Ben Hoffman's Bike Choice

March was a big month for Cervelo, and for its marquis American long distance man Ben Hoffman. With Ironman South Africa coming up this weekend, what would he chose: a P3X or a new P5? Cervelo let him take his pick.

I rode with the talented Mr. Hoffman in Scottsdale in early March, just before the announcement of these two new bikes. We rode twice, each of us on a P3X and then the next day on a new P5. “Which bike is yours for racing?” I asked. What I thought he’d say is, “P5 with a P3X front end.” I was wrong twice, at least as regards his upcoming race in South Africa.

Mind, he recognizes that, “on my original triathlon bike, a Cervelo P3C I purchased in early 2006, it would still be a very fast bike when put side-by-side with some of the bikes you see in transition these days.” Look at Kristin Armstrong’s 2008 sub-15lb Olympic Gold Medal P3C in my Preparer article of a couple of weeks ago and see if you don’t agree.

That said, he likes both bikes and will choose based on the situation. He’ll race his P3X at IM SA. But not as spec’d.

“We are swapping a few parts on the P3X – putting on the P5X front end – to make it easier for me to travel with and for the infinite tilt adjust.”

“Three main things have guided my choice for the P3X for Ironman South Africa. First, ease of travel. After using it in Mexico, I told Cervelo that one hang-up with the P5 disc was that it was slightly annoying to deconstruct and reconstruct with the need to remove the basebar and stem cap piece to fit in a case. (Included is an image above of a P5X and the way it packs into its bespoke travel case; along with mechanical drawings below of the P5X's 2pc pursuit bar, which is cross-compatible with the P3X frameset.)

Second: Storage. “Even though I almost never roll without a flat kit, I did in Mexico, partly because I figured a flat would be the end of any podium hope with that field, and partly because I could not pack everything the way I wanted even with the speed case [P5’s top tube storage] on the top tube. With the P3X's dedicated box, the problem is solved, and I believe a result can still be salvaged with a quick fix. It also has the ability to carry all the nutrition-hydration l need, which for me is a larger volume with the longer distance race.”

His third consideration is his position Because he rides with a longer cockpit than typical, and with his hands relatively high (bars tilted up) I thought he’d choose the P3X’s front end on the P5. Instead he chose his old P5X’s front end on the P3X.

“Although we have matched my fit very closely on the P5 disc, when it comes to handling, my setup on P5X and P3X are ever so slightly more of what I am looking for on this course, with very few turns or need to get out of the aero bars; it just feels locked in and solid in a straight line at speed, whereas the P5 disc is more twitchy and light.”

For what it's worth, I did not find the P5 twitchy. I found Cervelo's new bikes to handle pretty similarly. But, light? Yes. The P5 was lighter and felt, pretty much in every way, the way I like road race bikes to feel. I could see how that would be a new sensation for Ben, as he has been used to riding a P5X, which is the difference between cruising at 90mph in your Cadillac through the desert for a Vegas weekend versus making that trip in a Ferrari.

The P3X has more tilt capacity to its front-end: a 15° upturn versus the P5X’s 12 degrees. But the P5X’s tilt angle between 0° and 12° is infinite, whereas the P3X tilt has specified keyways that lock the bar in at 0° of tilt, 5°, 10°, and 15°. One reason he chose the P5X's front end is that he doesn't need 15° of tilt, but he wants precisely the angle he wants.

[Here's Ben's P5X, including the front end he's cannibalizing to place on his new P3X.]

Beyond the elements above that steer him toward the P3X, at least for Ironman racing, Ben also senses a comfort difference, that I could not perceive, but I only went on 25 and 30 mile rides on these bikes. On the P3X, according to Ben, the “comfort increases with the vertical compliance and this matters, especially for Ironman.”