Review: Cervelo P2C (Ultegra)

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The author’s P2C, with non-stock Zipp 404 wheels and XLab SonicWing.

Based on two experiences surrounding this bike, I decided to purchase one via Cervélo’s shop employee-purchase program. The first experience was getting eyeballs and hands on the Dura-Ace equipped model in our shop. The second was the thorough review written by the crew at Bikesport Michigan. This is my take on the bike, written from the POV of a mechanic and a rider.

Unboxing & Assembly

This is important to bike mechanics, but it’s equally important to those riders that maintain their own gear. While that’s a smaller percentage of the population, it’s important to be aware of what you’re in for.

Unboxing the P2C was pretty much like unboxing any other high-end road bike. The bike inside is far less assembled than a lower-end (think $279-$600) hybrid or mountain bike, and is going to require some time to build.

Having watched our (former) service manager struggle through part of the P2C assembly, I can say that the one part that will slow you down is running the cable guides. In fact, getting the derailleur cables run was a process that required some serious McGyver tactics, and has sparked me to write a HOWTO guide, which I’ll be posting later today.

The only other issue was securing the bike in a workstand. Trek makes an adapter for its aero seatposts that allows you to clamp the bike into a standard workstand clamp. This is not an option on the P2C, due to the sheer size of the post. Whether or not Cervélo manufactures a solution for this is unknown to me, and I didn’t think to ask. I merely resorted to turning the workstand clamp horizontal, resting the top tube on it, and not closing the clamp, for fear of damaging the carbon.

The only other issue I encountered during the build process was the need to cut down the seatpost slightly. I Googled around and was able to find discussions on Cervélo’s forums regarding doing this to a P3C seatpost (the same post, as far as I know), and nothing was posted by Cervélo contradicting the advice. Thus, I approached the problem like I did with the carbon steerer tube on my Salsa — a dremel tool with a diamond blade, a facemask to prevent a short-term future of black mucus, and a bit of trepidation.

All in all, the build process was trivial, with the exception of the running of the shifter cables through the frame. I’m sure it would be a slight hit in frame weight, but I’d really like to see Cervélo add internal guides to future versions so that I, as a mechanic, don’t need to spend more than four hours struggling to accomplish what would be a two-second job on other non-internally routed bikes.

General Impressions

Once I had the P2C unboxed, out of the stand, with the basic parts on it, I stopped to admire the thing. Looking straight at the front of the bike, my first impression was, “Damn, this thing is skinny!”

And it is — look at the bike from the front, and it seems to disappear. This, I’m sure, is due in part to the shaping of the head tube and the narrowness of the Wolf CL TT fork. But front-on, wow. Even with a 1 1/8″ steerer tube in there, this bike gives the impression of being more skinny than an ancient steel frame with a 1″ steerer.

From the side on, you get an idea of where the stiffness of the bike comes from. While the sleek/narrow appearance continues around the top tube and back to where it meets the seat tube, following the down tube’s line to the bottom bracket cluster reveals a figurative blossoming of material. The bottom bracket, and chainstays, like on other Cervélos, can be described, politely mind you, as beefy. And yet, the bike doesn’t end up looking awkward or goofy — the parts of the bike are designed they way they need to be — a stiff lower half for power transmission, with careful attention to aerodynamics in the head tube, seat tube, and down tube — all the points where the bike meets wind. And even with these disparate parts, the P2C doesn’t look like a mad science project. It looks organic — evolved, even — like something born for speed. Huge, huge kudos should go to to Cervélo’s engineers for their work, as it brings art and functional together perfectly.

The Ride

I can sum this up in a word: wow.

It’s been a long time since I last owned an all-carbon bike. And I’m amazed at the combination of comfort and absolute, unyielding lateral stiffness of the bike. You turn the pedals, and she just goes. Road vibrations vanish into the frame and don’t make it to the rest of your body.

At speed, the frame tracks straight and true — let go of the bars and sit up, and you needn’t worry about drifting off your line. Not that you’ll be doing that in a tri, but that gives you a strong idea about the level of attention that went to the molding of the P2C’s frame.

As a whole, the Ultegra group performs capably. As time has gone on, Ultegra has gotten closer and closer to Dura-Ace in overall feel and responsiveness. Weight, of course, remains the key differentiation between the two groups. However, that weight difference is negligible, and it’s more cost effective to just lose a pound of fat off your body.

Some of the parts are fairly pedestrian, but for a sub-$3000 time trial bike, that’s to be expected. My only points of contention — the alloy stem (I would have selected a carbon model from FSA to improve ride comfort) and the choice to use a compact crankset — were both put to rest on the first ride. This is not a bike for sprinting or criteriums. It’s a bike for the long haul, and it manages both comfort and high-speed efficiency.

The wheels are what keeps the cost of the bike down — the included Shimano R-500 wheelset will get you through your events if you’re early in your racing hobby and can’t swing the money for a pair of aero wheels. For me, they’ll become a pair of “beater” wheels — something to slap on the P2C or my road bike in the spring for training rides.

Slapping a pair of clincher Zipp 404 wheels on the bike (pictured above) makes an already awesome ride even better. Crosswinds were a little more noticeable, due to the height of the 404 rims. Overall, the ride quality was not impacted negatively by the switch — it merely required a little more attention in a stiff crosswind.

Experience

A huge thanks has to go out to the staff that I worked with at Cervélo — Brett, Ronald and Emma — who were extremely patient, forthright, and quick to answer questions. I made a pest of myself, I’m sure, but I hope that they, and the rest of their team know how much I appreciate the level of customer service I received. And I’m just a shop mechanic who did an e.p. from them. I would be willing to bet that their customer support for Joe Average Customer would be as good, and possibly better.

Final Word

The best bang-for-the-buck in the time trial/triathlon space.

Pros: aerodynamics, ride comfort
Cons: compact crank may turn-off some riders
MSRP: $2500 (US).

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Cervelo P2C
Author Rating
5

1 thought on “Review: Cervelo P2C (Ultegra)

  1. Hi Dan,
    Enjoyed your review. About to purchase the “Beast” and your views only make me keener although would be glad of your cable fitting guide as I am “attempting” a DIY build ?
    Thanks
    Kny

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