p5xsideIt was like ushering a famous rock star through the back entry at Madison Square Garden. At the Fairmont Orchid the week before this week’s Hawaii Ironman World Championships, a small cadre of media clacked through the back halls on linoleum floors, past quizzical hotel restaurant staff, each of us wheeling a bicycle with “Cervelo” emblazoned down the fork blade. The bike had been previously moved through the public area (littered primarily with pasty tourists) under a black sheet. It was a secret project, and Cervelo aimed to keep it that way right through to the launch.

I knew it would be a tough ask, like trying to keep a new Corvette under wraps at the SEMA auto show; people are sniffing around at every turn.

Out into the sunlight on Thursday, we were shuttled to remote upper reaches of the Big Island on Saddle Road, where we literally rode in the obscurity of the clouds. No triathletes to be found (except for Luke McKenzie and Liz Blatchford, whom, to their professional credit, kept quiet on seeing this new “thing.”)

Friday, hoping to avoid any cameras, Cervelo sent the media out on a “true test” sortie on the Queen K. One person spied the small groups of four on the highway and snapping pics and no doubt salivating at the prospect of being one to reveal the bike everyone has wanted to see, was politely asked to park the shots for a week.

Passing a gentleman riding on the highway, he hustled up to my side. “Is that the new Dimond?” No I replied. Just as he said “what is it, the name on the fork registered, and he said “shit! That’s the new Cervelo?”

The Cervelo P5X—a bike with a beam, a cowled front wheel, tons of practical storage and heaps of innovative new fit and travel adjustability—is finally out in the open. Saturday, it’ll make its grand race debut on course during the Hawaii Ironman World Championships.

***

If there is one brand that has earned its reputation as the forbearer of advanced triathlon bike design, it’s Cervelo. So if there is one brand that commands this kind of intrigue, this level of secrecy this is it. While Cervelo founders and engineers educated the triathlon public on the NACA profile and why it made their bikes faster, the other guys simply presented us hydroformed aero shapes absent no data. Consumers balked at the token effort in the mid-90s, put their dollars behind the data-backed bike, and all others were forced to hire engineers, spend time in the tunnel and prove their product, just as Cervelo did.

In the spirit of CAT Cheetah, Zipp and Lotus, Cervelo threw convention aside in 1995 with the wild green machine called the Baracchi. It was a beam bike with a cowled front wheel… a bike well ahead of its time.

p5xbaracchi

The famed Baracchi of Cervelo’s formative years in 1995.

Fast forward two decades. The industry caught up and while the market has broadened, with more small brands in the spirit and mold of the Cervelo of old arriving to a hotly-contested triathlon bike market with revamps of the Zipp, Lotus and Hotta, hoping to join big names like Felt, Trek and Specialized in taking a bit of the pie slice Cervelo has dominated, especially here on the Kailua-Kona pier during the annual Kona Bike Count.

With that in mind, Cervelo grabbed a bit of the soul of the Baracchi from the past, and takes another step forward. The P5 has been an amazing bike (as was the iconic P3 before it) but as we’re seeing, triathletes are different creatures. We have different needs when riding 90k or 180k to the ProTour rider getting the most aero they can, food and drink be damned, for a 15k prologue. We need things. Flat kits. Food. Drink. A place for our computer. Our money. A banana. All of the things.

So the slate was wiped clean. The limiting UCI design box was ditched, and Cervelo’s A team of brilliant Toronto engineers went to work building a tri bike for triathletes only. A year ago in Kona, Cervelo suggested something new was coming in a few months, and a 140.6-day countdown clock was started.

But as it has proven in the past with Cervelo, engineering trumped marketing. The countdown clock was stopped months ago in order to tie down a few design details. 365 days (give or take a few days) later, the P5X—the Toronto-based company’s most audacious project to date— is revealed.

The debut coincides with this weekend’s Hawaii Ironman World Championship, where the P5X will see action, with Frederick Van Lierde, Sarah Piampiano, James Cunnama, Susie Cheetham, Heather Wurtele, and Jodie Swallow riding it in the race. Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen was on hand for the launch to provide a bit of pro-level feedback on the media rides (as well as turn the screws on us for her own entertainment).

