Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cervelo S2 or R3: Aero or not for road bikes?

My wife, Paolina Allan's S2

My R3

Which Cervelo road bike should I get? The S2 or the R3? It's a question I hear often. It's a good problem to have. Both bikes are at the head of their class. Both bikes get rave reviews from informed and knowledgeable road bike reviewers. Both bikes have a Pro Tour Race winning pedigree. Both bikes, as ridden by the Cervelo Test Team, are available, stock at Cervelo dealers.

Is having an aero road bike an advantage?

Here's my take on this:

Last fall I got an R3. This is the bike if you do a lot of road riding, in groups or on your own, and you prefer a more comfortable ride. After all, this is the bike that has won Paris-Roubaix twice in the past 5 years. This is also a great bike for road racing - it's very light, even with ordinary kit, and rides very stable and true. The knock against the R3 is that it is not "aero". However for the occasional road racer, as I am, it's of little concern. Most of the Master's road racing that I do, no matter how many times you try and break-away, comes down to a field sprint, so you are riding in a pack almost all the time. How "aero" your frame is, is the least of your concerns.

I recall reading a stat after one of Lance Armstrongs Tour de France wins a few years ago. Outside of Time Trials, in three weeks of racing, Armstrong, had spent a grand total of 12 minutes riding on his own in the wind, for that Tour de France win!

Finally - as many know, I have a wonky back. The extra vertical compliance in the rear triangle in the R3 is a welcome feature - on long rides and on rough pavement it is a very comfortable ride. We have a lot of lousy pavement in our area and we also ride from time to time on gravel and dirt roads and the R3 handles all this very well. The R3 has that "all-day" comfort that is highly valued by Pro Tour riders or any serious rider for that matter who puts in a lot of miles.

Recently, my wife got a new Cervelo S2. This is the bike that started out life being called the Soloist in the Cervelo line, and really invented the whole category of aero road bikes. The bike is very aerodynamic - it's even more aerodynamic than some manufacturers time trial and triathlon frames! This was the preferred bike for my wife because, women's road race fields tend to be much smaller than mens. There are more, small and solo break-aways that stick. You often have to bridge from one group or rider to another, on your own. Here, aerodynamics for a road bike, can be really important. Also, my wife travels from time to time to Stage Races where there is a Time Trial as one of the stages. By using the S2 with Clip-On aero bars, she saves herself the hassle of having to bring along a dedicated TT bike, and as previously mentioned, the S2 holds it's own when it comes to aerodynamics. The ride on the S2 would best be described as being firmer than that of the R3. It's still pretty comfortable for an aero framed road bike.

In summary - you should consider an aero road bike if you do a lot of solo riding, you are a woman road racing, you can make a break-away stick in road racing, or you want one bike to do it all - even be used as a tri-bike. If not any of that, then a non-aero road bike such as the Cervelo R3 will serve you very well.

So there. Hopefully that will help you decide which Cervelo Road Bike or an aero road bike is for you!


Don't Tri Blog said...

easy solution-S3

you get aero and the comfy seat stays

Bert Sandie said...

I know this timemachine dude has both - spoiled I would say.

I will see you at IMC!

Steve Fleck said...

Dont't Tri,

Indeed - the s3 is the ultimate solution. I'll need to save up a few more dollars. That will be my NEXT bike! ;-)

Steve Fleck said...


I figured the Timemachine would have a museum of bikes! :)

Unknown said...

Get that new Scott bike Cavendish used in the Tour - its aero and really light.

Tri Bug said...

Love the bikes!

Andy said...

Hey mate great article can I ask you what clip on tri bars your wife has used on the S2. I'm looking to put some on mine.

Steve Fleck said...

Andy - sorry for the delayed response. With proper road bike set up and with out radically changing the fit or set up of the bike, generally speaking it's best to use the shortest clip-on aero bars. That's what you'll see most of the ITU guys using, if they use them at all!