Bike

Cervelo P-Series Triathlon Bike Review

Though not as inexpensive as its predecessor, the P2, Cervelo’s new P-Series borrows some very slick trickle down tech to give tons of tri-value.

Basics

A crazy-good value for even intermediate to advanced triathletes that uses new P5 aero lines with more budget carbon. (Tested with Ultegra Mechanical components and Vision Aluminum wheels.)


Pros

Great value

Above-class aero pedigree

Great details like hydraulic disc brakes for this build and integrated storage and hydration

Cons

Sadly not available in a build below $3K

A few medium details like off-brand shifters and aluminum bars


Weight

20 lbs. 12oz.

Price

$3,200

Brand

Cervelo


Cervelo’s P2 was one of its most beloved bikes. In fact, Chrissie Wellington famously won Kona in 2008 on board the inaccurately titled “beginner/intermediate” tri bike. It was well-priced, starting under $3K; it was aero, it was comfy, and it didn’t wobble like a noodle when you stood up. It was so good that Cervelo barely changed the thing during its lifetime—until it abruptly abandoned the model last year and replaced it with the also-excellent P-Series. While I’m not so sure we’ll see the Cervelo P-Series get the second fastest bike split and win another Kona crown like the P2 did underneath Ms. Wellington, this is still a great bike with a pretty lofty pedigree and strong family tree behind it.

Read our full 2020 TT bike buyer’s guide for complete comparisons of this and other seven TT bikes tested. Active Pass membership required.

Cervelo P-Series: What It Is, What It’s Not

First, it’s important to know that there’s a reason this isn’t called the P2.1 or “the new P2,” and that’s because it’s really nothing like the P2 except in price point (and the fact that this bike replaced the P2 in Cervelo’s line). While I’m not going to dig into why it is called the P-Series (potty humor jokes aside), I will say that this is a worthwhile heir to the P2 throne simply because—much like the P2 did—it borrows heavily from its older sibling. Here, that big brother or sister is the new P5. While this is not simply an exact replica of the new P5 with cheaper parts—the carbon is heavier and a little more flexy—it is cut from the same mold and shares some of the same aero lines and shape that makes the new P5 one of my favorite bikes right now. It’s not flashy, it’s not wild, it’s easy to work on, and it has everything a triathlete needs without the craziness it doesn’t. I like to think of it as a boiled-down tri bike whereas something like Cervelo’s PX is a boiled-up tri bike.

Cervelo P-Series: The Ride

So before we get too carried away saying it’s a perfect clone of the new P5 or it hits all of the sweet spots that the P2 did, don’t forget, just like any sibling, this bike is it’s own person. And because it lives mostly in the sub-$5K range, the carbon is still a little heavy, a little noodly on attacks, but at least it’s smooth and super stable on straights and predictable through corners. According to Cervelo’s engineers, this stability is due to an increase in lateral stiffness—something you’d normally attribute to better acceleration, not necessarily handling.

Cervelo P-Series: The Good

There’s a lot to love about this bike, both theoretically—better aerodynamics than the old P2, more similar to the new P5 that costs almost twice as much—and practically, in the ride and the spec. The fact that this is a triathlete’s bike first, and a TT bike second is also a big boon. With the included zippered top-tube nutrition pocket and the aerodynamically tuned down tube water bottle, (and the included front hydration starting at the Ultegra Di2 version) Cervelo has made sure its multisport heritage is still honored. We also really appreciate that this is a fast bike, aerodynamically, but that it doesn’t have some insane superbike stem that’s impossible to change, work on, or adjust. Cervelo, as usual, really thinks through a bike’s fit range—in both size runs (this has six sizes, which is very rare) and in on-bike fit opportunities.

Cervelo P-Series: The Medium

Of course no bike is perfect, but the “mediumness” of this bike feels almost petty to mention. While the build for the Ultegra version is pretty good—with the exception of an aluminum front end and some off-brand Microshift shifters—the 105 version still has mechanical disc brakes. Not that it’s a huge complaint, given that pretty much no tri brand has a hydraulic disc brake model at under $4K, but it’s important to note in case anyone is wowed by the disc brakes on the entry-level model and isn’t paying attention. Also, I do sort of feel like Cervelo left the beginner behind when their line stopped including a bike for under $3K, but it’s also just a sign of the times, and one could argue that the P2 was underpriced from the beginning.

Cervelo P-Series: The Conclusions

Pound-for-pound, this is one of the most exciting releases, in my mind, from the last couple of years. While other brands have been padding their $5K-$9K price range with minor updates, I have to appreciate the guts it took Cervelo to completely retool their “entry-level” bike while others were simply phoning it in. Though they may have seemingly cut corners by modeling after their pricey P5, that “laziness” actually pays off for Cervelo’s fans in some upsampled tech. Nitpicking aside, there is not much wrong with this new line of bikes from Cervelo, and I hope triathletes find a soft spot for this model like they did the P2. More than that, I hope some young pro rides one to victory in Kona in 2021.