LAVA was one of a very short list of global media invited to a press event detailing the bike, and providing us a unique chance to ride Cervelo’s newest flagship ride. Here’s a detailed look, as well as our thoughts.

***

First things first: why not P6? Well, the 5 denotation (think “five star” hotels, etc.) is Cervelo’s top-shelf offering regardless. The P5 will remain in the line, but the “X” factor takes off the shackles. It’s effectively the “unlimited” version.

The bike began 3.5 years ago, with a study. A constant presence at events, Cervelo began studying the endurance triathlete, analyzing that athlete’s needs. Fast bike? Of course. But Cervelo also talked to retailers about fit. Nutrition. Travel. Adjustment. Practicality. They talked to industry experts. Their own pro athletes. Mechanics.

Then, they hit the races. At 70.3 St. George, Ironman France, Ironman Austria, Ironman Mont Tremblant and the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in 2013 and 2014, the Cervelo team took photos of every single athlete at several Ironman races, analyzing how folks sit on the bike, how often they were in the aerobars, and backed it with supplemental video. They amassed over 14,500 photos, and looked at every. Single. One.

The consensus? The bike had to have the aero hallmarks of a Cervelo, but a triathlete has needs. Fuel, water, flat kits, space for a tubular.

So the study continued. Where do we put all this “stuff” on our hyper-aero bikes? We affix it wherever we can. On the top tube, down tube, behind the saddle, under the rails, between the aerobars. Cervelo studied where folks place gear and nutrition and found the most common setup to be this: One between-the-aerobars bottle, one Bento-style top-tube nutrition storage box, one behind-the-saddle bottle cage holder, and one bottle on the downtube. But that was just 3.8 percent of athletes. Cervelo said there were a total 688 unique setup combinations. Some better, some worse, but all a general detriment to the baseline bike.

They also studied how many bottles athletes took into an Ironman. The most common setup was two bottles, at 46 percent. Three bottles was just 12 percent.

After this, more study. Focus groups on how much food folks took into a long-course race. The most fueling strategy for a five- to six-hour ride? One bar, two packs of chews, eight gels, 6 salt tabs. Cervelo also studied mechanical prep. On average, we take two tire levers, two Co2 heads, one Co2 inflator, one tube and one multitool into a race.

Again, it came back to where the hell we put all this stuff… because it’s a lot of stuff we haul out with us in the race. The P5 (and most other bikes) hadn’t fully addressed integrated storage, and practical utility. Electrical taping gels to the top tube is, sadly, still a thing.

MISSION STATEMENT

Once studies were done, Cervelo engineers came to their clean sheet of white paper and began establishing priorities for this new bike. And for the first time, aero wasn’t Objective No. 1. Rather, it went like this, in sequence:

  1. Modular design, with easy-access integrated storage.
  2. Compatible with round bottles, because it’s what’s handed up to us in a race.
  3. Easy to fit athletes.
  4. Easy to adjust after setup. That is, no need to have to buy a new fork with a longer steerer or flip a high stem if needing to come up.
  5. More aero than the standard-bearer P5 when carrying nutrition and drinks. (“It’s a system we were developing because you’re not riding just your bike,” senior composites engineer Richard Matthews reminds us, “we ride with our bottles, our nutrition.)
  6. Same stiffness at the P5.
  7. Easy and safe to pack and travel with.

low3-4hero

 

It’s a startling thing to see a Cervelo that doesn’t have aero as the prime objective, a brand that long sold the speed of its bikes, using Chrissie Wellington and Dave Zabriskie winning titles and time trials as Exhibit A. In fact, aero was objective number 5. But it speaks to the focus; it would be great to ride a bike without all of the things, but we need nutrition and drink, and we need a flat kit. Since the days that Dave and Scott electrical-taped a banana to their stem, we’ve simply put our stuff where we could. And it was always out in the wind, killing all the aero we spent hard earned money on.

It presented a whole new set of challenges to the engineering team… a team that Cervelo sent to Kona as the heroes behind the design (and the best guys to explain the methods to the madness): senior designer David Killing, composites engineer Richard Matthews, and industrial design ace Stuart Munro.

