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Why Everbody Wants One.
By Tom Demerly.


Read This About Our Reviews First

The genie is out of the bottle.

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 new P2K.

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 short list.


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 terrain.

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…it 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 improvement.

Welds from the 1999 Cervelo Eyre (air) are seen on the left, with the new, improved welds on the 2003 Cervelo P2K on the right. Big improvement.

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.


On the 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.

An 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 click here.

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 user. Period.


It is easy and straightforward to use the new rear facing dropouts.

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 industry.

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.

The 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 the best.


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 and Hutchison.


Another 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.


The 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 but civilized.

Side 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 in…


 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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