LAST UPDATED 22 JANUARY 2019
If you’re as much of a bike geek as we are, and you watched the 2016 Olympics, you can’t help but have noticed that every Team GB cycling success was on a Cervélo bike.
If you witnessed Mark Cavendish’s return to stage domination at the 2016 Tour, you’ll have noted he was back on a Cervélo.
In a world of generalist bicycle companies who produce an annual catalogue featuring hundreds of bike models in every conceivable style, there’s something confidence inspiring about a brand who specialise in one thing – creating the fastest road and track bikes in their class.
Concentrating on this goal and excelling at it, Cervélo keep it real with a frugal range comprising just 17 core bikes (albeit with groupset options).
If you’re looking for the best road bike money can buy, you’ve got to consider a Cervélo.
Confidence inspiring spec
Engineered for speed, every Cervélo bike is built on a full carbon frame and fork.
Every Cervélo we actually stock is Shimano Ultegra equipped because we sincerely believe a Cervélo frame deserves this quality of groupset to unleash the bike’s full potential.
We also consider Shimano’s penultimate groupset to be their best value. The first choice of most club riders, Ultegra is revered for delivering at least 95% of the performance, while making the bike at least a grand less expensive than the equivalent Dura-Ace model. (But if you are desperate to achieve marginal gains don’t let us put you off ordering a Dura-Ace or SRAM eTap-equipped Cervélo from us.)
Five coherent ranges
Cervélo bikes come in five distinct ranges.
Cervélo R-Series Classic Road
The R-Series comprises the following five models in ascending price order – R2, R3, R3d (with disc brakes), R5 and Rca. Thanks to their multiple Paris-Roubaix and Tour de France winning pedigree, these are Cervélo’s most popular road bikes.
Cervélo S-Series Aero Road
Aero Road is a category Cervélo created and defined as their own. Designed to offer a significant aero benefit while remaining consummately rideable (even in strong crosswinds unlike pure aero bikes) these are the bikes Cervélo’s Team Dimension Data will most likely switch to on the longer flat stages of pro cycle racing’s three Grand Tours. There are four S-Series models – S2, S3, S3d (with disc brakes) and S5.
Cervélo C-Series Endurance Road
Introduced in 2016, this is Cervélo’s first foray into the sportive bike category, and it’s already considered one of the finest endurance road bikes ever made. There are two C-Series models – C3 and C5.
Cervélo P-Series Triathlon and Time Trial
There are 4 P-range bikes: the P2, P3, P5 and P5x. It’s little wonder that Cervélo are seen as the go-to company in triathlon/tt, when you realise the lengths they’re prepared to go to help you achieve the most efficient riding position, as described on this video.
Cervélo T-Series Track
These are the track bikes that dominated the Rio Olympics. Chose either the T4 or the T5GB.
Project California: The birthplace of Cervelo road bikes
Every Cervélo bicycle was originally conceived at their own R&D and carbon fabrication facility, which they call Project California.
Arguably the world’s most advanced bicycle development facility, its California location puts Project California in the heartland of the world’s most advanced aerospace industries. This location means that Cervélo’s engineers enjoy unique access to the very latest carbon fabrication techniques and materials.
The Cervelo RCA hanging out by a swimming pool, which is presumably what bicycles do in California.
Project California’s engineers employ the latest software tools, including Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to test the frame or component’s structural performance; Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to measure aero performance, and Laminate Tools to optimise the placing of every individual piece of carbon used in the frame’s manufacture.
The CAD (Computer Aided Design) frame is then fabricated in-house before it is wind tunnel tested, then real world ridden, by Cervélo’s sponsored pro riders before you or I ever get a glimpse of the bike.
This R&D process can take years for each specific model. The benefit to you the rider is that when the bike is released, you can be confident that it will be as perfect as a bike can be.
Take their flagship classic road bike – the Cervélo Rca
To create the very best road bike, Cervélo sweated the details regarding carbon weave and optimal lay up before they settled on a formula involving 460 plies of carbon weave laid up in 14 different orientations to craft each 54cm frame.
They applied the same painstaking analysis to design the frame’s tube shapes – hence Cervélo’s trademark Squoval (squared oval) tubing. Here, the down tube is square to reinforce it where it joins the head tube to maximise strength. Then the tube gets oval lower down to make it more aerodynamic where it’s exposed to more direct airflow
The same thinking dictates the bike’s super-skinny seatstays. As well as improving aerodynamic efficiency and lowering the gram count, Cervélo stays are legendary for their ability to damp road shock before it’s transmitted via the saddle to your butt.
Cervélo’s unique asymmetric BBRight bottom bracket shell is oversized on the non-drive side to increase stiffness, maximise power output and minimise frame weight.
Reduced Friction Bottom Bracket Guides
Taking care of the tiniest details, the frame’s Reduced Friction Bottom Bracket Guides are among the sweetest in the industry, and they help guarantee the smoothest gear changes.