NUTRITION STORAGE

With those storage challenges, engineer Killing began looking at inspiration, and was sure it would have a place for round bottles, since it’s what we use in training and racing. Cervelo already had experience building frames to best accommodate them aerodynamically, and was the first to prove BTA was an excellent bottle location. So the P5X would have standard round bottle placement; between the aerobars, behind the saddle and either horizontally on a storage box above the bottom bracket or, absent the storage box, on the downtube). Three bottles, at your behest.

lownds3-4

Bottle, bottle, bottle; Three separate locations for hydration live on the P5X.

Oh, and there would be no seat tube bottle bosses.. because there would be no seat tube (and we’ll get into that in a moment). The design features a beam and post mast, and a set of strong chainstays.

The P5X also has a top tube Bento-style box behind the aerobar called SmartPack that extends above the top tube, and descends well below it, into the confines of the frame. The rubber, zippered nutrition box is capable of storing a full energy bar and upwards of eight gels.

lowbento

The SmartPack top tube bento dives well into the confines of the frame, providing enough room for a full-size energy bar and up to eight gels.

Cervelo will also have an optional pill tray for your salt tabs and Vitamin I. Further to that, you have plenty of space to put your smart phone on training days. We placed our iPhone 6 with a Lifeproof case over it adding even more size and volume… and zipped it up, no problem. Don’t want or need that much volume for your Olympic-distance race? You can run a simple internal tray with a separate lid that runs flush with the top tube. Finally, those that don’t want storage at all can simply have it all removed and install a flat cover for the area.

MORE STORAGE

What about the rest of your stuff? Your tool kit? In the front wheel cowling, in front of the crankset, lives a lovely trap door called StealthBox. A top latch is released, allowing the StealthBox door to remove. The door itself has an attached tray with a place for your tire levers, two Co2s, a Co2 head and tubes. Reinstalled with a foam gasket, there’s no rattling, either of tools within the StealthBox or of the StealthBox door against the frame.

lowlowerboxopen

The P5X StealthBox can stash tools within the door itself, and further into the frame as needed.

While the StealthBox is self-encapsulated, the rest of the frame’s interior space is open and available for use; those that may want to push a tubular or more tubes into the downtube will be able to do so. And because it’s electronic shifting-friendly, all cables are hooked to guides along the upper interior reaches of the downtube, leaving the space free.

As with the recently-debuted Diamondback Serios, we can guess that moving all this weight (which typically lives behind the saddle in addition to a rear bottle) closer to the ground will make for a bike with improved technical handling.

Oh, you need more space for stuff? More food to access later in the race? The P5X will include the removable SpeedCase, a molded ABS plastic downtube box. Melding seamlessly with the frame, it also has a driveside side-access door and has space for anything else you might want to stash; food, tools, arm warmers, a fresh slice of banana bread… whatever. SpeedCase will fit all sizes of the P5X.

So between SmartPack, StealthBox and SpeedCase, your frame-integrated tool and fuel storage needs are sorted. Save the electrical tape for the only good function on a tri bike: handlebar wrap.

Is the bike with the SpeedCase on or off? Cervelo tested it, but the numbers varied depending upon if you ran BTA and/or rear hydration in conjunction. As with everything, it’s any one part’s interaction within the system of the bike. Sometimes it was faster with; sometimes without.

All told, the bike is built for racing and training practicality; we get round bottles, we should use them as part of the construct.

AERODYNAMICS

Yep, all the way down here, we’re finally talking aero. With the UCI restrictions off, engineers went away from a double-diamond, and into a modified beam-style bike, but with no hinge or pivot; it provides no “flex” or comfort features, instead simply removing the seatpost and further down, seatstays from the aero equation. Its beam-to-mainframe junction is lightly scalloped for aero and stiffness (not unlike what Specialized did with the revamped Venge).

Cervelo created a baseline by testing a size medium P5X against a 54cm P5 (with Foam Dave aboard) in average age grouper configuration: with a between-the-aerobars bottle, one bottle behind the saddle, one bottle on the downtube and with eight gels taped to the stem and top tube. The P5X came out 31g faster than P5, and was faster at every point than the P5 except non-driveside 15 degrees.

p5xwindtunnel

Cervelo also engaged in competitor benchmark aero testing, testing apples to apples (nutrition and fluid volume, wheels, and fit) against the Ventum One, Trek Speed Concept, Felt IA, Dimond and Specialized Shiv. Cervelo also talked to those manufacturers to solicit from them their best-application bottle placement options, in order to present the fairest data.

