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2002 Cervelo One
By Tom Demerly.
Read this first about our reviews

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 you back.

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 700c wheels.

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 will.

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 completely trouble
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.
The downtube on the Cervelo One is the cornerstone of Cervelo's triumph. Although I've already mentioned this, it bares repeating: The downtube on the Cervelo One is the same downtube used on their top-of-the-line Cervelo P3. It may be hard for an entry-level triathlete to understand how significant that is.

The down tube is configured in compliance with NACA research findings. NACA (National Advisory Committee on Aerodynamics) is an independent research and consultant committee that performs studies and publishes findings on all things relevant to aerodynamics. Their clients are aerospace, military and vehicle designers who live and die by the laws of aerodynamics. Some bike manufacturers pay lip service to aerodynamics. But Cervelo is the only one that put their recommendations to use on a bike verbatim. Some bike manufacturers may even put their bikes in a wind tunnel and blow smoke around it. But when the rubber gets ready to meet the road, aerodynamics gets pushed way down the list of priorities at most bike companies. More practical concerns like cost and availability take priority.

Cervelo founder Gerard Vrooman placed a high degree of importance on aerodynamics, and using an aerodynamic down tube that is really aerodynamic, not just a cosmetic concession to aerodynamics. As a result the cross section of the Cervelo One down tube is an unusual shape: Elliptical at the leading edge and very pointed along the trailing edge. Most other bike manufacturers (who don't really understand aerodynamics) make the leading edge of their downtubes the radius of a circle (or round). At the speed bicycles travel (17-35 mph) a round leading edge creates turbulence and does not allow the boundary layer of air surrounding the foil to "reassemble" smoothly as it flows around the surface. In other words, the thickest part of the airfoil comes too early in its cross section.


The NACA profile aerodynamic bladed down tube:
The only really aero down tube on any bike.

Now, I'll be the first to tell you I'm not 100% sold on the "benefits" of aero tubing, but if you like aero tubing, Cervelo is absolutely the finest, and really the only truly aero tubing on the market. Most bike manufacturers use aero tubes to make their bikes look fast. Cervelo tubes are fast.
I've put enough miles on the Cervelo One to have a good opinion of its ride quality and I like it. It is a responsive bike with adequate comfort for very long (100 mile plus) rides. This is a nice mix of comfort and performance. If you're not a fire-breathing, hell-bent-for-leather, died-in-the-wool super competitor you'll still like it. You can do all your training and racing miles on the bike and love it. I'm spoiled since I own a bike shop and can own several expensive triathlon bikes. If I had to narrow my stable down to one bike the Cervelo One would be at the top of the list (along with the Cannondale MS700si, with some changes the Cervelo already has).

Working on the Cervelo One is a joy. As I said, the cable routing is the best in the industry. I love the way the bike looks too- black. Everything cool and fast is black: Stealth fighters, the SR-71, the Batmobile, even black underwear seems "faster". Also, I know this is a male thing, but black goes with everything. The graphics are nice too.

When you look carefully at all the bikes in this price range, you find the Cervelo One is the fastest bike in this price category if it fits you. The aero frame, bladed spoke wheels and solid, well-conceived component group fixes all the things that are wrong with other triathlon bikes at this price. If the bike fits your body measurements, you'll have a lot of great, trouble-free training and racing miles on it.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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