The genie is out of the
Cervelos are selling. Everybody
wants one. It's the new "Hot Bike". In a
survey done on our website Cervelo was voted the bike
people were "Most Likely To Buy". The annual
Hawaii Ironman bike survey at slowtwitch.com showed
Cervelo bikes on the Pier in Kona went from 57 bikes
in 2001 to 89 bikes in 2002. That's a 46% increase.
No other bike company in the survey indicated that
level of growth. Our year on year Cervelo sales at
Bikesport, Inc. are already up so substantially we're
having a difficult time accurately measuring them.
Why has Cervelo become
so big? It isn't just fashion. Cervelo has earned
their success. In this review of the 2003 Cervelo
P2K we discover three solid truths of Cervelo: 1.
Their frame designs work; 2.They don't make component
mistakes; 3. Cervelo has greater fit capability than
any other conventional triathlon bike.
The Cervelo P2K
has greater fit flexibility than any other conventional
triathlon bike. Here we do a final fit on a
No other manufacturer has
more triathlon bikes in their line that are so close
to perfect with such a wide range of sizes and variable
geometry seat tube angles.
Because there are virtually
16 different frame sizes and two wheel sizes in the
Cervelo P2K we can fit almost everyone perfectly.
Unlike some triathlon bike brands Cervelo has not
"sized themselves into a corner".
With so many sizing options it is easy to fit the
P2K to a wide range of customers.
A history lesson: Few people
know the first triathlon bike manufacturer, Quintana
Roo, started with bikes specifically for females.
Their frame geometry was oriented toward the shorter
torso, longer legged statistical dispensation of female
dimensions. The top tubes were short as was the wheelbase
and the seat tubes were long. When Ralph Ray and Dan
Empfield were experimenting with 80-90 degree seat
tube angles it was Ray's wife who was doing a lot
of the testing on a velodrome. The initial Quintana
Roo triathlon bikes, such as the QR Superform, was
a result of this testing. To this day, Quintana Roo
retains that heritage with shorter top tubes than
anyone in the industry per frame seat tube size. This
makes them an invaluable sizing tool for people (male
or female) with a shortish torso, but a compromise
fit for others. As a result, to some degree Quintana
Roo has "sized themselves into a corner"-
the corner of short torso, 78 degree seat angle long
legged athletes- in both genders. That's a big corner,
but if you aren't one of them, QR may be off your
With so much flexibility in fitting on the P2K it
is critical your bike fitter (us) does a meticulous
final positioning on your new bike.
Part of the brilliance
of the Cervelo P2K is its variable geometry seat post.
The Cervelo P2K, P3, Dual and Solo come with a custom
aero seatpost that can be adjusted to seat positions
from 74-79 degrees with re-orientation of the seatpost
clamp. This makes one size of P2K effectively span
a wide range of femur to leg length ratios. Generally,
longer femur = slacker seat tube angle and greater
setback = longer top tube.
The reversible, variable geometry seatpost provides
a wide range of virtual seat tube angles for any set
of body measurements on any type of terrain.
Another substantial benefit
of this design is the adaptability of the P2K to different
terrain. In 1997 when I went to Ironman Canada for
the first time I built a different bike specifically
for that hilly course. The bike I used in Canada had
a 75.5-degree effective seat tube angle as opposed
to the steeper 77-degree effective seat tube angle
I use for flat courses. For me a more relaxed seat
tube angle is faster in the big hills. Ironman Canada,
Ironman Wisconsin, Ironman Lake Placid (to name a
few) and a lot of local races such as Mark Mellon
have serious climbs in them. You are going up and
down constantly. A 78-degree seat tube angle is not
ideal on this terrain. On the flats however, such
as most of the local races like Ann Arbor, Waterloo,
Mrs. T's, Sylvania etc. and the flatter Ironmans like
Ironman Florida and to a degree even Hawaii you want
a steeper seat tube angle bike. Of course all this
depends on your measurements: How does your femur
length compare to your leg length? How does your torso
length compare to your overall height? What is your
shoe size relative to your leg length? Your measurements
and your goals as a triathlete will determine the
effects these dimensions have on what bike you select
and what size that bike is. It is the job of your
bike fitter (us) to take the responsibility to get
it perfect. Especially for entry level athletes, this
is critical. Remember, you're spending big money on
a bike, it is supposed to be a perfect fit.
The benefit of the variable
geometry seatpost head is it walks easily from body
style to body style and from flat terrain to hilly
Picture this: You might
want to try an Ironman some day, but you're not sure.