Per standard form, Cervelo didn’t reveal the brands as to who performed where, but with the static foam Dave Zabriskie rider atop all bikes and all maximal storage included, the P5X can be seen to have performed better than all other bikes at all yaws from plus and minus 0 to 15 degree save two, at -5, where one unnamed competitor surpassed it, and at 15 degrees (driveside) where four bikes surpassed it, one, as mentioned above, being the P5. That tells us that at high yaw, perhaps the added frontal surface area of the P5X cowling is a detriment

Otherwise, the P5X was better at all other wind directions, and performed remarkably well between 5 and 10 degrees of driveside yaw. Yes, it’s a Cervelo. Aero wasn’t the prime objective, but it’s fast anyway.

rdthruaxleCervelo also tested a variety of aero storage options to see which configuration was faster. With or without the SpeedCase. With SpeedCase and a BTA setup. With SpeedCase and with rear hydration. Which was fastest? The short answer is: it depends.

That’s mostly because of the complete bike construct interaction. With our without the SpeedCase, the bike gets faster (or slower) based on placement and quantity. So too did the basebar’s orientation; airflow across the knees was better with the bar flipped up versus down (which will come as a happy benefit to those that don’t want to or can’t get into that deep down-basebar drop position).

In short, it was net-zero (no advantage, yet no deficit) having it on or not. With it on, the SpeedCase was faster with a horizontally-mounted round bottle atop it.

Speed of an aero (non-round) downtube bottles and/or a BTA aero bottle? Not yet tested, Cervelo said… but coming soon.

lowhero2

FRAME AND FORK MANUFACTURE

The industry moves with cost-reduced production in Asia. The P5X is not going there. Engineered in Canada, made in America.

Frame

During development, Cervelo engineers contacted friends at HED Cycling on what it would take to make the frame in North America, and summarily contracted the Minneapolis, MN-based company, an expert in composites manufacture, to produce the frame on U.S. soil. “Steve always preached the importance of rider speed as a system,” said Greg Alexander, director of contract manufacturing at HED. “

A new HED warehouse in Roseville, MN was cleared out, molds were cut and production began on a frame comprised of beautiful unidirectional carbon in the U.S. of A. The inside of the StealthBox has an extra layer of cosmetic woven carbon in the main access area.

Running electronic wires through the frame is a breeze, with hand accessibility in the frame through the storage area near the StealthBox in front of the bottom bracket.

Aerobar

Cervelo then tapped ENVE out of Ogden, Utah, to talk about bringing to life an aerobar concept. On its face, it has the new standards; a removable stem housing cap at the aft of the “stem” for the SRAM eTap BlipBox or Shimano Di2 junction box to be tucked neatly away, with a clear plastic window that will show the Di2 battery life light indicator. Being a plastic cap, there is no wireless interference for SRAM’s eTap. It’s the cleanest electronic cable- and junction-hiding system we’ve seen since probably the Canyon Speedmax CF.

seatpostsaddlerearhydration

It’s the bane of our travel existence, the aerobar; it has to be removed from the bike in packing, and it invariably affects position, loss of equipment (bearings, stem faceplate bolts) and creates a focal load point at the stem faceplate. Never mind potential damage to the brake levers, and the frame as it lay across the top tube and downtube every time you pack and unpack for race travel, it introduces opportunities for weakness and damage in an already high-stress load area. To solve for it, Cervelo asked: what if a basebar could break in two, giving it full function in action… then capability of folding away when in transit. Think the wings of an F/A-18F Super Hornet naval carrier with folding wings for storage on deck.

The result was incredibly clever, and reminds of the old Transformers toys; a 40cm c/c basebar that has an overlap at the vertical-load stem plate. When it’s time for travel, simply unbolt the four vertical-load basebar bolts, and the two halves of the basebar are free to unlock from their overlap, and fold down along the length of the fork blades for travel.

