Cervelo's brand new P2

Containers of Cervelo’s 2014 P2 arrive today and it’s less a new bike as a riff off the new P3 introduced last year. But there’s nothing wrong in that. Last year’s P3 was a big lift for triathlon’s flagship brand, and with this P2 intro you get most of what’s good about the P3 in that $2,800 price point Cervelo pegged four years ago as its entry level start point.

Let’s talk about how we got here.

In the 1990s, when Cervelo was not the dominant brand in triathlon it eventually came to be, the name of Cervelo’s new tri bike was a play on words. A double entendre. Remember when everybody thought their computers were going to fail when the calendar ticked over from 1999 to 2000? What dominated our news, and fears, leading up to that was Y2K, as in year-2000. Cervelo cleverly introduced the P2K. The very first tri bike road test ever on Slowtwitch was of the Cervelo P2K, in 1999.

Seven years later we wrote about the P2SL and if the P2K had vices, the P2SL had none. Still, that bike was near the end of its run when we wrote about it, because what the world really wanted was a P3. Shortly after that P2SL review appeared on Slowtwitch Cervelo gave the world a P3 for those who wanted one but couldn’t afford it. Back then the bikes had a “C” at the end of the name, moving, for example, from P3SL to P3C, to designate carbon. But by 2007 the C was dropped because aluminum was dropped from Cervelo’s line. Everything Cervelo made was “C”. In 2008 Chrissie Wellington showed the World that the P2 was all the bike anybody needed to win Kona.

In 2010 you got what we pretty much have today in terms of price point and value. The P2 moved in price from $2,500 to $2,800 and that’s where today’s P2 sits. This price, $2,800, seems to be a solid entry-level price. Yes, there is a point at just around $2000 where you can buy a serviceable tri bike, but for Cervelo that price seems to be too low. Those aspiring to Cervelo want a bit more bike than can be had at $2000. If you want a Cervelo you’ve got to spend $2,800 and you get what Cervelo feels is a bike worthy of its headbadge.

The big difference between now and that P2 reviewed here in 2010 is geometry. The “new” P3 intro’d last year featured a shorter reach and taller stack than the “classic” P3. While the new and old P3 looked the same at 10 paces, they fit pretty differently or, to put it another way, they fit exactly the same, just, with the new P3 you rode it without the 30mm or 40mm of spacers under your stem.

The original carbon P2 – the P2 frame you all grew to know and love, and own – sat in between the old and new P3 in geometry (if you know how to read these Cartesian graphs plotting size runs by stack and reach you can see in the adjacent graph how that is). The only concern about this bike is that it’s spec’d with Profile Design aerobars. Now, these are, almost without question, the most comfortable original equipment aerobars available in their price class. Only the 3T Aura favorably compares. So, no problem there (although a case could be made for Profile’s T3 extensions in place of of the T4). The issue is one of fit. This is a tall geometry mated with a tall aerobar, that is, the pad sits 60mm above the centerline of the pursuit. This bike is on the tall end of the fit spectrum. But Cervelo has countered this by replacing its typical 16mm-tall headset top cap with a low-profile headset top cap and if I had the choice of a little frame and a lot of top cap, or the reverse, I’d take the reverse.

Just, realize the difference from 2010. On that P2 you had both a lower front end and a Visiontech aerobar. The aerobar itself sat 25mm lower than the Profile T4. That old P2 frame/aerobar combo, in size 56cm, sat about 35mm below where the current P2 reviewed here sits. There are going to be a few people for whom this bike is too tall. But, to be honest, there are probably going to be more people yet for whom this geometry works. Heck, here’s what we wrote about the P2 back in 2010 and if you look at the accompanying photo of Chrissie aboard that bike, you’ll note a bunch of spacers under the stem. That’s what this iteration of the P2 (and the new P3) seek to avoid.

