Cervélo bikes: guide to the range

Looking for a Cervélo and don't know the difference between an S5 and an R3? Confusing, isn't it? We're here to help

Cervélo bikes are some of the most sought after toys in cycling; the brand has a reputation for creating top end machines with a racing pedigree.

The Canadian brand was born in 1995, and unveiled to the public at the Toronto Bike Show in 1996 by founders Phil White and Gerard Vroomen.

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Both founders had a background in human powered vehicles going back to 1986 and the early focus for the brand was time trial bikes. To this day the ‘P’ series – time trial and triathlon bikes – are highly regarded and still pushing the boundaries of frame development, for example with the marmitesque appeal of the new P5x. 

In 2012, Cervélo was acquired by the Pon Bicycle Group (PBG). At the time of the acquisition, both founders continued with the Pon Group, White staying as Cervélo’s CEO and Vroomen moving into business development with the PBG.

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Cervélo in pro cycling

In May 2015, Cervélo signed a five year partnership with British Cycling. Initially, the change over might have caused a few bike fit difficulties as athletes tried to swap measurements like for like, but GB’s six gold, four silver and two bronze cycling medals in Rio suggest the Cervelo bikes certainly weren’t slow.

Indeed, the track bikes in particular received high praise – British Cycling called the T5GB track bike “the most aerodynamic model the Great Britain Cycling Team has ever ridden.”

In the World Tour, the bikes are ridden by Team Sunweb’s men’s and women’s squads as well as women’s team Cervélo Bigla Pro Cycling. The brand doesn’t make women’s specific frames, and believes that contact point adjustment is the key to a good fit.

Cervélo Bike Ranges

Cervélo bikes are divided up into ranges, and each range contains several models, which in turn house assorted spec options. Once you understand the ethos behind each range, it’s largely a case of selecting the model that most fits your spending power and requirements.

However, since each model is essentially a frame family in itself, it’s worth checking out the engineering checklist before you invest if one element is particularly important to you.

Here’s a look at what the ranges are all about…

Cervélo S-Series Bikes: the aero road bike

The aero road bike concept is something that Cervélo created, with the Soloist back in 2002. In the years gone by since, other brands have of course crowded into this space – and now the aero bike range from Cervélo is called the S-Series.

Aero bikes are designed to hold speed over comfort. Wind resistance is kept to a minimum in the hope of putting every last watt to good use. Weight is often less important: evidence suggests that aero gains can provide more benefit than weight loss in most situations.

All this said, Cervélo has aimed to keep the weight as low as they can with all model families enjoying carbon dropouts and the ‘BBright’ – a bottom bracket shell that uses oversized tubing, with an 11 mm extension on the left hand (non-drive) side, which is both stiffer and lighter.

Cervélo S-Series models:

Cervélo S5

cervelo bikes range

The Cervélo S5 is the top end model.

For the 2019 season, the frame saw an almighty upheaval, and much of that is carried into 2020.

Notable features include a new cockpit including an outspoken v-shaped stem which the brand says cuts through the air quicker than a standard style. The newest iteration is designed around disc brakes, and as a result can managed up to 28mm tyres.

The stem appears to sit pretty high rise, but in reality, when slammed the position is the same as the old S5, with a -6º  stem.

The brand also worked on increasing stiffness by replacing the fork steerer with a tensioning rod, and building up the front portion of the head tube.

Cervélo say the bike saves 42g of drag over the outgoing model, which represents around a 5.5 watt saving.

The ‘extended seat tube cut out’ continues from past models – this is seen also on the time trial bikes. It’s the most aero option that sees the wheel hug the frame closely, but it adds a little weight when compared with the partial cut out seen on other models.

The S5 also boasts aero cable management, and a ‘built for bottles’ design which uses an aerofoil downtube that’s flattened to offer an aero edge.

Cervélo S3D

As per the S5, the slightly more affordable S3 also had a watt saving makeover for 2019 with less adjustment going into 2020.

The brand has incorporated its ‘True Aero technology’, using redesigned tube shapes and tucking away cables to save 102g which translates to 13 watts. The frame stiffness has been increased, too.

Notably, Cervélo has altered the geometry of the S3, taking it further from the aggressive S5 and closer to the R3. The stack is now 16mm higher than the S5, and the seat stays are skinnier to add compliance. This said, the S3 is still very much an aero race bike.

Cervélo R-Series Bikes

The top end Cervelo R5 is stiffer than the R3

The R-Series is the “classic road” option – these are do it all bikes that actually do ‘do it all’ – with Tour de France and Paris Roubaix wins to their name.

The geometry is designed to be adjusted to suit assorted needs and there’s clearance for wider tyres.

The bikes feature Cervélo’s ‘Squoval Max’ tube shapes. The name probably gives it away – they’re a bit square, and a bit oval. The goal is to deliver targeted stiffness whilst cutting weight where possible.

The bikes within the range do differ – as explained below.

Cervélo R-Series models

Cervélo R5 ad R5D

cervelo bikes

The Cervelo R5, in its current iteration, earned itself a place in the Cycling Weekly Editor’s Choice awards not too long ago, with our reviewer commenting “the frame’s carbon layup allows just enough road resonance through to make the ride feel fast and lively, without being jarring.”

The geometry has seen a major re-think, making it more agressive than the R3 and R2 – and with the head tube reduced to 151mm its now lower than the likes of the Specialized Tarmac and the Pinarello Dogma F10.

Our model came with rather fancy Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, for £8199, but there’s a total of eight build options across disc and rim brakes.

Cervélo R3 and R3D

cervelo bikes

The R3 and R3 disc models come with an ‘elite road fit’ as opposed to the ‘pro road fit’ of the R5. This means it’s just a little less aggressive, but equally stiff thanks to the same Squoval Max tubing.