When asked about the strength of a two-piece basebar, we were quickly assuaged. “The two halves actually fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, with the bolt heads fitting into male/female recesses in the bar,” said ENVE’s Kevin Nelson. “It’s almost a snap-fit. And the bolts aren’t under much load in that vertical plane.

Adding to that, the bolt stance is wider; when you compare it to the narrow stance of horizontal-plane bolts on standard stem faceplace, you’ll begin to appreciate that yes, a two-piece basebar of high-compression carbon overlaid on top of one another is damn solid. Even if a bolt came out or the bar wasn’t fully cinched down, Nelson said. There’s enough clamping force to keep things tied tight.

Nelson said ENVE and Cervelo executed load and fatigue tests on the pads, extensions, stem and bar system, with load to failure. “It went higher to failure than our own bar, and our own bar is amazing,” Nelson said. “The way it splits and lays over one another, it gains structure.”

lowaerobar

A line in the middle of the basebar gives away the overlapping break where it can split in two for travel.

Above (and interestingly, independent of) the basebar is a pedestaled pad and extensions, with a flat carbon fiber center platform for a between-the-aerobar cage to be mounted. The fork steerer (1 1/8” upper bearing and a 1 ½” lower bearing) is height-fixed, meaning no steerer cutting. That’s because in front of the steerer is a bayonet, and within the cavity of the bayonet, vertical slot. Here, the alloy aerobar extension and pad “pedestal” slides into the fork ahead of the steerer. It’s almost a modified, updated version of a quill stem, with the fixing wedge living externally rather than internally as the quill stem did.

With no vertical restriction, the user can move their stack up or down freely—even mid-ride if so desired—and set the height with a 4mm hex bolt, driven into the rear of the pedestal exactly like Cervelo’s seat binder. The pedestal’s variance presents 112mm of stack adjustment. Never before has a customer been able to self-adjust their stack so easily and instantly.

The pads themselves have 91mm of fore/aft adjust, and 166-220mm of width adjust. And for those wanting a downward or upward (praying mantis) position, the unified pad/extension cradle lives on a rocker that can be released with a bolt, and the whole unit pitch-adjusted between 0 to 12 degrees.

Worried about the pedestal’s binder bolt dropping into the frame like they have on previous bikes (resulting in that dance you do turning the bike upside-down trying to get it back out)? The engineers solved for that; slight male-female slots in the binder match with the carbon inner relief of the fork. That inner relief also has a small lip or shelf, preventing the wedge from falling in.

lowequis

Catch the light just right, and and the “X” of P5X pops out in the carbon cloth.

I asked about the torque loads we place on our aerobars, the constant for/aft yanking while in the aerobars. Again, I was provided a solution. “Consider the loads we place on the seat post, which are much heavier,” Nelson said. Good point.

The basebar itself is fully reversible; run it bowed down for 40mm of downward hand position, or flip it for 40mm upward… for a total of 80mm of positional variance.

There is redundant weight with an overlapping basebar, but really, who cares? The aerobar has been reinvented.

BRAKING

Disc brakes, baby! Welcome to the future, as Cervelo joins Diamondback and Parlee in pushing better braking. “We learned with the P4 that yeah, brakes ARE important on a tri bike,” Matthews said tongue-in-cheek.

As a mountain biker, we are huge fans of them over here; hydraulic or mechanical, they just stop better. And though not a big deal for a tri bike, you can apply braking load a fair bit later, which means attacking switchbacks or corners with greater speed. We were happy to see them start making inroads onto road bikes and as such, we love seeing them on tri bikes. There is aero drawback, but it’s small and as Cervelo stated with this bike, aero wasn’t the top priority. As such, a bike with greater stopping power, easier function was priority.

lowfrontdiscbrake

TRP Hy-Rd disc brakes set the tech-forward tone on the P5X.

Cervelo steps away from hydraulic brakes found on the P5 (did any of you really ever bleed their own brakes, or just take it to the shop?) in lieu of TRP Hy/Rd direct mount mechanical brakes, and standard mechanical levers. In truth, it’s a mechanical cable, with pressure being applied to the pads using an isolated hydraulic mineral oil reservoir, which moves both pads simultaneously to the rotor, rather than one pad as mechanical-only disc brakes do. “It’s the only mechanical brake that gives you the feel of hydraulic brakes,” Matthews said.