You do know you want to do the local triathlons, sprint
and Olympic distance. Your measurements indicate you
should be on a steep seat tube angle bike, about 78
degrees, for most of the events you want to do- the
local stuff around here (flatter courses). But, you
might want to do a couple hilly races. Maybe you want
to go to Alcatraz, St. Kitts or St. Croix or eventually
try an Ironman such as Ironman Wisconsin or Ironman
Lake Placid. Maybe you actually get that coveted spot
in Ironman Canada. Now you need a bike for hilly terrain.
What if you want one bike that does both? The P2K
has a wide enough range of effective seat tube angle
adjustment that you can use it on any terrain effectively.
This is a huge advantage.
This feature alone
is a compelling reason to buy a Cervelo P2K.
We always say "If the bike fits you
may be a good choice". Chances are, the
P2K will fit you, but it will fit during a wider
range of events than any other bike you can
buy. It's like owning a fleet of triathlon bikes.
But that is far from
the only reason to own a P2K.
When properly used with the rider's body measurements
almost any fit orientation is possible.
Workmanship on the Cervelo
P2K is outstanding- specifically, the welds are on
par with Cannondale and better than Trek, Felt, Quintana
Roo and almost all other aluminum frames. The welds
are smooth, minimal and clean. More important than
looking good, they are extremely strong and have no
abrupt edges where "stress raisers" form.
Not quite as good as Cannondale's double heat-treated,
smoothed construction but very close and better than
all the others. Welds on earlier Cervelo efforts were
a good bit rougher. The new bikes are an enormous
Don't minimize the significance
of weld quality. In the week prior to the 2002 Ironman
Florida we had three customers discover their frames
(from different manufacturers- not Cervelo) were broken.
One guy discovered the night before he was leaving for
the race. Mark Trzeciak of Bikesport, Inc. pulled out
all the stops and built him a new bike that night so
he could make his flight in the morning. After selling
Cervelo for several years we have not seen a single
Cervelo frameset break- not one, not even in crashes.
Cervelo is also a company
born mostly in a wind tunnel. They have held onto their
aerodynamic design heritage and pay more than lip service
to aerodynamics in building their bikes. Their frames
are the most aero conventional designs readily available.
The P2K still uses a 1" integrated Cane Creek sealed
bearing headset. This design presents a narrower frontal
area than 1&1/8" designs (borrowed from the
mountain bike world) now in use by Cannondale, Litespeed
and Quintana Roo. To their credit, Felt is one of the
only other manufacturers sticking to the more aerodynamic
1" head tube configuration. Cervelo bladed downtubes
and seattubes are the best in the industry. Realistically,
Cervelo is the only company in the industry with true
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 aerodynamic. Aero tubes
are designed to make you go faster with the same energy.
But not all aero tubes are equal- or even close. Depending
on whose test you believe (all the tests seem to have
at least some validity) the Cervelo aero design does
save you some time. How much is debatable. According
to Jim Martin, a doctoral candidate in Exercise Science
at The University of Texas at Austin, the former director
of sports science for Team EDS, and consultant to the
Project 96 bike developmental team (He has authored
scientific publications on maximal neuromuscular function,
growth development and aging, and cycling aerodynamics
and writes a monthly column for Bicyclist Magazine),
the time savings are big.
left, the conventional seat tube from the 1999
Cervelo Eyre, on the right, the new super-aerodynamic
cut out seat tube on the 2003 Cervelo P2K.
extract from Martin's report concludes that an entry-level
cyclist going from a "typical" position to
an improved "excellent" position (facilitated
by good measuring and positioning as well as frame design)
and from a round tube bike frame to a Cervelo P2K will
save 3:13 over a 40 kilometer bike ride at a given speed.
To read his report
Bottom line: You will be
faster on a P2K if your fitter positions you correctly.
The wheel cutout in the seat
tube and the rear opening, horizontal dropouts are another
interesting feature of the P2K that makes the bike faster.
The wheel cutout in the seat tube enables the tire to
fit very close to the frame, preventing air from swirling
around in the space between the seat tube and the rear
wheel. This is a big source of drag according to every
bicycle wind tunnel test. When you adjust the screws
inside the horizontal dropout you can position your
rear tire very close to the seat tube fairing. In effect,
your rear wheel is "drafting" behind your
seat tube. The rear facing dropouts are a necessity
to facilitate this design.
The excellent rear-facing
horizontal dropouts work perfectly.
