The Cervelo P3C test ride.

I didn’t want to like it. I’d convinced myself that something that popular, so talked about, insanely hyped, could never live up to that level of expectation. And then Aram from Predator Cycles, that cruel man, called me back to say that the Cervelo’s tube dimensions were significantly better than the Orbea Ordu for my ideal geometry. So there it was; I had to test the Cervelo. I could no longer deny the bike my coach is in a relationship with on Facebook, the clear podium winner of Ironman competitions, and the most recognizable bike in the triathlon world. I went down to Triathlon Lab thinking I would test the P2C, which was the affordable model in my price range. Imagine my shock and awe when they rolled out an ’08 P3C, 2007 and 2008’s flagship frame, for less than the price of the Orbea Ordu.

Coach Brian met me at the shop for what could have been my triumphant gloating over the weakness of the Cervelo, or his rebel yell of victory for his dream bike crushing my stealth bomber. When they rolled out the P3C on Dura Ace with the lower price tag his eyes popped out of his head. He admitted that his mental wheels were turning to figure out how to buy a “backup bike”. Tri Lab switched over my pedals and set me up for a test ride.

It was instantly clear from the first climb that this bike was better than the rest. It was very close to being on the Calfee back in Aram’s shop on Saturday. A comfortable tucked position with solid transfer of power all the way through my leg line. My hip and glutes were actuating the pedal stroke almost directly above the cranks, and my shoulder position was angled enough to keep a flat, aero back. Speed and power came easily, braking was responsive even on the OEM brakes. There was a persistent rattle from the right brake lever, but that would be something easily fixed. Annoyed me the entire ride, but it wasn’t something that could not be addressed. I took a hill climb easily and could feel the quality of the Dura Ace components as I applied more torque to them on the hill. Standing in the pedals was easy, and the bike danced comfortably from side to side without any wobble.

The descent was like being strapped to a rocket. Unfortunately Redondo Beach cops are militant about ticketing cyclists who run stop signs. But every bone in my body and every carbon fiber in the bike wanted to slam through those stops at 30+ mph. Steering was good even though I was significantly forward above the front wheel. This is where I need to be on a tri bike – forward in the cockpit, in control of the steering, maximum power transferred to the cranks. After a short amount of time my neck started to hurt, and my legs were tired. But I attribute this to having ridden a ton for the last four days and not ramping up my rest and diet to compensate. Also, I ate 8 Filet-O-Fish sandwiches the day before in a hellish contest I will never attempt again, so my body wasn’t feeling race ready. But the P3C could not be denied. It is a fast, solid, well built machine that feels right to ride. The reviews are all right. I wasn’t wearing the GPS, so I can’t tell you my actual numbers. But I can tell that I was well over 20 mph the whole time. 

I came back into the Lab, won over. I asked them bring out the Ordu. I needed to ride it again with the P3C fresh in my mind. They affably complied and moved over my pedals.

It took less than three minutes to feel the difference. On the Ordu my hips were further behind the cranks to the point where I felt significantly less power transfer from leg to crank. The ride was smoother, but the wheels on the P3C were crappy wheels and the Mavic Cosmics on the Ordu were a little nicer. Put race wheels on the P3C and all those differences go away. In fact, the wheels on my road bike are better than the stock wheels on the Cervelo so if I buy it I’ll swap the wheels immediately. The moment I was dressing up the bike in my mind I knew something had changed.

I wheeled back to the shop and looked at the Ordu longingly. I really wanted this bike. It’s beautiful, shapely, and looks like a stealth bomber. But if I removed all the emotional connection from the bikes the P3C is a better ride for me. And the price is staggeringly discounted, almost half what it retailed for on its debut. A P3C with full Dura Ace components for under $3500. Shops are clearing out their inventory to make way for the P4, announced at Interbike just a few weeks ago. This makes the P3C extremely hard to resist.

I moved my deposit over to the P3C and said goodbye to the Orbea Ordu. My last step is to send my custom fit numbers to two independent coaches and fitters and ask their opinion. But I think I’ve found my ride.


3 responses to “The Cervelo P3C test ride.

  1. Still feel like you are overthinking it? ;D

  2. i….i….don’t have the words.

  3. Forget the bike, I want to hear THIS story:

    “Also, I ate 8 Filet-O-Fish sandwiches the day before in a hellish contest I will never attempt again, so my body wasn’t feeling race ready.”

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