The P5X will run 160mm front and rear rotors, with a 12×100 front and 12×142 rear axle.

TESTING

Engineers at Cervelo, HED and ENVE were hard on the P5X, and it reportedly came up roses. Using an inertia test, Cervelo claims a 25 percent improvement in headtube stiffness over the P5. Bottom bracket stiffness came out equal to the P5. Overall frame stiffness was high as well, thanks to the full monocoque build with no bond joints used. Happily, the use of thru axles, an obvious stiffness advantage) wasn’t even a metric used in their testing; so it’s stiffer yet than what the numbers report.

Weight came… up. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. The P5X is 13 percent heavier than the P5 when compared apples to apples, fully loaded for an Ironman. Interestingly, the frame alone is pretty close to the P5, but of course, with adjustability (particularly in the front end), disc brakes and storage capacity and features, the weight came up. But weight was a lower priority on this project. As Swiss Cervelo pro Caroline Steffen told the media during the launch “once you get the speed up, weight doesn’t matter.” Unless it’s on an insidiously hilly course. We tend to agree.

caroline

Swiss pro Caroline Steffen puts the P5X through the paces during the launch in Kona.

SIZING AND GEOMETRY

With a year left in the project development, Cervelo hired 51 Speedshop fitter Mat Steinmetz to lock down fit variance.

The most ingenious (to us) advance in this bike comes with the aerobar, and while the packability is great, it’s the bar adjust that will be a fitter’s (and consumer’s) dream.

In a break from tradition (on a bike without a traditional seat tube or top tube), Cervelo is offering the P5X in four sizes: small, medium, large and extra large. And with the wide range in stack adjustment, the fit windows for each bike gets much larger, providing tons of overlap in size options. I typically ride a Cervelo P5 in 56cm, and felt happy on a size large frame. Those trying to sort their frame size will be aided by a sizing tool on the P5X microsite, providing visual setup of pad pedestal and saddle position.

p5xgeometry

Happily, there are no size-specific parts in terms of storage boxes. Each frame size has its own fork, so as mentioned before, there’s no need to cut according to size; just adjust your stack within the aerobar pedestal. The seat post clamp shifts up along a consistent geometry line as well.

Standover with the sloping mast “top tube” on the P5X is now quite low for every size compared to a comparably-sized P5. For example, athletes choosing 45cm frame for standover, can hit that target in a small, without having to go to 650c wheel sizing.

The seat post slides into the seat mast, is cut to fit if you like (though it looks a bit shabby to have post under the mast), and can adjust a few centimeters above its cut point at the base of the mast. The rail has the same fore/aft and tilt adjust with a side-load clamp as Cervelo P-series bikes have had for the last few years, and

TRAVEL & TRAINERS

This is a big, BIG one for Cervelo. Their own team has seen some of their own pros using cases that are using that term loosely. Companies like Scicon are giving bags away to pros in exchange for social media push is clever….but the bags are awful. I can tell you some stories. Another day.

Add crazy proprietary front ends that don’t travel well, and you have a recipe for disaster. So Cervelo partnered with a bike case brand to build a special bike case befitting the P5X.

Cervelo reached out to fellow Canadian brand Biknd, and the two brands created a special P5X version of its inflated air bladder-protected case. It’s a crème de la crème bike, and fittingly, it’s paired with a crème de la crème case.

packingaerobarsbrokendown

The basebar, as broken down and strapped down for travel in the Biknd case.

Cervelo and Biknd took us through the process of packing a bike for travel.

With the case’s hollow hard foam front zipped open (a front capable of stashing a pump, helmet or wetsuit into its zipped alcove), the sides of the case can be zipped down to either side of the secured frame and flayed open. The frame itself rests on a molded bottom bracket block, and the dropouts locked firmly into the thru-axle bracket.

The di2 shifting cables are disconnected from the BlipBox, and the aerobar pedestal (pads and extensions) are then removed (remember to record your stack!!) and stored between the fork blades.

packingclosed

 

packingfrontopenlowboxflayedopenangleAfter the pads and extension are removed, the basebar is broken down. A 4mm hex key removes the four vertical-load bolts and the basebar folds down either side of the fork blade, with the brake cables totally unaffected. A padded basebar strap (included with bike purchase) secures the basebar safely against the fork blades, cleanly out of the way.

