The New Cervélo P3: Moving The Goalposts

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published Jun 17, 2013
  • Updated Jul 15, 2015 at 4:04 PM UTC
The Margura hydraulic stoppers are mounted in the traditional position, both front and rear.

Integrated and effective brakes

Original P3: Flimsy dual-pivot externally mounted caliper
New standard: Hydraulic externally mounted calipers

While many aspects of tri bike design are starting to converge on a single solution, brake design continues to be extremely fragmented. The Trek Speed Concept 9 Series has fully integrated brakes that nearly blend into the frame while the Guru CR.901 uses off-the-shelf brake calipers. Both bikes are highly desirable to the right person and extremely expensive but use dramatically different brakes. Guru’s brake solution is the most practical and functional while Trek’s may be the fastest and most mechanically difficult. The P3 splits the difference. Working in conjunction with Cervélo, Magura developed a tri-specific, hydraulically driven rim brake with excellent stopping power that is nearly impervious to the shower of sports drink that all tri bikes inevitably suffer, and it tucks neatly in front of the frame to keep aero drag to a minimum.

Tri-specific saddle

Original P3: Uncomfortable long-nose saddle
New standard: Saddle designed for the aero position

Of all the detrimental contributions to triathlon bikes made by road time-trialist traditionalism, none may have been more literally painful than the supposed “time trial” saddle. Basically, these are just road saddles with a Pinocchio-style nose (grown for telling the lie that they were comfortable in the aero position?). Plenty of saddle manufacturers were able to stamp out cheap versions of this seat, so a frightening majority of tri bikes came with a long-nose time trial saddle. Part of the logic behind including these saddles was that tri bike fit is so specific and personal that most people are just going to scrap the stock saddle, no matter its design. That is bunk. Although there is no perfect saddle that works for every triathlete, every aero-specific bike fitter that I have consulted agreed that ISM-style saddles work more often than any other option. There is no perfect road bike saddle, yet high-end road bikes still come with quality seats. Instead of down-spec’ing the saddle on the new P3 to something that almost certainly isn’t going to work, it comes with the option that arguably suits more triathletes than any other—the ISM Podium.

Functional componentry

Original P3: Down-spec’d drivetrain parts to save money
New standard: Finding the balance between function and price

Other than a few arbitrary rules that govern the positions time trialists can ride, quantity of use is biggest difference between a TT bike and a tri bike. Time-trial bikes are rarely ridden, specialized tools for an uncommon subset of road cycling; aboard a triathlon bikes is (in theory at least) where a triathlete will spend the vast majority of his or her training miles. As a result, component function is more important for a tri bike than it is for a TT bike. Cervélo was a pioneer of the shift from complete groupsets (every component coming from the same quality tier such as Shimano Ultegra) to mix-and-match sets with a few quality pieces and several inferior ones that reduce both price and component performance. While that strategy is still effective, the build kit spec’d on the new P3 compromises nothing. Not only does it have Dura-Ace derailleurs, but it also sports a chain and cassette from the same Shimano parts kit.

The Cervélo P3 Dura Ace retails for $5400.

RELATED: Top 5 Triathlon Gear Innovations Of All Time

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FILED UNDER: Bike / Gear & Tech

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh is the Senior Tech Editor of Triathlete magazine. To submit a question, write Aaron at

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