Welcome to Oceanside, California; temperature is a balmy 68 degrees, it’s about ten AM local time, and we are about to be part of the first group of journalists to ride the new P2. We had been briefed the day before on the new frameset and component spec, been quickly fitted on the bike, and now it was time to see what the bike that sets the bar for an industry could do.
It turns out; the new P2 can do a whole lot, and do it really, really well.
Updating a Kona Winning Bike
Let’s back up a bit. The P2 Classic, Cervélo’s name for the previous P2, is seven years old. In that time, it has won Kona twice, been declared illegal by the UCI (after they declared it legal the year prior), and has found itself powering Cervélo’s dominance of the infamous bike count at Ironman Worlds to the point of nearly being able to best the other manufacturers counts all by itself. With the release of the P5 in 2012 and the updated P3 nipping at its heels just over a year later, the P2 was the last bike in Cervélo’s lineup without an update. It came in two models, 105 and Ultegra 6700, as well as a frameset, and could be had for under two and a half grand for the complete 105 bike. Bear in mind that not all that long ago, this was a winning bike at Kona for that price – the reputation of the P2 as a performance bargain is well earned.
P3 Frameset on a Budget
Rest assured that with the new P2, that reputation isn’t going anywhere. First, the new P2 will come as a single model – 105 only, no frameset available – for $2,800, available today. Second, the frame is a direct port from the P3. Let’s be clear: there is no difference whatsoever between the frame of the P2 and the P3. For those wondering about expandability, this includes the integrated bosses on the top tube, on the top of the bottom bracket for the upcoming frame mount options (“in the works by third parties,” we were told), and on the bottom of the downtube for a Di2 battery. Every aero trick from the P3’s frame is present, as well: the rear-wheel-hiding seat tube cutout, the dropped downtube that hugs the front wheel, and the head tube that extends rearward to the 3:1 UCI maximum. Even with all of this, the P2/3 frame is 16.4% stiffer at the head tube and 6.5% stiffer at the bottom bracket than the prior P2 frame. The new P2, just like the P3, uses BBright for a bottom bracket specification.
There is a different fork, but according to Cervélo’s on-hand engineer Mike Trigonidis, the difference in drag is “negligible,” and the real distinction is that the fork is significantly cheaper to manufacture versus the P3’s fork, allowing them to meet the price point for the P2 rather than a slightly cheaper P3. The changes, even side-by-side, are difficult to spot by eye alone. Cervélo’s suggestion was to lay hands on both forks, especially on the trailing edge of the legs and the rear crown, where the P2’s fork is discernable as being much more rounded than the P3’s, and this makes sense. Hard angles in tight spaces are difficult to keep costs down on; even if they are marginally faster, they certainly aren’t cost-efficient.
Perhaps most importantly, where the frameset is concerned, the seat post has been swapped out for the rail setup found on both the P5 and P3, which renders the P2 UCI legal once more. Budget TT racers, rejoice; your new bike has come. The new P2 is a whole lot of aero for not a lot of money. What’s more, with 105 derailleurs on board, it will be an eminently reliable machine to put the hurt on against the clock with.
The proscribed route is about 30 miles down the Pacific Coast Highway, which has some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere in the States. Our minder is a single Cervélo rider, along with a photographer hanging out the rear hatch and side door of a Dodge Caravan as the Garmin clocked us well north of 35 miles an hour in full aero tuck, screaming down descents. What is important about this is that, at the time, the Garmin was stowed into a jersey pocket and we simply had no idea of how fast we were going. Certainly, we were well aware that we were pushing 50×11 at a fairly high cadence, but the new P2 was the very definition of calm during the entire ride; it never once gave more than what we would classify as “feedback.” Where other bikes have a tendency to strip confidence from a rider when moving in excess of 30 miles an hour, the P2 only seems to add to it – this is a bike that simply lacks any drama. You ride it fast because you don’t have to worry about the bike’s response to speed; it frees your legs from the nagging of your mind and, all of a sudden, you’re flying.
Our P2 was equipped with a single bottle behind the Fizik Arione using an Delta Sonic, an Aero TT on the down tube, and a Stealth Pocket attached to the top tube via the bento bosses located just aft of the cable entry cutout, all XLab products. The bento location was easily accessible, as was the rear bottle carrier, in any position one cared to ride. The aero bottle, due to the dropped down tube, the size of frame we ride in Cervelo’s new geometry, 58, and the somewhat complicated maneuvers required to extricate the Aero TT bottle from its cage, was farily difficult to access. We suspect it could be made smoother with practice, but it is worth noting that the dropped down tube does make frame-mounted hydration more difficult to access.
When it comes to stopping, there will be some who insist that the FSA brakes that come as standard are inadequate. These people are wrong; we had zero issue with braking performance, especially given the price point. It is worth pointing out that, where the brakes are concerned, the P2 uses standard brakes on both the front and rear, while incurring no drag penalty for the rear brake due to the seat cutout shielding it from the wind, though the brake cable is exposed to the wind briefly. This means that the P2 (and, by extension, the P3) are capable of using any number of aftermarket brakes, both cabled and hydraulic, allowing it to be purchased now and upgraded to whatever the rider wants further down the line.
This upgradeability is at the heart of the P2. Don’t like a spec choice? Change it. There are few bikes that come out of the box as fast as the P2 is, and fewer still that can be made even faster through the use of industry standard implementation during the design of the bike. The steerer tube is 1 1/8”, so fit any stem you like, which means that any bar you please will fit right up, too. BBright is common enough to find any type of crank you could desire. The brakes can be replaced with everything from an Omega to Magura. There are bosses for DI2 battery mounting, as well as any bottle configuration one could want to try. The new P2 isn’t so much a complete bike as it is a complete platform to put your dream bike together on, and at $2800, we cannot think of a more modular TT machine than this without tacking on nearly half again the value of Cervélo’s newest.
Let’s address the elephant in the room for a moment. Yes, the P2 is a 105 P3 with a cost-effective fork for $1150 less than the mechanical Ultegra version. Yes, there are compromises being had to get it down to this price, such as the exclusion of the Adamo in favour of a Fizik or a Tiagra chain and cassette instead of something more upmarket, but let’s be fair – those are the first parts replaced on a bike, anyway. The P2 isn’t just the “Poor Man’s P3;” think instead of it as the “Minimalist P3.” This is a P3 without someone else’s idea of the bells and whistles. This is a P2 that is ready to be not just “a” P2, but “your” P2. The last P2 went seven years without a major change and was still winning races; this one is fast enough, and configurable enough, to repeat that feat and more.
For some, it might be easy to dismiss this bike and focus on something “more revolutionary.” Respectfully, we disagree. The P2 is revolutionary, and always has been; this one is no exception. The new P2 brings a level of technology and speed that the price category simply has not seen to date. At $2800, riders are getting $3950 worth of frameset – that’s an absolute steal. Too often we get caught up in what goes on at the superbike end of the spectrum and treat the entry level with a certain level of disdain that it simply does not deserve, even those who are just starting our sport set their sights far in excess of their wallets and only come back down when the realization of the bill finally hits. Now, those same riders, the on-a-budget Age Groupers, the First Time on a Tri Bike riders starting to get their feet wet, the College Fund vs New Bike triathlete-parents can ride a bike that runs with five grand bikes for just over half of that. Any way you slice it; that is a significant accomplishment and is worthy of praise. The P2 is dead. Long live the P2, and long may it reign.