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

Cervelo 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.

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

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British Cycling and Cervelo Bikes

In May 2015, Cervelo 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.”

Cervelo Bike Ranges

Cervelo 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…

Cervelo S-Series Bikes

Cervelo S3 disc

The aero road bike concept is something that Cervelo 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 Cervelo 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, Cervelo 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.

Cervelo S-Series models:

Cervelo S5 (review here)

The Cervelo S5 is the top end model, that’s been designed to withstand the power of a rider like Mark Cavendish.

Here, Cervelo has used their ‘extended seat tube cut out’ – 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.

The downtube is dropped, which places the tube closer to the front tyre and thus means it hides more from the wind. Finally, ‘shielding seat stays’ are used – these improve airflow over the calipers, meaning they don’t need to be hidden in a way that impacts maintenance – this technology isn’t used on the S3 or S2.

Available with: SRAM Red e-Tap, Shimano Dura Ace 9100 or Team Edition Shimano Dura Ace 9150

Cervelo S3D (disc, review here)Cervelo S3 (review here)

The S3 is the only aero road bike model from Cervelo that comes with disc brakes – and it’s claimed the discs save about 2 watts over the rim brake version.

The S3 and S3D models enjoy the ‘built for bottles’ tech mentioned above, but uses the partial seat tube cut out which is less aero but saves weight. The dropped down tube and shielded seat stays don’t feature here, and neither does the aero cable management, resulting in some minor aero losses.

Available with: Shimano Ultegra Di2 6870, Ultegra 6800 (with and without disc)

Cervelo S2

The most price conscious aero road bike model from Cervelo. At S2 level, riders enjoy aero cable management, dropped down tube and the partial seat tube cut out. The seat stays are not shielded, and you don’t get the crafty ‘built for bottles’ extra watt saving.

Available with: Shimano 105 5800

Cervelo 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 its name.

The geometry is designed to be adjusted to suit assorted needs, there’s clearance for wider wheels and more recently Cervelo developed ‘Squoval Max’ tube shapes which aim to deliver targeted stiffness whilst cutting weight where possible.

The range now boasts two disc models, and here the lateral stiffness of the fork has been boosted too.

The bikes within the range do differ. Recently redesigned, the R5 has been created to offer the sort of stiffness that pro riders like those on the Team Dimension Data squad require. The R3, however, is still stiff – but a little less so, which in turn allows it to be a bit lighter.

>>> More pictures of the new Cervelo R5

Whilst the R5 is ‘higher end’ and more expensive, they are two different bikes designed to suit different needs – so if a light bike to help you up the hills is more important than a bottom bracket so stiff you can put 1500 watts through it, choose wisely.

The RCA is Cervelo’s lightest offering, and the R2 is the more affordable breed.

Cervelo R-Series models

Cervelo RCA

The Cervelo RCA comes as a frame only, with a weight of 670 grams in a size 54. Each frame is engineered using 500 cut pieces of carbon fibre, each of which is weighed individually before being placed into the mould. The carbon fork was born of years of research and features ‘boron filament’ to increase strength and syntactic foam at the brake receiver reduces weight. Only a few hundred of these framesets have ever been produced.

Cervelo R5 ad R5D (first ride here)

The top end option used by Team Dimension Data, the R5 is stiffer, but heavier, than the R3 – so it’s worth really taking time to choose which one is more suited to your needs.

>>> Cervelo R5 disc reviewed 

Available with: SRAM Red e-Tap, Shimano Dura Ace Di2 9150, Shimano Dura Ace 9100, SRAM Red e-Tap Disc, Shimano Dura Ace Di2 9170 disc

Cervelo R3 and R3D (first ride here)

The R3 and R3 disc models enjoy a couple of aero features that you won’t find on the R5 – namely dropped downtube to hide the bulk behind the front wheel.

Available with: Shimano Ultegra 6800 (with and without disc)

Cervelo R2

The most cost effective option available, the R2 comes with much of the technology featured elsewhere in the family, with a slightly lower spec set up.

Available with: Shimano Ultegra 6800, Shimano 105 5800

Cervelo P-Series bikes

The Cervelo P5X launched at Ironman Kona 2016

The P-series is where Cervelo 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 Cervelo 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 Cervelo 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.

Cervelo P-Series models

Cervelo P5x

The addition of the P5X in 2016 marked a giant leap forward for Cervelo’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.

Such drastic changes resulted in major savings: 31 grams on the P5, grams being the measure of drag.

Available with: SRAM Red e-Tap, Shimano Ultegra Di2 6870

Cervelo P5 (review here)

The P5 is not UCI legal, and thus favoured by triathletes as opposed to pure cyclists – though you can use a non-legal bike in a British time trial. It’s got beefier tubing, plus a more integrated front end. This will make adjustments much more difficult, but saves a few watts.

Team Dimension Data riders use a P5 frame, with aP3 fork to get them within the law with the UCI.

Available with: SRAM E-Tap, Shimano Dura Ace Di2 9070, Shimano Dura Ace 9000

Cervelo P3

The P3 is UCI legal, and 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. 

Available with: Shimano Ultegra Di2 6870, Shimano Ultrga 6800

Cervelo P2 (review here)

Not too much differentiation to the P2, with a couple of shortcuts such as the use Shimano S2010 wheels and Profile Design T4+ aero bar – as opposed to Mavic Cosmic Elite S and 3T Vola on the P3.

Available with: Shimano Ultegra Di2 6870, Shimano Ultrga 6800

Cervelo C-Series road bikes

Cervelo C5 road bike

Cervelo C5 road bike

It’s a wonder that it took Cervelo so long to create a series with their own initial. The C-series bikes only arrived in 2016, with a launch in 2015, and haven’t quite had time to build up the reputation attached to their cousins.

With the cycling audience growing and the sportive market a major driving force, Cervelo moved into the area with their first comfort orientated bikes.

These bikes arrived with a claim to the title of ‘lightest endurance frame on the market’ – with a frame weight of 850g. Both the C5 and C3 boast skinny curved seatstays designed to dampen vibrations.

A shorter reach (352mm compared to 357mm for the 56cm model) plus taller stack creates a more upright position, and Cervelo 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 2 tube shapes used on the R5CA top end option.

Available with:

C5 (first look here): Shimano Dura Ace Di2 9070, Shimano Dura Ace 9000

C3: Shimano Ultegra Di2  6870, SRAM Force 1, Shimano Ultegra 6800, Shimano 105 5800


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 Cervelo bikes produce. But Cervelo’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.

Available as a frame only.