The pad/extension pedestal is then secured against the front of the fork (extensions up).

Each side of the case is capable of holding two wheels, meaning—yes—you can take a set of training wheels and a set of race wheels with you. With the disc rotors facing upward (in) and covered by a protective plastic “hubcap,” an attached padded layer serves as the buffer between wheels and frame when zipped up, while a chambered inflatable pad protects the case’s outside, padding the wheels (and rest of the frame) from the other luggage the baggage “handlers” chuck against it on its way to and front the race. A small hand pump is included with the case, with it taking 45-60 strokes to get each of the two protective layers to full inflation. We’ve not yet tested the case in its other non model-specific iterations, but we’ve heard nothing but good things about the Biknd cases in terms of bike protection.

At the case center is the frame, which is firmly secured into the case’s fork and rear dropout stanchions (which come up from the hard plastic base), allowing the user to assemble the rear derailleur (stashed in a chain condom’s inner stay pocket), seatpost and aerobars without having to engage in a balancing act of a frame laying on the floor of the case. So when building the bike, once all loose pieces are installed, just unthread the thru axles, install your wheels and off you.

loweastereggingraphic

A little easter egg: the “P5X” logo pops out in the sunlight.

With the seatpost removed, a cover plug is secured in place on the mast. The saddle is then placed within a neoprene cover, and the post into a tight sock. The whole thing is inverted, a strap at the base of the “sock” hung over the mast cover and stored between the chainstays.

A massive advantage of running front and rear thru-axle is the ability to thread the skewer There is one thing you’ll need to buy beyond the bag, and it’s a Kinetic Traxle adapter ($49, available online) which allows it to lock into the case’s cone cups.

Really, nothing was vexing. If you’ve packed a bike in a clamshell or an EVOC, you can pack it in this. We’ve been admiring the Biknd bags from afar, and a few smart pros are on the bandwagon already, passing up the cheap, broken-bike garbage bag soft cases Scicon are giving to pros in exchange for free social media exposure. Hats off to Cervelo for finding a perfect of this bike.

If you’re making the spend for the bike (more on that later), you’ll need to spend on the made-to-fit bag. $849. We would, anyway.

Oh, and trainers? No problem. Again, you’ll need to use a Traxle adapter to get it on there, but otherwise it’s good to go; no clearance or warranty issues. Whether traditional or direct drive, train away.

lowfront

ROAD TESTED IN KONA

The small media collective present was treated to two rides on the Big Island. The first was probably less applicable, but more entertaining for Steffen, who wanted to beat up a bunch of journalists with a two-hour ride that featured big climbs.

The second ride, a 35-miler, was way more appropriate: a session along the northern section of the Queen K Highway, along the 20-mile stretch just south of the Kawaihae turnoff toward Hawi. It’s here that the Hawaii Ironman typically faces Ho’o mumuku tradewinds as they funnel off the mountains. And it’s what we were treated to.

As to basebar choice, upward or downward, Steinmetz, familiar with my past fits, suggested an upward position. I was initially concerned it would be too conservative, but he assured me that it had plenty of drop. So Steinmetz ran our test bike’s bars upward, and as even as what I figure to be a fairly typical aero fit, I had plenty of drop to the basebars. It was the right call. Cervelo customer service director Jakub Macel (the ace on the cover of Cervelo’s new Intervals issue making the rounds) is an accomplished Ironman athlete and as can be seen on his bike on that cover, runs his in the drop position. I would only recommend it for the guys that love to get super low. Otherwise, the upward position offered plenty of drop.

jaytesting

The author rides the P5X last week along the Big Island’s Saddle Road during pre-launch testing.

For all the concern about so much surface area with the cowled front wheel in crosswinds, we felt it, but not as badly as one would be led to believe. While the natural proclivity when blasted by the side is to reach for the basebar and get one’s hands around the brakes, the bike handled better when in the aerobars. Placing weight on the wheel simply locked it to the pavement better, and was thus less affected by crosswinds, especially those cross/tail blasts hauling ass south toward Kona. It’s a premise that works for any bike, but with the added front-frame surface area of the P5X, the truism that you’re better off in the aerobars rings even truer.

