Cervélo S3 Disc

The damp­en­ing ef­fect is out­stand­ing, be it the car­bon or the lack of rim brakes and brake bridges on the frame. Hour af­ter hour, the bike is a plea­sure to dial in over the long rides.

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - by Tim Le­feb­vre


It has been more than two years since the orig­i­nal R3 Disc was un­veiled, and now with the Union Cy­cliste In­ter­na­tionale dan­gling a green light in 2017 for disc brakes once again, Cervélo has launched its new­est ride. If all goes to plan, Mark Cavendish and his Di­men­sion Data team­mates will be aboard this Cana­dian frame­set de­signed out of Project Cal­i­for­nia.

The S3 Disc (which is No. 3 from Cervélo for disc road bikes, af­ter the R3 and the C3 En­durance) claims to be two watts faster, nine-per­cent stiffer and 40g lighter than its highly touted pre­de­ces­sor – the S3 (with rim brakes). Work­ing on the project was Toronto, Ont. en­gi­neer Gra­ham Shrive, who claims this ven­ture hap­pened be­cause there were im­prove­ments ready to go from the draw­ing board to the wind tun­nel to pro­duc­tion. The S3 Disc re­tains all the same ge­om­e­try, but en­deav­ours to make small changes that make big dif­fer­ences.

Let's be­gin with the fork, as a newly re­vised air­foil pro­file re­duces pres­sure around the back of the crown and now boasts a 19g re­duc­tion in drag. Aes­thet­i­cally, the bike looks fan­tas­tic with­out any brakes and ex­posed hous­ing, but it also in­creases the space over the tire, al­low­ing for dif­fer­ent fork de­signs and room for a 25mm tire.

The frame­set has been re­designed not only to ac­com­mo­date the dif­fer­ence in brakes, but to also im­prove aero­dy­nam­ics. A new rear tri­an­gle with car­bon dropouts is bor­rowed from the Rca frame­set. Here, the chain­stays re­ceive the flat mounted brakes and carry on to­ward the unique asym­met­ric 79mm-wide BBRight™ bot­tom bracket.

The frame's tube shapes are es­sen­tially the same, in­clud­ing the carry-over rear-wheel cutout that Cervélo has used many times in its il­lus­tri­ous his­tory. Those chain­stays and seat­stays have been re­designed with air­foil pro­files. The dropped down­tube with its chopped trail­ing edge re­mains, as does the cable-rout­ing sys­tem that en­ters the down­tube, also Di2-com­pat­i­ble. It is im­por­tant to men­tion here that this new sys­tem will be able to ac­com­mo­date all types of driv­e­trains and brak­ing sys­tems.

Once past the two small­est frame sizes, Cervélo in­cor­po­rates a 25mm off­set for the seat­post. The thru-axles are 12mm, with Shi­mano's BR-RS805 160mm hy­draulic discs. There is an op­tion for a Di2 Ul­te­gra build that will run you close to $2,000 more, but Pedal chose to test the me­chan­i­cal 11-speed.

The build sits on a solid pair of HED Ar­dennes Plus GP Disc wheels that use a Conti Gran Sport Race 23mm tire. The afore­men­tioned Ul­te­gra groupset runs an 11-28 aboard a FSA SL-K 52/36 crank, nec­es­sary due to some chain-align­ment dif­fi­cul­ties. The sad­dle is a fi'zi:k Antares, and the bar/stem combo is a nicely fit­ted FSA SL-K stem and en­ergy-com­pact bar.

Touted as stronger, stiffer and faster, the S3 Disc has bor­rowed from

its pre­de­ces­sors, but at the same time has honed the tech­nol­ogy in the car­bon lay-up, aero­dy­nam­ics and re­fine­ment of the frame it­self. The bikes lines and lack of brakes im­me­di­ately give this ride a sleek lin­ear fin­ish that ne­ces­si­tates a sec­ond look. First com­ments from fel­low rid­ers will al­most cer­tainly fo­cus on the lack of rim brakes and the vis­ual ef­fect this cre­ates.

Aboard the S3 Disc, the ini­tial sen­sa­tion is ab­so­lutely smooth and straight. The harshness of a su­perlight thin car­bon build is not there; in­stead, it has the strong solid feel of ti­ta­nium or steel. Stand­ing up on the frame, it shoots for­ward with ease, and that mas­sive bot­tom bracket works in con­junc­tion with the tubes to op­ti­mize the stiff­ness. One test I al­ways do is to stand be­side my bike and lower the pedal to the bot­tom of the pedal stroke and stand on it with the other leg – in do­ing so, this BB did not flex in the slight­est.

Stiff­ness is def­i­nitely one of the S3's great­est at­tributes, and the thru-axles are a big part of this. Climb­ing steep hills is as joy­ful as can be on this type of ride, with its com­plete power trans­fer. There are no glitches in the driv­e­train, only smooth, crisp shift­ing from the Ul­te­gra 11-speed.

Of course, we would ex­pect su­perb brak­ing with the discs, and it is markedly bet­ter than the rim brakes. A true test would be a moun­tain de­scent in the rain, but un­for­tu­nately the Ni­a­gara area just can't pro­vide that. At high speeds, the brakes are in­cred­i­ble, with no shud­der­ing or squeal­ing, and thus giv­ing more con­trol and con­fi­dence in dicey sit­u­a­tions. The ease with which one can ac­cess that cal­i­bre is a nice change as well.

Again, Cervélo states that it's stiffer, more aero­dy­namic, stronger and faster. I can tell you that is, with­out doubt, the most com­fort­able Cervélo I have ever been aboard. The damp­en­ing ef­fect is out­stand­ing, be it the car­bon or the lack of rim brakes and brake bridges on the frame. Hour af­ter hour, the bike is a plea­sure to dial in over the long rides.

Over­all, this bike has taken the best tech­nol­ogy Cervélo has to of­fer and cre­ated a bi­cy­cle good enough for the Data Di­men­sion squad, and likely good enough to pro­vide qual­ity per­for­mance on any en­thu­si­ast's gran fondo, char­ity and/or club ride.

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