Cervelo P3X: The Director's Cut

This is the first downstreamed version of the P5X. You know how this works. Felt’s first IA cost $12,000, now a pretty darned good version of it costs $3,000. The new Shiv Disc will soon debut at $14,000, but odds are it’ll also sell, eventually in some version, for $3,000. Same with this bike.

But not quite yet. This bike's downstreaming is taking the scenic route. It started its manufacturing life in the U.S., where the frame was made by Twin Cities-based HED Cycling, and the fork, aerobar and pursuit bar by ENVE Composites in Ogden, Utah. The P5X was really a proof-of-concept bike, and everybody involved proved the concept.

But this was not a bike that could easily be made in the U.S., though I think it could certainly be painted and assembled in the U.S. (a subject for another time). There is just too much about the bike – small parts, decals, molding bladders, materials changes – that cause it to be more easily manufactured in Asia, especially at the beginning of this frameset platform’s life.

As was the case with the new P5, and the new S5, this new P3X is made in the same factory as are sister company Santa Cruz’s bikes, an option that didn’t appear to be available some years ago but is now. (This is my first glimpse of PON Holdings exercising its influence to extract a synergy out of the various brands it owns.)

When the P5X was introduced it was sold at 2 price points based on the spec you chose: Dura Ace Di2 @ USD $15,000 or Ultregra Di2 @ $11,000.

[Here's our coverage of the original launch of the PX platform, in 2016]

The new prices for the P3X are $10,000 and $8,000, and they’re both Di2 Ultegra, and if you look at the spec versus the original P5X you may not find that there’s a lot of downstreaming going on. The official names of these new bikes are the P3X Disc Ultegra Di2 R8060, which is the bike with the race wheels and comes in black with red trim. The P3X Disc Ultegra Di2 R8060 2.0 is the $8000 version and it's teal and green. There's no bare frame option here.

You don't feel much downstreaming because it isn't that so much as a grand reopening. There are not really that many of us who’ve ridden both the P5X and the P3X, but I have, and the P3X isn’t a watered-down version of the P5X. It’s watered-up.

The P3X is lighter and stiffer. How? Because the P5X came first. Just as today’s Cervelo R3 is lighter than the original, one looks at the performance of a bike, he or she figures out how to take weight out, how to add stiffness where it’s needed, and voila, an upgrade. Same here. The P3X frame is 16 percent lighter, as are all the accessories: pursuit bar (while no longer 2-piece for easy travel) is 13 percent lighter, the Speed Riser is 8 percent lighter, the bolt-on storage is way lighter, and almost a quarter of the weight of the seat post has been hogged out.

The frame meanwhile got stiffer, 8 percent stiffer at the head tube and 15 percent at the BB.

I’m not a weightweenie. Math is math. Weight just isn’t that big a deal. Nevertheless, this is the first time I’ve ever ridden a bike where I think I can feel the difference (between the old and new versions) in the weight of what I’m dragging around underneath me. Not that it’s easier to drag it up a hill (the bike is the least of what I'm dragging uphill); but that it’s pleasurably easier to manage when you’re out of the saddle or just lifting the darned thing up into the back of the truck. It doesn’t ride like a big thing. It actually rides like a double-diamond frame, although there’s no-doubt passive compliance in the beam.

All that is to say, this is a marginally better bike than the P5X. It’s the Director’s Cut. It’s the same basic frame, remade in a new location with a few editing tools available that the Director didn’t have at his beck and call the first time this bike hit the box office. Therefore, there’s not much downstreaming here, because it’s all new molds, new processes, a new carbon layup schedule, a lot of new parts.
Whew! That’s the backdrop.

Why This Bike?: What’s the point of this bike? Its raison d’etre? Why not just the new P5? Especially because the P5 is UCI legal, for those who roll that way, and because the P5’s frame is marginally more aero than this frame? This bike exists because you asked for it. What? You didn’t know that? Well, you did, and by “you” I mean the plural you and by “plural” I mean the 5,000 or 10,000 of you Cervelo analyzed worldwide to see not how you should ride, but how you do ride.

It’s the Wisdom of Crowds theory. How many jellybeans in a jar? People might not be smart individually, but they’re smarter as a group, when tasked with a problem. The problem you were tasked with is: How do you carry your spares, tools, fluid, food? Whether you’re smart or just obstinate, the plural you carry more than the new P5 has room for. If you remake the P5 so that it can haul all your stuff it’s slower than creating a new frame platform built for the purpose. That new platform? The PX.

Sizes: If I chose to ride a new P5, rather than a P3X, size is most likely the reason. And I’m getting really picky here. The P3X is made in 4 sizes, the P5 in 5 sizes. This is why – if I might digress – the best bike fitters don’t simply offer fit solutions, but handling solutions. I could ride a P3X in an L or XL (there is also a size S and M), and I could ride the P5 in a 56cm or 58cm (this bike’s 5 sizes are sized numerically). The P3Xs are built with a front/center (bottom bracket to front wheel axle) of 614mm or 642mm (L or XL), and the P5’s 56cm give me a front/center of 622mm in size 56cm. My best front/center, giving me my best weight displacement, is between 625mm and 630mm.