Put it all together and you discover that Cervélo achieved the alchemy of combining the four most desirable (and frequently mutually exclusive) traits you look for in a road bike frame.
- It’s one of the lightest in production (around 660g) without sacrificing strength
- It’s stiff where required to prevent Watt-wasting flex when you climb, and to ensure perfect control when you descend
- It’s air tunnel tested aerodynamic performance matches or betters its classic road bike rivals
- Its engineered-in compliance is Paris-Roubaix proven
When you consider everything that went into the creation of the Cervélo Rca you can begin to understand why it retails for £6,500 – just for the frame and fork.
Trickle-down Cervelo features
The good news is that Cervélo’s crucial carbon frame innovations have trickled down and feature on EVERY production Cervélo model too – albeit using slightly less exotic materials.
Even with this compromise, the Cervélo R5’s carbon frame comes in at just 760g – a weight that would have been considered unfeasible just a decade ago.
Even the R3 frame hits the expected sub-kilo target we look for in today’s better-quality road bikes.
A word from Mike Sweatman, Our Retired Buying Manager
As a final treat, we’ll sign off this blog with notes, which our very wise co-op founder member Mike wrote about Cervélo just before he semi retired in November 2016.
Cervélo are a very careful company, run by engineers, who have no truck with the annual tyranny of pretending that they have something radically new to offer each and every model year. They are also conspicuously logical in the way they build ranges – avoiding nonsense and gimmicky component choices. But neither of these is a reason to assume that we should ignore them because very little is changing.
If you want fruitily-spurious-high-end-blather go to a ‘specialist road’ shop – they have it in spades, but if you actually want the best quality high end road bikes, then you should come to us – it’s hard to ride hot air.
Cervélo R3 Ultegra: £3,299
The R3 is the key bike in the Cervélo range – and like all road bikes, the magic is in the frame and wheels. The R3 frame uses a complex carbon lay up, Squoval tubes, BBright bottom bracket, Evolved steerer and carbon drop outs. It’s a blizzard of buzz words – but together they make for a lightweight frame that just feels right. Don’t forget that this is a frame that won the Tour de France just a few years ago. The wheels are Mavic Aksium S. The other components are mainly Ultegra, but with a Rotor chainset, Fizik saddle and FSA bars.
If you go racing, or aspire to go racing, you have to consider the R3.
Cervélo R5 Ultegra: £4,099
If the R3 is not enough bike for you, you can spend another £800 on the frame and move up to the R5. You will get an even lighter and livelier frame – the word ‘ultimate’ is genuinely applicable – but it is still a frame that is still manifestly rideable – this is a civilized, sophisticated bike not some weirdo science experiment.
The world of road racing is supposedly all about marginal gains – and that’s exactly what the R5 offers over the R3.
Cervélo R3 Disc Ultegra: £3,499
The R3 re-engineered from the ground up to take hydraulic discs with properly implemented brake mounts, through axles etc – all of which is no small thing when you consider the temperatures that discs can reach on an Alpine descent – and how close those red hot discs are to extremely lightweight carbon fibre tubes. You need the designers to do it right – and Cervélo do. The wheels are Hed Ardennes GP Plus Discs.
Cervélo S3 Disc Ultegra: £3,999
Mirroring the philosophy of the R3, the S3 is designed to give a significant aero benefit – while remaining a consummately rideable bike. There is no lack of Ultegra aero-look bikes in the world – but there is a lack of Ultegra aero bikes that do actually reduce aerodynamic drag, do not weigh a ton and do not ride like an iron bedstead.
If your thing is less about hill climbing and more about time trialling, sprinting or triathlon you may prefer an S3 over an R3. The frame is designed for increased stiffness and reduced drag, with a cutaway seat tube to allow a short wheelbase.
The wheels are Mavic Cosmic Elites – a practical, useable choice with excellent aerodynamics, and the rest of the spec is very similar to the R3.
The S3 Disc frame is not only built for discs from the ground up – it is also stiffer and more aerodynamic than the plain vanilla S3. The S3 Disc Ultegra shares much of the spec of the S3 Ultegra, except that it has an FSA SLK crank with hollow carbon arms. The S3 Disc Ultegra Di2 moves up Enve SES 3.4 wheels.
Cervélo S5 Disc Ultegra: £4,899
Guess what? For £900 more than the S3 Ultegra you can have the S5 Ultegra. But this time you not only get a fancier (and more extremely aero) frame – you also get Cervélo’s own carbon aero bars. The rest of the spec is the same as for the S3 Ultegra.
Cervélo C3 Ultegra: £3,259
For the ultimate sportive bike you need comfy geometry and pencil thin stays, you need properly executed disc mounts and clearance for a 28mm tyre – and you need it all to weigh next to nothing and handle beautifully – you need the Cervélo C3.
Cervélo resist the temptation to mess with too much – the C3 frame may be something very different from the R3 – but the component spec of the Ultegra version is very similar to that of the Ultegra R3.