For 2012, Canadian bicycle stalwart Cervélo is making an effort to reaffirm its position at the top of the triathlon market with the release of the latest go-fast machine, the P5. The P5 represents what is likely the first of many changes to the Cervélo triathlon bike line in the coming years. The best way to predict what might be in the pipeline is to examine the three bikes that make up the 2012 model year: the P2, the P3 and the P5.
For 2012, the P2 and P3 remain unchanged in terms of the actual frameset. The P2 is a complete triathlon machine, with aerodynamic carbon fiber frame, fork and seat post. The price increased for 2012 to $2800 (from $2400 in 2011). The main upgrade that led to the price increase is in the cockpit. The 2012 model comes with a one-piece integrated carbon aerobar, the 3T Aura Pro handlebar with alloy extensions. In terms of fit, the Aura Pro will likely benefit many triathletes with a higher pad stack height than the Vision TT clip-on bar that was previously included on the 2011 P2. Carbon TRP brake levers complete a very nice package up front on the 2012 model.
The P3 is still a refinement in many ways of the P2, with lighter weight and a stiffer ride. For 2012, the P3 actually had its price decreased in each of the two versions available this model year. The Ultegra bike is now a very compelling $3350, with the Dura-Ace model now coming in at an even $4000. The P3 Ultegra is now delivered with the same Aura Pro handlebar with alloy extensions that is seen on the P2. The P3 Dura-Ace comes with the Aura Pro with an upgraded carbon fiber extension. The wheelset that comes stock on the P3 Dura Ace, the Shimano RS30, is a step up from the R501 that the P3 Ultegra gets; however, most competitive triathletes will likely roll on race day with a race-specific wheelset of their choosing.
The most anticipated triathlon model of the year from Cervélo, if not the whole industry, is the P5. The P5 represents a departure from many constants over the years from the brand. Gone is the trademark rear wheel cutout that was so iconic on the P3 and the P4. A massive gusset at the junction of the seat tube and top tube now defines the silhouette of the marquis Cervélo. The P5 is also available in two versions: triathlon-specific and UCI-legal, dubbed the P5 Six and P5 Three, respectively. The triathlon-specific bike gets a massive, non-UCI-compliant front fork. This fork includes a shroud that shields the front brake from the wind, although reported time savings over the UCI-compliant bike are not earth-shattering. At $6500 for the P5 Six frameset and $10,000 complete with Shimano Di2, the triathlon-specific P5 is competitive with other super-bikes. Triathletes who might find themselves toeing the line at a Master’s TT event might want to consider the less-expensive UCI version of the P5 ($4500 frameset, $6000 Dura-Ace), since they’ll be unable to race the triathlon-specific version of the P5.
The most radical change that comes with the arrival of the P5 is its geometry. It is tall in the front end, a departure from the Cervélo triathlon lineup from years past. This is fueling speculation that the P2 and P3 might be due for a revamp. As it stands, the bikes don’t really make sense. Starting with the P2, front-end height is probably average for a tri bike. Moving toward the P3, the front end drops, and could arguably be called aggressive. Then looking toward the new P5, the front end is the tallest of all, downright conservative. Surely Cervélo will be looking to make its tri bikes aimed at those athletes buying their first triathlon bike, the P2 and P3, more rideable than the P5, aimed squarely at a more advanced athlete. In the immortal words of The Big Lebowski, slightly altered: “This aggress[ive bike geometry] will not stand, man!”
Cervélo has firmly planted itself at the top of the Kona bike count recently, and 2012 should be no different. The old standbys, though potentially due for a reworking, are still class leaders in their own right. With the introduction of the P5, Cervélo has once again put the triathlon world on notice that it doesn’t intend to give up ground to anyone.