But if I was 6’0” instead of 6’2” I might like the P3X’s geometry better. And, as stated, I’m getting overly picky. I rode the P3X in a size L and I could easily love that bike. Just as with the P5X before it. The bike is a little tight underneath me but I rode the P5X down the Saddle Road on the Big Island at north of 50mph, and I rode this P3X at well north of 40mph, and each bike was solid as a rock.

Handlebars: I number of you were grousing about the new P5’s lack of hyper-adjustability (it’s quite adjustable, just not P5X or Speed Concept hyper adjustable). And that the bars didn’t tilt. I told you to just hold your water, that I’d report a solution for you. This is it. I've written separately about just the two handlebar systems. Just know 3 things: first, this handlebar is hyper-adjustable; second, that it tilts; and third, that it’s modular – it can be placed on the new P5. And, Cervelo is trying to make it financially and logistically easy for it to be swapped onto the P5.

Each bike’s handlebar (P5 and P3X) can be swapped to the other frame, and each deploys the Speed Riser – the pedestal system that works like a seat post. You just pull one handlebar out and stick the seat posty looking thing into the other bike. The P3C’s handlebar does not use a mono-extension, keeping its extensions separate, and there’s a bridge on which a boss sits for those who want to bolt a cage or other front hydration system to the bike (and who doesn’t?).

Cervelo simplified a lot of the functions of the bar – the P5X’s bar had 14 distinct pieces and this bar has 7. And it got lighter.

This handlebar system has a flippable pursuit bar, to grant you the pursuit position you want. Great. I guess I like the P5’s handlebar better, except that the P5 doesn’t allow the pads to move as far apart as a lot of you will want.

Both the P5 and the P3X share the grip on the pursuit bar that I like a lot. Really, Felt was the only company that make a molded grip to add relief to a flat pursuit extension – and they did this years ago – and finally we see somebody moving this forward.

Spec: This is an Ultegra Di2 groupkit end-to-end. I cannot find a difference in these two builds except the wheelset and what’s attached to the wheelset. It’s a set of DT Swiss training wheels versus race wheels: ARC 1450 DiCut 48/62 Disc versus 1800 Spline 32 Disc, that is to say:

Do you want a 32mm front and rear, that you can race on but mostly it’s just your second set of wheels? Or a proper set of 48mm front and a 62mm rear race wheels? All are thru axle disc brake wheels.

Otherwise, the difference is in Continental tires: GP4000 S II on the more expensive bike, or Grand Prix SL on the cheaper build, each in 25mm. The only other difference is the cassette: Ultegra versus 105.

If you research the ARC 1450 DiCut 48/62 Disc wheelset, it’s highly respected, and would set you back north of $3000 for the pair if purchased in the aftermarket. Do you want this wheelset? If so, trading the OEM wheelset in, adding $2,000, getting the cassette and tire upgrade, is a nice deal.

Me? I roll with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Don’t Fence Me In. Nothing wrong with the ARC 1450 DiCut 48/62 Disc wheelset, just, a set of HED Jets (maybe a rear disc and a 40 front), a second cassette and second set of tires, now I have 2 sets of wheels and a few hundred bucks to put in my pocket.

You should put on your thinking cap here. The P3X shares a frame feature with the new P5: increased tire clearance, so that you can ride a 28mm tire in this bike. Do you want to? Because – not to beat this up – but the ARC 1450 DiCut rims are 17mm between the beads. HEDs are almost 21mm between the beads. One of these wheelsets, it seems to me, anticipates wider tires. It seems axiomatic to think about the tires you intend to use before, and have that inform your choice of wheel on which you want to mount it.

Aero: This new P3X is not the same mold as the P5X. it is marginally less aero. Here’s the chart. The margin is so narrow so as to be statistically insignificant. Cervelo says the P5 is a little more aero than the P3X if you take all the storage off. When I ask them for a head-to-head matchup – 2 aero profiles on 1 graph – they’re not offering that yet. They won’t do it until they have both bikes at the same tunnel, same day, for a test, which is on their to-do list. That tells you that Cervelo's 2 new bikes aren’t that far apart in aero performance.

Storage: This is where the bike shines. You can carry up to 3 bottles at once, aerodynamically, easily, and that’s exclusive of a monumental amount of storage. There’s top tube storage; a large storage box on the upper side of the down tube (which fair the rear wheel); and a nacelle below the down tube. These are called the Smartpak 600, Speedcase 600, Stealthbox 300 respectively, and the numbers refer to the cubic centimeters of volume. This means the P3X has triple the storage of the new P5 when all the storage Cervelo makes for both bikes is attached.

Ease of Use & Adjustment, Travel: Gone are the 2-piece pursuit bar and the bespoke bike case that came with the P5X for its launch 2 and-a-half years ago. But this bike still packs pretty easily I think, though I haven’t actually stuck it in a bike case yet.

As noted in my accompanying article on the handlebars for both Cervelo’s new bikes, only the front end of a fit bike adjusts more easily than these, with the Speed Riser, and you just pull the handlebar out of the bike, unplug the Di2 wire. The pursuit bar has to come off too, and I’d probably have accepted the extra weight for the 2-piece system – because of the ease of packing – but this just makes the P3X like any other bike.

Here’s more from Cervelo about this bike.