It probably goes without saying that the AG team loves bikes. We get downright giddy at the prospect of a new bike showing up in our mailroom. And when it does, we try to squeeze in plenty of rides with any new member of our garage since we know our time together is limited. That and we’re not so good with goodbyes—especially when it comes to parting with a bike like the Cervélo P3 . With that said, it’s unfortunately time for us to bid farewell to the P3. But first, here are our final thoughts.
We first took a look at the all new Cervélo P3 last April and were thoroughly impressed and very curious—Could Cervélo exceed its own expectations with a bike that topped its older brother in performance and functionality? Fast forward to February, and we were already falling hard for this black, red, and white beauty. And now, as the P3 is already departing from our garage, we agree that Cervélo did just that and more.
As we mentioned in our First Ride, at first glance, it’s easy to think that the new P3 is really just a small evolutionary update of the original. However, upon closer examination, you’ll realize that the new P3 offers so much more. In fact, various design elements of the P3 were heavily influenced by the top-of-the-line P5. For example, the P3 features an enlarged headtube/downtube as well as seat tube/downtube junctions, including bosses for bottles. Cervélo has included an additional bottle boss on the top tube for a bentobox, like those available from XLAB and Torhans. Since triathletes require the ability to carry enough nutrition to get through hours of training, we like the options for additional storage. However, the new P3 frame does not utilize the huge seat tube/top tube junction of the P5. Instead, it retains a shape similar to that of the original P3.
The new P3 Ultegra Di2 and Dura Ace models utilize Magura RT6 hydraulic brakes—similar to the P5 and Specialized S-Works Shiv. However, we tested the Ultegra model, which offers FSA Gossamer Pro brake calipers—this is an understandable compromise considering the drop in price point. Regardless of type, the P3’s brake calipers all appear in the standard position—tucked neatly in front of the frame and right behind the seat post. The location may seem a tad conventional but that just makes them that much easier to work on. The brakes provided impressive stopping power throughout our testing—in both wet and dry conditions. The frame can accept both mechanical and electronic groupsets and features a battery mount located under the down tube.
The P3 Ultegra is also equipped with Shimano Ultegra 6800 11spd, a quality 3T Aura cockpit, as well as a set of decent wheels—3T Accelero Pro (700c), Vision Team 30 (650c). As promised, we did swap out the stock wheels for a set of Vision Metron 81s during our final weeks of testing, which of course only made our love for this bike even stronger. However, we thought it was worth mentioning that while we think a wheel upgrade is always a great investment, we felt as though the P3’s stock wheel set could certainly suffice for the budget-minded athlete for a while. They handled well in both the straightaways and around corners. And once you got them up to speed, they held it well. Of course they are a bit heavy, but that’s to be expected.
As we mentioned in our first couple articles, the only thing we could really pick on with the P3 was the cabling. The brake line runs from the cockpit to the side of the top tube and then again from the top tube to the brake outside of the frame. We realize this was a pretty small nitpick, but nevertheless, it’s something that stood out to us—especially on a $3950 bike.
As for fit, we’d mentioned that the new P3’s frame geometry allows for a less aggressive position than the original. Cervélo also claims that the new P3 offers a wider range of fit options in general. We found fitting the bike to our staff to be quick and easy (and some of us are not so easy to fit). Much of that adjustability is thanks to the P3’s seat post, which again uses the same technology as the P5. What’s more, the new P3 also includes an Adamo Prologue saddle, which is always a very welcome addition. Most triathletes agree that stock saddles are often one of the first things tossed post-purchase (typically even as early as the first fit). They’re just not comfortable. In fact, the AG team usually adds their own saddle of choice to a test bike after the first ride or two. However, with the P3, we gladly rode the Prologue throughout the entire testing period.
Now, to address the “elephant in the room”—what do you really get for your money with the P3 when compared with Cervélo’s new P2? Since we had the opportunity to ride both the P2 and P3 side-by-side, we carefully considered this question over the last few months. For the most part, the frames are identical with the exception of the fork (you’ll find Cervélo’s FK37 fork on the P3 and the Cervélo FK41 on the P2). And of course the P3 does offer a carbon cockpit (3T Aura) as opposed to the Aluminum Profile Design T2 and T4 Wing found on the P2. Finally, the P3 features higher level components—you’ll find Shimano Ultegra 6800 11 spd offered with the P3 and Shimano 105 5700 10 spd with the P2.
As you may have read in our first look at the P2, we agree that the P2 is an incredible bargain for a triathlete—especially one looking for a high-quality starter bike that can grow with them. The P2 will only set you back $2800.The difference in price between the two bikes could allow for the purchase of a new set of wheels or a new cockpit.
We feel that the real decision would come down to whether or not you’d rather invest in the higher-end components right from the start and whether what is included with the P3 fits your needs. We were big fans of the P3 spec though we can’t deny the carbon cockpit (3T Aura), wasn’t a favorite of ours. But if higher-end components are what you’re after, then the P3 is right up your alley.
Additionally, while this is purely personal preference, we have to admit that we remained partial to the more traditional white, black, and red paint job found on the P3 rather than the new blue and white found on the P2.
Debates in pricing aside, we had a blast with the P3. The bike is smooth in just about every way possible. The P3 had the ability to dampen the roughness of the road without losing the stiffness and responsiveness we needed through the corners. And it’s fast—really fast. We consistently surprised ourselves when we looked at our computers to find that what we thought was an easy cruise had turned into a race-paced ride. The P3 flew, which just made us want to go even faster.
We’ve said this before about other bikes from the Cervélo line, and it’s no different with the P3. This is a bike that we would choose for ourselves as a personal bike. We looked forward to every ride on the P3, and were more than just sad to see it go—we were downright depressed. The P3 left us wanting just one more ride, which is the best way to end a review that we can think of.