Cervélo P5 review
The Canadian brand has a strong reputation for innovation and cutting-edge bike design, but is the much-revered P5 really worth the high price?
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The P5 rides like a bike that was specifically designed with Ironman events in mind. The geometry certainly appears more Ironman orientated with a front end that is higher than many dedicated time trial bikes. For this reason, you may want to go a size down. I can understand Cervélo designing primarily for the triathlon market; it is much bigger globally, with significant demand for dedicated TT machines only really in the UK. But, compared with cables the hydraulic brakes are a fiddle and offer no performance benefit over a Dura-Ace caliper, aside from aerodynamics Ultimately, if I had bought this bike, I would be disappointed. The ill-fitting fairing covers on the front brake feel very cheap and the lack of cockpit adjustment means that following a bike-fit, many riders will probably need to replace it.
Brakes are difficult
Not simple enough for everyday use
Limited adjustability of the cockpit
Poor quality fairing on front brake
Can’t change gear from brake levers
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Undoubtedly aerodynamic, the P5 here features a fork that is fine for Cycling Time Trials events and triathlons, but owing to the 3:1 rule is not currently UCI legal.
>>> Cervelo Bikes: S-Series, R-Series, P-Series, T-Series and C-Series explained
Although these rules are set to change, the Dimension Data team actually uses the Cervélo P3 forks on its bikes.
According to Cervélo, the P5 is “a superbike engineered for the real world: fast enough for world champions and simple enough for everyday use”.
I strongly disagree. While fast, maintaining and adjusting this bike seems far from straightforward.
>>> The best time trial bikes and triathlon bikes: a buyer's guide
The frame features Magura hydraulic caliper brakes, which are considerably more of a faff than cable-actuated systems.
The plastic cover for the front brake is not great quality either and didn’t fit very well.
If you want to adjust the bottom bracket-mounted rear brake or change the brake pads, you will struggle — I was unable to do this without removing the large chainring or brake cover.
If you are the type that likes to compete in Ironman events you will likely opt for a more upright position owing to the duration of the event.
But what if you want to drop your stem to get more aero for your local 10-mile TT? This involves disconnecting hydraulic lines, which will then require bleeding. It’s a pain and certainly not an easy task for the home mechanic.
The frame is commendably light for such an aero bike though, and the huge BBright bottom bracket is very stiff.
I have noticed Dimension Data favours the simplicity of Dura-Ace brakes too.
The groupset is a bit of everything on the P5: Ultegra Di2 bar end shifters, cassette, Dura-Ace derailleurs, Magura hydraulic brakes and a Rotor Flow chainset.
To further exemplify the P5’s credentials as the triathlete’s choice, the P5 comes standard with a mid compact chainset too.
Watch: Buyer's guide: Groupsets
The 3T cockpit and stem are without question aero, but the rider’s position is above and beyond the most important consideration.
A cockpit that offers much higher levels of adjustability would be preferable.
The hydraulic brakes on this bike annoy me. Aside from being aerodynamic, they have no redeeming features since the stopping power is no better than Dura-Ace cable brakes.
The hydraulic brake levers also mean you don’t get Di2 shifters on the base bar.
Satellite shifters are hugely useful for changing gear when not on the tri-bars and certainly useful for saving a couple of seconds when accelerating from the line or out of slow bends.
The Hed Jet wheels perform well though and are a solid option. Ultimately you may want a disc on the rear, but there would be no need for a new front wheel.
I did a number of 10 and 25-mile time trials on the P5. Straight-line speed is where it excels — there is no doubting this is a fast bike and it even delivered me to a 25-mile PB.
However, I don’t want to let the personal achievement blind me to deficiencies of the P5.
Having been primarily designed for the triathlete market, the geometry is taller than the P3’s and some other TT bikes. Thus, you may want to size down to get an adequate saddle to bar drop.
The P5 does not cope well with rough surfaces. You feel everything and there is significant rattle from various parts.
Other TT bikes I have ridden fare better in this regard and not all TT courses have perfect road surfaces. To alleviate this you can fit 25mm tyres no problem though.
It is hard to justify the cost of P5 when you compare it to the Canyon Speedmax.
For considerably less money (£6,949), you can have a bike with a complete Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, satellite shifters, better brakes that are easier to live with, Zipp NSW wheels, more aggressive geometry and a cockpit that offers far greater adjustment.
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Oliver Bridgewood - no, Doctor Oliver Bridgewood - is a PhD Chemist who discovered a love of cycling. He enjoys racing time trials, hill climbs, road races and criteriums. During his time at Cycling Weekly, he worked predominantly within the tech team, also utilising his science background to produce insightful fitness articles, before moving to an entirely video-focused role heading up the Cycling Weekly YouTube channel, where his feature-length documentary 'Project 49' was his crowning glory.
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