Cervelo's Workhorse Tri Bike Gets an Update

Since the intro of Cervelo’s P3 Carbon, first available during the 2005 season, this bike or its derivatives have been triathlon's flagship tri bike and, even, time trialing's flagship bike. The P2 followed, and then the new P3, which looked like the P3 Classic but had not-subtle geometry adjustments that made it fit more people without a flagpole of steerer spacers under the handlebars.

That frame became the workhorse; the old P2 frameset was retired; and the P2/3 has been the choice of the fat of the bell curve of users from 2013 until pretty much now. The major difference between the entry level $2,800 P2 and the mid-priced P3 the choice of components (frame was the same). Below you can see the old P2/3 frameset against the just-introduced P-Series.

Those seeing the new P-Series bike today may be a little short of breath, but Cervelo can exhale. This is finito on a big year that started with the rollout of its high end tri bikes, the P3X and the new P5. I knew this P-Series bike was coming so, when our readers complained that – yet again! – the industry was only interested in bikes for the One Percenters, it was hard to hold my tongue. Bikes are ready when they’re ready, and the P-Series wasn’t going to be ready for several more months.

Now it’s ready. Cervelo took its new P5 its S5, threw them in a room, put on some romantic music, and out came this baby. From the midpoint back it bears a resemblance to its daddy, the aero road bike S5. (Or maybe that was its mommy.) From the seat tube forward got the nose and ears of the new P5 and most notably the overall contour of the frame (though the fork of the P-Series also looks a bit like the S5's fork). See, above, how the P-Series top tube slopes up versus the old P3, which slopes down?

Now, just above, look at the P-Series versus the new P5. You can see how the tech flowed from the higher end bike to the lower. The obvious change of note that you’ll read is that Cervelo’s entry level tri bikes are now disc brake bikes. But that would mask the bigger picture. The new P-Series bike is a lot more like the new P5 in every way: the shape, the geometry, the stiffness, aero performance, and so on.

Mind, this isn’t simply a super stiff bike, based on the thesis that if it’s stiffer it must be better. I think Cervelo learned way back with the intro of the first-gen R3 road bikes that just making a frameset board stiff doesn’t make the frame better. Flex is good. Just, not too much, and only when it’s in the right place. Then you get the ride quality you want. I don’t know that bike makers always flow what they’ve learned from road to tri and back again. Often, tri bikes are treated as the odd child. Cervelo has always let its road lessons inform its tri bikes and vice versa. The new P5 and this P-Series are the fruit of 15 years worth of experience making better (and sometimes not better) carbon bikes. The result of this, in the P-Series, is appropriate stiffness in the 2 places I always felt, as a tri bike maker, I needed it: around the head tube, and between the bottom bracket and the rear dropouts.

Storage and hydration on the P-Series looks a lot like storage on the new P5. You’ll see the top tube storage, and the down tube water bottle. My one beef about this is that the bottle is hard to replace in the carrier you must use for it. It’s a precision operation when you’re in the heat of battle, like landing a plane on an aircraft carrier in a typhoon.

Now, I still like that bottle and I like it in that place. Just, not as a water bottle. I like it as storage. Cervelo needs to make one more product: that bottle, in that shape, tasked as storage. Or, work with Torhans or Speedfil or XLAB, somebody who’ll make it as an aftermarket product, first for Cervelo but for any other frame that would fit it.


Here’s something weird. I didn’t expect this. You see above how the new P-Series bike looks and owes an awful lot to the new P5. I expected the geometry of the P-Series to match the P5, but it doesn’t. It matches the geometry of the P2/3 frame it’s replacing. How do all these Cervelo tri bikes differ?

The new P5 is a slightly longer/lower bike. Not as long/low as the (original) Classic P3. Here’s an example: In a 56cm the new P5 has a stack and reach of 521mm and 431mm respectively. The P-Series has a stack/reach of 540mm and 424mm. Slightly narrower; considerably taller. Why? Two explanations. First, a tri bike, for a mass audience, probably ought to be the geometry of the P-Series. This is a consensus industry geometry and it matches that Trek, Felt, QR and other companies are doing.

As an aside, and at the risk of confusing you, and for comparison’s sake, the P3X comes in 4 sizes and these other Cervelos have 6 sizes. The P-Series bikes come in 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61. The P3X’s t-shirt sizes of S, M, L, and XL are, kinda sorta, 48cm, 52cm, 56cm, and 61cm, and they share the (shorter) length of the P Series, while exhibiting the (lower) height of the P5.

Here’s the upshot: If you deliver these bikes (you're an LBS or bike fitter), the P-Series will fit just like a recent model P2 or P3, because the frame geometry is the same, and the handlebar spec’d on the bikes is similar in the bar geometry than what came spec’d on the P2s and P3s.

Same guidance if you’re a consumer. If this bike replaces anything you currently own, you’d buy this bike in (say) 56cm if you were replacing a Speed Concept in size L, a Dimond in size M, a Felt in size 56, a post 2013 P2/3 in size 56, or a QR PR series bike in size 54. If that doesn’t increase your confidence, we have a thread on our Reader Forum, expertly curated by North Carolina bike fitter Erid Reid, just to help you find your right Cervelo.


The price has gone up. It’s now $3,200 and that’s a $400 jump from the base price of the old P2. I don’t know if any of this has to do with tariffs or tariff uncertainty. A lot of today’s bikes are subject to a tariff on a part of the bike. QR pays a tariff on carbon frames made in China bit imports them paint-ready, and paints and assembles the bikes in Chattanooga. I believe Cervelo ships a Chinese-made frame outside of China for assembly so, like QR, pays a tariff only on a part of the bike.

