellent. Very light and durable, and
ridiculously fast. If you think about this, the wheels on this
bike could potentially save you over $1000 since basically,
you don't need to buy separate race wheels. This is an enormous
value. Compared to other triathlon bikes in the sub-$2000 category,
this feature blows the other bikes away if it fits you correctly.
The fork is the Kinesis fork you've seen under
a bunch of labels on other bikes. This is the fork on Lance
Armstrong's 2001 time trial used in the time trial stages of
the Tour de France. It's a great fork, proven, sturdy, comfortable
and light. It's also very aerodynamic. Headset is a standard
model, not integrated. While I like integrated better, you will
always be able to get parts for this standard style headset.
The bike's cockpit includes the best bolt-on aerobars
available: Syntace. Final word: You can't buy better at any
price. The base bars are flat (0 degree rise) bull horn style
base bars. This is a perfect choice for this bike, giving you
a neutrally high climbing position. Brake levers are the ubiquitous
Dia-Compe 188. If the brakes are prepped correctly, the cables
and housings lubricated correctly and the ends of the cables
housings deburred, squared and ground flush on a grinder before
the bike is assembled, your bikes will work great. We perform
all those steps on every bike we build to enhance shifting and
braking. Shifters are Shimano Dura-Ace 9 speed bar-end shifters.
A race ready cockpit with no compromises.
I wouldn't change a thing.
Although the parts kit is generally great, the
gem of the bike (aside from those awesome wheels) is the frame.
I wouldn't hesitate buying one of these frames and putting $2500
worth of the highest end components and wheels on it. It's that
good, it is a frame you can grow with- fully upgradeable.
If you've read my magazine articles and bike reviews
(over 200 of them) you have gathered I don't care much for internal
cable routing. I mentioned I felt it was difficult to maintain,
service, replace cables and gave water an opportunity to enter
the frame and a place for cracks to start. I'm going to change
my tune with Cervelo. This is why: Cervelo is the only company
in the bike industry who has internal cable routing that works.
It wasn't always like that. On the early model Cervelo Eyre
(say "air"), no longer available from a couple years
ago, there were these annoying little plastic cable guides that
were supposed to snap into an orifice in the frame and stay
put. They didn't. They constantly vibrated out, moved around,
made noise and amounted to a pain in the ass. Cervelo got rid
of those two years ago and developed the current state-of-the-art
in internal cable routing you see on the Cervelo One. Some companies
still rely on those crappy old internal cable guides.
This is the best internal
cable routing in the bike industry.
The guides on the Cervelo make
the frame stronger, are almost sealed hermetically and are easy
to service. We've sold quite a few and have no problems. I have
no objections to working on these; they are the best available.
If you want to see how to do internal cable routing correctly,
look at Cervelo. If you want to see how to screw it up,
look at my review of the 2002 Litespeed Blade here