One more thing about the front-end spec, I don’t know if Cervelo realized this or not when it made its parts choices. Yes, the P2 of today is not as long as the P2 workhorse that’s been around since the mid- to late-2000s. But if you look at where the pads on the Profile Design T4 sit relative to the pursuit bar in the fore/aft plane, they sit more fore than aft. If you mount the pads in the center of 3 sets of holes (you can move the pads to a fore or aft hole position, each set of holes is 15mm in front or behind the other), you’ve moved the pads further out front versus other bars in their competitive set.

In other words, Cervelo has shortened the frame, but it really hasn’t much shortened the complete bike. Mostly, the bike just got taller.

The blue and silver color scheme is an homage to Cervelo’s bikes of yesteryear - a departure from its recent black and white dominated paint jobs. For the style-sensitive triathlete, the blue on the P2 is the same blue of Giro’s current model helmets.

The P2 features a solid Shimano 105 build. It is spec’d with Shimano 105 derailleurs, Dura Ace bar end shifters, CS-4600 cassette (11-25 Tiagra) and CS-4601 chain (Tiagra) with Shimano’s R-500 wheelset. The crank and brake calipers are supplied by FSA. The FSA gossamer crank is a 50/34 compact BBRight edition.

The cockpit is dominated, as noted, by Profile Design and its very comfortable F35 pads, T4 aerobar extensions, and Profile’s Aris stem in a +/-6° pitch. Profile also supplies the brake levers. The levers are an OEM variety that allow for clean internal routing and easy servicing with the clamp adjustment bolt accessible with the cable installed.

Cervelo understands that aerobars are a contact point, and if it’s going to pay attention to spec this is precisely where that attention needs to be paid. Too many brands try to save money by spec’ing a house-brand or off-series aerobar. That’s a rookie move by a rookie product manager and, happily, Cervelo did not make that mistake. By spec’ing an actual aftermarket stem Cervelo is doing you another favor. Had the stem been emblazened with “Cervelo” your retail store owner would have charged you for a replacement stem, because he can’t re-sell a Cervelo-branded stem on a non-Cervelo bike. Likewise, you may well change out the saddle on this bike. By spec’ing a Fizik Arione Tri 2 there’s at least a fighting chance your retailer can find another home for this saddle.

Cervelo specifies 105 on this bike but, don’t be fooled, many of their competitors spec Ultegra derailleurs, but downspec the shifters to Microshift, and the cassettes and chains to non-Shimano, all in pursuit of a lower price point. Cervelo’s 105 P2 spec often delivers more value than a competitor's Ultegra spec. The compact crank 50/34 is appropriate gearing for most triathletes and if you need to swap it, again, your local dealer will not grumble if he takes this crank back into inventory (i.e., you’re more likely to get some credit for it if you want to swap out cranks). Californians would like to see Cervelo spec an 11-28 cassette but the 11-25 will keep the triathletes in Florida happy.

The Frame
With the shared geometry and frame, the P2 fork is very slightly less aero than the P3 version. The claimed weight and stiffness are equal, but manufacturing costs are much lower. The P2 uses a slightly wider width at the top of the fork near the wheel, and the shapes are a little less sophisticated allowing the fork to be manufactured at a lower price point. The P3 fork is slightly narrower, and where it is adjacent to the frame near the crown, it’s slightly more “faired in”. It’s very difficult to see, but if you run your hand across it, you can feel the difference.

There are several notable updates from the P2 classic. This new iteration of the P2 includes provisions for Di2 routing, mechanical, or hydraulic; what Cervelo notes as “Future Proof” routing. The mechanical routing has been significantly updated to reduce cable bends and shift cable friction. If you go way, way back to our 1999 review of the P2K, cable routing was the big complaint on that bike. Boy, has Cervelo come a long way in making cable routing a priority. Of course, this bike is 15 years younger than that P2K.

The frame mounts and adaptors for mechanical or Di2 are an industry best; cables are held in place and the grommets stay put. The bottom bracket is now BBRight, bringing the P2 in line with Cervelo’s other models. BBRight gives Cervelo the ability to add thickness to the non-drive chainstay, increasing lateral and bottom bracket stiffness. The frame can now accommodate wider design wheels mounted with 25mm tires. The dropouts remain rearward facing aluminum with set screws to adjust for various tire sizes. The rear derailleur hanger remains unreplaceable (this is unfortunate), thus we recommend removing the rear derailleur for travel.

