It’s daybreak on the southeast coast of Fuertaventura. I curl my toes into the black sand of the beach, and it gives way as softly and warmly as a cuddled puppy. Looking out across the water, I spend several moments scanning the horizon to determine if I really do perceive the curvature of the earth along it, or if the vast expanse is just trying to subtly convince me of the idea. After a bit, I decide that either way it doesn’t matter and settle my mind to just enjoy the view. The earliest bolts of light coming over the barren, wind-swept mountains cast a silver sheen over the ocean. For its part, the sea is placid in its approach to the shoreline. It’s as if the island is so peaceful as not to attract the tide’s attention. Even the pair of seagulls sweeping back and forth along the shore beat their wings in silent contrast to their counterparts in more populous locations. I take a deep breath, and in doing so it occurs to me that you don’t so much breathe in Fuertaventura as you allow the profound serenity of the place to inspire the air into your lungs.
While the meditative aspect is the most refreshing, Cervelo had thousands of other reasons to choose this sleepy island off the coast of Africa to debut their latest creation. As far as training areas go, Fuertaventura is perhaps better suited to time trialists than a meat locker is to Rocky Balboa. Though the entire island is covered with sharp peaks, you can ride all day without meeting a single climb. The island is sparsely populated, the air dry and the landscape barren and windswept. It’s no surprise then that the largest population isn’t native this time of year, but rather professional cycling teams, triathletes and vacationing endurance enthusiasts. For the past two days, the press junket has been touring the island on an assortment of Cervelo’s road bikes. Today is the coup de grace. After the previous day’s two-hour presentation on its design and development, it’s time to ride the P5.
I need a sedative environment to keep me from chomping at the bit. There’s plenty of reason to be excited about the P5. Perhaps more than any other bike they’ve crafted to date, this one is a genuine expression of the Cervelo philosophy. It is fast by virtue of the engineering brainpower poured into its conception, but what makes it truly brilliant is its simplicity and accessibility. Despite qualifying as a superbike with its integrated stem and head tube, the P5 avoids the pitfalls of maintenance headaches by approaching the concept with creative solutions. Instead of integrating the front brake into the fork, Cervelo created a shroud for a bolt-on brake that keeps everything within easy reach. Meanwhile, the rear section just above the bottom bracket was made into the perfect hiding spot for a DI:2 system battery. On top of that, Cervelo ensured that their headset is not only the most aerodynamic on the market, but it is also UCI legal and provides easier cable routing. All of this is bred from an unwavering resolve to make this a machine that provides hours of joy on the road and only a few moments of work in the hotel room or your garage. In terms of superbikes, it’s billed as every rider's dream come true. That’s all on paper and Powerpoint, though. The proof is on the pavement, and I’m eager to answer the penultimate question—“but how does it ride?”
Joining the first series of journalists to try it out, I hop on Frederik Van Lierde’s triathlon-specific model, complete with the front brake cover, triathlon fork, and a disc wheel. Added to the location, the DI:2 shifting and a set of O.Symmetric chain rings make this an especially exotic experience. I wonder if this is how John Smith felt when he first laid eyes on Pocahontas.
Our jaunt begins on a route into a stiff headwind. I remain on the horns for a bit to get settled into the rhythm of the elliptical rings and fully anticipate a sluggish start, but the bike defies expectations and slides right along. I’m shifting gears rapidly just to keep from spinning out, and not with any real effort. This bike wants to go. It surprises again when our course tacks left and I feel the resistance die away and a stiff kick come from the side. Despite the 81mm front wheel and a full disc in the rear, it’s hard to tell if the wind is blowing harder on the bike or myself. After a few extra moments to allow myself to believe the bike is actually remaining stable against such a hard push, I get back into the aerobars and let it rip. Given the extra surface area presented by the P5’s deeper cross section on the seat and head tubes and fork, it’s impressively true to the rider’s guidance. The guides from Cervelo are disappointed at the unusually high wind speed on this day, fearing they won’t allow us to truly get a feel for the bike’s capability. But if anything, nothing lends itself to credibility like crosswind performance, and the P5 aces that impromptu challenge with flying colors. Turning toward home and finally riding with the wind, our group tops 40mph before spinning out in the big ring. Thankfully, Van Lierde is not here to watch as a group of pencil-pushers throws his steed to the ragged edge with greater exuberance than good judgment. At any rate, the bike provides as much excitement in its unbridled power as it does security in its handling. The only tragedy is that the P5 is now carrying us home at warp speed, and I’ve decided I never want to get off it. Alas, bridesmaids and journalists have something in common when it comes to perennial misfortune.
So long as the rubber side stays down, there’s never such a thing as a bad day on a bike. And in this place, on this bike, it’s as close to a perfect day as you can get. Given their history of accomplishment, one says that Cervelo has outdone itself at the risk of being accused of hyperbole. But the P5 warrants such praise. Fast, responsive, stable, and comfortable. It is a truly splendid machine, and our ride was on a beautiful day in a pristine place. There’s no such thing as a bad day on a bike, and whether you’re on a P5 or riding in Fuertaventura, there’s no possible way your day could go wrong.images courtesy: Cervelo