There are six spec options, with choice of rim or disc brakes.

Cervélo P-Series bikes

The Cervelo P5X launched at Ironman Kona 2016

The P-series is where Cervélo came from – and the bikes have a huge reputation in triathlon circles as well as being sought after by time triallists.

It’s perhaps in the triathlon world where the P-series bikes, excel, however – with the more dual sport focused P5 and P5X bikes having an upright geometry a bit more suited to Ironman events than fast 10s down UK dual carriageways.

All of the P-series bikes feature the Cervélo BBright, which places an 11mm oversized tube on the left side to allow for a stiffer, lighter structure without impacting the chainset on the left. They’ve also all been treated to an extended seat tube cut out, which allows the rear wheel to hug the frame.

At every level of the Cervélo bikes TT range, the bikes have dropped downtubes, so that the area is hidden behind the front wheel, as well as shielding seatstays – save for the Px5 which obviously does not, due to the lack of this previously fundamental piece of the bike geometry puzzle.

Cervélo P-Series models

Cervélo PX series

cervelo bikes

The addition of the P5X in 2016 marked a giant leap forward for Cervélo’s frame development, with the engineers truly throwing the UCI rule book from a great height and creating a bike with half a seat tube and a downtube resembling some sort of rocket.

The PX5 was no doubt revolutionary, but was criticised for its climbing abilities. So Cervélo came back with the P3X –  a lighter and stiffer version, wth three spec builds available and a handy ‘speed riser’ that allows riders to experiment with infinite positions.

Next, it introduced the PX, which maintained the new lighter, stiffer guise of the P3X but saw some of the original features added back in, including the split base bar which makes for easier travel.

Both models are targeted at the triathlon market, particularly the longer distances, hence the inclusion of modular storage systems.

Cervélo P5

cervelo bikes

The Cervélo P5 is the brand’s top UCI legal time trial bike. In previous years, teams had to swap the fork to that of the P3 to remain within the rulebook, but that’s no longer the case.

The model now comes with the brand’s ‘Speed Riser’ cockpit, allowing riders to fine tube their position to perfection.

Modular storage means those taking on long distance events have space for all the supplies needed, though short course competitors can remove the boxes, and cables are well tucked away.

Cervélo P-Series

cervelo bikes

The new Cervélo P-Series models offer riders a slightly more affordable entry into the P5 frame. It will eventually replace the P3, though P3 and P2 models are still available for now.

The frame is the same as the P5 – making it 9 per cent lighter, and stiffer – than the old P2 option. You won’t get the integrated adjustable cockpit as per the big brother, but the front end is interchangeable so riders can fine tune to their needs.

There are fives models in the line up, and they’re all disc brake equipped.

Cervélo P3

Cervelo bikes

The P3 has a standard stem, which means it’s a little easier to adjust. The rail adjusted seat post offers 75mm of fore/aft adjustment too, and smaller riders can opt for the 650c wheel size made famous by Emma Pooley’s P3. 

The ‘Extended Seat Tube Cut Out’ which also features on the P5 cheats the wind, too.

Cervélo P2

cervelo bikes

Cervelo P2 2019

Not too much differentiation to the P2, with a couple of shortcuts on the spec which yields a price of £2499 with Shimano 105.

The frame still provides the extended seattube cut-out, dropped down tube and shielding seat stays seen higher up the rungs, and designed to reduce drag – so it’s a great option if you want to keep it affordable, and upgrade components like the base bar and wheels as you go.

Cervélo C-Series road bikes

cervelo bikes

It’s a wonder that it took Cervélo so long to create a series with their own initial. The C-series bikes only arrived in 2016, with a launch in 2015, but the endurance machine from the brand turned out to be ahead of the competition with its gravel capacity. The models boast clearance for 32mm tyres and the entire range is disc brake only.

A shorter reach (352mm for the 56cm model) plus taller stack creates a more upright position, and Cervélo has dropped the bottom bracket to lower the centre of gravity, creating greater stability. Longer chainstays mean the wheelbase has been extended to the same effect.

The head angle is shallower than the race orientated models, though the frame still boasts a lively stiffness thanks to the use of Squoval tube shapes use across the range. Use of the BBright sees the left hand chainstay beefed up, for greater stiffness.

There are C3 and C2 models to choose from, and a total of three spec options.

Cervélo Áspero

The Áspero is Cervélo’s foray into the gravel market.

The brand has remained true to its racing roots, creating a race fit model with more agressive geo than you might see elsewhere in the gravel market, with a heavy focus on handling at speed.

However, gravel riders are going to need wider rubber and ideally adjustability to cater for different conditions. So Cervélo has built its gravel grinder to cater for 700c wheels with tyres up to 42c, or 650 wheels with tyres up to 49c.

There’s four disc brake build versions on offer, with everything from SRAM Apex 1x, to Shimano’s new GRX gravel groupset and SRAM Force eTap AXS, plus a frameset only option.


Laura Trott riding the Cervelo T4 during the women’s scratch race, Track World Championships 2016

Finally – we reach the end of the large range that Cervélo bikes produce. But Cervélo’s track bikes are an important part of their DNA, and after their use on the track in Rio, they’re part of British Cycling’s make up, too.

The T5GB is the bike that ferried Olympic athletes to glory, but if you’re shopping for yourself, you’ll be looking at the T4.

When choosing a track bike, they key differentials are stiffness, geometry and aerodynamics.

The T4 has been created to offer enough stiffness for Olympic athletes, using the BBright which creates a tube shaped . It’s been designed around a pursuit geometry – which is pretty long and low – but a change to the bar and stem can produce a fit suitable for endurance events.

The extended seat tube cut out – developed through the P Series range – provides additional aero dynamics.

The bikes are available as a frame only.