Aerodynamically the frame has been updated using the profiles from the P5-6 technology, and the aero zones to engineer each portion of the frame for best aerodynamic performance. The dropped down tube lowers the down tube to the front wheel to smooth out airflow as it passes the front wheel. Using the “built for bottles” approach, Cervelo designed the frame to accommodate a round or aero style bottle on the downtube without an aero penalty. The seat tube cutout on the frame completely shrouds the rear wheel from the bottom bracket to the rear brake. The P2 uses a traditionally located rear brake, shielded behind the seat stays. If you’ve lived with behind-the-BB rear brake calipers, and you earned that merit badge, you might be happy to have that rear brake back where it used to sit, damned the aero cost. While it may not be quite as aero as the P5 location, the stopping power, ease of servicing, and cost savings far outweigh the aerodynamic penalty for most who don't employ their own full time bike mechanic.

The updated P2 includes bosses on the top tube (hooray!), at the downtube bottle location, a Di2 battery mount, and a seatpost accessory mount (double hooray!).

More on geometry
As noted, from a fit standpoint the stack is significantly taller, as much as 24mm taller on the size 48 and 51, to 9mm on the size 58. The reach is also shorter (narrower) as much as 8mm on the size 51 to 2mm on the size 61. This shifts the fit of the P2 towards the fat of the fit curve. The P2 classic and P3 classic have always been considered long and low, and now, they are closer to narrow rather than long. Keep in mind if upgrading to the new geometry, you might not be on the same size. The Profile Design bars spec’d on this bike are on the taller side so with the stock spec, P2’s fit a little taller than not. If the cockpit is changed to a lower bar and you run a -17deg front end this bike does get fairly low. If it's the old-style P3 Classic long/low geometry you need, you'll have to work to get this bike to fit you.

Cervelo increased the bottom bracket drop from 60mm to 80mm and this is interesting, because all through the run-up of this brand its bikes featured a 60mm BB drop. In moving to 80mm it moves right into Trek’s territory. This is the drop of the Speed Concept. Really, the bike geometrically is pretty much moving from traditional Cervelo geometry to Speed Concept geometry. When the bikes were lower in front, you didn’t need a lower BB. But if you’re going to raise the front of the bike up, versus the bottom bracket, wisest to do that by lowering the BB than by raising the head tube, both for handling and aerodynamic reasons. This is what Cervelo chose to do.

Cervelo also increased the rear center from 380 to 399, increasing the length of the wheelbase. By shifting the rear wheel back, the chainline is improved helping shift performance, and also adding a little to stability. Riding it, the new P2 has a little more stable feel in the corners than the older geometry.

Cervelo has chosen to its size-48 as a 700c-wheeled bike and that’s okay if you’re going to scale up the “stack” in the entire size range. Still, Cervelo was wise to include a size 45 in 650c, understanding this bike is too tall (in the small sizes) for short triathletes. Cervelo makes 7 sizes in the P2: 45(650c), 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, and 61 with each size getting progressively longer and taller as one would expect. Cervelo’s new geometry, considering all 7 sizes, accommodates elegantly a wider range of riders than any tri bike it has previously made.

Cervelo’s P2 is available now. You might wonder how it is this has been kept secret, because retailers are notorious for blabbing. It’s been a secret because retailers did not know about this bike. They found out one day before you’re finding out. So, how did Cervelo take preseason orders for this bike? It didn’t. It apparently believes enough in this bike to bring in containers of it on spec.

The new Cervelo P2, as a complete bike, is a complete bike. It’s laid down a marker at the entry level. The frame; the frame’s features and ability to accommodate “bolt on” accessories; the thought that went into cable and wiring routing; the fit and geometry; the wide size run; comfortable contact points; the roadworthy spec; and the price will probably make this bike the fulcrum around which the industry turns for the next couple of years.