Tariff's aside, there’s a lot more to this new bike than just a new paint job. Storage and hydration, for one. Stuff you'd need to buy aftermarket anyway. Otherwise, it's just a lot more frameset than the P2 it's replacing.

It’s harder now to deliver a bike that a tri consumer wants at a price below $3,000, even if it’s an entry-level consumer. I can list you the bikes, over the last 4 years, that came in at $2,000 to $2,500 that were flops, because they didn’t meet a performance threshold. The P-Series 105 is probably the state of the entry level market.

Here’s the interesting change in spec: Zipp Vuka Alumina finally got some OE spec over Profile Design. As you probably know by now, I’m a big fan of PD’s suite of aerobars, for their comfort, adjustability, and price. That said, both Zipp and Vision have been clawing their ways back and Zipp has pretty much closed the gap on adjustability. I think I like PD’s T3 (wrist relief style) extension shape the best of everyone’s, and you’ll see this shape emulated by companies when they make their own expensive aerobars. Why more bar makers don’t use this shape is a mystery to me. However, Zipp has done a nice job and here and there (armrest tilt shims) outfeature everyone.

Gears are 50/34 and 11-30. All I can say is wow. For so many years 38x25 was the smallest gear you could get on a tri bike OE, and if you’re supposed to not burn matches while climbing hills in a triathlon; and you were supposed to ride a reasonable cadence throughout; the math said bike makers didn’t do you any favors with this gearing. Kudos to Cervelo here.

The TRP Spyre brake calipers are mechanical, not hydraulic. I’ve got a lot of miles on this caliper and it works fine. In fact for many of you it might be a blessing, if you don’t want to every worry about bleeding disc brakes.

The rest of the spec is… okay. The saddle, it’s a Cervelo placeholder and Cervelo might raise a half-hearted objection to my characterization but, look, OE saddles are arranged marriages. You probably want to choose your own, and a top aftermarket saddle you *might* use would simply add more money to the cost of the bike.

Same with wheels. These are Vision 30mm wheels. They’re fine. You want a screamin’ deal? Buy a Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0, $5,500 for an electronically shifted bike with Zipp 404/808. Take those wheels off, you have a $3,100 electronic bike ex-wheels. That’s how great the value. But… are those the wheels you want? It’s a difference in philosophy. Two months ago I polled you all, and for this kind of bike 23 percent of you said you wanted HEDs on your tri bike, 15 percent Zipp; 10 percent ENVE and on down. Cervelo seems of the view that here, you have a serviceable second wheelset, now go out and buy the wheels you want. Beyond this, there’s the tubed/tubeless debate, which will inform your wheel purchase. Hence the semi-placeholder spec for wheels as well.

For $1,100 more you move to Ultegra for crankset, derailleurs, cassette and chain. You also move from mechanical to hydraulic disc brakes and brake levers. Otherwise, pretty similar except the chain rings are now 52x36, for you hammers who expect to push the big meat. The shifters remain Microshift (not Shimano), same as what’s on the 105 build.

The Di2 Ultegra build is $6,500 and for this you move to a Vision Trimax Carbon aerobar, a more expensive saddle you’re likely to replace, Vision’s own Metron hydration system to match it’s aerobars. In fact, you could almost call this the Vision build. Wheels also are Vision: 55TC Disc. Here, Cervelo *is* making your wheel decision for you.

The final build, $7,000, with SRAM Force eTap AXS 1x. I’m building up a bike with this exact shift system… for gravel. Strange world we live in. This is the point I was making when I wrote about SRAM just after its AXS launch in February: SRAM’s gambit, it seems to me, is to build good parts and not consider use case. It’s my job, as the customer, to consider use case. Is 1x good for triathlon? I’m riding on a 3T bike right now, Force mechanical 1x, not an Exploro (!), but a Strada – aero road bike – pursuant to its use in a draft legal tri national championship on my calendar. I also have a tri bike I’m riding right now, SRAM Red AXS 1x. I’ll write more about this when my long term reviews of these bikes are published. Because my neighborhood has more hills than my legs have muscles, if 1x works for me, where I live, it’ll work anywhere.

The frameset is $2,500 and it comes in 3 colorways. I can’t choose the teal frame in Cervelo’s configurator unless it’s the bare frame I’m buying, so I suspect it’s not available except as a frame. On the one hand I can’t imagine buying the bare frame because just a decent wheelset with tires, tubes and cassette is worth most of the $700 difference between the bare frame and the complete 105 bike.

However, in this narrow case I may have found the one frameset I might buy, because $2,500 is not a bad price at all for a frame of this quality. For some years the P2 has been the inexpensive chassis upon which am/fm radio, crank-window, musclebikes are built. Bearing in mind that the new P5 is the fastest stripped bike Cervelo has ever made (the P3X is its fastest “loaded” bike); and because this new P-Series frameset is modeled, aerodynamically, off the P5 (with a few S5 touches thrown in), I could easily see this being the new super/mortal musclebike platform for aeroweenies (I see no reason it isn’t UCI legal).

In all that other spare time I have I’m doing some rides on this bike too: the new Cervelo P-Series. I’ll write my actual road test of this bike under separate cover. Know that Cervelo is a Slowtwitch partner. All our partners are listed at the bottom of every Slowtwitch page.

Here’s our current Reader Forum discussion on the new P-Series bikes.