Is the new Cervélo P5X the future of time trial bikes?
The new Cervélo P5X was launched at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Will this be the new radical trend in road time trials too?
As soon as engineers forget the UCI rules regulating bike frames, new geometries and boundaries are reached. And the new Cervélo P5X is the newest, most radical embodiment of this concept.
Even though it was designed for long-distance triathlons, if you can afford the £11,000 price tag for the lower-end model with Shimano Ultegra Di2, you could actually ride it at your evening 10 next season.
The mantra “forget the UCI”, it turns out, has launched a revolution.
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At the top of the list of priorities that the Canadian company had in mind during its development of the Cervélo P5X (a three-year process that involved one whole year of data mining), there was three necessities: integrating storage into the frame, having a frame that suited three round bottles, and being easily fitted and adjusted on each athlete.
Aerodynamics and stiffness were secondary goals.
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But the result – according to Cervélo’s wind-tunnel tests – showed that the P5X was even faster that the P5 (31 grams faster, with grams being the measure of drag).
What about comfort? “It is a result we achieved, but that was not our goal in the developing phase,” said AntoineBallon, Marketing Director for Cervélo at the European launch of the new bike.
Furthermore, the Cervélo P5X’s radical design featuring a frame without a seat tube was not something that had been planned since the early stages of the project, nor was it copied from the “old school rockets” such as the Lotus Sportbike.
The seat post “disappeared”, but just to make room for the round bottles and the storage.
A process that Cervélo calls topology optimisation – a mathematical approach that helps determine where material is more effective in a structural design – showed that when you don’t follow the UCI’s 3:1 tubes ratio rule, the bike can still be structurally solid and stiff, even without material under the saddle.
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Finally, the bike does not bounce as you would expect from a beam bike. Instead, the company says it absorbs vibrations and make the ride smoother – another feature that was not intended originally.
The result? The ride is absolutely incredible. Forget about the months of pain required to find your position on a time trial bike: if you have your measurements and you have been assessed by a bike fitter before, it takes minutes to put you in the right position on the Cervélo P5X.
The adjustability and the clearance of the seatpost, saddle, headset, pads and extension mean the bike is really easy (and fast) to adapt.
And even though stiffness and comfort were not the priorities of Cervélo, on a first ride (we rode it for four hours over two days), the feel on the P5X is of a very stable and quick bike, one that’s easy to ride and extremely fun when you push flat-out.
One exception: crosswinds will always be a pain, particularly because of the deep-rimmed wheels and larger frame surface (Cervélo claims that the frame is not affected by crosswinds, but from a first impression, it feels like it is).
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Finally, if you travel with your bike and you’re always concerned about your baby during the transfers, the Cervélo P5X is easy to disassemble and fits perfectly in its customised bag, an extra toy that costs $849.
For the bike’s price, though, we would have expected at least full hydraulic disc brakes (the P5X mounts a hybrid mechanic and hydraulic system because a full hydraulic was not yet on the market when they designed the bike), and a Shimano Dura-Ace version.
Cervélo said that they opted for the Ultegra because during the developing process the new Dura-Ace hadn’t yet been launched.
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The company also said that the bike could be upgraded, but it is not yet clear if that would be free for current owners.
The Cervélo P5X will come in four different sizes (S, M, L and XL) and with two different types of set-up: the high-end one with SRAM Red eTap (£13,499) and the lower one with Shimano Ultegra Di2 (£10,499).
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Nick Busca is a freelance cycling and triathlon journalist. He is also a certified triathlon coach and personal trainer.
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