Trust and manufacturing are two terms that aren’t used together often enough. On the occasions when they are used together, it usually comes as dispositive, as in, “I don’t trust that manufacturer.” Of the many manufacturers I write about, few have enjoyed as respected a reputation as Cervelo. This spring I was afforded the opportunity to ride both the R3 and S3 back to back. There was a question before me: Would I go for the traditional road frame or would I go for the aero advantage? Two or three years ago the question would have been academic, but the design and execution of aero frames has improved enough that it finally seemed a fair question.
So I’m going to cover the things these two bikes have in common first, to get them out of the way. Both bikes were equipped with Shimano Ultegra (6800) Di2 components. The R3 sports an FSA bar (Energy Compact) and stem (SLK), while the S3 is built up with a 3T bar (Egonova Pro) and stem (ARX Pro). The seatpost on the R3 also comes from FSA, the SLK, while the S3 uses a proprietary aero post. Both came with a Fi’zi:k Antares saddle, a detail for while I was almost (almost) inordinately grateful. The R3 rolls on Fulcrum 5.5 wheels and Vittoria Diamante Pro tires, while the S3 went a more aero route with Mavic Cosmic Elite S wheels and Mavic Yksion Comp tires. Both bikes came with Rotor 3DF BBright cranks with 52 and 36t rings.
Cervelo’s Future-Proof Cable Management made the routing of brake cables and Di2 leads internally clean and attractive. The system uses a collection of standardized fitting so should you wish to move from a mechanical group to Di2 or swap out mechanical calipers for SRAM’s Hydro Rim brakes, the Future-Proof fittings will accommodate all of those choices without looking like you’ve had to zip-tie your bike together.
Both bikes use Cervelo’s assymetrical BBright bottom bracket design that allows the bottom bracket shell and non-drive chainstay to be 11 millimeters wider. BBright achieves this by eliminating the outboard cup and making the BB shell wider to incorporate that bearing within the frame. The rationale is that anything you can do to decrease twisting forces at the drivetrain is worthwhile, and because you can’t find more room on the drive side, you might as well use the space available on the non-drive side. Early on the system only worked with Rotor Cranks, but any opposition to BBright due to compatible cranks has been eliminated; you can now use everything from SRAM and Shimano to FSA and even Campagnolo Ultra-Torque.
The bikes weighed in at 16.56 lbs. (R3) and 16.82 lbs. (S3), a difference of roughly 130 grams, a difference accountable in the wheels alone; however, it doesn’t account for the difference in the frame weights—roughly 900g for the R3 in a 56, and roughly 1100g for the S3 in a 56. (Cervelo doesn’t really like talking frame weights on the R3 and S3, but when pressed prefer to say there tends to be a 110g difference between the two; I had to do some research to find published frame weights.) I’d go looking for that 200 grams if it really bothered me; it doesn’t. Better yet, swapping for a better set of wheels alone could make the S3 lighter than the R3.
The two bikes also differ in price. The R3, as built, carries a suggested retail of $5000. The S3 goes for a bit more, at $5200. These two frames, built with Ultegra Di2 components and aluminum clinchers and bars, deliver race-ready performance for less than some similarly-equipped bikes.
The bikes share identical geometries. I rode 56s, each with a 56.4cm top tube, 73.5-degree head tube angles, 43mm-rake forks, head tube lengths of 17.3cm, stacks of 58cm and reaches of 38.7cm. This made replicating my fit between bikes almost absurdly easy, especially as both came equipped with Fi’zi:k Antares saddles.
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