With that, the bike just wants to jam. Like, JAM. Again, when sitting in the aerobars, we were hit by typical headwind and crosswinds, with a few good gusts, the same we’ve all seen during past races when headed north toward Waikoloa as we were leaned over sideways into the wind. But there was never a concern of blowing into traffic with the P5X, especially in the aerobars. The added surface area simply isn’t as bad as people want to believe.

To be sure, wheel selection paired with the P5X will be critical, especially when dealing with tail/crosswinds at high speed. In our opinion, only the strongest riders on the windiest days coming down from Hawi at over 50mph would be to task with a front wheel deeper than 55mm in depth on the P5X. Anything more is a handful with a high pucker factor, and the stress of being ready for those occasional wind blasts will simply wear you out by the time the ride is done. As such, the ENVE 7.8 is about as deep as we’d go on a typical Kona crosswind day. While the rear wheel doesn’t matter much in handling, the ENVE front wheel it’s just enough rim depth at front to be fast, but controllable.

What we particularly find to be a great benefit is fit adjustment in the aerobars. Using that seatpost-style wedge adjust, the athlete can (and will) make on-the-fly aerobar vertical adjustments. I’m thinking about those athletes that either haven’t spent enough time leading up to the race in the aerobars and with weak lower backs find themselves coming out of the bars, or those with issues (a strain incurred during the swim, for example). I’ve seen races end roadside due to back issues. The P5X rider can literally move their aerobars up into less aggressive, more comfortable position, and could perhaps save their race.

And as for travel, we will be testing its veracity and utility; LAVA is one of a few media outlets that will be taking a test bike home from Kona not only for a long-term test, but to practice break-down and build-up. But from the surface, we are thrilled about the prospect of traveling with a bike without having to tape pipe insulation and bubble wrap all over a bike, close a case and pray it isn’t damaged in transit. Further, being a fully-open case, TSA can see everything without having to touch or move anything. That will be nice when they leave their little love letter.

On the whole, the breakdown, build and packing process is new and different, but not vexing in any way.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

Ok, here we go. Ready? The premium model, featuring the SRAM eTap wireless electronic 11-speed groupset and ENVE SES 7.8 disc wheels, a CeramicSpeed PF30 ceramic bearing bottom bracket, the CeramicSpeed OSPW oversize lower jockey, TRP Centerlock brake rotors, TRP Hy-Rd disc brake calipers, Continental GP 4000 tires, an ISM PS 1.0 saddle will price at $15,000

In December, Cervelo will release an $11,000 version of the P5X with Shimano’ Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting system in lieu of SRAM eTap, a Rotor Flow crankset with standard bearing PF30 bottom bracket and a HED Jet 6 Plus front/Jet 9 Plus rear wheelset.

The Biknd P5X travel case is available separately at $849.

The bikes are available…. Now! In fact, the Kona launch coincides with a global debut of the bike at 80 select Cervelo retailers globally. So if you want a look at this bike up close, call your local shop and see if they have one on display. If you’re smitten, drop your Diners Club card and take it off the floor.

Also as part of the launch, Cervelo announced it will give a free Biknd P5X travel case to consumers in Kona that register with Cervelo on venue and pay within six months.

To be clear, this bike is gonna upset some people with its price. Of course, those same people are also upset that the price of the Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita prevents them from having one ($4.8 million, FYI) and the fact that Hawaiian papayas are super expensive anywhere other than Hawaii. (Note: I am one of these people.)

This is a top, top, TOP shelf offering. It’s Cervelo’s most ambitious project. The company spent over $180,000 in tunnel testing alone. The frame is American-made. The fork and aerobar is American-made. The case is specially designed. I’ve always said technology costs money, and there’s arguably more technology in this bike than any other bike of any kind, whether looking at tri, road, mountain…. ever.

So it’s gonna be rare for the first year. But as with most things, over time we think it will see a trickle-down effect. Whether it means a lesser model spec or a less-expensive Asian-made version, the P5X will be made affordable. Just… not yet.

More details on the bike, the launch, the offers can be found at Cervelo’s P5X microsite, cerveloP5X.com

closer