Now, there have been concerns
about these rear-facing dropouts for a couple reasons-
none of them well founded. Speaking frankly, triathletes
often don't know a darn thing about their bikes and
are sometimes their own worst enemy. They put the rear
wheel in without adjusting the dropout limiting screws
correctly and the tire rubs the frame or is too far
away from the frame for maximum benefit. They don't
clamp the quick release skewer down tight enough and
the wheels shifts under hard pedaling (like out of the
transition area). They have trouble removing the rear
wheel because "The chain is in the way". None
of these things are problems with the design; they are
a lack of technical sophistication on the part of the
It is easy and straightforward to use the new rear facing
The rear facing dropout system
works perfectly. We don't see a single fault with it.
In fact, it is pretty elegant. Like all advanced equipment
you do have to educate yourself in its use before using.
And, like all advanced equipment, it can be misused
and then cause you problems. Before anyone leaves Bikesport,
Inc. with a new P2K we show them how the rear-facing
dropouts work, and they are always impressed at how
simple it is.
This is the best internal cable routing in the bike
Last year a customer sent
me an e-mail asking why I was so obsessed with cable
routing. It's for the same reason I protect my spinal
cord: Your cables control transmission and braking on
your bike. If your cables can't move smoothly you will
have shifting problems regardless of how good your components
are. Cable routing is critical to how well your bike
shifts and brakes. The Cervelo P2K (along with the rest
of the Cervelos) is the best internal cable routing
in the industry. The guides are built into the frame.
They cannot become detached. The cable does not rattle
in the frame. The inlet for the cable is so tight it
is nearly waterproof but the cable inside its housing
moves perfectly. Another reason we're obsessed with
cable routing is because we have to build and service
your bike. I invite you to try to route a new inner
cable through the internal cable routing on a Kestrel.
There is a way to do it but if you don't know it you're
in for a frustrating experience. On the Cervelo P2K
cable routing is a breeze. I can't say enough good things
about how refined their cable routing is now. Cervelo
is, once again, state of the art here.
component group on the Cervelo P2K is without
a single flaw.
The component spec of the
P2K is excellent, uncompromising and straightforward.
Shimano Ultegra: Dependable, light and problem free.
Shimano Dura-Ace shifters are mounted in the tips of
the aerobars. In a world of bike companies playing the
"Mix and Match" component game to make the
accountants happy and boost profit margins, Cervelo's
approach to component spec is refreshing and beyond
question. They use the good stuff with no cheap substitutions.
Two words: Shimano cranks. No front derailleur shifting
problems on this bike.
The cockpit uses our favorite
aero bars, Syntace. Zero complaints here. Syntace are
Syntace Aerobars- our favorite, are easy to adjust,
simple to assemble, light and very durable.
The wheels are the excellent
Ritchey WCS Z DS OCRs. Although they sound like a scrabble
game thrown down a staircase the wheels' OCR (Off Center
Rim) and Zero System hub eliminates dish for a stronger,
stiffer, more reliable rear wheel. Aerodynamic 27mm
front/28mm rear profile and16-spoke radial front/20-hole
2-cross rear maximizes lateral stiffness and remains
vertically compliant for a smooth ride. They are laterally
stiff but compliant, especially the rear. Aerodynamic
bladed, butted Ritchey stainless steel spokes and aluminum
nipples save weight without compromising strength or
durability. A complete 700c wheel set weighs 1,605 grams.
Cold forged and machined WCS hubs are specifically designed
for aerodynamic radial lacing. Super smooth, low maintenance
custom cartridge bearings are packed with genuine Ritchey
grease for thousands of maintenance free miles. The
two-piece aluminum/CrMo rear axle saves weight without
sacrificing strength. The rim's high precision tolerance
machined sidewalls are straight to .03mm.
We've had guys doing cyclocross
on these wheels with no problems.
These wheels are so good
you can race and train on them for years. You may decide
you don't need to spend over a thousand dollars on race
wheels. This stock wheelset is much better than the
race wheelset I used in my first Ironman in Hawaii in
1986. Although they will never be as fast as a set of
Zipp 909 race wheels, they also won't cost $1400. This
makes the P2K a better value than bikes with round spoke
wheel sets. It also adds to the aerodynamic benefit
of the entire bike package. If you're an entry-level
athlete, add about another 1:00 time savings to that
3:13 we talked about with the frame.
The main frame of the new P2K with its aerodynamic,
bladed design and excellent paint and graphics work.
The saddle on the P2K is
pretty unexciting. The Selle Italia XO saddle is neither
good nor bad. It's just kind of there. It works fine
for most riders. I'm spoiled by the Selle San Marco
Azoto Triathlon saddle and am looking forward to the
newer Selle San Marco Azoto Aspide Triathlon Gel. Aside
from having a name too long to remember these saddles
are the best triathlon saddles available. Read
our detailed review here. I vote to upgrade your
P2K to the better Azoto saddle if you have issues after
trying the XO saddle that comes on the bike. Most people
do take a liking to the stock XO saddle though.
