2011 Cervelo S3 Review
Cervelo is known worldwide for its cutting edge technology and top of the line performance. The S3 is no exception. I tested the S3, which was equipped with the SRAM Red groupo, Zipp's 404 tubular wheel set, Fi'zi:k's Arione saddle and Rotor cranks.
Roadcycling.com reviews the 2011 Cervélo S3 road bike.
In my 12 years of riding and racing I have heard nothing but good comments about Cervelo bicycles and I was looking forward to reviewing the latest Cervelo S3. Cervelo is known worldwide for its cutting edge technology and top of the line performance. The S3 is no exception. I tested the S3, which was equipped with the SRAM Red groupo, Zipp's 404 tubular wheel set, Fi'zi:k's Arione saddle and Rotor cranks.
In the area where our office is located it seems the wind is always blowing hard, with few trees on the open prairie to offer protection for cyclists. For my first test ride with the S3 I picked a flat stretch of road on the prairie. The wind was blowing 20-25 mph and was mostly a dead-on cross wind. My goal was to do an hour tempo ride with some 2-minute intervals at the end. The first thing I noticed was how easily the S3 is pushed laterally when riding in the cross winds, I had to fight to keep the S3 upright any time I turned into the crosswind. The S3 has a wide down tube (3") which really catches the crosswind; the bike is also equipped with Zipp 404 wheels that are high profile. Combine the two together with high crosswinds and you are going to have a bit of a fight on your hands. Even a crosshead wind tended to push the bike a little.
When it came time to do the 2-minute intervals I picked a more sheltered area from the wind so the lateral pushing I had been experiencing wasn't a problem. I had my power meter on and as I hit the gas on the first interval my first thought was: This is a fast bike! I wasn't surprised when I looked at my power meter and it confirmed my feeling.
After I finished the ride I downloaded my ride data and I could see I was able to generate more power during the tempo (+12 watt average) and interval (+8-10 watt average) portion of the ride than I was able to do with the bike I normally ride during these same type of rides. Some other things I noticed during this ride were: 1) the comfort of the ride, the road I did the tempo ride on is rough and has numerous cracks that can beat you up. The S3 really dampened the harshness of the road and made the ride comfortable so much so I was able to produce higher power numbers than I normally do. 2) When I was doing the intervals I noticed how rigid the rear of the S3 was. When I stomped on the pedals the Cervelo S3 really responded quickly. I could see the extra power in my power meter CPU immediately.
The next test I put the Cervelo S3 through was my criterium test. A short course around a city block that provides me with the same conditions you might experience in a criterium, including high speed corners and out of the saddle jumps. After a good warm-up I hit the first corner at about 20 mph. The S3 cornered like a dream and it seemed effortless to turn the handlebars and steer tube. Feeling confident I decided to push up the pace a little so I hit a number of corners at 30 mph plus, I didn't feel any pushing or skipping like you can sometimes experience when cornering at high speeds.
I threw in some out-of-the-saddle stomps to thrill the onlookers; I found the bike really jumped forward when I stood on the pedals. I also made it a point to rock the bike laterally to see what that felt like. The S3 was very smooth laterally. It seemed to take all the power I was giving it and distributed it evenly to where it was needed. I've said this before, I'm not a sprinter, but I felt like I could be one with the S3 under me. Team Garmin-Cervelo's Thor Hushovd became World Champion on the Cervelo S3, which should vouch for the S3's great performance in pro road cycling sprints.
On my next ride I was going to see how the S3 performed on long climbs and on long, fast descents. The climb I rode is a monster, 2.5 miles long at an average grade of 8.5%. I usually start the climb conservatively knowing that it gets more difficult as you approach the summit, so I did the same this time. I varied my riding style from in the saddle to out of the saddle numerous times during the climb. The major thing I noticed during the climb was that the S3 was not as responsive as it was during the interval session or the out of the saddle stomps on my crit course. The S3 seemed a little sluggish and it didn't seem to jump forward when I put power into the pedals even when I stood on them. Maybe it was me as I neared the top of the 8.5% grade. I wasn't too disappointed because I knew the really fun part of the ride was ahead of me. The descent down from the mountain!
This is a whopper of a descent. More than 2.5 miles long with grades from 5% to 15% with a couple of lazy corners. I was going to find out real quickly how the S3 handled itself at high speeds. I hit the descent as I always do pedaling up to about 20 mph. Before I knew it I was going 45, my speed topped out at 54 mph about half way down. I was really impressed with how the Cervelo S3 descended. The first part of the descent is about 15% for about ½ of a mile and then the grade slowly falls off to 5% the further down you go. The S3 handled like a dream, not a bit of frame chatter or head tube shaking. I was worried about how the cross winds would affect the S3 on the descent but the wind was relatively calm. The S3 really held its speed nicely as we got to the lower slopes of the descent, the aerodynamic tubing on the S3 really seemed to help cut through the wind as the speed of the bike increased.
Overall I would rate the Cervelo S3 at the top of my list of the bikes I have ridden. The Cervelo S3 is able to provide everything a rider would want in a high-end racing bike. There are only a couple of things I would have liked to have seen from the S3; 1) more get up and go on long climbs, maybe I was having an off day but I just didn't feel the spunk climbing like I usually feel and 2) I would also have also liked to see less lateral pushing in crosswinds, but the wide aero down tube is one of the reasons the S3 is so fast into the wind. Beyond that, the S3 performed extremely well in all areas. It handled well at high speeds, cornered like a Formula 1 race car and was responsive during out of the saddle stomps and sprints.
The S3 also did an excellent job dampening road vibration, many of the roads I ride are rough and have cracks in the surface, but I didn't notice the normal road chatter I am accustomed to. The SRAM Red component group which the Cervelo S3 can be equipped with is top the line and works well with the bike. The S3 also has very distinctive look. It is primarily black with white accents, the wide down tube and deep dish Zipp 404 wheel set really makes the S3 jump out in a crowd. Cervelo placed its logos in highly visible areas on the top tube, down tube and chain stays, which really helps to catch people's attention.
The Cervelo S3 is a must to anyone who wants a high-end bike that is aerodynamic and super responsive. If you would like more information about the Cervelo S3 or other Cervélo bikes visit www.cervelo.com.