Cervélo P5D Ridden and Reviewed

Cervélo - The TT Icons

I have always loved TT bikes; the look of them and their uncompromising focus on getting from A to B as quickly as possible. I actually first got into Trithalon ten years ago because I wanted a TT bike; talk about the tail wagging the dog!

Since then I've owned quite a few bikes; two Parlee TTs, and Argon 18 E-119 and two Trek Speed Concepts (Gen 1 and Gen 2).

In fact the first generation Speed Concept was the reason we starting working with Trek; I was still in a basement in Hoxton Square and did not fit into any of their normal dealer criteria; but I was an accredited 'advanced fitter' and the Speed Concept (like most modern TT superbikes) is quite a complicated beast to fit the rider to...

Fortunately we're still very much experts in fitting the wide range of modern TT bikes - it's not simply a case of "slam it as low as possible" (more on that below).

One of the brands I had not owned was Cervélo, and thats a large omission given they have dominated the space for a decade or so. The original Cervélo P3 must be the most successful TT bike of all time. The P5D is a step up in price from the P3, but it's also lighter, stiffer and more aerodynamic. This is the no-compromise race-ready pinnacle of the Cervélo range.

below: the Cervélo P3 - still in production, and genuinely deserving of the "iconic" tag

Making aero easier to live with

This summer I took the opportunity to buy a new Cervélo P5D out of my own money and test it. This was not a loan bike or a media one; I paid with my own cash (as we do with all our review bikes) and thus I can write whatever I want!

There has been a lot of talk about us being in an era of peak aero (or even past it)

Basically over the last five years bikes have got as aero as they can be, there is no more low hanging fruit... Instead brands are now trying to make bikes ride better, be more adjustable, and much easier to travel with.

Examples of this are the previous (caliper brake) P5, which had Magura brakes that you basically had to re-bleed every time you packed it in a bike box. The original Shiv TT was so old it was never designed for Di2; we had customers ask us to drill holes into their precious frames!

That's all changed now...

above: highly adjustable, and with aero cable integration, the P5D's front end is very neat

Ultimate adjustability

The main thing that attracted me to the new P5D was the front end; the whole thing is based on a monoriser; and it simply requires a 4mm Allen key to raise or lower it. To me this is genius; and a huge competitive advantage over more fiddly alternatives.

Above 30 mph, 90% of the energy the rider generates is used to move air out the way (drag). And of this drag, 70% of it is created by the rider... So an aero position is incredibly important

Lowering the front end of the bike can sometimes get you lower - present a smaller frontal area and you become faster.

However sometimes if you get too low you close off your hip angle, making it hard to put power down (an easy way to check this is to see the difference in 10 min power you can produce on a road bike versus a TT one. Anything more than 10% means your TT position either needs a lot more adaptation or, more likely, needs to be relaxed).

So playing around with the front end is so important; and in the past it took ages to swap spacers around and re-cable the bike; so you'd be much less inclined to tinker around with position.

The Cervélo monoriser is genius - it makes adjusting the front end position as easy as adjusting as your seatpost and I hope more big brands copy this idea. But in the meantime, it's a definite plus point for Cervélo.

The only thing I don't like is the fact that the extensions are a proprietary monostay design and that they don't tilt. I like my extensions quite high (in the "praying mantis" position) and find these are too low.

However, there is a work-around in that you can swap the extensions designed for the Cervelo P3X with those intended for the P5D, giving you the best of both worlds.

On the road

On the road it feels very quick indeed; and has none of the sluggishness you might expect from a Tri bike. The frame weighs only 1100g and Head Tube stiffness has been improved by 22% vs the previous version and BB stiffness by a whopping 26%. This is certainly noticeable out on the road, with power being transferred efficiently and a real sense that it'll go exactly where you point it.

The bike is available as disc brake only; which will upset some, but to me it's made things easier. Since I'm migrating all my road bikes to disc brakes it's great that I can swap wheels back and forth. Plus it allows for up to 28mm wide tyres, the extra comfort and grip of which can be invaluable in modern, more technical TT and Tri courses.

Cervelo fit is typically 'long and low' and the geometry is certainly more aggressive than some competing brands. The P5D is both a Tri bike and a UCI-legal TT machine; so guys like Tom Domoulin will be on it. So its designed for going fast and hard on the Pro circuit.

Having said that, there is still masses of adjustment on it; you can move the pads back and forth by around 50mm and the monoriser can be slammed or have a max extension of 85mm. That's a huge range of adjustment!

I got a size 58, but I could have just as easily run the 56 thanks to the excellent range of adjustment available. They have a fantastic fit calculator here; just plug in your pad stack and reach: https://www.cervelo.com/en/p5

And if you want to know more about achieving the perfect fit, we can of course help with that!

both the Dura-Ace and Ultegra complete builds are available in stealth black (top of page) or this black/teal colour scheme (above)

The options

I got the Dura-Ace Di2 version; mainly because even though it was £10,499 it looked decent value because I wanted the wheels anyway for another build. The frameset on its own is £5499.

Thus the Ultegra Di2 build at £6999 looks fantastic value; keep the stock DT wheels as training wheels and then save up for some race wheels/full disc and you have yourself a weapon.

So far I have really liked the bike; it's clearly very quick and it rides well and stops on a dime. The Triathlon accessories all 'just work' - you can tell Cervélo have decades in the space.

To me, the ace Cervélo have is that ultra-adjustable front end, you could ride the bike in a 10m TT one day, a 70.3 the next and then an IronMan a week later (if you were mad!) and be able to quickly adjust the front end yourself. No stressing about re-cabling the bike or messing around with spacers and grommets - that's a real benefit, not to be underestimated.

Bespoke - The TT/Tri Bike Fit Specialists

To talk about a P5D of your own, whether custom build or off the peg, to discuss alternatives, or simply to find the perfect fit on your existing bike - just get in touch.