Cervélo P5X: bike review

Cervelo P5X triathlon bike

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Cervélo P5X: bike review” was written by Martin Love, for The Observer on Sunday 19th February 2017 06.00 UTC

If you were to weaponise a bicycle, it would look like this. Cervélo’s P5X is an all-black, all-carbon stealth bomber. It’s the fastest, most expensive and most technologically advanced triathlon bike ever built. It looks like Batman’s ultimate ride. Climb on board and there is no mistaking its true purpose – pure, undiluted, intoxicating speed. The aggressive riding position and phenomenal gearing mean that the stopping power of the hydraulic disc brakes isn’t a luxury, more a necessity. Despite the bellicose styling, the P5X is a bit of a pussy cat and is remarkably easy to use. It’s comfortable, the fit is fully customisable and it quickly packs away into a bike bag. Bizarrely, the addition that’s created the biggest buzz are the frame’s ‘integrated storage units’. Haven’t they heard of jersey pockets?

However, long-distance triathlon bike training and racing requires riders to carry an enormous amount of kit with them. Cervélo found that an average age-grouper carries more than 1,600 calories of nutrition during an Ironman bike leg, so the Canadian bike builder realised a large amount of storage had to be integrated into its P5X frame design. With this in mind, the bike’s stealthy shape has been influenced as much by bottle and storage solutions as it has by stiffness. In front of the bottom bracket, the Stealthbox provides essential storage for items like tubular tyres, CO2 inflators and tools. Also integrated into the downtube is the spacious removable Speedcase. This provides room for nutrition and clothing while also allowing for a different bottle orientation with bottle cage bosses on the top of the Speedcase.

On the top tube, the Smartpak storage sits behind the stem for an optimised aerodynamic profile. This is perfect for essential items like bars and gels. Behind the saddle sits an adjustable single rear bottle mount. With all of this versatile storage, riders are able to fully customise both their riding and training setup to suit their needs.

Integrated into the frameset is the fully customisable cockpit. Starting with the stem, height and angle can be changed with the simple seatpost-style stack adjustment. The stem cover hides electronic junction boxes while maintaining no-tool-required access for adjustment and charging. If you had not noticed already, the P5X does not have a seat tube and this allows for more storage space within the central triangle and a greater reduction in drag around the rear wheel.

The wheels are Enve 7.8 SES deep-section carbon rims with superb stiffness and aerodynamic performance. The SES profile also means they perform brilliantly in crosswinds, too. Integrated with these wheels are Continental’s GP 4000 II clincher tyres. The most popular tyres in Continental’s range, the GP 4000 II provides a low-rolling resistance, good grip in a variety of conditions and lasting puncture protection. Braking is taken care of with the TRP HY/RD hydraulic disc brakes. Discs on a triathlon bike may seem like a difficult concept to swallow, however the supreme stopping power in both the wet and the dry will allow riders to attack corners with confidence and speed.

A cutting-edge bike requires a top-of-the-range groupset and that is exactly what SRAM’s Red eTap 11-speed groupset provides. Wireless shifting eliminates the need for pesky internal cabling while the Blip and Clic shifters dramatically streamline the profile of the bars while also creating an intuitive feel.

It’s a remarkable and radical bike – sadly the high price means that only a very few will ever get to experience it.

Price: £13,499
Frame: Cervélo all-carbon P5X, thru-axle
Brakes: TRP HY/RD hydraulic discs
Gears: SRAM Red eTap, 11-speed
Wheels: Enve SES 7.8 disc thru-axle
Tyres: Continental GP4000 S II 700 x 25c, clincher
Saddle: ISM PS 1.0

Some other kit to consider if you fancy trying a tri

All the kit, every idea: a selection of essentials for your event
All the kit, every idea: a selection of essentials for your event

If you’ve never done a triathlon before the level of kit required can be quite overwhelming. However, when you boil it down all you really need for the swim, bike and run stages are goggles, trainers and a set of wheels. A great introduction to the sport is provided by Sundried. Have a look at their beginner’s guide. If you have caught the bug then here’s some you might like to consider:

Speedo Unisex Vue Mirror goggles, £45 The first stage of a triathlon is often called the ‘washing machine’. And rightly so. Thrashing arms and legs can be quite daunting – especially if swimming is not your strongest suit. You can easily buy a pair of goggles for under £20 that will do the job, but for me there’s nothing worse than leakage or fogging, so I have always treated myself to the best I can afford. Speedo are certainly the masters of swimwear and this new V-Class range of goggles combines superior design and innovative technology to make sure you get a decent, water-tight fit. Anti-fogging is up to twice as long as other brands and the soft seal means less marking around your eyes and a better fit across the bridge of your nose (amazon.co.uk).

Clear vision: Speedo’s Unisex Vue Mirror goggles in lime and blue
Clear vision: Speedo’s Unisex Vue Mirror goggles in lime and blue

2XU Perform Rear zip trisuit, £105 This is your base layer – you’ll wear it for all three disciplines. A great option for the first-timer, this trisuit by Aussie company 2XU (two times you) is made of super quick-drying SBR Lite. It offers ventilation and moisture control, combined with premium muscle stability support. Sensor Mesh X ventilates key regions while LD Chamois adds extra support for the bike and run. Extras include flatlock stitching for comfort and contoured panelling for unparalleled performance over any distance (2xu.com/uk).

dhb Aeron road helmet, £50 Designed in collaboration with Kask, this helmet has been crafted in Italy, where it is hand-finished inhouse. The dhb Aeron weighs in at 265g and has 24 vents which are arranged to optimise aerodynamics and keep you cool on warmer days in the saddle. The straps have reflective detailing for additional safety, and a comfortable chin guard to stop any unwanted rubbing. The helmet is finished with in-moulding – the shell wraps right around the rim of the helmet and up into the inside – which looks great, and provides protection for the foam around the rim. It’s a good value for money option that offers elite performance (wiggle.co.uk).

Use your head: dhb’s Aeron helmet
Use your head: dhb’s Aeron helmet

LifeLine Prime Armour road tyre, £12 Avoiding punctures when racing is an any-cost operation as it can literally be the difference between finishing a race or not. With that in mind, this Prime Armour Road tyre is worth every penny. It offers speed, traction and puncture protection for high-paced road cycling in challenging conditions. It feature a fast rolling slick centre tread, lightweight 120TPI casing, a Kevlar breaker and full nylon reinforcement. It combines the speed-focused properties of the Prime Race model with advanced puncture protection features for added confidence on difficult road surfaces, remote endurance rides and fast regular commutes (wiggle.co.uk).

Odlo Arm warmers, £35 Whether you’re running for the finish line or just making the transition to your racing bike, make sure you have these comfortable arm warmers to hand to stay flexible during the challenge, whatever the weather. They provide perfect thermal insulation when it’s cold and optimal UV protection (50+) when the sun comes out (odlo.com).

Saucony Type A trainers, £95 The run stage is the final leg of your triathlon and the last thing you’ll want is to worry about your feet. So decent trainers are an essential part of your kit. These racing flats may also help you make up any seconds lost to the opposition. The lower profile is perfect for higher intensity runs, while a firm midsole allows for a faster turnover as you chase your next best time. The ultimate road flat designed to be lightweight and responsive, making it ideal for taking on distances anywhere from 5K to the half-marathon (saucony.co.uk).

Email Martin at martin.love@observer.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @MartinLove166

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