The Kenda tires are better
than good but have oddly seen little aftermarket availability
lost in the brand recognition of Michelin, Continental
view of the evolution from the new P2K aerodynamic
bladed seat tube with wheel cutout (left) and
the old 1999 Cervelo Eyre seat tube (a design
still used by some companies) on the right.
Brakes are excellent; a Cervelo
branded brake made by one of the big off-shore component
houses. I have no idea who makes these but Cannondale
uses them too and they are very good. They adjust easily
and work perfectly: No issues here. The brake levers
are the weird little plastic Dia-Compe 188s that are
cheap, light, functional and good enough for Lance Armstrong's
time trial bike. Properly set up they work great, although
it is important for the cable lengths to be precise
and the internal section of the cable to be lubricated
with the ends of the housings squared, flared and ground
smooth. Most bike shops don't do this. We always do.
This is very important since the brake levers have no
return spring to assist the calipers.
1999 CerveloEyre (air). Semi-vertical dropouts
and a more conventional design. Cervelo's new
designs such as the Dual, P2K and P3 represent
a huge leap forward from this design.
Now the fun stuff. The Cervelo
P2K is the kind of blue you see in the Southern Caribbean
at Doug Stern's triathlon training camp. It is deep
and translucent and beautiful. This color and the simple
Cervelo graphics are a home run. Not a single customer
has said anything negative about it. Also, the color
has been carried over from 2002 to the 2003 model year.
Cervelo is smart: If isn't broken, don't fix it. Finish
quality is super good, we've never had an issue.
The ride is completely different
than I expected. When I saw the aero seat tube and the
straight seat stays I thought, "This bike is going
to ride rough". I was wrong. The P2K is very comfortable,
easily comfortable enough for 112 miles or 12 miles
even on bad pavement. The low-slung seat stays joining
the seat tube well below the seat collar give the rear
end comfort but keep the rear triangle tight, aero and
laterally stiff. Great design- better ride. The bike
is light so it goes up hills well, again, better than
I thought an aero tube bike would. The bottom bracket
doesn't deflect when you stand on the pedals too much
(I weigh 170 pounds and can muscle over 500 watts in
an all-out climb for a few seconds).
Cervelo's early efforts in
some bikes were good, but not as good as the P2K or
other 2003 Cervelos such as the new Dual. The Cervelo
Eyre (say "air") from 1999 was a great bike-
so good Trek blatantly (tried to) rip the design off
for their short lived attempt at the triathlon specific
geometry market and even did a tongue in cheek poke
at Quintana Roo's "Kilo" by calling their
bike the "Hilo". The Eyre was an evolutionary
step on the way to the P2K and was a great bike on its
own. How truly excellent the P2K is becomes apparent
when you park a 1999 Eyre next to a new P2K. The welds
on the P2K are much cleaner, smoother and stronger.
The aerodynamic design of the seat tube is a big improvement
and the most obvious difference. I liked the Eyre because
of its ballsy, gear mashing, big hill, out of the saddle
stiffness. In a big gear with a pair of big legs this
bike was pissed. On a bad road with a tender crotch
after three hours you got pissed. The bike was cool,
but a bit "rugged" in ride quality for me.
The P2K has a more BMW like ride: Fast, sporty, tight
by side comparison of the old 1999 Eyre and
the new 2003 P2K. Eyre is on the left and in
the rear on the right.
Is the P2K's aerodynamic
frame really faster than other triathlon frames, as
wind tunnel tests suggest? I can't tell you in quantifiable
terms from an empirical perspective. But I can tell
when it is set up to fit me correctly it does certainly
feel or seem faster. Using this frame with regular wheels
gives you about the same sensation as putting race wheels
on a regular frame. Using the stock Ritchey wheel set
that comes on the P2K makes the entire package feel
so noticeably fast that other bikes seem pretty boring.
The P2K sells for about $1999.99.
When you look at the component spec the only thing that
comes close is the magnificent Cannondale Ironman 2000
which is $400 more but has some nice up-spec and a double
heat treated frame, no variable geometry seatpost though.
The Ironman 2000, as great a bike as it is, is not as
aerodynamic as the P2K but is stiffer at the bottom
bracket and does have the Cannondale double heat-treated
frame, upgraded rear derailleur and a very nice wheelset.
There are trade-offs between these two "super bikes".
Our advice is to not compare bikes but compare fit between
the two. Buy the one that fits you best and suits your
goals the best. How can you tell? That's where we come